Saving Endangered Languages…. With Math!

There’s a really interesting article over on Discover Magazine discussing how a mathematician named Anne Kandler used a formula to calculate how many people learning Scottish Gaelic were needed per year in order to keep the language alive (860) in association with the Gaelic Development Agency, so that they could increase their chances of saving the language from extinction, and how we can use her techniques to come up with formulas for other languages in order to save them. Knowing how many new speakers per year are needed to save a language can help programs and governments better target their efforts and budget funds for teaching initiatives. And I think it might also be a good idea to begin international campaigns using these numbers. And it’s nice to know that at least one of the endangered languages on the list stands a really good chance of being saved. So, if you’re thinking about learning a language, I’d encourage you to pick Scottish Gaelic. I may not be much help over here in America, but at least I can help promote the efforts to keep the language going and know that, if you include me, they only need 859 more people this year.