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What makes you learn a minority language?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
35 messages over 5 pages: 1 24 5  Next >>
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4812 days ago

851 posts - 1008 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 17 of 35
26 August 2007 at 5:07pm | IP Logged 
Out of some 7000+ languages most have less than 1 million speakers and are true minority languages. A language like Dutch cannot be called a minority language as there is no organized majority in global terms.
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Bilingual Tetraglot
Joined 4668 days ago

24 posts - 29 votes
Speaks: English*, Russian*, French, Spanish
Studies: Japanese

 Message 18 of 35
26 August 2007 at 5:23pm | IP Logged 
Personally, I love learning languages so much that I have no problem learning a language that for most people would seem 100% useless and a waste of time for no reason at all. I'm still working on "bigger" languages for the moment but in another year or two I plan on starting Yiddish (a dying language), and eventually Dutch, Modern Greek, and possibly Danish.

I have no plans to travel extensively in Holland, Greece, or Denmark, nor move to any of said countries. For me, it's learning the languages in itself that is fun. Isn't that enough of a reason?
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Bilingual Tetraglot
Joined 4668 days ago

24 posts - 29 votes
Speaks: English*, Russian*, French, Spanish
Studies: Japanese

 Message 19 of 35
26 August 2007 at 5:26pm | IP Logged 
By the way, I already speak English, French, Russian, and (more or less) Spanish. All of those are "big" languages spoken by quite a lot of people, so I don't feel too worried that I should be learning more "big" languages to be able to communicate with lots of people.
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Senior Member
United States
Joined 4915 days ago

2365 posts - 3803 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Tagalog

 Message 20 of 35
26 August 2007 at 6:57pm | IP Logged 
reineke wrote:
leosmith wrote:
I understand it when people learn smallish languages beacause they are living in it, they have a native lover, they want to enjoy the literature, they work with it, want to get a job with it, etc etc.

What I don't understand is why some people learn a smallish language just for the sake of learning it. If you're not planning on going there someday, not interested in the literature, don't have friends in that language, don't really care to talk to natives, why learn it? Is it just some intellectual thing that I don't understand?

Some people enjoy the intellectual stimulus and novelty of it.
I don't think there are many successful learners of major languages under the circumstances you list however a lot of people will continue to try and fail because an important language is trendy, part of the curriculum, because of family pressure or many other unhealthy reasons.

What qualifies a language as minor? Someone could argue you yourself have a couple under your belt. How minor are Dutch and Swedish really?

I lived in Tanzania for about 3 years, and I had a Thai girlfriend. Pretty solid reasons to learn smallish languages.

I believe those of you who say you get pleasure out of totally isolated study of a less popular language. But am I the only one who finds the isolation wierd?

I keep thinking, what if I lived in a small language community. I heard of a foreigner learning all about my language, but didn't want to have anything to do with any of my people. This would be strange. Aren't languages supposed to bring people together?
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Captain Haddock
Senior Member
Joined 5133 days ago

2282 posts - 2814 votes 
Speaks: English*, Japanese
Studies: French, Korean, Ancient Greek

 Message 21 of 35
27 August 2007 at 3:18am | IP Logged 
lady_skywalker wrote:
I think there are various ways to categorise a 'minority' language depending on what you choose as your criteria.


3) A language which is spoken by relatively few people on a global scale.

I think that is a minor language, not a minority language.

I think "minority" strongly implies a group that represents less than a majority in a given region. There's a subtle distinction between the two words.

On a worldwide scale, all languages are minority languages (none spoken by 50%+), but not all are minor languages. :)

Edited by Captain Haddock on 27 August 2007 at 3:20am

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Senior Member
United States
Joined 5221 days ago

380 posts - 398 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Norwegian, Italian, Turkish, Mandarin

 Message 22 of 35
27 August 2007 at 3:52am | IP Logged 
I don't have very practical reasons for learning the "smaller" languages on my list. Norwegian, Estonian, Georgian just feel interesting to me. Aspects of the language, culture, location all mixed together in a kind of image that is conjured up when I see the name of the language just grabs my attention.
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Joined 4666 days ago

43 posts - 44 votes
Speaks: Russian*, English, French
Studies: Japanese

 Message 23 of 35
27 August 2007 at 6:53am | IP Logged 
Great question! For my own purposes, I'll use Captain Haddock's definition of minor languages. I started learning bits of Japanese (hiragana and katakana, and some basic phrases - nothing fancy) last summer, but, in part due to me feeling that Chinese would be a better option for my career, I took a Chinese module in university instead. Now, compared to Mandarin Chinese, Japanese is certainly a minor language; furthermore, everyone seems to think that a knowledge of Mandarin will be more beneficial to a Manager than knowledge of Japanese.

While I quite enjoyed Chinese (despite our terrible teacher), I always felt that, really, I should be doing Japanese. Loads of things about the language itself and the culture appeal to me, and I just get really motivated when it comes to learning it. I get a lot of pleasure from studying Japanese even when I'm working hard. And that's why I'm learning a relatively minor language :) At the end of the day, if we were all learning languages simply based on how many people speak them worldwide, we'd all be studying Mandarin (I think). So, yeah.. I guess "Passion" is the final answer :)
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Joined 4976 days ago

81 posts - 90 votes 
Studies: English*, German, Spanish, Norwegian, Scottish Gaelic

 Message 24 of 35
01 September 2007 at 1:54am | IP Logged 
There are reasons:

*It might be a part of that person's culture or background, and thus it provides a useful way for them to connect to their backgrounds in some way. This would be like me learning Norwegian in the future (I actually intend to) - it's not very useful here in America, but to me, it would help make me feel like a more complete person who understands himself and his roots better.

*I don't think it's fair to limit a language's worth to how good it is as a business accessory or how many countries it is spoken in. Sometimes, the mere discipline learning even a "useless" language is worth the effort.

In any case, I don't think any time spent learning languages is a waste, as it expands your mind and exercises your memory.

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