The World’s Least Spoken Languages: Exploring Endangered Languages in the 21st Century

five people walking on paddy

In the age of globalisation, the world seems to be getting smaller. With the widespread use of English and other major languages, many of the world's lesser-known tongues are at risk of extinction. These languages may be spoken by only a few hundred or even a few dozen people, but they are part of humanity's cultural heritage and carry important linguistic and historical knowledge. In this article, we will explore the world's least spoken languages and examine why they matter.


What are the least spoken languages in the world?

There are many languages in the world that are spoken by only a few hundred or even a few dozen people. One example is Njerep, which is spoken by just four people in Cameroon. Similarly, the indigenous language of Kusunda, spoken in Nepal, is believed to have just one living speaker. Other examples of endangered languages include Ainu, which is spoken by around 20 people in Japan, and Liki, which is spoken by just 7 people in Indonesia.

How many languages are there in the world?

There are approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world today. However, the majority of the world's population speaks only a few of them.

Why do some languages become endangered?

There are many reasons why some languages become endangered. Some of the main factors include the dominance of more widely spoken languages, economic and political pressures, and social stigma associated with speaking minority languages.

Endangered Languages in the 21st Century

What does it mean for a language to be endangered?

When a language is endangered, it means that there are very few speakers left, and the language is in danger of disappearing altogether.

How many languages are endangered?

Of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, it is estimated that over 2,500 are endangered.

What are the main causes of language endangerment?

The main causes of language endangerment include globalization, migration, and the spread of dominant languages. Economic and political pressures also play a significant role.

More about the Least Spoken Languages

Examples of Least Spoken Languages

There are many languages in the world that are at risk of extinction. Some languages have only a handful of speakers, making them some of the least spoken languages in the world. Here are some examples:

AkaAka is a group of endangered languages spoken in India and Bangladesh. They are known for their complex tone systems and use of whistled speech.
NjerepNjerep, also known as Gure-Kahugu, is a language spoken by a small community in Cameroon. It is considered critically endangered, with only a few hundred speakers remaining.
LikiLiki is a language spoken in Papua New Guinea, with an estimated 500 speakers. It is notable for its use of a unique writing system, which is based on geometric shapes.
TaushiroTaushiro is a language spoken in Peru by only a handful of people. It is considered highly endangered, with only a few elderly speakers remaining.
OngotaOngota, also known as Birale, is a language spoken in Ethiopia. It is considered one of the world's most endangered languages, with only one known speaker remaining as of 2008.
AyapanecoAyapaneco is a language spoken in Mexico, with only two known speakers remaining as of 2011. It gained media attention for the efforts to preserve it, which included bringing the remaining speakers together to teach the language to younger generations.
ChamicuroChamicuro is a language spoken in Peru, with an estimated 10 speakers remaining as of 2010. Efforts have been made to document and preserve the language, including the creation of a trilingual education programme for Chamicuro-speaking children.

Where are these languages spoken?

Most of these least spoken languages are spoken in remote regions of the world where the people have had little contact with outsiders. Some are spoken in small, isolated communities, while others are spoken in larger towns or cities where the dominant language has taken over.

How many people speak these languages?

Most of these languages have only a few hundred or thousand speakers left. Some languages are spoken by only a handful of people, making them some of the most endangered languages in the world.

Importance of Endangered Languages

What cultural knowledge is preserved in endangered languages?

Endangered languages preserve cultural knowledge such as traditional beliefs, customs, and practices that have been passed down for generations.

How do endangered languages reflect the diversity of human experience?

Endangered languages offer unique perspectives on the world and reflect the diverse ways in which humans understand and experience the world.

Why is it important to protect endangered languages?

Protecting endangered languages is important to preserve cultural diversity and prevent the loss of unique knowledge and perspectives. It is also essential for the revitalization of endangered communities and their identity.

Language Preservation Efforts

What are some initiatives to preserve endangered languages?

