UNESCO –  Intangible Human Heritage

The film reflects recent developments within UNESCO where the concept of “Intangible Human Heritage” was established in 1999. 

In much the same way that biological diversity is seen as a vital key to the survival of life on Planet Earth, the need for cultural diversity is becoming more and more recognised throughout the world.

Culture is not just a Gothic cathedral or Leonardo da Vinci´s Mona Lisa. Culture is the way we speak and the way we think.

In the beginning was the Word …

1. Number of languages

  • Total Number of Languages world-wide: 6000 – 6500
  • Only 8 languages are spoken by 100 million or more people
  • 72 languages by 10 million to 99.9 million
  • 96% (5,760 languages) are spoken by just 4% of the population.
  • 55% are spoken by less than 10,000 people
  • 51 languages are spoken by only ONE person

2. Rate of extinction

  • Middle of the Road estimates predict the permanent loss of 50% (3000) languages over the next 100 years. 
  • 3000 divided by 1200 months = approximately one language every two weeks. From today, not tomorrow! Languages are dying as this film is being made.

3. Why bother?

  • Diversity is important, life-sustaining.
  • Language as an expression of identity.
  • Language as a repository of history: “When you lose your language, you exclude yourself from your past”.
  • Languages increase our stock of human wisdom: “The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension”.
  • Languages are interesting. Many so-called “primitive” languages can express subtleties that e.g. English cannot. (There are plenty of examples one can offer here)