Welsh and Hawaiian were saved from extinction. Other languages might not be so lucky

Hong Kong (CNN)At work in central Hong Kong, David Hand is surrounded by people speaking Chinese and English. But inside his home, the Welsh language rules.

Hand's three children -- Arwen, Huw and Tomos -- have never lived in Wales, spending their entire lives in Asia.
Inculcating his native language in them thousands of kilometers from the only place it is widely spoken wasn't easy. As well as only speaking to them in Welsh himself, Hand hired nannies from Wales -- usually teenagers taking time out between high school and university -- and arranged for them live to with the family.
    Their Australian mother speaks to them in English.
      "As the kids were growing up until the age of five we always had a Welsh speaker at home in addition to me," Hand said.
      "It's about the mindset of thinking of yourself as Welsh and a Welsh speaker, and compare yourself to a French person or a Spaniard or a German. They wouldn't contemplate not teaching their children their own language."
      Despite this, Hand's family is something of a rarity. Many Welsh speakers see their language skills diminish after they leave the country and switch to primarily speaking English or another language.
        There also aren't the international schools and other institutions available to French, German or Japanese who want their children to grow up speaking a particular language.
        Nor is the fact that the Hand children speak Welsh remarkable just due to where they live. Only a generation ago, the language was on the verge of dying out completely, joining the hundreds of other languages which have gone extinct in the last half century.
        Today it is spoken by about half a million people in Wales, or just under 19% of the population -- a rate which has remained stable for almost a decade.
        The story of the Welsh revival is one of tremendous organizing and effort by activists and politicians, who not only saved their own tongue but also established a blueprint of sorts which can be used by other languages under threat, including Hong Kong's own Cantonese.
        Such a blueprint is desperately needed. Languages are far more vulnerable than many people realize, and can die out in a single generation if not passed down from parent to child.
        This year is the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, an event designed to raise awareness of the more than 1,700 languages listed as endangered by UNESCO.
        More and more languages die out every year. And even as digital tools and communities help in the fight against the decline, some experts warn changes in how we communicate online could drastically accelerate language extinction.

        Language under threat (Iaith dan fygythiad)

        "The Welsh language is a vast drawback to Wales, and a manifold barrier to the moral progress and commercial prosperity of the people."
        So concluded an 1847 report prepared for the UK government in the wake of widespread social unrest in Wales which much of the English press blamed on the "lack of education of the Welsh people."
        "It is not easy to overestimate its evil effects," the report said of the country's native language, adding "there is no Welsh literature worthy of the name."
        In the wake of the report, Welsh Nots, planks of heavy wood that were hung around students' necks if they were caught speaking Welsh in school, became a common sight across the country. As one teacher wrote in his school's log book in 1870: "Endeavored to compel the children to converse in English by means of a piece of wood. Offenders to be shut in after school hours."
        These attitudes, along with increased immigration to England, helped lead to a staggering dr