When I read the brief for the UNESCO poster competition, I was astonished that so many languages are in danger of extinction. I searched the web and found a page www.ethnologue.com which is an encyclopaedic reference work, cataloguing all of the world’s 6,912 known living languages. I browsed this big pool of fascinating languages and the fact that so many of them are nearly extinct seemed even sadder.
I decided to take these numbers and translate them in to a graph, which could work as an illustration and convey a message of the amount of endangered languages.
Limited by a poster format, I depicted language families instead of the languages. 101 language families are represented by 101 speech bubbles. The width of each bubble shows the number of languages in the family, 1 mm being 1 language.
Each colour is specific to each language family/bubble. I assigned a number to every letter in the alphabet so that, added together, each name of the language family has a specific number. Translation of these numbers in to CMYK values gave me specific colours/identities for the families.
I positioned all speech bubbles in alphabetical order into the format. The result is a dynamic composition of warm coloured speech bubbles that can visually convey a message of how many colourful and diverse language families (and languages inside them) are in the world. The loss of each bubble, or reduction of its size, would make the illustration/the world much poorer.
A big blue speech bubble is depicting a family of nearly extinct languages. Let us hope that in the future this bubble will not get any bigger and the world will remain full of colourful languages that are so important for the identity of each nation and each individual.