diumenge, de gener 04, 2015











Endangered Languages in Europe: Your Complete Guide

Currently home to over 200 languages spread across about 50 nations, it may surprise you to learn that Europe’s incredible linguistic diversity is actually slowly dwindling. In fact, only a fraction of these languages are officially listed as the languages of the European Union and some of them are right on the brink of extinction, from northern French dialects spoken by some 100,000 speakers to indigenous Scandinavian tongues with only a handful of fluent speakers.We’ve teamed up with Dr. Christopher Moseley, author of the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, to guide you through the world of minority languages in Europe. We’ve focused on languages that have been deemed severely or critically endangered by UNESCO.
severely endangered severely endangered language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves
critically endangered critically endangered the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently
They’re often scattered across the continent’s more remote regions but we’re here to help you get there. Your tourism can invigorate the local economies which will help contribute to the ongoing survival of these languages!
endangered languages map
Endangered Languages in Europe (View full graphic here)

Endangered Languages in the British and Channel Islands

In recent years, many endangered languages in across the British and Channel Islands have experienced a renaissance, with social and educational programmes aimed at sponsoring their growth and development. Once considered extinct, Manx has seen a revival in the Isle of Man where currently over 1,000 students are learning the language in elementary schools and 100 students are learning it at secondary level. The reinvigoration of the Cornish language dates all the way back to the 19th century when scholars and artists began to use the language in songs and poems. In 2009, the revival movement experienced its first victory when UNESCO changed the language’s status from ‘extinct’ to ‘critically endangered’. Guernésias and Jèrriais haven’t experienced the same revival. Varieties of Norman French dating back to the year 1000, these two languages have suffered from a lack of prestige and are now spoken by less than 2% of the population of St. Helier and St Peter Port. But if over 300 different languages can flourish in London alone, we’re quite certain that these languages have a home here too.

Endangered Languages in Europe

Endangered Languages Statistics (View full graphic here)
Endangered Languages Statistics (View full graphic here)

Endangered Germanic Languages

Endangered Germanic Languages: Gottscheerisch; Töitschu; Sater Frisian; North Frisian; Transylvanian Saxon; Wymysorys

Endangered West Germanic Languages


Endangered Languages in Bosco Gurin, Switzerland - Flickr: Irene Grassi
Bosco Gurin, Switzerland – Flickr: Irene Grassi
Töitschu (also known as Walliser German) is spoken in the Walser settlements of Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. It belongs to the high Alemannic family of Walser languages and the local greeting ‘tschau’ is an interesting cross between the German ‘tschüss’ and Italian ‘ciao’. Issime is a tiny town in the Northern part of Italy where a third of the population still speaks the language. To get there, your best option is to get a train to Pont-Saint-Martin and then drive. The town is rather tiny, so public transport options are limited.
  • Language sample: Potatoes: trùffili
  • Number of speakers: 200
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered

Endangered Friesische Languages

Endangered Languages in Cloppenburg
Cloppenburg, Germany – Flickr: Allie Caulfield


A study from 2007, indicates that the number of fluent Sater Frisian speakers has plummeted to between 1,000-2,000 people. Bearing a strong resemblance to North and West Frisian languages, today, less than 1-2% of the population of Saterland region are able to speak the language fluently. Census results indicate that Ramsloh in Cloppenburg is home to the highest percentage of native speakers. To get there you’ll need to take the train to Cloppenburg, then the S90 bus which runs an hourly connection to Ramsloh. Though the community may be small, they certainly are steadfast, and even periodically update an online newspaper in Saterlandic.
  • Language Sample: Cold: Koold | Day: Dai          
  • Number of Speakers: 1,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered

North Frisian

Endangered Languages in Glueckstadt
Glückstadt, Germany – Flickr: fRandi-Shooters
North Frisian is spoken by 8,000-10,000 people, primarily in Schleswig-Holstein, a region in the Northernmost part of Germany. Situated on the North Sea, Husum is home to the Museum Association of North Friesland which has endeavoured to preserve the endangered language. Deutsche Bahn offers a service from Hamburg to Husum throughout the day that takes just under 2 hours, and the town is also easily accessed by car. The North Frisian Institute and the Frisian Portal both offer courses for German speakers looking to learn the rare language.
  • Language Sample: Not available
  • Number of Speakers: 10,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered

Endangered Uralic Languages

Endangered Uralic Languages: Ter Sami; Pite Sami; Ume Sami; Skolt Sami; South Sami; North Sami; Inari Sami; Kilt Sami; Kilden Sami; Lule Sami; Votic; Livonian; Vepsian; Karelia

