Japan is ethnically, linguistically and culturally a very homogenous nation, where nearly 99% of the population speaks Nihongo (Japanese) as their first language. This dominance of Japanese language owes to the fact that around 98.5% of the population is made up of ethnic Japanese. Japanese is the official language of Japan – specifically, the Tokyo dialect, also known as Eastern Japanese – which is considered to be the standard version of the language. Other official Japanese dialects include Hachijo Japanese, Kyushu Japanese, and Western Japanese.

Japanese Language and Its Influences: From Chinese Borrowings to Regional Dialects

Japanese is greatly influenced by the Chinese language, but modern Japanese borrowed many words from other foreign languages as well. Its numeral system is a mix of Chinese and Arabic numerals, for example. The issue of the origins of the Japanese language is often contested by historical scholars, but the most widely held view is that Japanese originated from the family of languages which also includes Korean, Mongolian, Manchu and Turkish – the Ural-Atlantic family of languages. Korean is actually most frequently compared to Japanese, given that both languages share significant key features such as general structure, lack of conjunctions, and vowel harmony. However, the two languages are mutually unintelligible as the pronunciation of Japanese is significantly different than Korean pronunciation.

There are two forms of standard Japanese: the Standard Japanese taught in educational institutions around Japan called Hyojungo, and which is also used in official communications and in media. Hyojungo is further classified into kogo (the oral language) and bungo (the literary language). Kogo and bungo differ in vocabulary and grammar. The other form of standard Japanese is called Kyotsugo (the common language). The Japanese language also differs in the accent between Western and Eastern Japanese.

There are several other languages and dialects spoken in Japan, which include the Ryukyuan languages, Ainu languages, the Orok language and the Nivkh language. These languages belong to two language families spoken in Japan: the Japonic languages and the Ainu languages.

The Japonic languages are further divided into Japanese languages and Ryukyuan languages. Japanese languages include Hachijo, Eastern, Western and Kyushu, while Ryukyuan languages include Northern Ryukyuan languages – Amami, Kunigami and Okinawa and Southern Ryukyuan languages – Miyako, Yaeyama and Yonaguni, which together account for less than one half of one percent of the population.

Endangered Languages of Japan: Preserving Cultural Heritage and Linguistic Richness

Many of the languages that are still spoken today in Japan are on the brink of extinction, such as Ryukyuan, Hokkaido Ainu, and the Nivkh language.

Some of the most widely-spoken foreign languages spoken on the island include Korean, spoken by approximately 900,000 residents, and Japanese Sign Language, with approximately 317,000 speakers. Other foreign languages that can be heard in Japan include English, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and French. There are also small populations of Brazilians, Filipino, Chinese and Korean communities within the country.

While Russian is the official language of Russia at the national level, there are also 35 other languages which are considered the official languages in different regions of the country. Being home to diverse cultures, Russia’s multicultural and multilingual landscape is manifested in the high number of different languages used all over the country.

Russian: A Dominant Language with Diverse Regional Flavors

With about 260 million native speakers, Russian is the most popular language in the country. It is legally recognized as the country’s official language at the national level, which is enshrined in the Constitution of Russia. As aforementioned, however, there are 35 other languages which are used as official languages in various other regions of Russia, as well as about 100 other minority languages.

The Russian language is classified as an Indo-European language and one of the four East Slavic Languages, and is one of the most widespread languages in the world, with speakers in Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Tajikistan, Georgia, Lithuania, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Russian is also used as an official language in the United Nations. Its written form uses a distinct type of alphabet based on the Cyrillic script.

Other official languages of Russia include: Ossetic, Ukrainian, Buryat, Kalmyk, Chechen, Ingush, Abaza, Adyghe, Cherkess, Kabardian, Altai, Bashkir, Chuvash, Crimean Tatar, Karachay-Balkar, Khakas, Nogai, Tatar, Tuvan, Yakut, Erzya, Komi, Hill Mari, Meadow Mari, Moksha, and Udmurt. With thousands of native speakers, these languages make up a significant portion of the total Russian population.

Some Russian languages are also considered endangered. One such example is the Kalmyk language, which is legally recognized as the official language of Kalmykia with about 80,000 native speakers in the country. However, as per UNESCO, which has labeled the language as “definitely endangered”, the Kalmyk language is in danger of extinction. Other languages which are in danger of extinction include: Northern and Souther Yukaghir, Udege, Enets, Orok, Ter Sami, Ket, Seto, Ingrian, Chulym, Ludian, Veps, Tofalar, and Chukchi.

Preserving Heritage: The Struggle to Save Endangered Languages

Some languages, which have already been declared extinct in Russia, have small populations of native speakers in other countries in the world. Such languages include Kerek, Ainu, and Yugh.

Some of the foreign languages used by thousands of expatriates who might have verbal and written knowledge of the national language, but who also use their native languages while communicating include English, German, Turkish, Ukrainian and French. These languages are mainly used among the major city centers in Russia.

Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Mexico, however the government also recognizes 68 Mexican indigenous languages. Over 130 indigenous languages have actually gone extinct over the years, along with their customs and culture. This is why the Mexican government has made great efforts in order to preserve and promote the native languages and culture in the recent years.

Indigenous Languages of Mexico: Nahuatl, Maya, Mixtec, and More

Today, there are over 7 million speakers of indigenous languages in Mexico. Mexico is home to over 45 groups of indigenous languages, which are further divided into 364 dialects. Some of the most widely spoken languages, apart from Spanish, include Nahuatl, Maya, and Mixtec. Nahuatl is spoken by around 1.7 million people, Maya is spoken by around 850,000 people, and Mixtec is spoken by more than half a million people.

Spanish is the dominant and the de facto language in Mexico with about 95% of the population speaking the language, however it is not recognized as the official language in Mexican legislation, which allows for more rights to be given to Mexico’s other languages, including the right to use indigenous languages in official documents and governmental communication.

Mexican Spanish is different from European Spanish, although daily and written communication has many similarities. The vernacular language and dialects of each region are different, however, and the Mexican vocabulary is more old-fashioned than the European variant of the language. One of the most distinct differences between the two is the accent, which is significantly different in Mexican Spanish than European Spanish.

Most Mexicans also learn English as a second language. At regional levels, Mexicans speak Spanish and English. In eastern Mexico, Otomi and Totonac are the official languages, and in central Mexico, Nahuatl is the official language. In the south-east of the country, residents usually speak Mayan languages.

Challenges in Language Preservation: Endangered Indigenous Languages

As per the National Institute of Indigenous Languages, 259 languages are in grave danger of extinction due to the languages having fewer than 100 speakers. One example of an endangered language is the Ayapaneco language, also known as Nnumte Oote.

Other minority dialects and languages include Catalan, Plautdietsch, and Chipilo Venetian, as well as the Yucatan Sign Language, Mexican Sign Language, and American Sign Language.