Let them die

Sometimes I see articles bemoaning the fact that a language is dying. It might be the language of a native American tribe and we might be told there are only a few native speakers still alive and they are all elderly. In practice, that language is dead, it just hasn’t had the death certificate issued.

There are attempts to preserve languages. I do not mean by recording native speakers which I approve of, but by encouraging people to raise their children in their parents’ native language, even though there are fewer than 50,000 speakers of the language. This guarantees that the children must learn a second language in order to be able to move into a wider world. If they want to become doctors, engineers, or automobile mechanics they must learn another language because the textbooks and manuals aren’t available in their language. Even if they want to work in retail, if they want a real choice of jobs, they must learn a second language.

Employment is not the only thing that is limited by only knowing a language that few others speak. People are limited as to where to live, whom to marry, what movies they can see, and even what they can easily read on the Internet.

To cavalierly say that everyone should learn another language anyway is no defense. There is a limit of how much one can learn and if someone learns two languages it is to his advantage to have both of them useful.

So when people want to spend resources to preserve languages spoken by a small population, my reaction is to say, “Let them die.”

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