Sami Languages

Endangered Languages in the Arctic Area of Sapmi
Arctic Area of Sapmi, Norway – Flickr: Harvey Barrison
The Sami languages are spoken up in Sápmi, the northernmost part of Europe that stretches from mid-Norway right across Sweden and Finland to the tip of the Kola Peninsula in Russia. There are 10 different Sami languages, some of which are recognised as minority languages in certain areas, and the vocabulary is incredibly rich – there are, for instance, more than 300 different ways of saying snow! But with speakers interspersed across the populations of 4 countries, it’s not surprising a couple of them are already moribund and have just a handful of natives left. The majority of native Ume and Pite Sami native speakers (2 of the most endangered languages in the Sami family) live along the Ume river which weaves its way north from Umea to the Pite, in Sweden’s Arjeplog region, and there are heaps of language resources and a great deal of information online if you’re keen to uncover more about the Sami and their culture.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Bures! (Pite Sami) and Buörrie Beäjvvie (Ume Sami)
  • Number of Speakers:  Under 100 speakers of Ter Sami, Pite Sami and Ume Sami
  • UNESCO Status: Pite Sami, Ume Sami and Ter Sami: Critically Endangered

Endangered Finnic Languages


Luga River, Russia - Wikimedia: Смок Вавельский
Luga River, Russia – Wikimedia: Смок Вавельский
Spoken in just 2 villages in northwestern Russia on the border to Estonia – about a 2 hour drive from St Petersburg – Votic is on the border of extinction, with some 20 speakers left. The language saw massive decline after WWII and became stigmatised as a language of “uneducated villagers”. People soon avoided its use both in public and at home too, as many considered it to hinder children’s capacity to speak and write in Russian. Nowadays, Votic is of little interest to younger Votes, though one school has concentrated its efforts on its revival.
  • Language Sample: You see the splinter in another’s eye but fail to see the beam in your own: ma silmiz ed näe irttätŝi, a te̮izē silmɨz näed i pikkaraizē roitū.
  • Number of Speakers: 20
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered


Gulf of Riga
Gulf of Riga, Latvia – Wikimedia: Orangeforrestmushrooms
The Livonian language has been dying a long, slow death since the 13th century. Tucked into the Gulf of Riga up on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, Livonia has dealt with countless wars and invasions which have left the language totally marginalised. The last native speaker died in 2009 but, in attempts to revive the now officially extinct language, it’s actually taught in a couple of universities dotted around Latvia, Estonia and Finland. For a little snippet of Livonian in all its former glory, take a listen to the anthem, it’s certainly grand.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Tēriņtš | Thank you: Tienū | Happy New Year! – Vȯndzist Ūdāigastõ!
  • Number of Speakers: The last native speaker in Estonia, Viktor Berthold, died in February, 2009 and in 2013, the very last native speaker Grizelda Kristina died at the age of 103, in Canada.
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered

Endangered Celtic Languages

Endangered Celtic Languages: Manx; Cornish; Breton


Isle of Man
Isle of Man, UK – Flickr: Brad Higham
The British and Channel Islands is home to 2 critically endangered languages as well as 2 more severely endangered languages. Catch the train to Liverpool and then a ferry over to Douglas on the Isle of Man, home of the Manx National Heritage Museum where you can explore and discover the culture surrounding the Manx language. The last native speaker passed away in 1974, but recently concerted efforts from the locals have helped bring the language partially back to life. 50 young students have been enrolled in a Manx immersion programme in which they’re educated primarily in the language.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Hai | How are you: Kys t’ou | Isle of Man: Ellan Vannin
  • Number of Speakers: The last speaker of traditional Manx, Ned Maddrell, died in 1974. Since then, however, the language has been undergoing active revitalisation in family, school and institutional contexts.
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered


St. Ives
St. Ives, UK – Flickr: Robert Pittman
St. Ives in Cornwall is home to the largest percentage of the world’s Cornish speakers and the St. Ives Museum gives some real insight into Cornish cultural heritage. It’s the traditional language of the region’s people, and derives from the common Brittonic tongue spoken before the development of English. Once classified as extinct, it’s undergone a marked revival in recent decades and is finding expression once again through literature, music, film and common speech and if you really fancy learning the language, here’s a great resource.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Hou | How are you? Fatla genes
  • Number of Speakers: 574
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered


