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What makes you learn a minority language?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
35 messages over 5 pages: 1 2 35  Next >>
Bilingual Pentaglot
Senior Member
Joined 4493 days ago

332 posts - 342 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, Catalan*, French, EnglishC1, EnglishC2, Mandarin
Studies: Hungarian, Russian, Georgian

 Message 25 of 35
01 September 2007 at 2:26am | IP Logged 
Like Sluggy says, speaking several "important" languages, the rest is just learning for pleasure.

I am from Spain so I speak Spanish, I live in Canada and speak English and French, I doubt that as computer specialist I'll need any other language here to get a new job, which I'm not willing to do now.

Besides I speak Russian at an intermediate level, and can read German (the language of the software on which I work), plus some Mandarin. So, that's for the "great" languages.

Therefore, I don't see any economic profit in learning other languages. So I just pick them up depending on several factors: interest in the culture they are attached to (Uyghur, Hebrew), linguistic interest (Georgian, Native American languages, Vietnamese...), ... Then, as I start to know more about the culture of its natives, I get more interested, not only linguistically, and my motivation increases. And the more material available, the better.

That would be perfect if it was not for the TIME, always scarce, but that's another story.

Edited by joan.carles on 01 September 2007 at 2:27am

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Joined 4499 days ago

18 posts - 19 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: French, Dutch, German

 Message 26 of 35
08 September 2007 at 11:51pm | IP Logged 
I am learning a minority language (Dutch) because I want to speak to people I care about who can't speak english very well. Sure, with a little bit of english and a little bit of Dutch you can have a nice visit and 'understand' each other..... but how do you describe how you feel about things or talk about topics that you don't have the vocabulary for? When you have to substitute so many specific words with easier, more common, words, then so much of your meaning is lost. Communication is such an integral part of having a deeper relationship. I love my relatives in the Netherlands, but I don't know them well.... I don't know what they are passionate about, I have no sense for how educated/intelligent they are.... if I can tell that one of them has a sense of humour (from seeing others laughing and smiling a lot), I don't know if it's a polite or rude sense of humour. The little children they have don't speak any english yet, and so I can't even enjoy spending time getting to know them. To ME learning Dutch is the most important language of all, because some of the people I love speak Dutch.
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Senior Member
United States
Joined 4778 days ago

469 posts - 599 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Dutch

 Message 27 of 35
09 September 2007 at 5:11pm | IP Logged 
leosmith wrote:

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?

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, you won't learn it.

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Captain Haddock
Senior Member
Joined 4928 days ago

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

 Message 28 of 35
10 September 2007 at 12:35am | IP Logged 
I agree with Linguamor, although I can imagine a rare sort of person who learns a language purely because of intellectual fascination. JRR Tolkien is almost an example of this; he learned Finnish partially for his fascination with its grammar, and partially so he could read Finnish mythology.

Although he made up many of his own languages, Tolkien had this to say about other conlangs (minority languages in every way): "Volap√ľk, Esperanto, Ido, Novial, &c, &c, are dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends".

Edited by Captain Haddock on 10 September 2007 at 12:35am

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Senior Member
United States
Joined 4412 days ago

198 posts - 299 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: German, Arabic (classical)

 Message 29 of 35
06 April 2009 at 5:33am | IP Logged 
At first, I thought that I agreed 100% with the "practical" people. I can't understand most of those who are fascinated with any type of Gaelic, Basque, Occitan or tribal dialects. I am dumbfounded as to why the academic community only seems to really value endangered languages.

Then I remembered that most people don't understand why Danish is on my list of languages to learn. They waste their time trying to convince me not to learn it or to at least learn Swedish instead. Danish is the language of many of my ancestors. I've been curious about it for more or less a decade now, ever since my mother and grandmother told me stories about some of my Danish forbearers.

I realize that Russian and Hindi have more speakers than Danish but that's kind of irrelevant. If I go to St. Petersburg, will I talk to more people than if I go to Copenhagen? I don't have any more economic reasons to learn those languages than Danish and those people, although very impressive in their own right, do not interest me as much as the Danes. So there, those are my reasons for learning a language whose people tend to speak English well and are not large in numbers.
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Senior Member
Joined 4190 days ago

556 posts - 636 votes 
Studies: Yiddish, English*
Studies: Dutch

 Message 30 of 35
06 April 2009 at 8:10am | IP Logged 
I've said many times before (and continue to say) that I intend learning Yiddish and am always looking at it in some shape or form. I think minority languages can be very exciting, especially one that is a part of a person's history and cultural heritage.
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Bilingual Pentaglot
Joined 3968 days ago

61 posts - 67 votes 
Speaks: Spanish, Catalan, Lowland Scots*, English*, Portuguese

 Message 31 of 35
07 April 2009 at 12:48am | IP Logged 
For me personally, learning a language as a hobby has absolutely nothing to do with its usefulness. I just learn them or investigate them in a superficial way to see how they work and to enjoy the peculiarities and beauty they possess in themselves. I just like a new challenge. And some languages just appeal to me. Simple curiosity made me learn Portuguese, Catalan and Scottish Gaelic, although the latter I do consider part of my heritage anyway, but it just seemed interesting. It was the first I learnt by myself.

Some I have actually more or less given up on, mainly due to a lack of passion for them or lack of decent resources/course (Rusiian, Basque, Arabic).
But most others I do keep them going.

It's all about curiosity for me. Then you just seem to get hooked on trying to learn more.

to the poster who said this:
''At first, I thought that I agreed 100% with the "practical" people. I can't understand most of those who are fascinated with any type of Gaelic, Basque, Occitan or tribal dialects. I am dumbfounded as to why the academic community only seems to really value endangered languages.

I don't know if this has to do with my own interest in languages or not: I suppose you COULD say that I speak 'tribal dialect' as a home language. Maybe that aroused my interest. My native Scots is to all intents and purposes moribund as a language and will eventually be just another accent of English - but I don't think that makes it any less valuable in today's world. Gaelic too has many wonderful things attached to it, music, folklore and even the nuance and comedy value that cannot readily translate into other cultural spheres or languages. This is true of all languages and cultures probably. I am glad to have been a part of this. I find it has been a worthy experience to have been a Scots speaker who learned Gaelic too. I see nothing demeaning in it. Maybe that is why I can see a point in learning minority languages just for the sake of it. I hold no linguistic prejudices or snobbery in that sense.

Edited by GibberMeister on 07 April 2009 at 12:56am

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Akipenda Lugha
Joined 3898 days ago

78 posts - 82 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Swahili, Sign Language, Spanish

 Message 32 of 35
07 April 2009 at 12:56am | IP Logged 
The only language I could speak about would be Swahili, which is definitely not a
minority language as it has upwards of 80 million speakers. However, many people who
go to East Africa don't bother learning it because the people they need to talk to
will speak English. For me, nothing compares to speaking to someone from a different
culture in their own culture's language, and being able to relate to someone through
their own language. While I was able to do my work entirely in English, I was able to
enjoy bus stops, restaurant staff, security guards, people on the street, taxi
drivers, etc. much more than I ever would have been able to without the language, and
I made some good friends too. Culture comes through language, right?

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