Last updated May 13, 2020 at 11:34 am
Regions of the world hit the hardest by COVID-19, like Italy, are also at risk of having regional dialects die out.
Why This Matters: One language is lost every two weeks.
The world’s languages have been a silent victim in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the damage may be irreparable, warns a language expert from Edith Cowan University.
Dr Annamaria Paolino, a language researcher in ECU’s School of Education says the loss of the world’s older generations could affect the language and culture of nations.
“If the scientists are right, the world has already lost seven languages in the three months of the COVID -19 pandemic.”
Languages at risk in regions of the world hit hard by COVID-19.
“They are generations who have defined modern Italy, lived through the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, Gli Azzurri (Italy’s much-loved soccer team) winning two World Cups, Mussolini and Hitler signing the Rome-Berlin Axis, the Liberation of Milan, the capture and execution of Mussolini and the birth of the Italian Republic.
“These regional dialects are entwined within the historical and cultural fabric of the country and much will be lost with their passing.”
Youth interest in dialect may be too late
Paolino says Italy had seen an increased interest in younger generations wanting to learn their regional dialects over the past few years.
“They have been learning dialect with a renewed sense of ‘campanalismo’- a connectedness symbolised by local pride and a sense of belonging,” Paolino says.
“The majority of these young people were learning them through their interactions with their nonni (grandparents) and bisnonni (great-grandparents)– conversations, stories, cooking and songs that have tragically now been laid to rest with their loved ones.”
The forced slow down of society gave people the chance to reflect upon their place in the global community and to play a small part in protecting our rich cultural history.
“I encourage everyone to spend the time to learn a language – whether it be a standard language or dialect as both need protecting,” Paolino says.
“You don’t have to look to other countries to find a language to learn. In Australia, of the 250 traditional indigenous languages once spoken, only 100 are spoken by older generations, with only 13 of these currently being learned by children and only 40 of the 800 indigenous dialects survive.”