Endangered Languages in Camaret sur Mer
Brittany, France – Flickr: Florent Lannoy
Breton, also known as Brezhoneg, is spoken in Lower Brittany, with around 8.5% of Brittany’s population possessing an aptitude for the language. It’s actually more closely related to Gaelic rather than the romantic languages that tend to dominate the rest of France. The Breton term for “Hello” is “Demant” which is quite a far cry from the French “bonjour”. Before the end of WWI, half of Lower Britanny’s population spoke Breton rather than French and today bilingual signs remain dotted along the streets and even some media coverage and administrative services exist in the language. You can take a ferry from the UK or the Channel Islands or travel by train from Paris to Saint-Malo. Once here The Musée de la Bretagne showcases an exhibition giving further information about the Breton language.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Demant
  • Number of Speakers: ~300,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered

Endangered Greek and Turkic Languages

Endangered Greek and Turkic Languages: Cappadocian; Tsakonian; Karaim; Nogai


Endangered Languages in Cappadocia
Cappadocia, Turkey – Flickr: Mr Hicks46
At the crux of several south European countries, Greece has been home to its fair share of different languages and dialects which have all developed in varying ways. Cappadocian, for instance, was present in Turkey until a population exchange in 1920 forced the population to resettle in Greece, who rapidly shifted to Standard Modern Greek. For decades their language was considered totally extinct, though a handful of Cappadocians have more recently been discovered. The northern and central regions of Greece are home to several settlements of Cappadocian Greeks, including Kavala and Thessaloniki.
  • Language Sample: The good man: do kalon do andra | The good woman: do kalon do neka | The good child: do kalon do pei
  • Number of Speakers: 300
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered

Greek Languages


Endangered Languages in Leonidio
Leonidio, Greece – Flickr: Jean-François Renaud
Though some still consider Tsakonian a dialect of modern Greek, the two languages are incredibly divergent and mutually unintelligible. Today the language can be found tucked away in a little group of mountain towns and villages in the Eastern Peloponnese. While the language is only spoken by a few hundred people, Leonidio (the Tsakonian capital) has seen a revival in tourism attributable to its striking architecture and beautiful mountain scenery.
  • Language Sample: Where is the beach? Ciá éñi to perigiálli?
  • Number of Speakers: 300
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered

Turkic Languages


Endangered Languages in Trakai Castle
Trakai Castle, Lithuania – Flickr: mannewaar
Traditionally from the name lashon kedar, literally, ‘language of the nomads’, Karaim belongs to a group of Western Turkic languages – quite similar to Yiddish – spoken in various parts of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine. Though there are only a handful of people still using the language, it stands a fairly strong chance of survival. Only half an hour away by bus or train from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, rests the town of Trakai, where the majority of speakers can be found. Fortunately the community is supported by tourists who come to visit its charming Island Castle. You can have a listen to one of the last native speakers of Karaim reciting a spot of Adam Mickiewicz.
  • Language Sample: Read this letter and think about its meaning: Ochunuz bu bitkini da esinizni kojunuz jachsy neckikti anlnmah
  • Number of Speakers: 50 in Lithuania and 6 in the Western Ukraine
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered


Endangered Languages in Recepkoy
Recepkoy, Turkey – Wikimedia Commons: Osmancelebi
Gagauz (the Bulgarian dialect) is spoken across international borders from Turkey to Moldova and Russia to the Ukraine. Native to the Ludogrie region of Bulgaria (also known as Deliorman) and not far from the coastal city of Varna, scholars remain unsure of the precise number of native speakers that remain. While some estimate as many as 100 elderly people, cynics claim that it is already extinct. The journey from the capital Sofia to Varna is about 6-7 hours by train or by bus and, of course, you can also fly. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the serene river and hillside views along the banks of the Danube. And the Roman spa in Varna is the third biggest in Europe so be sure to check it out.
  • Language Sample: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights: Insannar hepsi duuêrlar serbest hem birtakım kendi kıymetindä hem haklarında.
  • Number of Speakers: 100
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered

Endangered Slavic Languages

Endangered Slavic Languages: Molise Croatian; Kashubian

Molise Croatian

Endangered Languages in Termoli
Termoli, Italy – Flickr: antothefly
Molise Croatian or Slavomolisano is a Slavic language spoken by approximately 1,000 people primarily in 3 villages in the Molise and Abruzzo region: Montemitro, Acquaviva Collecroce and San Felice del Molise. As the Ottoman Turks moved into Dalmatia, a group of Croats emigrated to modern day Italy and as a result, the Slavic and Croat heritage is widely recognised throughout the region. To get to Campobasso and explore from there, you can take a short train ride from Napoli or Rome.
  • Language Sample: Not available
  • Number of Speakers: 1,000-5,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered

