Discover the Efforts to Preserve Basque, Breton and Other Endangered Languages in Europe
Languages are an essential part of all of our heritages, and as time passes, many vernaculars risk disappearing forever. Across the world, countries are making efforts to teach and save ancient languages, recognizing the importance of preserving linguistic diversity and cultural identity.
From Basque in Spain to Sanskrit in India, these languages have been spoken for centuries and contain a wealth of knowledge and traditions.
In this list, we will explore the efforts of several countries worldwide, focusing on Europe, to preserve and promote these languages, keeping them alive for future generations.
Here they are:
- Friulian: Friulian is a romance language spoken in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy. It has roots in Latin and has been spoken for over 1,200 years.
- Romansh: Romansh is a Romance language spoken in the canton of Graubünden in Switzerland. It is one of the four official languages of Switzerland and has been spoken for over 1,000 years.
- Alemannic: Alemannic is a group of dialects spoken in parts of Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. It is one of the oldest dialect groups in the German language family and has been spoken for over 1,500 years.
- Bavarian: Bavarian is a group of dialects spoken in the state of Bavaria in Germany and parts of Austria and Italy. It has roots in Old High German and has been spoken for over 1,200 years.
- Low German: Low German is a group of dialects spoken in northern Germany and parts of the Netherlands. It is one of the oldest dialect groups in the German language family and has been spoken for over 1,000 years.
- Emilian-Romagnol: is a group of dialects spoken in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. A significant portion speaks the dialects of the population in Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì-Cesena, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Ravenna, Reggio Emilia, and Rimini. Emilian-Romagnol is part of the Gallo-Italic language family and shares many similarities with other dialects spoken in the neighboring regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, and Liguria. While Italian is the official language of Italy, many Italians still speak their regional dialects at home and in informal settings.
- Lëtzebuergesch Platt: Also known as Luxembourgish Lorraine Franconian or simply Platt, it is a Franconian dialect spoken in the north and northeast of Luxembourg well as in some parts of Germany and Belgium. It is closely related to the Moselle Franconian dialects spoken in the neighboring regions of Germany and France.
- Latin: is an ancient language spoken in the Roman Empire and is still used as a liturgical language in the Roman Catholic Church. Many schools and universities worldwide still offer Latin classes, and efforts are being made to preserve and promote the language.
- Gaelic: Gaelic, also known as Scottish Gaelic, is a Celtic language spoken in Scotland. Efforts have been made to revive the language recently, with Gaelic being taught in schools and promoted through media and cultural events.
- Welsh: Welsh is a Celtic language spoken in Wales. It is one of the oldest languages in Europe, and efforts have been made to promote and preserve the language in recent years, with Welsh being taught in schools and used in public life.
- Cornish: Cornish is a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall, England. It was widely spoken until the 18th century, after which it declined and was almost lost. However, in recent years there has been a revival of the language, with efforts being made to teach and promote it.
- Manx: Manx, or Manx Gaelic, is a Celtic language spoken on the Isle of Man. The language almost became extinct in the 20th century, but efforts have been made to revive it, with Manx being taught in schools and promoted through cultural events.
- Basque: Basque is a language spoken in the Basque Country, located in the western Pyrenees between France and Spain. It is one of the oldest languages in Europe and is unrelated to any other known language. Basque has been taught and promoted recently, and it is now an official language in Spain’s Basque Country and Navarre.
- Breton: Breton is a Celtic language spoken in Brittany, located in northwest France. It is closely related to Cornish and Welsh, and it has been promoted and taught in recent years to preserve Brittany’s language and cultural heritage.
- Frisian: Frisian is from a locale in Friedland, Germany/The Neatherlands and is located in the historic region of East Frisia, which is known for its distinctive dialect of the Frisian language. Frisian is a minority language spoken in some parts of Germany and the Netherlands, and it is related to English and other Germanic languages. “Ik gah nu en beten plünnen.” (I’m going to do a bit of plowing now.)
- Sami: Sami is a group of Finno-Ugric languages spoken in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. The Sami people have been fighting for the recognition of their language and culture, and efforts have been made to promote and teach Sami in schools and through cultural events.
- Occitan: Occitan is a Romance language spoken in the southern parts of France and in parts of Italy and Spain. It has been promoted and taught in recent years to preserve the language and the cultural heritage of the Occitan-speaking regions.
- Scottish Gaelic: Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language spoken in Scotland. It has been promoted and taught in recent years to preserve the Scottish Gaelic-speaking regions’ language and cultural heritage.
- Irish: Irish is a Celtic language spoken in Ireland. It has been promoted and taught in recent years to preserve Ireland’s language and cultural heritage.
- Icelandic: Icelandic is a North Germanic language spoken in Iceland. It has been preserved in its ancient form for over a thousand years, and it is still used today as the official language of Iceland.
- Faroese: Faroese is a North Germanic language spoken in the Faroe Islands between Norway and Iceland. It has been promoted and taught in recent years to preserve the language and the cultural heritage of the Faroese-speaking regions.
- Catalan: Catalan is a Romance language spoken in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, and in parts of France and Italy. It has been promoted and taught in recent years to preserve Catalan-speaking regions’ language and cultural heritage.
Did you know?
Efforts to preserve ancient languages can include initiatives such as creating language immersion programs, developing language-learning apps, and establishing language institutes and cultural centers.
A little history:
Europe has a rich history of ancient languages, some of which are no longer spoken and have been preserved only in written texts. These languages provide valuable insights into the continent’s cultural, linguistic, and historical heritage.
Over the centuries, many ancient European languages have been lost or replaced by more modern ones. However, in recent times, there has been a renewed interest in preserving these languages, and many universities and institutions now offer courses in ancient languages to keep them alive.
One of Europe’s most well-known ancient languages is Latin, which was spoken in the Roman Empire and served as the lingua franca of Western Europe for centuries. Latin was widely used in literature, law, and religion, and its influence can still be seen in many modern European languages.
Even though Latin is no longer spoken as a native language, it remains an essential language in academia and is still taught in schools and universities worldwide.
Another ancient language in Europe that is being taught to preserve it is Ancient Greek. This language was the language of the ancient Greeks and was widely used in literature, philosophy, and science. Many modern English words are derived from Ancient Greek, which remains an important language for studying the humanities and the natural sciences.
Other ancient languages in Europe that are being taught to preserve them include Sanskrit, the language of ancient India and still used in Hindu religious texts, and Old Norse, which was spoken by the Vikings and is still used in some Scandinavian countries. There are also efforts to preserve other less well-known ancient languages, such as Etruscan, spoken in ancient Italy, and Gaulish, which the Celts spoke in Gaul.
In addition to universities and institutions, independent organizations are dedicated to preserving ancient languages in Europe.