With less than 50 speakers, should Karaims be worried that their language will soon be extinct? Not so according to Professor David Crystal, a linguist who supports endangered languages. Professor David believes that it is possible for a language to evolve and and survive regardless of the number of speakers it has. Karaim is a language spoken in Lithuania, mainly in the town of Trakai. There are very high chances of the language surviving in Trakai due to the official support given to the language and the fact that the language is quite appealing to the tourists who visit the town. Other Karaim speakers can be found in Turkey, USA, Poland, Crimea and Israel.
Most Karaim speakers are multilingual due to the high level of multilingualism found in Lithuania. Also, given the fact that there aren’t very many speakers of the language left, it was important that the native speakers of Karaim learn other languages in order to communicate with the people around them. Most of the Karaim speakers are familiar with the languages that are spoken in the regions where they live. This includes Hebrew, Russian and Polish. It is the older generation that can still speak Karaim but not even fluently at that. Their children and grandchildren speak other languages. Most Karaim speakers prefer to speak their language when they do not want other people to hear what they are saying. The language had different dialects. This included the Karaim, Halych and Trakay dialects. Most of these dialects are currently extinct. Karaim belongs to the Turkic language group. The language is also known as Karaite.
Currently, the Karaims have no written language and a comprehensive study on the language has not been undertaken. In the past, the Cyrillic, Latin and Hebrew scripts were used when writing. However, no literary tradition was ever set in place. Most Karaim worship required that worshipers use written text to go through the rituals. There are literary records that go as far back as the 11th century Karaim speakers have not been able to understand the written text.