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'Vel Gaelg ayd?' The obscure European languages that came back to life

Cornwall, where the Cornish language is making a comeback.
Cornwall, where the Cornish language is making a comeback. Copyright Joanne Kay/ Pexels
Copyright Joanne Kay/ Pexels
By Marta Rodriguez Martinez
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Thousands of languages face extinction, but some are fighting back.


According to UNESCO, at least 43% of the 6,000 languages spoken across the world are endangered, with at least 228 that have actually gone extinct since 1950.

But languages come back to life too: In Europe, three tongues that were feared on the verge of extinction a few years ago are now actually growing - the British dialects of Cornish and Manx, and Livon, a language spoken by around 30 people in Latvia.

Below, Euronews looks at the three European dialects that are making a comeback.


Also known as Manic Gaelic, the last person who spoke the native tongue of the British Isle of Man as a first language - Ned Maddrell, a fisherman - died in 1974, but Manx had begun its decline many years earlier.

Like Cornish, Manx is a language of Celtic origin, the existence of which was threatened by the establishment of English as the dominant language in the UK.

But over the last 20 years Manx has been on the rise thanks to its active promotion in schools and institutions in the island. In 2001, a school was founded where education is given in Manx.

Meanwhile, a study by local authorities estimates that 1,000 children are studying the language.

"Although small in terms of its number of speakers, its impact on global efforts to protect and promote endangered languages ​​is enormous," the report adds.

"The Isle of Man is now seen by many as an example of good practice."

In 2021, the "Year of the Manx Language" will be celebrated on the Isle of Man.

Learn it: 'Vel Gaelg ayd?' _- Do you speak Manx? _


According to UNESCO, the last person whose first language was Livón was Viktor Berthold, who died in 2009 in Latvia.

He may have been survived by some other Livón speakers, including Grizelda Kristiņa, a Berthold relative, who died in Canada in 2013.

Spoken east of the Gulf of Riga in Latvia, the language is of Baltic origin and more closely resembles Estonian and Finnish, rather than Latvian.

According to the Livonian Institute, only around 30 people in the world can communicate in Livón, but the number of people studying it is increasing.


Since 2009, Latvia has recognised Livón as part of its traditional culture of the country.

**Learn it: **Pǟgiņ vȯnnõ Ūdāigastõks! - Happy New Year!


Spoken in the southwest of England and in some parts of Northern Ireland, Cornish officially died at the end of the 18th century along with its last known speaker.

But a report by the Government of the United Kingdom Regions estimates that since 2000 there may be as many 300 effective speakers of Cornish, with about 750 people learning the language.


There is also a growing demand for Cornish at weddings and other public ceremonies, the report says.

It was recognised by the UK government under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ​​in 2002 and, eight years later, UNESCO stopped categorising it as an extinct language, but as a revitalised one.

Learn it: _Hirneth heb dha weles! - Long time no see! _

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