Have you ever wondered why to learn not so popular or uncommon languages? What are the reasons to study less taught foreign tongues?
Table of Contents
- Language Category
- The Benefits of Learning Languages Less Popular
- 6 Reasons Why to Learn Uncommon Languages
- Final thought
Foreign Languages can be broadly categorized into three groups.
A) Popular Foreign Languages
These languages are popular because of two reasons:
Either they are widely spoken or/and offer plenty of career options in foreign languages worldwide.
Here, the article Top 10 best foreign languages to learn is a good start.
French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin, or Korean are popular choices.
Italian, Portuguese, Persian, Turkish can also be added to this category, at least in India.
B) Not so Popular or Less taught languages
What do I mean by less taught languages or not so widespread tongues?
These languages are neither widely spoken nor offer the same job opportunities as popular ones.
There’s also another way to look at the term “uncommon languages,” judging not by the number of native speakers but by academic popularity or opportunities in the Job market.
For example, 75% of school and college students in India who studied languages chose Spanish, French, or German.
Those three languages combined, plus English, are spoken natively by less than 14% of the global population.
In comparison, two Indonesian languages, i.e., Bahasa and Javanese, have more native speakers than French and German.
However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone studying Javanese and Bahasa Indonesian anywhere.
Other languages in this category include Malay, Vietnamese, and Wu, each of which has more speakers than French.
Clearly, suppose you focus on just popular languages or so-called best languages. In that case, you’ll be leaving the vast majority of tongues. It’s time to look elsewhere.
Several foreign languages can be considered in the category of less common tongues.
- West Asian Languages – Turkish, Pashto, etc.
- Southeast Asian Languages – Bahasa, Javanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai, Malay, Burmese.
- North Asian Languages – Tibetan, Mongolian, Wu, Cantonese.
- Slavic Languages – Bulgarian, Belarusian, Croatian, Czech, Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian.
- Finno-Ugric Languages – Finnish and Hungarian.
- Germanic / Scandinavian Languages – Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish.
- Romance Languages – Romanian and Catalan.
- African Languages – Swahili, Hausa, Amharic, etc.
C) Minority Languages
A minority speaks these languages of the population of a territory/country.
The total number of speakers of these minority languages are significantly low.
About 3% of the world’s population accounts for 96% of all these minorities, or rarest tongues are useful today.
According to Ethnologue, there are more than 7,000 languages around the world.
The Top 100 most spoken languages account for more than 90% of the world’s population.
In today’s globalized world, language usage is changing rapidly. More and more people are now learning popular and widely spoken languages.
Most of these minority languages are endangered languages.
As per NYT, almost half of today’s living languages are in danger and will be extinct by the end of the 21st century.
The Benefits of Learning Languages Less Popular
Deciding to learn a less widespread language for you may be like joining a secret cult.
It is because by the time you meet other members of the same language group and exchange words.
Well, people around you will think you’re communicating in some coded or mystic language.
Yeah, it certainly sounds a bit overwhelming and discouraging. You’ll always have valid concerns on how to tackle this new language that is less commonly spoken.
But hey, there are many benefits in learning a less widespread language, and the advantages thereof far outweigh the fear you might be having.
Imagine you’re on a train or a bus a few years from now. And close to you are some people chatting in Ukrainian or Finnish. You can’t help but join the conversation.
And who knows, you might be on your way to learning from your fellow speakers something informative or rewarding. It is while allowing you to reminisce on your time in Ukraine or Finland.
But that is just one part of the reason you may want to consider learning a less familiar language.
There is a lot more to it.
6 Reasons Why to Learn Uncommon Languages
1. The key that unlocks a new but hidden world
One of the most significant advantages of learning a less widespread language is that it provides you with access to a whole new world.
Yeah, you can probably rely on your English or French knowledge in most instances across the globe, but that alone goes to show you’re missing out!
Suppose you are genuinely going to immerse yourself in a culture.
Then, connect to the locals and adapt to the society you belong to. It will help if you learn the language, notwithstanding how little it’s being spoken.
Even if you decide to start with just the basics, it still will afford you a competitive advantage and the ability to blend well with the scheme of things.
For instance, when you accidentally bumped into someone on the streets of Warsaw, in Poland.
Then you say a quick Przepraszam, or when you say Merhaba as a way of greeting others in Turkey, such interactions may appear small.
But the fact is they provide you with a significant opportunity to connect with others in a way a stranger can’t achieve.