Endangered Romance Languages

France is home to a whopping 26 of the world’s most endangered languages. Jacobean reforms dating back to the eighteenth century granted French the exclusive ‘official language’ status in France. But every few years, endangered language activists bring the issue to the forefront of the political scene, demanding increased recognition. But they’ve got quite a linguistic battle ahead of them (and one preferably articulated in French…)

Oïl Languages

Endangered Oïl Languages: Franc-Comtou; Champenois; Bourguignon; Lorrain; Picard; Gallo; Guernésiais; Jèrriais; Poitevin; Saintongeais


Endangered Languages in Hunawihr
Hunawihr, France – Flickr: alh1
Franc-comtou, also known as Jurassien and pronounced franc-comtois in its own language, is primarily used in Alsace, Franche Comté and parts of Switzerland. Recent census results indicate about 3,800 surviving speakers that can be found just under 5 hours outside of Paris in Besancon via the A5 or A6 motorways. The town boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the form of a citadel and the area is also home to the Musée Comtois, a local museum that tells the story of the region and its disappearing language.
  • Language Sample: Not available
  • Numer of Speakers: Not available
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered


Endangered Languages in Champagne France
Champagne, France – Flickr: Roger Nelson
Champenois, also known as Champaignat, is spoken in the Champagne and Reims regions, as well as in Wallonia in Belgium where it is a regionally protected language. This oïl language is so under threat that very few information sources exist, however, its earliest surviving article of literature dates back to the late 16th century. Written in 1660, Le Bontemps de Carnaval de Chaumont illustrates the link between Champenois and the peasant class by contrasting the dialect to the higher-class French spoken by the King’s messengers. This is likely one of the reasons the language largely fell out of favour.
  • Language Sample: Not available
  • Number of Speakers: Not available
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered


Endangered Languages in Saone et Loire
Burgundy, France – Flickr: Toprural
Bourguignon, also known as Bregognon or Burgundian in English, is spoken in the Bourgogne region and as per research conducted in 1988, approximately 50,000 speakers remain, all of whom you could begin a conversation with by saying either “bonjôr” or “salutâs”. Head to Morvan in the Bourgogne region to experience this exchange before it’s too late.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Bonjôr or Salutâs
  • Number of Speaker: 50,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered


Endangered Languages in Grand Parc Bordeaux
Bordeaux, France – Flickr: Grand Parc, Bordeaux, France
The Lorrain language is known as Gaumais in Belgium due to its high concentration in the La Gaume region. Make your way to the unofficial Gaumish capital of Virton, in the South province of Luxembourg. It’s one of the 6 local romance dialects, developed in the 8th century from romana lingua, or ‘Vulgar Latin’, with the other 5 romance dialects all spoken in the regions around and just south of Brussels. If you fancy learning the language, try one of these annual workshops, or take a look at this website for some more information.
  • Language Sample: Not available
  • Number of Speakers: ~20,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered


Endangered Languages in Hardelot
Hardelot, France – Flickr: Guillaume Baviere
Northern parts of France such as Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie, or Mons in Belgium are home to the Picard language (also known as Picardy, Ch’ti, Chtimi and Rouchi). You’ll know when you’re in a Picardy district as the buildings often have distinctive red brick houses accented by a border of white bricks. Much like Gaumais, Picard also developed from Vulgar Latin, though it isn’t yet at quite that level of extinction. The highest-grossing French film of all time, titled Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (or Welcome to the Sticks in English), uses the language to mock its speakers, with the beginning of the film portraying them as small town yokels. Although this is an exaggerated offensive stereotype, the language was traditionally spoken by the working class. Many supporters of the language are not optimistic regarding its survival. Its use in daily life and media is in rapid decline, and street signs in its areas of use are no longer produced bilingually to include Picard.
  • Language Sample: Hello (to good friends): Bojour mes gins or Salut ti z’aute
  • Number of Speakers: ~500,000 – 700,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered


Endangered Languages in Rennes
Rennes, France – Flickr: Ted Drake
Gallo is spoken in areas of Upper Brittany predominantly in Rennes and is often also referred to as Galo, Gallot, Langue Gallèse or Britto-Roman. With about 200,000 to 400,000 speakers, this covers about 5-10% of the population in the region but statistics vary greatly and some census results indicate figures as low as 28,000. Once the official language of the court in Brittany, its prevalence began its decline when the region became part of France. Rennes is easy to access by train or bus, especially due to France’s high speed services. The Brittany Museum offers tours in a variety of languages, including Gallo which makes for a unique experience. Up until 2002 you could take lessons in the language at the University of Rennes, however this was discontinued due to lack of interest. Although some college courses and primary school activities still centre around the language, its use in media is also in declining.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Bonghjornu
  • Number of Speakers: ~200,000 – 400,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered

