1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. What is your motivation behin…


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

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).

April 20, 2017



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... :)


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.


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 :)


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.