Witness the Death of Languages


rarest languages Ongota Taushiro Lemerig Liki, Tanema
Samples of rare languages. Lemerig (upper left), Ongota (lower left), and Taushiro (upper right).

When it comes to studying languages, many turn their attention to the most-commonly spoken languages of the world. Fully 25% of the world’s population claim Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, or English as a first language. If you have considered learning a second language, odds are it was one of these.

How much time have you spent contemplating Lemerig, Njerep, or Taushiro for language studies? Never heard of them? These are among the rarest languages that are currently spoken on the planet.

Chamicuro

The Chamicuro language is spoken primarily in Peru, but even there, it is extremely rare. As of 2008 there were only eight people on the planet who spoke the language.

Dumi

Nepal is the home of the Dumi language. As of 2007, only eight people remain who speak it.

Ongota

With only six native speakers of Ongota remaining in 2008, this language of Ethiopia is critically endangered.

Liki

Liki used to be the language used by church officials who lived in the islands off the cost of Sarmi, Jayapura Kabupaten, and Sarmi Kecamatan, all of which are islands near Indonesia. Those days are long past, and as of 2007, only five people remained who spoke the language.

Tanema

Only four people speak Tanema, a once-common language in the Solomon Islands.

Njerep

Once spoken throughout Cameroon, Njerep is now spoken only among four elderly people in Nigeria.

Chemehuevi

Chemehuevi is a Native American language that once could be found throughout the midwest and western United States. Today, it is limited to just three people who are fluent in the language.

Lemerig

Vanuatu is the home of the last remaining speakers of Lemerig — both of them. Fluent language speakers as of 2006 numbered two.

Kaixana

At the extreme end of rare languages is Kaixana. As of 2006, only one person spoke the language. That person is in a village near the Japura River in Brazil.

Taushiro

Concluding the list of rare languages is Taushiro. Once popular in Peru, it is now spoken by only one person. For a video of the last remaining fluent Taushiro speaker, click here.

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