Take thirty seconds and write down as many languages as you can. Ready? Go!
You probably wrote down English (and any other primary languages you speak) first. After that, you most likely listed the foreign languages you studied in high school or college. Then you might have moved to other popular world languages: Mandarin, Russian, Spanish. But did you list Icelandic? Welsh? Haitian Creole?
According to the Linguistic Society of America, studies estimate that there are as many as six or seven thousand distinct languages spoken across the world. Exact numbers vary due to the difficulty of distinguishing languages from dialects and the challenges of learning about languages from remote regions—still, the number is immense! But as economic, political, and cultural borders begin to disappear, so do the languages that have held together different nations, peoples, and social identities. In an interdependent world, we must balance our need for cross-cultural communication with the need to maintain respect for regional languages, especially those that are in danger of extinction.