https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo

What is your motivation behind learning "small" languages (below 10 million speakers)?

Casper_duo
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Can you justify the time spent to acquire it, even if you probably not going to have any direct ties (living there, family history, business, friends, extra) to it in the foreseeable future?
Is it just a hobby, on the side, or a main goal? Why?
Would you give priority to languages with a high number of speakers, which are spread out geographically instead?
I know I am (Esperanto might be an exception).

1 year ago

45 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/bergenhopps
bergenhopps
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Learning Norwegian. Cultural immersion, mostly. That's the biggest motivator; it helps put me in a focused mindset when learning about things such as Norse history, which I'm interested in.

I already speak two of the most spoken languages anyway, English and Spanish, so I've already got some "practicality" taken care of. Now I wanna mix things up with a much rarer language.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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That sounds like a good reason to learn a language.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zzzzz...
Zzzzz...
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Literature. That is my motivation for every language I learn, big or small.

  • Norwegian: Ibsen
  • Swedish: Strindberg, Runeberg
  • Welsh: The Mabinogion
  • Danish: Andersen
  • Latin: Ovid, Virgil
  • Ancient Greek: Homer, Sophocles
  • German: Goethe, Schiller
  • Italian: Dante, Boccaccio
  • French: Proust, Baudelaire
  • Spanish: Cervantes
  • Russian: Pushkin, Akhmatova
  • English: Shakespeare, Chaucer

Just to mention a few... :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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Chinese doesn't have interesting literature? Japanese? Arabic? Portuguese?
Noting that can hold your interest there?
And each one of them also have the numbers.

So I guess what I'm asking you is, what tipped the scales for you in favor of Welsh for ex., rather then any of the other languages that I mentioned, which you could have choosen in their stead?

Is it just a matter of convenience and accessibility?

And you can't learn everything. That's just impractical. Everyone MUST choose at the end.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zzzzz...
Zzzzz...
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First of all, I just noticed that I have commented on three of your posts during the last week or so, so thank you for making great posts. Activity may be gone, but you have kept me on Duolingo! :)

Second, I could easily reverse your question. Why would Welsh literature be less worthy than, say, Japanese literature? The Mabinogion is quite simply unique. It shares some things with Irish mythology, but generally speaking there is nothing like it in the entire world. There are not many mythological works as unusual as this in the world and most of them have been produced in small, isolated cultures. The Kalevala also stands out, but thankfully I am Finnish, so I can read it in my native language! :)

Third, passion is unpredictable. You seem like a person who likes to rationalise things but we also need irrational desires to make our daily life more tolerable. It could be anything: football, opera, cinema, cuisine, fashion, painting, playing the violin etc. For me, it is language and literature. And I have no qualms to admit that my choices are sometimes based on what feels good. And yes, sometimes it is a bit like liking a film that has been given bad reviews. (I am certain that you too feel this way about something or someone.) This does not mean that I do not appreciate cultures of the languages which I am not studying. Quite the opposite. I love Japanese cinema and Farsi poetry.

Fourth, numbers are irrelevant when discussing tastes. Do you only listen to music that sells the most records? Do you only watch films that do well in box office? Do you switch the football team you support based on who is winning? Do you only wear clothes that popular people are wearing? Of course not. Language learning is more related to these things than mathematics. Of course, you can study a language based on numbers but it sounds like a joyless experience with motivational difficulties.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoFaber
DuoFaber
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Each day I'm more and more tempted to stop reading the forum, the amount of spam and the number of people who ask the same questions over and over again are staggering, but posts like this one still give me hope. Thank you.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AKicsiMacska
AKicsiMacska
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I think just an interest in the people of the language, and also, to prevent it from going extinct.

For example, I'm learning iñupiaq, and there aren't very many speakers of it. But, the more people that learn it, the less likely it is to vanish off the face of the earth :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mark985145

I don't think an extra learner is going to make any difference, the language will vanish anyway, just like everything else, including us. It's great that you're enjoying it, but its extinction is inevitable, you shouldn't put that kind of pressure on yourself

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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I'm learning iñupiaq

But is that a hobby or a main goal?
Would you dedicate to it as much time as you would more "popular" choices?

the less likely it is to vanish off the face of the earth

Then I would ask you, why is the assumption that is necessarily such a bad thing?
You don't have any real cultural ties to it, so why the need to "artificially" keep it alive?
Why not "pull the plug" when it is time, so to speak?