Norman Languages

Guernésiais and Jèrriais
Endangered Languages: Ferry from St Helier to Weymouth
Ferry from St. Helier to Weymouth – Flickr: Robert Linsdell
Jersey and Guernsey are two tiny islands situated in the Channel that you can reach by ferry from Weymouth. Condor Ferries also provide a one hour service connecting the two islands for anyone keen to check out both. Guernésiais and Jèrriais are remnants of the Norman Conquest of England and the resulting languages bear a much stronger resemblance to French than anything else spoken in England. The languages are spoken by about 1,000 people and you can learn more about them here.
  • Language Sample: Cross: Croyais (Jèrriais) and Kérouaïe (Guernésiais) | Wednesday: Mêcrédi (Jèrriais) and Méquerdi (Guernésiais)
  • Number of Speakers: 1,327
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered

Occitan Languages

Endangered Occitan Languages: Auvergnat; Lemosin; Gardiol; Provencal; Languedocien


Endangered Languages in Auvergne
Auvergne, France – Flickr: Alpha du centaure
Approximately two thirds of the residents in the Auvergne area understand Auvergnat, but only a fifth consider themselves fluent. Once the highly respected language of the knights of central France, it has since fallen by the wayside and is now spoken largely by the older generation living n Auvergne. Aurillac is just a 1.5 hours from Paris by plane and approximately 6 hours by car via the A10 and A71 motorway.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Bonjorn
  • Number of Speakers: ~1,315,000
  • UNESCO Status:  Severely Endangered
Endangered Languages in Les Tours de Merles
Les Tours de Merles, France – Flickr: “Marie Photo Passion”
Lemosin is an Occitan language that dominates the Limousin region, as well as parts of Charente and the Dordogne, and districts of Creuse, Correze and Haute-Vienne. Older than its sister language, Auvergnat, it lays claim to the first Occitan document dating way back to the year 1000 and it was the official language of the region until the 16th century. Modern day Limousin actually bears a striking resemblance to Catalan. The area can easily be reached by car on motorway 89, or by train – there’s a convenient line linking Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand and Bordeaux.
  • Language Sample: Hello: Bonjorn
  • Number of Speakers: ~400,000
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered


Endangered Languages in Cosenza Region
Cosenza Region, Italy – Flickr: Spookymic
Gardiol is spoken in several regions of France and Northern Italy as well as in Calabria in the South of Italy. While it’s only spoken fluently by about 350 people, a study carried out by Pietro Monteleone indicates that the language is not entirely on its way out and is still spoken as the primary language in several families. Guardia Piemontese is the only town in Calabria where an Occitan language is spoken. The train station in the city is well connected to most major cities in Italy including Salerno, Rome and Naples.
  • Language Sample: How are you?: Quin hes? or Cossi fas?
  • Number of Speakers: 340
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered

Eastern Romance Languages

Mount Učka

Endangered Languages in Schlosser Lodge
Mount Ucka, Croatia – Wikimedia: Luka Jacov
Spoken in a few villages to the north of Mount Učka, Istro-Romanian is said to have emerged after the migration of Transylvanian peoples to the city of Trieste around 1,000 years ago. Today, the immediate area boasts only a few hundred speakers of the language, although academics seem to believe there are nearly 1,000 speakers dotted around the world. Locally, Istro-Romanian is often taught as a second language, for the purpose of educating children in the history of the community.
  • Language Sample: Leg: pićor | Chest: kľeptu | Good: bire | To be: fi | Worm: g)ľerm
  • Number of Speakers: 300
  • UNESCO Status: Severely Endangered

Other Romance Languages

Corfiot Italkian

Endangered Languages from Corfu
Corfu, Greece – Flickr: Michael Gleave
Corfiot Italkian originated as a hybrid of multiple Venetian and Italian words and over time developed into a unique dialect strongly influenced by the large population of Albania and Greco Christian refugees who fled the Black Death. Nowadays, the language is pretty much extinct and little data is available to suggest that it’s still being spoken. In any case, it’s native to Corfu, the second largest Ionian island off Greece – famous for it’s beaches and classical Mediterranean culture.
  • Language Sample: unavailable
  • Number of Speakers: less than 10
  • UNESCO Status: Critically Endangered