Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

General discussion about learning languages
jackb
Yellow Belt
Posts: 85
Joined: Thu Jun 06, 2019 2:04 pm
Languages: English (N), French (A?)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=12251
x 206

Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby jackb » Mon Feb 15, 2021 8:27 pm

German is 16, Polish is 33, and Czech is 87th. Meaning I can speak to many more people in German than in these other languages ...)


Yeah, but you could speak to exponentially more people leaning Punjabi, Hindi or Arabic, but they don't. They choose German because it will help them get a job.

I do think people here (USA) DON'T learn Spanish because of the SES of the speakers. In their minds, they should be learning our language not the other way around.

Personally, the SES of the languages speaker's is not an important factor when choosing languages to learn.
3 x
366 Day Challenge. : 221 / 366
Super Challenge
Movies: 7590 / 9000
Books : 3100 / 5000

Online
Cavesa
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
Posts: 3994
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
x 12283

Re: Does the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby Cavesa » Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:04 pm

DaveAgain wrote:
Cavesa wrote:..Spanish in Europe has managed to become very popular in spite of Spain being seen as a poorer country than most in the former western bloc, and not as economically important by the rest. And despite the fact that most countries speaking Spanish have lower overall living standards than even a large part of the former eastern bloc. It is possible to "compensate" and have an excellent PR that will make your country/natives/language more popular. Spanish is a wonderful exception, which could be followed by others, given the right circumstances and a lot of work.
I disagree with the suggestion that Spain/Spanish speaking countries are not economically significant. The quote below is taken from the British Councils report: languages of the future (2017), p52


You disagree with something I've never said, and something that is not subject of this thread. The question is: "Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?"

That's a totally different thing. And I'd even add "perceived status", as that matters a lot. A country's significance, and the individual inhabitants perceived wealth from the outside, those don't have as much in common as it may seem at first sight.

Spain is the UK’s eighth largest non-English speaking export market, valued at nearly £15 billion in 2015. With a combined population of over 185 million people, Chile, Colombia and Mexico have all been identified as opportunity markets for the UK, ... Mexico is one of the most open trading nations in the world, with an extensive network of bilateral trade agreements and is projected to become the world’s seventh-largest economy by 2050.

https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 829#p35865


1.the previous point still stands. Do you think average Colombians are internationally perceived as rich people? Not really, and the fact they are considered opportunity markets for the UK (btw why are you so UK centric?) doesn't have anything to do with it.

2.Within EU, it is much more important what is a country with lots of well paid jobs. For either immigrants, or of the locals, who travel abroad for business or pleasure. Spain's high unemployment rate is much more relevant to the discussed issue (and affects the image of the average spaniard) than how much does the UK earn in Spain.

tungemål wrote:I think you are mostly right. Czechs learning German presumably do so for job opportunities.

But apart from that there are some languages that have cultural prestige. That has for a long time been French, German, and Italian. These are still popular languages to learn, because of the cultural aspects. Music, literature, cuisine etc. These countries were centers for for instance classical music in the 17th, 18th and 19th century.

Today Japanese and Korean seem to also have become popular because of cultural aspects, and Chinese maybe for economic aspects as well.

On the other hand: Languages of some of the richest countries in the world are not that popular to study: Arabic (in spite of its size), Swiss German, Norwegian, Irish or Dutch.
Richest countries


The job opportunities are by far not the only reason. Even people without any use for a language at work and no intention to move abroad are more likely to pick German than Polish. Yes, it is a lot about the prestige. And the (perceived) relative wealth or poverty of the natives does have a lot to do with the prestige. Perhaps more than the culture. Majority of people isn't actually too interested in that, even though they'll claim otherwise, to not feel ashamed. It's very sad, but true. Most people go after money, pretige, or after what everybody does. A minority actually has some intellectual or cultural interests.

And I think the end of your post still confirms my point from the answer to DaveAgain: the wealth of the country and the (perceived) wealth of the speakers are separate issues. They often don't go hand in hand (is an average chinese or arabic person expected to be rich?). And the perceived wealth of the individuals is certainly a factor, but not the only one.