It further indicates that you are committing much effort to learn about your host country. And It is even though your vocabulary may feel like it’s on par with that of a three-year-old.
Furthermore, it can surprisingly help you acquire a more popular one when you learn some less taught languages.
Take Latin as a case study; it is now considered a ‘dead’ language, which is less common these days.
But when you review it critically, you will discover that many words we speak in English have a Latin root.
For example, ‘maternity’ originates from the Latin word ‘mater,’ which means ‘mother.’
Another example is ‘Draco,’ which means ‘Dragon,’ while ‘Delegare’ in Latin means ‘delegate,’ in English, and so on.
Even in Spanish, a lot of words have their base in Latin.
For example, the Spanish term for water is ‘agua,’ which originates from the Latin word ‘aqua.’
Thus, it becomes easier for you when you took classes in Spanish, thanks to the Latin knowledge of Latin.
The same also goes for people taking courses in Italian or Portuguese.
There are many other less familiar languages out there that can simplify learning a much more accessible and challenging language.
An example is Esperanto, which can assist your Portuguese or Irish as well.
2. Competitive advantage at Place of Work
Although you may not immediately need the language for your position, it does not negate that employers are favorably disposed to bilinguals.
So when you learn a less familiar language, you will have something rewarding to add to your resume.
That’s one of the primary reasons why some people are learning a less commonly spoken language.
Imagine knowing how to talk less widespread languages like Danish, Afrikaans, Swahili, Thai, Slavic or Nordic languages or elsewhere?
These languages can become an asset in professional life, considering that the world has become a global village, and foreign markets are expanding rapidly.
The fact that they are less popular makes them even more ideal for career-minded individuals. What if your firm starts trading with Polish, Icelandic, or Cambodian companies?
What about if a new branch is opening in Kenya or Hungary?
A language that may look useless today may become the goose that lays the golden egg tomorrow.
Since these languages are not accessible, there is less competition for positions. As such, your chances of becoming the “anointed one” for the job is almost, if not a guarantee.
The future is always one of uncertainty, and with a less familiar language up your sleeves, you will be ready when the opportunity comes — and indeed, it will.
3. Future Career opportunities
Are you interested in a career in translation and interpretation?
If you are dreaming of working in the translation and interpretation field, studying an unusual language will further enhance the beauty of your qualifications.
You may not have much work to do for the time, but that also means only a few people qualify in that area.
Authors of critical cultural documents and other literary works place much value on their translators.
The relationship and professionalism this nature of work create are, in most cases, extremely rewarding.
Today, there are always one or more job openings involving languages online searching for translators and interpreters in one or more languages.
You can also work as a Freelance linguist for such rare languages.
Yours could be the one that’s being sought.
4. You will become a bridge over a sizeable cultural divide
The primary reason why people are separated from one another is the language barrier. Trust is key to mutual understanding and cultural integration.
Once you start understanding and speaking the language, you begin gaining trust from groups that were otherwise at variance with yours.
The walls around you start coming down because people feel and see they can trust you.
It was what will happen to you as an Indian when you move to Denmark.
The people over there are always quick to move into what I called ‘Danish Mode,’ immediately coming across a fellow Dane.
This trend cuts you off from a lot of meaningful discussions and potential rewarding outcomes.
But by the time you will start speaking the language, everyone is willing to talk to you.
You will become a subject of preference at your place of work.
That’s just one of the good things about learning a less familiar language.
Most times, the natives of that language are overwhelmingly supportive and glad to find strangers speaking their unusual tongue.
It can lead to a lot of opportunities for you, just like it happened to me.
5. Leisure, Entertainment & Travel
Sure, these days, movies have subtitles, and books come with translations.
But when you learn a less common language like Italian, you open up a new world of enjoying the best in music, movies, books, literature, news, and more.
Of course, since the language is uncommon, you’re never going to find much-translated works, anyway.
Learning the language itself gives you more opportunities to enjoy the very best that defines your leisure and entertainment time.
But that is not all. What about travelling?
Do you plan to travel and settle in a remote region or territory where the language is uncommon where the terrain is rich in natural and human-made attractions?
Then, speaking the less taught language of the people will enable you to blend well in society without any difficulty.
For instance, learning Malay and Indonesian will enable you to get deeper into the fascinating cultures of one of Southeast Asia’s travelers’ favorite regions – the Malay Archipelago.
6. Ease of learning & access to more languages
Some less common languages are exciting to learn and understand.
Take, for example.
You can speak English well. You will find it appealing and become motivated to learn the Dutch language or Norwegian.
