Top 10 Rarest Languages Still Spoken in the World

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Most of the time when thinking of language, people will automatically think about English, German, French, Spanish, and maybe others like Japanese, Arabic, Russian, and possibly Latin. Language is something that many people today take for granted. Without it, there’d be no communication, and no way to connect with others in the world. Imagine a life without a common language that at least a few others around you know.  Sure people could write books and novels, but it’d be rare for someone else to understand. Language plays a huge role in everyone’s life, whether we think about it or not.

Despite the fact that language seems to be a necessity, the United Nations stated that on average, a language disappears every two weeks. Around the world, almost 6,000 or more languages are in danger of becoming extinct. These languages are rapidly disappearing due to circumstances such as those who speak the languages dying, certain languages integrating, and the fact that languages are more prominent than others, and in today’s world is more important than ever to know these popular languages, therefore leaving behind the less ones that are less known. In a sense, the death of a language means the death of a culture. Below are the 10 rarest languages from all over the world:

Note: There are hundreds of rare languages around the world. These are just some of the few that have the most recent reported data. To find more rare languages, visit http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?pg=00136.

10. Chamicuro (Chamekolo, Chamicolo, Chamicura)

Chamicuro

Throughout the world, there are 8 people that speak Chamicuro, according to a 2008 study. The language is mostly spoken in Peru and is today considered to be critically endangered, as most of the people who do speak it are older. There are no children who speak Chamicuro because the region has adapted to speaking Spanish. However, those who spoke the language were able to develop a dictionary of their terms. If you ever want to know how to say a few animals in Chamicuro, use these: kawali (horse,) polyo (chicken,) pato (duck,) katujkana (monkey,) ma’nali (dog,) mishi (cat,) waka (cow.)

9. Dumi (Dumi Bo’o, Dumi Bro, Lsi Rai, Ro’do Bo’, Sotmali)

dumi

Dumi, a language of Nepal is usually spoken in regions near the Tap and Rava rivers. It is also spoken the mountains of Khotang District, located in eastern Nepal. It is a Kiranti language, meaning that it is part of the Tibeto-Burman language family. With only 8 people speaking it in 2007, the language is considered to be critically endangered. Information about the Dumi language has been collected overtime, and there is a dictionary available. There are also many books written about the language’s grammar and syntax.

8. Ongota/Birale


In 2008, the Ongota language was said to still be declining. Only 6 native speakers know and use the language, all of them are elderly. This makes the language critically endangered. However, unlike most languages that are disappearing, there is actually a professor at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia that studies Ongota. He’s concluded that the language follows a structure of subject, object, and verb. Ongota is said to be a Afro-Asiatic language that is spoken in Ethiopia on the west bank of the Weito River in a tiny village.

http://www.sil.org/silesr/2002/SILESR2002-066.pdf

7. Liki (Moar)

sarmi

Liki is a critically endangered language that is spoken in Islands off of the north coast of Sarmi, Jayapura Kabupaten, and Sarmi Kecamatan, all of which are islands near Indonesia. In 2007, a study showed that only 5 people speak the language. In the past, the language was spoken by all local church officials who lived in the region. The language doesn’t have just one origin, as it is said to be Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Central-Eastern, Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, Oceanic, Western Oceanic, North New Guinea, Sarmi-Jayapura Bay, and Sarmi.

6. Tanema (Tanima, Tetawo)

Vanikolo Island, 1970

Vanikolo Island, 1970

In the Solomon Islands, the Tanema language was once used in places such as Vanikolo Island, Temotu Province and in an Emua village. Today, the language is only spoken by 4 people, according to a 2008 conducted study. This makes the language critically endangered. Tanema is Austronesian as well as Malayo-Polynesian, Central-Eastern, and Oceanic. Many of those who once spoke Tanema have adapted and have started to speak either Pijin or Teanu, both of which are very popular languages within the region. Want to learn verbs in Tanema? Try: wekini (to turn), laro (to swim), la vamora (to work), and la munana (to lie down.)

5. Njerep

Njerep is a Bantoid language that is spoken in Nigeria. The language was once spoken in Cameroon but isn’t any longer. It is now most commonly spoken near the Mambila. Today, the language has been replaced by different Mambila dialects such as Ba and Mvop. There are only 4 people who still speak Njerep according to a study conducted in 2007, making the language critically endangered. Those who do speak the language are elderly, so in a few centuries the language will more than likely be extinct.

4. Chemehuevi

Chemehuevi women, around 1908, near Needles, California Courtesy Bancroft Library, photograph by Alfred L. Kroeber

Chemehuevi women, around 1908, near Needles, California
Courtesy Bancroft Library, photograph by Alfred L. Kroeber

Chemehuevi, a Uto-Aztecan, Northern Uto-Aztecan, Numic, Southern language is mainly spoke in states in the Midwest as well as on the western coast. You may hear the language spoken in Ute, Colorado, Southern Paiute, Utah, northern Arizona, southern parts of Nevada, and in Colorado River, California. While the Chemehuevi tribe does still exist and is thriving, the amount of people who speak the language fluent is not. A 2007 study showed that only 3 people fully speak the language, all of them adults. If you ever want to talk about natural things in Chemehuevi, try words such as kaiv (mountain), hucip (ocean), mahav (tree), and tittvip (ground/soil).