There are reasons for unpopularity of the languages of these rich countries. Three of them have capitulated and given this part of their softpower to the anglophone countries (and the Ireland is actually one. Irish is not the majority language there, and all the speakers are bilingual. It's not a good example). Swiss German is covered by general German, even a doctor going to the germanophone switzerland can arrive just with the German German (which is the primary dialect of many more people, who are also perceived as rich). And Arabic is not more popular because of other PR issues, the dialects issue, and also because the image of a poor average arabic native.
4 x

Online
Cavesa
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
Posts: 3994
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
x 12283

Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby Cavesa » Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:32 pm

chove wrote:Is the appeal of Spanish the tourist industry? Europeans go there on holiday a fair bit, or at least they did when I was small.


Partially. But I'd say the PR and cultural export has even more to do with that. The Spanish speaking countries have been the only bloc at least trying to rival English in the euroamerican world. A few Spanish songs every summer, latin american dance classes in any city, a few Nobel prizes for literature, slowly crawling even into Hollywood over many obstacles. This hammers the "Spanish is a cool language" idea into people quite well. Also, I'd say the Spanish speaking minority within the US becoming more brave and vocal, and the US actually accepting Spanish as the main foreign language to learn (even though I have so many doubts, whenever someone say "language X is awesome for salaries" :-D ), that's one of the important factors even in Europe and possibly to some extent elsewhere (I'd be excited to hear from people from other places).

(And yes, Spanish can be a good investment financially, and you don't have to be in the tourism industry for that, but most people aren't approaching it this way. Even those saying "Spanish will help me earn more" often don't really seem to have any idea what to do with the skill.)

The holidays are important, but it is not the only deciding factor in the "Spanish is enjoyable" wave. I'd say a non negligeable part are also the tons of learning resources, and also the absence of snobism, that many teachers spoil for example French with.

The Spanish language managed to get into a positive reinforcement loop. And I am sure the countries will profit from this soft power. It is truly exceptional.

Lisa wrote:I am not sure I'd consider the economy to be the important factor, I'd think it's more about the number of speakers. In this list:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_l ... e_speakers
German is 16, Polish is 33, and Czech is 87th. Meaning I can speak to many more people in German than in these other languages (although German wasn't so much a decision for me since I'm half German). But that's how I selected to study Spanish rather than French when I was 12; well, actually I think I looked at a map and saw the huge spanish-speaking regions and the small french regions.

This is for ordinary people, not hardcore polyglots, so there's also a mental ranking by how attainable they seem to be. I've started on Chinese at least three times, but I soon realize it's just not practical.


This certainly affects people (and often adults), who are far away both from Germany and China (in the everyday life, the distance of 700km and 7000 km is actually not that different). But it doesn't explain, why people relatively close to both Germany and Poland do almost never choose Polish. And why Germans near the borders, even those going often to the Czech Republic, almost never learn Czech. It has no prestige, because they perceive Czechs as poor.

If the numbers mattered that much, Polish would be a much more popular language in Europe. Italian too. Both countries are among the bigger ones in terms of population. And both are the origin of many expats/immigrants all over the continent. But they are still relatively neglected, because their speakers are perceived as not that rich (even the Italians. I was actually very surprised, when I met various second or third generation Italian immigrants, who clearly had a lot of experience with prejudices and/or discrimination. Some time ago, they really were in a similar position as the Poles now).
2 x

User avatar
chove
Green Belt
Posts: 304
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2015 10:42 pm
Location: Scotland
Languages: English (N), Spanish (intermediate), German (intermediate), Polish (very very low intermediate?), French (just started). I dabble sometimes but rarely commit.
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=9355
x 627
Contact:

Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby chove » Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:46 pm

Whenever people locally find out I know some Polish they go "What are you learning that for?" including Polish immigrants because nobody can think what I could possibly need it for. I'm just learning it for hobby/interest though, and at the time it seemed like it would be polite to learn a bit of a community language since I'm not likely to go aborad anyway.
3 x

DaveAgain
Blue Belt
Posts: 917
Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:26 am
Languages: Eng (n)
x 1639

Re: Does the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby DaveAgain » Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:51 pm

Cavesa wrote:1.the previous point still stands. Do you think average Colombians are internationally perceived as rich people? Not really, and the fact they are considered opportunity markets for the UK (btw why are you so UK centric?) doesn't have anything to do with it.
1. I'm from the UK.
2. The languages for the future report (intended to influence UK gov't policy) is the only one I am aware of that ranks languages by economic value for the learner. It suggests Spanish should be the most important language for UK learners.
1 x

User avatar
Le Baron
Yellow Belt
Posts: 76
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2021 5:14 pm
Location: Pays-Bas
Languages: English (N). Dutch (C2). French (B2). German (B1). Esperanto (a very worthy language). Studying: Spanish, Swahili, rather slowly, but surely. Also Sranantongo in the past with my wife, but it has lapsed.
x 104

Re: Does the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby Le Baron » Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:01 pm

DaveAgain wrote:I'm from the UK.
2. The languages for the future report (intended to influence UK gov't policy) is the only one I am aware of that ranks languages by economic value for the learner. It suggests Spanish should be the most important language for UK learners.


