Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

General discussion about learning languages
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby emk » Sat Dec 16, 2017 2:43 pm

rdearman wrote:Personally I would tell the millionaire guy to stick his money because there are easier ways to get a million dollars than to learn a new language from scratch.

Really? Please tell me about these opportunities. :-)

Assuming it takes, say, 500 hours to reach a level somewhere around B1 or B2, that works out to around US$2,000/hour. I would happily learn as many languages as somebody wanted for those wages. Even if the hypothetical billionaire demands a higher level of mastery, or if I were studying a Category IV language, then I should be able to to a pretty good job in 2,000 hours. Sure, this would work out to a less impressive US$500/hour. But somehow, I'd probably manage to be happy with that. :lol:
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby reineke » Sat Dec 16, 2017 3:47 pm

An amused millionaire might offer you the chance to prove your mettle but I think that such a person would like to see you pass a C2 exam a couple of times and show off your skill in front of a team of experts before you're able to collect. In a De Jong learning scenario, you could easily earn less than $200 per hour assuming you passed. The millionaire might also pass away from old age waiting for you to accomplish the task.
Last edited by reineke on Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby emk » Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:49 pm

reineke wrote:An amused millionaire might offer you the chance to prove your mettle but I think that such a person would like to see you pass a C2 exam a couple of times and show off your skill in front of a team of experts before you're able to collect. In a De Jong learning scenario, you could easily earn less than $200 per hour assuming you passed.

I mean, I'd be quite happy to take $200/hour for studying languages. That's still US$400,000/year for ordinary working hours. :-) Do that for 5 years, and I could have two new languages and the ability to semi-retire.

However, although I would happily accept the requirement to "pass a C2 exam", I would not accept "show[ing] off [my] skill in front of a team of experts before [I'm] able to collect." A C2 exam would be a specific, measurable goal (specified by international organizations and verified according to specific testing criteria). But a "team of experts" would be far too vague a standard, and it could easily be manipulated to avoid paying out. No way would I bet that many hours on a challenge without clear criteria!

Anyway, to get back on topic, if I'm being paid, I'd happily learn Icelandic. I'd pick the other languages because they were typologically unusual (exotic grammar, etc.). Sadly, Swahili supposedly has 2 to 15 million L1 speakers and many more L2 speakers, so it's probably not allowed.

Another problem is that it's going to be really hard to reach C2 in a language spoken by 2 million people. You're basically going to have to move and rely on immersion, because you won't have many choices for courses or online tutors. And then, a lot of people who speak tiny languages tend to be bilingual, and they may not be interested in speaking a smaller language to outsiders. So it would turn into a whole mess with visas, etc.
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby aokoye » Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:24 pm

rdearman wrote:Personally I would tell the millionaire guy to stick his money because there are easier ways to get a million dollars than to learn a new language from scratch.

There are? I mean maybe for a fairly small minority of people, but really what are these ways? I'm more than willing to bet I could learn British Sign Language faster than I could earn a million US dollars. I could probably learn Finnish or Mandarin faster than it would take to earn a million dollars as well.
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby tarvos » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:36 pm

rdearman wrote:Personally I would tell the millionaire guy to stick his money because there are easier ways to get a million dollars than to learn a new language from scratch.


I think I'd do better with the language than the money...
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby Adrianslont » Sun Dec 17, 2017 3:20 am

emk wrote:
rdearman wrote:Personally I would tell the millionaire guy to stick his money because there are easier ways to get a million dollars than to learn a new language from scratch.

Really? Please tell me about these opportunities. :-)

Assuming it takes, say, 500 hours to reach a level somewhere around B1 or B2, that works out to around US$2,000/hour. I would happily learn as many languages as somebody wanted for those wages. Even if the hypothetical billionaire demands a higher level of mastery, or if I were studying a Category IV language, then I should be able to to a pretty good job in 2,000 hours. Sure, this would work out to a less impressive US$500/hour. But somehow, I'd probably manage to be happy with that. :lol:

I’d take the $500 an hour to learn a language, too. But I think you and others are making a mistake when you think about “earning” a million dollars. That takes a long time and I know I couldn’t get anyone to pay me $500 ph. However, Rdearman actually said “get” and when he’s says “get” I’m pretty sure he’s not just thinking of being a wage slave. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few forum members could raise a million one way or another. Of course, billions of people in this world couldn’t.

On the actual topic of his thread, I would love to read the emk posts as you learned a language with fewer than 2 million speakers - languages without Assimil, Buffy, BD or subs2srs would force you down a completely different path - as you have already indicated. I’m sure you would find some interesting alternatives. :)

I indicated Javanese and Sundanese and as an intellectual experiment googled up studying them. It was pretty grim. Sure there is some stuff out there but not much - no Thomas the Tank Engine, soap operas or talk shows for me. Not much at all to read. It would end up being a lot of informal, in situ, face to face learning, I think - especially for Sundanese.

Luckily, there is a perfectly good Lingua Franca, Bahasa Indonesia, that will allow me to travel around Java and talk to most Javanese and Sundanese speakers anyway so I am not really interested in all the years it would take me to learn the “Bahasa Daerah”. And, using the Lingua Franca, I can talk to maybe a hundred million other people in Indonesia.
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby Cavesa » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:03 pm

I think stuff like family ties, business, or frequent travelling to a specific country should be a reason to learn the language, no matter how many speakers it has. After all, it's nice that I can theoretically talk to half the planet, but with how many will I actually get into contact? (this is simplification, not taking into account the amount of media and such stuff).

so why not think of it the other way around? Learn a language first, and then in order to practice, or in order to not feel bad about spending so much time learning a 'useless' language (if you're feeling pessimistic), seek out people and places to communicate regularly with speakers of that language.


