2019 | International Year of Indigenous Languages

2019 is underway and one of the things we are excited about in this space is the fact that this year has been named by UNESCO as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

In its press release on January 8th the UN agency notes that

“Languages play a crucial role in the daily lives of people, not only as a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but also as a repository for each person’s unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory,”

However despite their significant value at an individual, community and global level, languages continue to disappear at an alarming rate. According to Ethnologue, there are about 6,909 distinct indigenous languages across the globe, and approximately 2,680 of them are in danger of extinction.

The most recent Statistics Canada census data reveals the country’s Indigenous linguistic landscape, the places where 60 languages belonging to 12 overarching families — Inuit, 10 First Nations and Michif (Métis) — are being used now . Most of these have been spoken, and have been evolving, for thousands of years — far longer than English or French. Check out this map and infographic below and click through to the expanded version.


Over the course of the year, we will be having some conversations on this hub about Indigenous languages, and what they mean within the context of identity, belonging, and reconciliation. Given that language boundaries do not neatly line up with our relatively recent provincial and national boundaries, our conversations need not be limited to just Ontario or Canada.

Check out the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages (2019IYIL) website here. It is a good resource with a lot of relevant materials for conversation on the local and international scale of this conversation.

2019IYIL will promote Indigenous languages around these five areas:

1. Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation.
2. Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices with regards to indigenous languages.
3. Integration of indigenous languages into standard setting.
4. Empowerment through capacity building.
5. Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge.and let us know what is happening in your community around this theme.

How do these themes connect to your community, everyday life and your work? Feel free to share what Indigenous languages you speak or are spoken in the communities around you.