List of languages – silly approach

To complement yesterday’s serious entry here’s something from the realm of daydreaming. Mind you, I have done such listings many times already, so when I say they are silly and next-to-useless, I know what I mean.

Without further ado, a categorized list of languages I would like to learn someday (if the world was perfect). The categories are not clear-cut, that is one and the same language’s appearance in a couple of them could be equally justified. In particular, almost all (or all?) of them could qualify under the first label, which is…

Languages I would like to relearn

As said above I had longer or shorter stints with most if not all of the languages listed. But only in a very limited number of cases can I say that I had learnt them to a usable level at some point.

Criterion – having once been able to use it actively and/or having made my way through a teach yourself textbook (or equivalent).

Languages belonging here (in no particular order): Italian, Hungarian, Hindi, Finnish, Indonesian, Serbian, Romanian, Georgian

Languages spoken in Iran

As I am based in Iran now and – if all’s well – will remain here for the next couple of years, learning a minority language spoken here is tempting.

Languages considered: Azerbaijani, Armenian, Kurdish

Regionally important languages   

Now, my stay in Iran will end someday and after that happens I have a good chance to be posted in some other country in the region. It would be good and useful to be prepared for that. For instance by learning: Arabic or Turkish

Globally important languages

No matter where I will work there are some languages which could always come in handy. Worldwide these are (apart from English, Russian and Arabic): Chinese, French and Spanish, and in Europe German could be an interesting addition.

Languages I have ‘worked’ with

There are three little-known languages I have made, am making or will make websites for. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have some idea about them, instead of just providing materials. So, I would like to learn Lezgi, Ewe and Mari

Languages important because of the diversity

If you thought all the languages already listed make for a very diverse collection, think again. In my opinion, there are still many glaring empty slots. To fill them even in half I would need, at the very least, the following: Xhosa (or Zulu), Maori, Seneca (or Mohawk), Quechua (or Aymara), Somali, Albanian, Tagalog, Yolngu Mata, Nheengatu, Tok Pisin  (I only mentioned those I am interested in, for a truly comprehensive list you would need at least a couple more esp. from East and South-East Asia).

Random languages or challenges ahead

My experience so far clearly shows that I can never predict what I will be involved with even a year later. In particular I hadn’t been planning beforehand for many of my ‘language adventures’, including Persian, Mari, Lezgi or Ewe, yet they happened and in at least one case (Persian, of course) had a profound impact on my carreer and life as a whole.

This is to say the list is always open-ended. For all I know tomorrow I could meet a speaker of Oromo or Chukchee or Tetum… or somebody from Guadalcanal or Omo Valley (or Manhattan ;)  might finally take up The Offer… or I might – at some point – decide to devote, say a month or three to learning a language I hadn’t learn before just to check what is possible… The future possibilities are – as the whole future is – indeed limitless.

Closing remarks

Believe it or not, but I tried hard to limit myself when listing the above languages. For instance, I have completely omitted dead languages, at least some of which are (or could be) of some interest. Also, I didn’t list all the Slavic, Caucasian and Iranian languages I am vaguely (or more than vaguely) interested in.

Bear also in mind, that I am a reader and not a talker – as reading is much easier to learn and maintain than conversational skills, my chances for learning a wide selection of languages are a little bit better. This doesn’t mean I can reasonably expect to learn all the languages listed here, or even most of them – almost certainly I will learn only a couple of them to an intermediate level (ie. can read newspaper articles), and probably none of them really well.

You may have noticed that some language names are bolded. These are the ones I am assigning a somewhat higher priority to.

As always, I am eager to hear/see/read any comments.

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  • swiatjezykow  On December 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    You’ve said you are a reader and not a talker – if this is the case I suppose you will be able to read serbian newspaper articles even after 3 months. Speaking is much more complicated, but reading proficiency is fairly easy to achieve.

    But if I were you I would definitely choose Arabic and/or Turkish – both are interesting and useful in that region. I think it could be fun and really useful. But this is only my humble opinion.

  • Rémy  On December 19, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    My language choices generally tend to be informed by music. That’s to say, the moment I hear a song I like, I immediately feel an overbearing urge to start learning the language it’s being sung in. The latest songstress to cast a spell over me is Edyta Geppert, and as such I’m not sure if the next language I’m going to seriously start learning (probably next summer) will be Serbo-Croatian or Polish! In either case, it seems like I’ve already started on my path to Slavophilia! ;)

  • peterlin  On December 23, 2010 at 11:18 am

    1. I should have somehow qualified that statement about learning only a couple to a “read-a-newspaper” level. Even now I sort of can read Serbian or Italian news items (and -struggling a bit more- in some other Slavic and Romance languages) – and this is really no wonder (esp. with Slavic langs). So, I think I should have said “I can realistically expect to be able to read a newspaper in only a couple of languages more than I already can”.
    2. Arabic and Turkish make the most sense professionally, but -also in professional sense- it would be good not to limit myself to a single region. At the moment dabbling with Chinese seems quite likely.

    We have better fantasy/sci-fi writers than they do… :) Jacek Dukaj is really, really good and AFAIK untranslated.

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