Marcelo Dascal
Endangered Languages

Finally, what should we do as human beings?

As human beings, we should:

Often the success of one language means the decay of others. Guarani, the dominant language of Paraguay, and the only Amerindia language to have this status to the present day, succeeded at the expense of the decay of several other native languages in that country.

Our success with Hebrew too: it implied a fight against Yiddish and other Jewish languages tainted - in the eyes of the Founding Fathers of Israel - with the 'diaspora' mark. It also implied forcing new immigrants to learn and use Hebrew, neglecting their mother-tongue. Even today, once Hebrew has achieved a dominant status, this "melting-pot" ideology is put into practice vis-a-vis Russian, Ethiopian, and other immigrants. There is no reason to continue such a policy.

No doubt, there is an inevitable dialectics at work in the history of languages, a struggle for survival. But we, the survivors and the powerful, certainly are now in a position to temper this struggle with a measure of compassion. After all, we don't compete any more with apes and gazelles or even with wolves and lions: we protect them.

In addition to all that has been said, I think we should not be immune to a true and deep feeling of compassion towards those whose languages are endangered. Maybe for the world at large, even for science, and certainly for Judaism as such, the death of the Dahalo language means nothing. But we should not forget that for the Dahalo remaining speakers it means their self-identity, their pride, their culture.

We certainly cannot artificially preserve all endangered languages. But we can assist, within the limitations of our resources, those peoples who want assistance in preserving their languages.

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