NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new map details hundreds of languages spoken across the Big Apple, but many of them are on the verge of dying out. A building in Brooklyn is home to one of them.
Fulmaya Gurung and neighbor Takla Gurung can speak in a language very few people even know.
“I think we are last generation to speak Seke in United States, maybe,” Gurung told CBSN New York’s Andrea Grymes recently.
Seke is spoken by roughly 700 people worldwide. It comes from the Mustang district of Nepal.
About 50 of the 100 people who speak Seke in New York City live in one building in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. However, Fulmaya and Takla admit they’re not teaching the language to their kids.
That makes it an endangered language and on the verge of extinction, according to the Endangered Language Alliance, or ELA.
“It’s very difficult to catch it. Yes, difficult to learn,” Takla said.
Seke is one of some 640 languages spoken in the New York metro area and detailed on a new ELA map.
The nonprofit spent the last 10 years doing groundwork, talking to people, making contacts, all to document exactly how many languages are spoken here and which ones, Grymes reported.
ELA co-director and Queens College assistant professor Daniel Kaufman said most of these languages are endangered and, with it, their history.
“The heritage is gone. All the things that used to be transmitted in the language are gone — the songs, the stories, the folklore, and all of the wealth of knowledge that really resides in the language as well,” Kaufman said.
They’re hoping the map, and their work recording and supporting the languages, helps to preserve them.
Fulmaya visited her native Nepal a year ago and showed Grymes some pictures. She said she lived there for 15 years.
“Mountains and hiking,” she added, when asked about highlights of her trip.
But if you’d like to hear her native language, time is running out.