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Many languages are threatened with extinction.

The "Documentation of Endangered Languages", a funding initiative of the Volkswagen Foundation, has now announced in Hanover that many languages will become extinct worldwide. An international group of researchers believes that the number of languages could be in the thousands. For the most part, it relates to the languages of social or ethnic minorities in a society.

While in Germany, many people donate money for endangered species such as orangutans every year, an important cultural asset such as a language can die out relatively unnoticed. It is difficult to capture intangibles such as language, dance and music. For the past 14 years, the Volkswagen Foundation has been devoted to the project "Documentation of Endangered Languages". A meeting in Hanover is about to deliver its verdict: The researchers will return with travelogues of their tours to Namibia, Siberia, the Himalayas or the rainforest.

In most cases, a language is lost due to the fact that the ethnic minority of a society adapts to the majority. With the loss of language, the loss of traditions and knowledge is also associated. The researchers have collected data using video cameras and tapes, and have passed these on to the Language Archive in Nijmegen. Ethnic minorities benefit from the project: the DVD and CD recordings made available to them, and these are used, for example, as a basis for new textbooks to teach children the native language of their parents and grandparents.

The extinction of languages belonging to ethnic minorities also means that official documents such as birth, marriage or death certificates, are usually only written in the language of the majority. This is especially true when the language of the minority is not recognised as an official national language. Especially for rare languages, it is almost impossible to find a translator. Translators for Spanish - German or Portuguese - German are more frequent, by contrast. If you are looking for translators or interpreters for rare languages, it is advisable to contact a translation agency. These agencies have many contacts and a wide network of translators to assist you further, even in difficult cases.