And interestingly, the future of their existence lies with the children of this generation.
April Hope, a Language Surveyor with Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) PNG says teaching children tokples (mother tongue) will go a long way towards preserving this country's diverse languages and cultures.
“Children are amazing language-learners, and it will be much easier for them to learn to speak their tokples fluently if that's the language their parents speak to them every day in their homes,” she says.
She also stressed on the benefits of starting children off with their mother tongue.
“There is a growing body of international research suggesting that children who learn to read and write in their mother tongue first do better in school overall and are able to successfully transfer their mother tongue literacy skills to read and write in a second language (like English),” Hope said.
Starting with SIL in 2015, Hope has worked with small teams, travelling and carrying out research on PNG's languages, in partnership with local churches and communities.
The team checks language vitality (is the language still actively spoken by all generations?), dialect variation, population, and other key factors related to language use that could affect Bible translation or any language development project.
“PNG is one of the most linguistically rich countries in the world! Each language here represents a unique culture, a unique people, a unique way of interpreting the world,” she adds.
So far, the New Testament of the Bible has been translated into 234 of PNG's languages.
SIL-PNG's hope is that one day all of the people of PNG will be able to have God's Word in the language that they understand best.