There are several initiatives and programs aimed at preserving endangered languages. Many of these programs are focused on documentation, revitalization, and revitalization efforts.

One such initiative is the Endangered Languages Project, which is a collaborative effort by Google and various linguistic experts and organizations. This project aims to create a comprehensive online database of endangered languages, as well as tools and resources for language documentation and revitalization.

Another program is the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, which conducts research and advocacy work for endangered languages around the world. They also offer language documentation and revitalization training programs for speakers and linguists.

Local communities also play a significant role in language preservation efforts. Many communities have established language immersion programs, where children are taught their native language in addition to the dominant language of their country. These programs have proven to be successful in preserving endangered languages, as well as promoting cultural diversity and pride.

What role do local communities play in language preservation?

Local communities play a vital role in language preservation efforts. As the primary speakers and custodians of endangered languages, they possess valuable knowledge and insights into the linguistic and cultural practices associated with these languages.

Communities can actively participate in language preservation initiatives by sharing their knowledge and experiences with linguists and language advocates. They can also help to document and record endangered languages by providing oral histories, stories, and other forms of cultural expression.

Additionally, local communities can play a key role in language revitalisation efforts. They can provide the necessary context and support for language learning, such as creating opportunities for intergenerational language transmission and developing language immersion programs. By involving community members in language preservation initiatives, the process becomes more collaborative and community-driven, which can lead to more sustainable and effective outcomes.

What are the challenges facing language preservation efforts?

Despite efforts to preserve endangered languages, there are still several challenges that hinder these efforts. One of the main challenges is the lack of funding. Language preservation initiatives often require significant financial resources to sustain their activities, and without adequate funding, these efforts may struggle to survive.

Another challenge is the lack of interest or motivation from younger generations to learn and speak endangered languages. Many younger speakers may view these languages as irrelevant or outdated, and instead, prefer to learn more widely spoken languages that can provide them with more opportunities and better economic prospects.

Additionally, some languages may lack written forms or standardisation, making it difficult to document and preserve them accurately. Furthermore, the decline of traditional cultural practices and the loss of ancestral lands can also contribute to the loss of endangered languages, as these languages are often deeply intertwined with the cultural and environmental knowledge of the communities that speak them.

Finally, language preservation efforts can also face challenges from government policies and regulations, which may prioritise dominant languages over minority languages. In some cases, the promotion of a single national language can lead to the marginalisation and suppression of minority languages, hindering efforts to preserve them.

Despite these challenges, there are still many language preservation initiatives that continue to work towards preserving endangered languages and promoting linguistic diversity. These initiatives often involve collaboration between local communities, linguists, and government agencies, and rely on a variety of approaches, including language documentation, language revitalisation programs, and advocacy for language rights.


The world's least spoken languages may be at risk of extinction, but they carry important cultural and historical knowledge. As we move towards a more connected world, it is important to recognize the value of linguistic diversity and work towards preserving endangered languages. By supporting local communities, promoting language education, and encouraging research, we can ensure that these unique languages continue to enrich our collective human experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the least spoken language in the world?

The least spoken language in the world is believed to be Kusunda, which is spoken by just one person in Nepal.

Why are some languages spoken by only a few people?

Languages spoken by only a few people are often found in isolated communities or regions. These languages may have developed in these areas due to unique geographical or cultural factors.

How many languages are endangered?

It is estimated that there are over 7,000 languages in the world, and approximately 40% of these languages are endangered.

Can endangered languages be saved?

Endangered languages can be saved through language documentation, revitalization, and preservation efforts. However, these efforts require resources and support from governments, organizations, and local communities.

What cultural knowledge is preserved in endangered languages?

Endangered languages often contain unique cultural knowledge, including traditional stories, folklore, and medicinal knowledge. They also provide insight into the history and worldview of a particular community or region.

Why is it important to preserve endangered languages?

Endangered languages represent an important part of human culture and diversity. They provide insight into unique systems of knowledge and expression, and their preservation is essential to understanding the full extent of human experience.