Didn't you say they were only 8th in a list of valued markets? Is there no other language among the preceding seven that would be considered equally or more important?
1 x

User avatar
lingua
Blue Belt
Posts: 780
Joined: Sun Mar 13, 2016 11:23 pm
Languages: English (N)
Maintaining italiano (B2ish)
Studying português, Deutsch, français
Dabbling in siciliano, Latina, piemontèis
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=12257
x 1321

Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby lingua » Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:07 pm

I have not given a thought to the socio-economic status of a language's speakers. I've generally preferred not to learn Spanish in the US because "everyone" learns Spanish but since I've gone full on romance languages I imagine I'll eventually add it some year but probably not until my Portuguese is at the intermediate level. Outside of German and Latin my intent is to specialize in romance languages especially the minor ones because it is something I enjoy. Nothing to do with economics or number of speakers. From my perspective it's not an important factor at all.

My reason for learning German is due to heritage and not socio-economic considerations. If my family was from Norway or Poland I would be learning one of them rather than German. It all comes down to ones reason for learning a particular language.
5 x
Super Challenge 2020-21:
film: 7080 / 9000 books: 5430 / 5000 IT
film: 5835 / 9000 books: 177 / 5000 DE
film: 7131 / 9000 books: 979 / 5000 FR, PT, PMS, SCN

Output Challenge 2021:
IT: wrote: 228 / 50000 recorded: 411 / 3000 - DE: wrote: 500 / 50000 recorded: 62 / 3000
PT: wrote: 2601 / 50000 recorded: 0 / 3000 - FR: wrote: 302 / 50000 recorded: 0 / 3000

PT: Read 100 books: 5 / 100

DaveAgain
Blue Belt
Posts: 917
Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:26 am
Languages: Eng (n)
x 1639

Re: Does the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby DaveAgain » Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:14 pm

Le Baron wrote:Didn't you say they were only 8th in a list of valued markets? Is there no other language among the preceding seven that would be considered equally or more important?
Spain alone was mentioned as 8th in current value of UK exports to "non English speaking" countries. The report also considers future growth.

see p.52.
https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/de ... e_2017.pdf
0 x

Online
Cavesa
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
Posts: 3994
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
x 12283

Re: Does the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby Cavesa » Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:35 pm

DaveAgain wrote:
Cavesa wrote:1.the previous point still stands. Do you think average Colombians are internationally perceived as rich people? Not really, and the fact they are considered opportunity markets for the UK (btw why are you so UK centric?) doesn't have anything to do with it.
1. I'm from the UK.
2. The languages for the future report (intended to influence UK gov't policy) is the only one I am aware of that ranks languages by economic value for the learner. It suggests Spanish should be the most important language for UK learners.


Again: this thread is not about "economic value of a country", it is about "socio-economic status of a language's speakers".

The report is nice and surely useful elsewhere (and such things have been discussed many times), but reread the subject of the thread.

To put it very simply: "are learners' choices affected by the image of a typical German native person being a rich person, and a typical Polish native being poor?" So, in case of Spanish, the image of an average Colombian, Cuban, or Spaniard is more relevant to the question than any list of countries admitting that half a continent is indeed worth attention as a market. :-)
3 x

User avatar
rdearman
Site Admin
Posts: 5461
Joined: Thu May 14, 2015 4:18 pm
Location: United Kingdom
Languages: English (N)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1836
x 14188
Contact:

Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby rdearman » Mon Feb 15, 2021 11:46 pm

tungemål wrote:
rdearman wrote:Very few Irish people speak Irish. Most speak English.


Ok. Yes I knew that. But if I ever learn Irish it will be because I want to ask for a Guinness beer in Irish when I go to Dublin :)

Trust me, you can ask for it in Irish, but if you actually want someone to understand and to give you one, ask for it in English.
8 x
Anyone who thinks assembly language programming is difficult, obviously hasn't used Rust.

The Autodidactic Podcast
The Lollygagging Podcast


Return to “General Language Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 2 guests