http://globalrecordings.net/program/C06280

3. Lemerig (Pak, Bek, Sasar, Leon, Lem)

Spoken in Vanuatu, an island located in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 miles east of northern Australia, Lemerig makes the list at #3. More specifically, this language is spoken in Vanua Lava Island. The language only has two people left who can speak it fluently, according to a 2008 study, making it another nearly extinct language on the list. Lemerig consists of at least four different dialects, all of which are probably extinct.
http://globalrecordings.net/program/C24230
http://alex.francois.free.fr/data/AlexFrancois_Storian-Lemerig_2006.pdf

2. Kaixana (Caixana)

This is a map of the Amazon River drainage basin with the Japurá River highlighted.

This is a map of the Amazon River drainage basin with the Japurá River highlighted.

Kaixana is one of the many critically endangered languages that exist today. The language was once spoken in a village near the banks of the Japura River, located in Brazil. Over time, Portuguese settlers took over the area. At one point, nearly 200 people spoke the language. But, a 2006 study showed that only one person still speaks Kaixana, making it critically endangered and doomed to become extinct.

1. Taushiro (Pinche/Pinchi)

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Taushiro, a language of native Peru, is spoken in the region of the Tigre River, Aucayacu River, which is a tributary of the Ahuaruna River. It is known as a language isolate, which means it has no demonstrable relationship with any other language. Those who spoke the language usually only counted up to ten, using their fingers. For instance, to say “one” in Taushiro, you’d say washikanto. To say a number above 10, you’d say “ashintu” and point to a toe on your foot. In 2008, a study conducted on the Taushiro language concluded that only one person speaks the language fluently. The language has since been listed as nearly extinct.


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26 Comments

  1. The “linguistic imperialism” both Mandarin Chinese and English, is certainly endangering minority languages.

    A neutral, non-national language such as Esperanto, which would place all languages on an equal footing would certainly combat such imperialism.

    If you have a moment please check http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a former translator with the United Nations

    • Esperanto is definitively NOT the direction language is going, and I don’t consider it all that neutral since it is loosely Latin-based. Also, Esperanto is not indigenous to any culture; it is an artificial language. If Esperanto got to be accepted worldwide, it would be a polyglot language. The Hapsburg Empire subjugated Hungary for 200 years and discouraged natives from speaking the ancestral language, Magyar. Hapsburgs out, Hungary got its culture and language back.

  2. Most of the words you provided in the example for the Chamicuro language are of Spanish origin. The Spanish words for horse, chicken, duck, and cow are 'caballo', 'pollo', 'pato', and 'vaca' in Spanish, respectively. Compare those to 'kawali', 'polyo', 'pato', and 'waka'.

    • I was going to say the same thing, but thought I’d check the comments first. I caught it with “polyo”.

      I see you wrote this two years ago, so if selected the “followup comments” box…surprise!

  3. "Those who do speak the language are elderly, so in a few centuries the language will more than likely be extinct."

    Um….what? XD

    "Years", more likely. Which is a very sad thought. Thnks for the list!

  4. you forgot dumbo language. its like morse code, but you have to use a stick and hit the other person in the head. it was first used by neanderthal dudes.

  5. It would be quite tragic when you are down to the last two language speakers once one of them dies the language is obsolete. I’m sure there should be some Native Australian languages on the list by now.

  6. Wow. I am learning French right now, but now after I read this, I want to put all my thoughts aside and focus on that. It is so sad only a few people know these endangered languages, and to think that you are the only person knowing a language-so sad. I am an avid learner, so whatever I can do to increase the population-even to two people-I will do it. Again, PEOPLE, WHATEER YOU CAN DO TO LEARN A LANGUAGE YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE (Or even heard of before) DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO LEARN IT! 🙂

  7. I know this does not have anything to do with languages, but I did not know that you could make icons with simple text images! 😛 🙂 🙁 <3

  8. Unfortunately keeeping these languages alive as the sole language of small populations keeps them in a liguistic straght jacket. Never can they integrate into the greater society of their country. Most are spoken laguages only. They will be forever illeterate. There are no textbooks. They can never learn mathematics. They can never learn communicate by letter, never use the internet.

    What would happen it there were another Einstein in one of these small populations? His/her genius could never be used, never communicated to the outside world.

    • Hetero Harald Togram on

      Ever heard of bilingual people? I speak Danish, a pretty common language compared to these, but if i didn’t speak english i would have some major problems when surfing the web or looking at english tv-shows.

  9. Just out of curiosity, how fluent (in Taushiro) was the person who “concluded that only one person speaks the language (Taushiro) fluently.”

  10. I think my languages, Kokborok and Molsum (I don’t know how to spell it) should be added. They are both spoken in north-east india, around Tripura

  11. Are they extinct today? I’m only 11, and if these languages still exist today, then I’ll do whatever I can in my power to keep it alive, and I’ll teach it to all my friends, and I can write a little book so people (probably those I know) can learn it. People try really hard to keep an animal from being extinct, but we, as the citizens of Earth, need to contribute to keeping languages from being extinct, too.

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