Maybe it will be easier to communicate, with one another, when there will be less languages in the world, not more? Why do we need 6000 languages?
Apart from that, that diversity is interesting because of its unfamiliarity.
If everyone in the whole world would only speak one language would that be such a bad thing (necessarily)?

I'm just raising some questions to create a debate and hear your views.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mark985145

"If everyone in the whole world would only speak one language would that be such a bad thing (necessarily)?"

No, but it would be more boring

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/no.name.42
no.name.42
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I think cultural diversity is a good thing, and linguistic diversity is a part of that.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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The culture is not exactly the same as the language being spoken.
You can pretty much list good and bad reasons to each side of the argument.
But certainly the world would be much more boring and mundane.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/no.name.42
no.name.42
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Language is part of the culture. I could say that everyone could eat the same food or have the same religion and still have different culture. Only so many things can be the same before we lose cultural diversity.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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Jews in America speak English, but still remain distinctively Jewish.
They didn't lose their culture, in spite of living in the same country and being immersed in it for many many years, but, at the same time, are heavily influenced by their surroundings. It became a mixture of reciprocal relationship.
If they're kept geographically separated and even there's a communication barrier put in place (like North Korea for ex.), it is even much easier to develop a very distinct cultures from one another until unrecognizablity (theoretically).

So your equation of same language same culture is not exactly correct.

Brazilians and Portuguese people are the same? I think they would beg to differ.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/no.name.42
no.name.42
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I'm not saying that you need a different language to have a different culture. I am saying that language is an aspect of culture and to have different culture some of the aspects of culture have to be different.

Most of the Jews I know who are my age aren't that culturally distinct from the rest of my peers. They speak English, they celebrate Christmas and they aren't that religious. Their grandparents tend to be much more culturally Jewish. They are more religious, they often speak Russian or Yiddish and read Hebrew better. They are more likely to read books and watch movies associated with Jewish culture.

Also, it's important to note that in the examples Korean and Portuguese that they do have to distinct dialects, and if left to grow, they will turn into distinct languages.

If you get rid of a culture language, the culture won't die; but you could say the same thing about religion, literature, dance, architecture, festivals or any other singular aspect of culture.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MaxJiang3
MaxJiang3
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A big reason that people like to keep languages alive is intellectual curiosity. Languages can help us explore the human brain and its capabilities among many other things.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmareloTiago
AmareloTiago
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There are a few languages that I have studied, want to study further or would like to study and have not had the chance that have fewer than 10 million speakers.

I think the Welsh language is neat. I like speaking it and wish I understood it better. I would not call it a beautiful language but I like the way it feels in my mouth.

Other (living) languages that I would like to study with fewer than 10 million speakers includes but are not limited to Lithuanian, Maltese, Asturian/Mirandese, Galician and Occitan. I would also love the chance to study some dead languages that are probably understood by fewer than 10 million today, like Old English, Gothic and Tocharian.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Horako224

Native Lithuanian here, oh boy what a small world. You're the second person i've ever seen on Duo that even mentions such a bizarre language as ours. Cheers

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsakNygren1
IsakNygren1
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I think Lithuanian is interesting since it's the most archaic Indo-European language that still exist. And also it's a beautiful country (I was there 2004).

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/starboystellan

wow cool!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Horako224

Indeed

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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I think you're trying to learn every language in the world, so you're an exception case, and it's more like a profession/academic desire.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmareloTiago
AmareloTiago
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I describe my hobby as "differential linguistics".

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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I don't know that there's really a huge difference between more and less spoken (at least where "less spoken" includes figures as high as 10 million) languages in the forging of direct ties. The fact Turkish and Vietnamese have in the neighborhood of 100 million speakers doesn't make me have greater connections to them really. I suspect I might like visiting Mongolia more, even though it has 1/25 the people.

And Turkish and Vietnamese are clearly much less studied than German and Italian, two languages also confined to fairly small slices of the world. I guess one way of phrasing my point is, once one is developing an interest as relatively uncommon among English speakers as learning Turkish, it's really hardly a jump for it to be Armenian, Konkani, or Kyrgyz.

