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Sustainable Endangered Language Maintenance in the South Pacific

Dr Michael Franjieh

Start date

May 2023

End date

March 2024


It is predicted that more than half of the world’s 7000 languages will be extinct by the end of the century. UNESCO has declared 2022-2032 the decade of indigenous languages to ensure people’s rights to preserve, revitalise and promote their mother tongue.  
Vanuatu is the most linguistically dense country in the world with over 130 languages and a population of around 300,000. Neighbouring New Caledonia, with a similar population, has 28 indigenous languages. Many of the languages in Vanuatu and New Caledonia are unwritten and endangered because of a lack of education, and intervention is needed to encourage communities to protect them for future generations.
This ESRC IAA-funded project aims to sustain language use within six local communities in the South Pacific, by identifying education needs in schools, training and upskilling teachers, creating literacy materials, and supporting local language consultants to create language documentation techniques. 
The project will act as a catalyst for wider work in this area, leading to a significant societal impact on local people, supporting their wellbeing, as well as preserving cultural knowledge, traditions, and sustainable practices in communities.


  • Lomelfyarran Primary School, Vanuatu
  • Senai Primary School, Vanuatu
  • Nikaura Primary School, Vanuatu
  • Agoru Village Community, Vanuatu
  • Kanak Languages Academy

Planned Impact

The outputs of this project will help create a sustainable future for South Pacific people, and influence long term policy change around indigenous language loss, by strengthening links with educational stakeholders in the region. Impact will be measured through stakeholder interviews, teacher training workshops and follow-up surveys, and it is hoped this ESRC IAA-funded activity will leverage further grant funding to protect indigenous languages well into the future.

Addressing Local Challenges

This project aims to find solutions to the following challenges identified in protecting indigenous language within South Pacific communities:

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