I don't know, but do you all choose, whether to need or learn a language first? I've been in plenty of situations, where I wished I had learnt the language before :-) Either way, language first or contact first, is absolutely legitimate. So is learning without any intention to ever meet the natives.

nooj wrote:See, this is one of the reasons why the original incarnation of my post included a billionaire dangling a million dollars for each language you learned. :lol:

I like this game and cannot see why this thread got into some less pleasant stuff.

One point in this thread and elsewhere that I think needs attention: we shouldn't approach the languages with a saviour complex. The natives are keeping the language alive and making its future, with heritage speakers and with immigrants learning it. Not foreign learners, nobody is waiting for our mercy. It was also a very good note that 2000000 speakers, that is not an endangered language. I know lots and lots of people living full and happy lives as Czech monolinguals, therefore using only a 10 mil. language. And in today's globalised world, I don't think 10 mil and 2 mil are such a huge difference. Languages with just hundreds of thousands speakers (and most of them bilingual), that is a different story.

I wouldn't trade my languages in for other ones. I am not primarily after the amount of natives, but I simply love them (even though not all of them equally). But I would definitely consider small languages as my next choices, depending on my free time.
These would definitely be considered:
Basque. I've seen it just in the streets of Bilbao and it looked so great! And I want to return to the north of Spain again, including this part of the country.
Latvian as Lithuanian is too big for this game and there is little difference in their tiny usefulness for me. But they look and sound so nice and are so different!
Welsh I was about to start it once! It is so beautiful!

It's funny, how many languages I immediately thought of as "small" proved to have many more than 2 million natives :-D
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby Iversen » Wed May 16, 2018 5:03 pm

I had totally forgotten all about this thread until Jeff Lindquist reminded me about it in an other thread.

My line would be to take languages with few speakers which nevertheless would be marginally comprehensible to the speakers of larger languages - although this strategy has a problem: speakers of large languages are probably less used to trying to understand small neighbour languages, and in some cases it may also be hard to find a suitable contender with less than two million speakers - so I have added a few around two and a half million. Hey, that's also a small number compared to the gazillions of millions of speakers of English or Spanish or Mandarin or Hindi!

My choice for a Slavic language on the Balkan peninsula would be Montenegrin (229,251 speakers in 2011). It is almost the same as Serbian, and Serbian is almost the same as Croatian, and I presume that even the Slovenians and the Macedonians could understand it.

My choice for Italy would be Sardinian, which should have 1 million speakers - but I doubt that the statistics are reliable. I heard nothing but Italian when I visited the island.

Germany... he, at last a chance to use my fragmentary and heavily polluted Plattdüütsch. According to Wikipedia it should have 301,000 speakers, but again ... how come then that you never hear it spoken in the area where it is supposed to be spoken?

Britain (and most of North America). Well, if the Scots hadn't softened their language to become comprehensible to the Southernese British tribes we might have been above two million speakers o Laland Scots, but as it is ah dinna ween that the maist pairt o the 1.54 million wha said in 2011 that they coud speake their mither tongue wad hae spaken it in a wey that Rabbi Burns wad hae sympatheesed wi.

Spanish and Portuguese: definitely Galician. Wikipedia states that it has 2,4 million speakers, but it is still less than Catalan(+Valencian) with at least 4 million - in spite of Rajoy. And Basque isn't not a contender - nobody understands Basque. The language of the Aran valley.. well, maybe. It is said to be an Occitan dialect, but located in Spain. And it has less than 4.700 speakers.

Russian: again I have to raise the bar a bit, since Belorussian has 2.53 million speakers. I have visited Minsk once, and apart from the fact that they write their unstressed a's instead of just pronouncing them (as the Russians do) the language looked very much like Russian.

And Danish: OK, it is already a small language, but I think we all ought to learn Synnejysk (the dialect spoken in Southern Jutland, roughly from the Kongeå to the border .. and maybe a bit beyond the border).
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby nooj » Thu May 17, 2018 12:47 am

how come then that you never hear it spoken in the area where it is supposed to be spoken?
well that's the problem with plattdeutsch innit? the place you'll most hear it is in the home...you have to be inside a house for you to hear it and when you're just moving through a region, it's entirely possible for a tourist or traveller to never even realise that once standardised German was not the common language of everyone...

I've had this experience moving through the south of France or Lyon and Grenoble. Hard to believe that this was once Occitan or Franco-provençal land. The place I would most likely hear Occitan is in an elderly person's facility. As it was I was there as a eat food kind of tourist, not a sample language kind of tourist so I didn't push too hard. I did ask people what language their grandparents spoke.

A friend of mine comes from a village in the Rhone Alps region and her grandparents+parents still speak what they call their 'patois', their variety of Franco Provençal. Her boyfriend, from Grenoble (!) istill stunned: the idea that anyone in France still speaks their languages is really shocking for him.
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Re: Replace all the languages you are learning with ones that have less than 2 million speakers

Postby ilmari » Fri May 18, 2018 3:27 am

I just discovered this thread. In my case, it would be Māori and Karelian.
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