As for my personal thoughts, there's probably enough material in almost any written language to occupy oneself for a lifetime. After all, their monolingual speakers do. In the age of the internet, this material is more easily accessible than it ever has been. I think if people thought about it a bit more (/ were a bit more familiar with the world), there would be much more interest in "small" languages than there is at the moment.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/no.name.42
no.name.42
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I am studying Nahuatl. I think it's really interesting and there are benefits to learning a language that is very different from the ones you already know. I want to be a linguist, so I think it's somewhere in between a hobby and a main goal. I don't think non-native speakers learning it will help prevent its extinction, but I do think that if more people learn it and are aware of it, there will be less prejudice against its native speakers.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/londoncallling

I learn languages primarily, or even exclusively, so I can read literature in them. I also happen to think that reading is the best way to learn a language, once you're past the basics. As a child my ambition for when I grew up was to speak every language in the world. Obviously that's not possible, but I'm not going to stop trying. And I know I'll never be fluent in the vast majority of languages I learn, but as long as I can read for pleasure, I don't mind about spoken fluency. I probably won't spend long periods of time in most of the countries anyway (although I'd like to visit as many as possible). Currently I'm fluent in two languages, high level but not quite fluent in two others, and I can read novels for pleasure in 4 others and counting. I choose which languages to study based purely on my personal interest or circumstances at any given time. I find all languages inherently interesting (except constructed languages, which don't do anything for me). The number of speakers of a language is completely irrelevant. Even studying a language with only a million speakers, and living in the country where it is spoken, you'll still never meet all the people who speak it, so why would you need 100 million? What is relevant to me is whether there is a literary tradition in that language - although I may be fascinated in linguistic terms by, for example, Cherokee or Igbo, I am unlikely to study them any time soon because there is not a huge amount of literature being written in either of them.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fire-ergens
Fire-ergens
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Danish: I've been to Denmark quite a few times without really learning a single word of Danish. I simply want to fix that. It's also pretty fun to do.

Norwegian: Because it's a North Germanic language and those are a lot of fun. Also, it sounds very nice.

Swedish: IKEA, I can't resist learning Swedish in an IKEA. There's also a lot of great Swedish music. Also, see Norwegian.

Off-site:

Icelandic: It sound amazing, the history of the language is very interesting and it has all these nice little difficult grammatical features that make it great. It's also a good way to get an idea of (North) Germanic rootwords. Also, Iceland has a lot of volcanoes and I've always been interested in those.

But well, enough about the small individual reasons for learning North Germanic languages (mostly how they sound). Let's talk about the big picture here. Alright, let's see... Let's start with the facts, I have self esteem issues. Learning North Germanic languages (without mentioning it to others in real-life) is how I attempt to combat those issues. The handy thing about this language family is that it shares a lot of grammatical concepts (the definite article attached to the noun for example.), vocabulary and that it isn't considered very difficult to learn languages from this family for Dutch (and English) speakers. Yes, Icelandic is a lot more complicated than Danish, Swedish and Norwegian but Icelandic does have a clearer case system (nouns are actually inflected), in my opinion, than German (very little noun inflection.). Which makes it easier to learn about the concept of cases.

My motivations for German are a bit different. First, I live fairly close to the border. (not that close, but by car or train I could by there within an hour, give or take. Secondly: I am studying for a German exam so I cannot not study. Third: Learning German is quite handy for travelling.

Wow, a lot of 'also'.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/skelkingur
skelkingur
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Yep! Fellow Icelandic learner here currently staying in Iceland. For me it's the magic that learning Icelandic opens an entirely new world to me. You can't simply neglect a language because there are fewer speakers. The fewer speakers the more their culture / world view differs (anecdotally). My grand goal is to eventually be able to read and understand the sagas and sit next to Icelanders in a hot pool and converse.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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Yeah, I suspect it might be easier to form bonds with speakers of lesser-spoken languages since a visitor being able to speak them is a much greater novelty.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsakNygren1
IsakNygren1
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I would like to learn all Nordic languages since I am a Swede and already know half of the languages already. I want to learn Hebrew and Greek too among the small languages.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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I would like to learn all Nordic languages since I am a Swede and already know half of the languages already.

