Three European languages that you didn’t know existed

What makes linguistic diversity special? Speakers of vulnerable and endangered languages share their stories

Reindeer herding is still an active profession and the herders could maybe get away with only speaking Pite Saami. Photograph: Tiziana and Gianni Baldizzone

Reindeer herding is still an active profession and the herders could maybe get away with only speaking Pite Saami. Photograph: Tiziana and Gianni Baldizzone

Globalisation and cultural homogenisation mean that many of the world’s languages are in danger of vanishing. UNESCO has identified 150 European languages which it considers are either vulnerable or endangered. We talk to speakers of these lesser-known languages – from Faroese to Pite Saami.

1. Faroese

Who speaks itspoken in the Faroe islands – an archipelago and autonomously run region of Denmark.

How many people speak it: 66,000, both in the islands and in Denmark.

How to say “Hello”: Góðan dag.

Did you know? Faroese is derived from Old Norse and preserves more characteristics of that language than any other modern tongue except Icelandic.

Durita Dahl Djurhuus, native speaker of Faroese, lives on Faroe Islands:

“I was born in Denmark in 1972. Both my parents are Faroese but they were studying there at the time. A great many Faroese people get their education abroad and, in the 70s, Denmark was by far the most common place.

“Most people around my family were Faroese and my first language is Faroese, but in childcare in Denmark, they did not understand when I spoke it. I knew both Danish and Faroese, but I hadn’t yet learned to distinguish them. One day, one of the educators scolded me for talking Faroese to another girl and told me to talk Danish. Since I didn’t know which was which, I just stopped talking in the institution. Later, they blamed my mom for me not talking and told us to speak Danish at all times. The period I was not talking I spent figuring out the two languages and everything fell into place soon after. Of course, my parents and I couldn’t stop speaking Faroese. […]

(From The Guardian, Emma Garland and Matthew Jenkin, 26.09.2014)

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