International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019

2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Lanaguges. It provides a great opportunity to highlight the work that libraries are doing to support and promote languages, and the communities that speak them. 

Language plays a crucial role in our lives. It is not only a tool of communication, allowing us to connect with others, but it is also the means by which we tell stories about our identity, our traditions and our history.

Indigenous languages are disappearing and with that a big part of the world’s cultural heritage. A network of language experts and speakers of indigenous languages have suggested that one language is being lost to the world every three months!

In 2014 IFLA released a statement, acknowledging the intrinsic value and importance of indigenous traditional knowledge and language. Libraries play an essential role in keeping a record of indigenous cultural heritage, knowledge and language and helping it to live. Every day, all over the world, libraries are working to protect and promote indigenous knowledge and languages not only for the benefit of indigenous peoples, but as well for the rest of the world, now and in future.

In addition to their role in preservation, libraries have proved themselves to be welcoming and trusted community centres, and are often at the heart of indigenous communities. In addition to access to relevant materials, including in indigenous languages, they can also offer connectivity, skills, and simply a place to learn or enjoy culture.

In 2019 IFLA therefore will be taking an active role in the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL19), an initiative agreed by the UN to promote and raise awareness of indigenous languages across the globe.

IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner said:

Libraries are active around the world in ensuring that indigenous groups and their languages enjoy the same support and opportunities as everyone else. IFLA welcomes the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and the attention it will bring to this key issue.

Each month of 2019 IFLA will be highlighting the great work carried out by libraries around the globe. We will be promoting library programmes, projects and activities that have made a different to their local communities.

Join IFLA both in working to combat the loss of indigenous languages, but also in celebrating the amazing work that has been done to preserve and promote them!

Read more about how to get involved in the International Year in our 'Get Into' brief, and about the work of IFLA's Indigenous Matters Section.