Tofa is a Turkic language spoken in Russia by the Tofalars. It falls under the Uighur-Oguz group of languages. By 2010, there were only 10 people left who could speak this language. This makes it one of the most numerically small Turkic languages. Tofa is most closely related to the Tuvan language. Some linguists believe that Tofa could be a dialect of Tuvan. The Tofalars have no written language and they normally use Russian when it comes to the written form. The Cyrillic alphabet has been employed whenever attempts have been made to put down the Tofa language in writing. Tofa has 2 dialects: Alygdzher and Gutar. The Tofa language has been linguistically influenced by other languages and as a result, has borrowed various vocabularies from those languages. This includes Ket, Buryat, medieval Mongolian and Russian. There are some foreign words used in Tofa, whose origins are still not well known.
The Tofa people have lived as nomads for centuries. They have been mostly in contact with the Tuvan people and the two ethnic groups have a lot in common, when it comes to language and culture. By the 18th century, not very many Tofalars were educated. In fact, there were only 2 literate Tofalars by 1917. However, this changed in the 1930s when Russian schools were introduced. A lot of young people started attending the schools and they were used to propagate the Russian ideology and agenda. Tofa was discouraged from everyday use, outside the family and in schools. Children were punished in school in case they were caught speaking Tofa. Up to now most Tofalars have adopted the Russian culture and speak the language instead of following their past traditions. The decline of the Tofa language has gone hand in hand with the decline of reindeer hunting.
The Tofalars are the most ancient people of the Sayans and they led a hunting and reindeer herding life. The Tofalars are small stature men. Due to their small number and unity, they were able to maintain a degree of homogeneity when it comes to language.