Why care about endangered languages?
In the world today there are roughly 6500 languages, of which less than 30 will have more than 2000 speakers. The reason we say roughly is because it is very difficult to classify what is a distinct language. There is a fine line between when a language is the same language with a different dialect or should be considered a completely new language. After a quick search of the internet this discrepancy is very obvious. Some of the numbers that I came across were, 6500, 6912, 6,809. The final number is from a source called ethnologue.com which is one of the most comprehensive sources for language classification which we have.
It is important to take the numbers associated with languages and language loss with a grain of salt. The numbers should be used to give an overall sense of trends and not as accurate representations of the actual number of languages.
Of the 6809 languages which Ethnologue lists they label 750 of them as extinct or nearly extinct. Of the 300 indigenous languages to North America it is estimated that by 2050 that there will be less then 30 languages. It is estimated that overall there are 3000 endangered languages (classified as less then 2000 speakers or with a significant portion of the speakers being over 50 years old). As is evident from these numbers languages loss is very prevalent. You might be thinking at this point, I understand languages are dying but so what?
To understand the importance of the loss it is important to understand what language does for a community. A language is developed by a community over hundreds of years. Over this time the knowledge and culture is stored in the language. Every time a language is lost so is a perspective of the world. Oftentimes there are words in a language which not be translated to any other language. Whether it is a word for a plant which has yet to be classified or for a specific emotion which others could not express as well. The more perspectives we have on the world the better we can hope to understand it.