WASHINGTON (AP) — They traveled more than 6,000 miles from the Tuva Republic, a predominantly rural region of Russia, to the United States in hopes of saving their culture from slow extinction.
The group of eight musicians and craftsmen speak Tuvan, one of more than a dozen endangered languages represented by native speakers at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington.
The festival’s program, “One World, Many Voices,” focuses on drawing attention to dying languages around the globe, bringing speakers of languages on the verge of extinction to Washington to explain the challenges to passing their linguistic heritage to younger generations.
Other themes presented this year include exploring Hungarian heritage roots and a look into African-American diversity, style and identity.
According to Smithsonian curators, about half of the world’s 7,105 lang- uages are reported as endangered.
Many are spoken by fewer than 10,000 people.
“These people are under a lot of social and economic and political pressure to abandon their languages and to switch over to global languages,” said K. David Harrison, co-curator for the Smithsonian Institution’s endangered languages program.
Nearly half the world speaks one of the top 10 languages, which include Mandarin, Spanish and English. Festival coordinators expect more than 1 million people to attend the free event, which began Wednesday.
It runs through Sunday and resumes July 3-7 with special concerts most evenings.
The daily event schedule can be visited on the festival website, www.festival.si.edu, or by downloading the Smithsonian Institution Folklife Festival smartphone app.