In China, more than 40 percent of the ethnic minority languages are in danger of extinction, according to Huang Xing, a researcher with the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). The Hezhen ethnic group in northeast China is a good example. There are more than 4,600 Hezhen people scattered around Heilongjiang Province. Today, only 2.14 percent of them can speak or use the Hezhen language. “The language has come to the brink of extinction,” said Dai Qingxia, Professor with the MUC.
According to Dai’s investigation, only 15 people use Hezhen as their only language. In the village of Bacha in Heilongjiang’s Tongjiang City, one of the locations in which the Hezhen language is best preserved, only six elderly people can speak the language fluently.
“The Hezhen language only has a spoken form. When those elderly people die one day, the language will vanish along with them,” Dai said.