Due to the many cognates and similarities, it has concerning English.
Most people don’t know when you learn a less familiar language like Dutch, Norwegian, or Javanese.
It will leave you better prepared to learn other more popular ones than a monolingual person who will have to start from scratch.
For example, in India, Scandinavian languages are less common. Still, they are famous for their simplicity and fantastic relationships with the English language.
A language like Norwegian carries a hidden bonus.
When you choose to learn Norwegian, you’re giving yourself a license to understand two the basics of two other languages.
For the price of one, you’ll mostly be learning how to speak Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian due to the high similarities that exist between the three languages.
And at the same time, it will broaden your awareness of English by the time you choose to study it.
For example, Norwegian words for ‘cat’ and ‘grass’ is ‘kat’ and ‘gress.’
This closeness can also be seen in Dutch, with relative similarities with Danish and Swedish.
Thinking about some less commonly spoken languages, you can learn?
Italian and Portuguese language will do you much good, cause there is always some career options in Italian and Portuguese.
However, they might not be in the category of less spoken languages. And the likelihood that you’ll come in contact with a native of these languages is very high.
As mentioned earlier, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Slavic, Afrikaans, Bahasa, Malay, Romanian are some less common languages you can learn.
While there is a host of a less familiar language to learn, the ones mentioned above can form the basis of a perfect breakaway from the assertion of learning popular languages.
As the world emerges through increasing globalization, less common languages will sooner or later become relevant at some point. You never can tell.
Hello Vikash, I have a question for you:
I am a native English speaker from the United States, and I have also been learning French for some time (I am halfway through my third year of learning French, and I can read / write at an intermediate level but I am not as sufficient when it comes to speaking / listening). However, a few years ago I met someone online who lives in Bulgaria, and I have never gotten along with someone more in my life. I have almost everything in common with this person, and we have a lot of chemistry together and have chatted almost every day ever since. Anyways, they would like me to learn Bulgarian, their native language, and while I would love to be able to speak with them in their native language, I have some doubts about the practicality of learning a more uncommon language (which is why I sought out this article in the first place).
I would like your opinion on whether you think this would be a worthwhile venture in my situation, as I am already learning another foreign language that I am not yet fluent in and I am unsure if starting another is a good idea. Additionally, I do not plan on living in Bulgaria, and the person I have been speaking with also plans on moving away from Bulgaria sometime soon, although they have yet to decide where. While it may be a nice place to visit, the living conditions are not ideal and I have some qualms concerning the leadership in the country, so I don’t think I will be getting a whole lot of use out of the Bulgarian language. It still may be useful, however, considering that I am planning on perusing a career in particle physics and quantum field theory in order to work at the CERN research center in Switzerland once I’ve completed my schooling. That being said, I will be the first to admit that I may not meet the exact unique specifications to work there and may very well be unable to secure a job, and so my future still has yet to be determined.
I would still love to live in Switzerland because of the gorgeous landscapes and the incredible safety and living conditions of the country, but there is also no guarantee of this considering the exceptionally competitive Swiss housing market. (Not to mention that none of this considers the conditions present during the pandemic. Although as I mentioned before, these are long term goals that I will not be capable of completing until I finish schooling, which will be in about 3 years from now, and I am assuming that by then the effects of the pandemic will have died down significantly). So considering the unique circumstances, as a professional linguist and an accomplished polyglot, what are your thoughts on the matter?
You have a very peculiar situation. Based on several people’s experiences, learning a language just to communicate with a particular person or group who is not part of your family might not be a great idea. The reason is, you might not remain connected with that person after the foreseeable future, even if all indications imply you would. Life is full of possibilities and unexpected turns.
In that scenario, one has to weigh all pros and cons associated with that language before diving deep into it. It takes enormous time and perseverance to learn a language properly. And since Bulgarian isn’t a popular one, you may or may not utilize it in your career path. But to keep your relationship going and making it more fruitful, you can study some elementary level Bulgarian.
You don’t have to put lots of effort into that. Probably, 2-3 hours in a week for a few months, just as a hobby. Beyond that, you might not need it. And since there is no drawback of having some beginner skills in an uncommon language, you won’t regret it. Good luck!
Thank you for your advice, I will take this into consideration, and I think I will try and just learn some elementary Bulgarian to speak to her. Thank you for helping come to a decision!
Hi Vikash. Would like to contact you for language classes in Noida. What would be an appropriate time to contact you in the mentioned address.
Which address? Send me a message with all details Contact