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| 5/16/2011 4:00:00 PM

Colombia: Saving dying languages

May 16--Nearly half of Colombia's 68 indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing altogether.

Eudosio Becerra says it’s nearly impossible for him to converse in his native tongue.

Only about 50 people still speak Uitoto, out of the 600 members of the indigenous Uitoto tribe in the southern Colombian jungle. The rest communicate in Spanish which they view as more modern and useful.

Uitoto is one of 68 indigenous languages spoken in Colombia, but only three are spoken by more than 50,000 people. In fact, about 30 are in danger of disappearing altogether, said Daniel Aguirre, who heads the Center for the Study of Aboriginal Languages at the University of the Andes in Bogota.

"We have languages, like Barasana, that only 200 people speak,” Aguirre said. “The last speaker of the Tinigua language died three years ago.”
 
With both Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and located close to Caribbean islands, Colombia has long been a crossroads for indigenous groups. In the 1500s, Spanish explorers reported that native peoples here spoke at least 300 distinct languages.
 
Read more here.

Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.

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