I was glad to see this story (by Polly Curtis) from the Guardian:
A language is lost every two weeks, according to the head of a new centre for research into endangered languages, which is being launched today.
People are increasingly choosing to teach their children more commonly used languages in a bid to help them gain work in later life, their research says. As a result half of the 6,500 languages spoken around the world are anticipated to disappear in the next century – a rate of one every fortnight.
The new centre for research into endangered languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, which is backed by £20m grant, is being launched today by the Princess Royal.
Researchers will use the money to record and archive endangered languages and look at ways of encouraging people to retain their indigenous languages.
Professor Peter Austin director of the Endangered Languages Academic Project, said: “The main reason that languages are lost is that communities are switching to speaking other people’s language – they adopt a language of a local area.
“Many people in east Africa are opting for Swahili; Indians in central and south America speak Spanish to their children to give them an economic advantage.”
The professor, who himself speak three Australian aboriginal languages as well as two Indonesian dialects, English, some Japanese, German and Italian, added: “The tragedy is that although people may decide now that it’s better to switch, in a generation or two, their children or grandchildren will regret that. We’re trying to help people remain multi-lingual by adding languages rather than losing them.”
Along with the endangered languages the centre aims to preserve large elements of the disappearing cultures. Archived material which Professor Austin has gathered so far includes interviews with the last known speaker of Jiwarli, a western Australian Aboriginal dialect, Jack Butler, who died in 1986.