Thanks to social media, access to languages like Spanish, Japanese, and German is easier than ever. From chatty Youtubers to argumentative Tumblrites, potential learners of common European languages have no trouble finding native speakers, music, media, and more to support their endeavors.
But what if you want to learn Chickasaw, Manx, Ladino, or another endangered, hard-to-find language? These are languages with few speakers (perhaps with no native speakers), and few if any media outlets. What is a potential learner to do?
Here are some steps you can take if you want to learn a rare language.
- Determine why you want to learn the language. Perhaps it is your heritage or maybe you just want to broaden your horizons. Either way, keep this reason in your mind as motivation.
- Leave no stone uncovered in your search for resources: NGOs, museums, special interest groups, the Gutenberg Project, and Google Scholar are all places you can look. Many rare languages also have Bible translations. Youtube can also be a great place to start: a small community of rare language learners exists there.
- Find experts: if you can’t find any native speakers, try looking to linguists and universities. Linguists often have deep knowledge about the [often rare] languages they study. In addition, many resources for rare languages are technical: a friendly linguist could help decipher what you are reading.
- When you have limited audio, don’t underestimate the potential of audio snippets. Be sure to learn IPA, too. With these two tools, it shouldn’t be too hard to achieve correct [or near-correct] pronunciation.
- Connect with other learners. No matter how rare the language is, there are billions of people on this planet: others are surely learning the same language. You may have luck finding others on places like Memrise. This article talks about other social sites that may be helpful.
- Create new content. Start a blog or a Youtube channel. Not only will this help catalog what you are learning, it will make things easier for the next learner!
- Don’t give up!
- Why learn a less commonly taught language? (aatseel.org)