It would probably be my reason too if ever finished with my Swedish.
That is indeed a good reason. Thank you for your comment.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsakNygren1
IsakNygren1
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Two lesser known languages in Scandinavia are Elfdalian (3000 speakers) and Gutnic (2000 speakers). Elfdalian was considered a Swedish dialect until recently and is that Scandinavian dialect closest to Icelandic. They speak it in Älvdalen, Dalecarlia (Dalarna) in Sweden. Gutnic is the language of Southern Gotland. Gotlandic is not to be confused with Gutnic. Gotlandic is the Swedish dialect in Gotland. Half of my family is from Northern Gotland and they speak the dialect. The dialect and the language is very similar though.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheSlavLad
TheSlavLad
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I would never learn a small language unless someone close to me is living in that particular country (Swedish), I moved there (German) or just in general the language has a nice sound to it (so I'd classify this part as a hobby).

On the other hand, I think that unless you're gonna live in the country of the language in question, there is just no logical explanation on spending an immense amount of time it takes to master a language. No, mastering the language isn't finishing a Duo tree. It takes years to reach fluency.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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You're saying your preference is to develop halting abilities in more languages (as long as they're spoken by large numbers of people) rather than being easily able to communicate in and understand one? Revealed preference of the fleets of flags next to so many users' avatars would seem to indicate you're in no small group on this point :) even if, when I've seen the question posed directly, people tend to chose the "focus on one" option.

[one could obviously add that attaining English fluency is economically important around the world even if the person concerned never intends to live in or even travel to an English speaking country, although the word "fluency" is used with widely varying interpretations]

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EpicPowerHero

Or there's a minority in you country that speaks said language. That's why I'm learning Spanish.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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Good comment. We're of similar mindset.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/starboystellan

I'm learning Esperanto, mostly because it is really fun for me :-)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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But is fun lasting? Will only that keep you going?
You're expected to keep learning the language for many many years to come.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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I think a better question is actually if mere acquaintance with native speakers, enjoyment as a travel destination, raw number of native speakers is enough to keep one going through the lengthy endeavor of language learning. If it's not fun, (barring exceptional levels of motivation), it's probably not going to happen.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Casper_duo
Casper_duo
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If it's not fun, (barring exceptional levels of motivation), it's probably not going to happen.

I don't find any particular language that I study much more fun then the next. So it isn't too much of a consideration for me.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/londoncallling

Expected by who? Who says they have to keep learning the language for many many years to come? Is it really so hard to believe that some people just find it fun to learn languages without it needing to be some lifelong commitment?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/starboystellan

Yes, I will try to keep it up for a long time

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Janet842138

I'm trying to learn Danish because I do a lot of genealogical research, and would like to get to a point where I can understand more of the Danish in documents I sometimes encounter (and writing on the back of old photos). I am in contact with some distant relatives in Denmark - they speak English, so we've been able to communicate, but I would like to be able to communicate some in Danish as well.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/grey236
grey236
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I'm learning Latin at school. My motivation for learning it is because we had to learn it in 7th and 8th grade and I found it interesting and pretty simple so I stuck with it

Although Dutch has more than 10 mil speakers, most of them are in the Netherlands/Belgium and most people there speak English so I count it as being pretty small :P. I'm not too sure why I'm learning Dutch, I mean, I live in Texas; but I think I just found it interesting, and interesting it very much is.

For Welsh I just love how it looks and the pronunciation isn't that hard. Unfortunately I haven't practiced it in a long time as I've been focusing on Dutch

For Danish I like how it looks, and how it's Germanic. What I hate is the pronunciation. I also haven't practiced Danish in awhile :/

I really want to learn Native American languages such as Greenlandic, Cherokee, Choctaw, or a pacific northwest language like Nuxalk or just any Salishan languages up there. I find them extremely interesting and unique and I wish they were way more prominent.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scarcerer
scarcerer
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My motivation is interest in the language itself, the country and the culture (including music, literature and TV). That interest means I'm also more likely to find ways to use the language whether it's travelling to a place where the language is spoken, finding speakers either locally or through the Internet, or just listening and reading in it. The situation would be different if I was studying Ainu which has 10 speakers or another language with low Internet penetration but I'm less likely to have run into and thus developed interest in those.

So how could I justify spending time on a bigger language if the interest isn't there? I'm not saying I would mind knowing some Mandarin but I'm not even closely as passionate about it as I am about Slovak. English and Swedish are the exceptions to this since there is a high number of Swedish speakers where I live and, well, the status of English is what it is.

1 year ago
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