Experts at a UN forum on internet governance warned that the predominant use of English on the worldwide web needs to be checked before it crowds out other languages.
They fear forms of cultural knowledge accumulated over centuries of human progress could be lost for ever.
“Some 90 per cent of 6000 languages (at use today) are not represented on the internet,” said Yoshinori Imai of NHK, Japan’s Broadcasting Corporation.
“These people could be left out in the desert of no information and no knowledge,” he said.
In countries such as Colombia and Senegal, oral tradition and cultural heritage that could be used for research and education purposes may never reach the broader world, sociologists and linguists told the four-day forum, held in the southern Athens suburb of Vouliagmeni until November 2.
“A large part of the population are voiceless because they cannot share the information,” said Adama Samassekou, president of the African Academy of Languages in Mali.
“Every time a language dies, a vision of the world disappears,” he said.