Learning the Lesser-known Languages

I believe some of us have always wanted to learn some cool languages like Nunavut Inuktitut, Nahuatl or Gagana Samoa, but where are the resources? Anyway, this post is about my journey in learning the rather lesser-known languages, where resources may be few and far out of reach (like books which I can’t buy anywhere except for the province in which the language is spoken).

Well, my first encounter with this problem started when I wanted to learn Nunavut Inuktitut and some other Eskimo languages, spoken from the state of Alaska to the province on Nunavut to the settlements in Greenland. Spoken by at least 70,000 people, these languages are well-known for their highly agglutinating nature, using a wide range of affixes to produce a single word which translates to a sentence in English. For example, the Nunavut Inuktitut word “nirijaqtuqtunga” means “I am going somewhere to eat”. Cool right?

The problem was, most of the resources for Nunavut Inuktitut were based in Canada, specifically in the large city of Iqaluit, in Nunavut province. Because I live in Asia, this meant that obtaining traditional media like books was way out of my means. Thus, I turned to the Internet for help, and found this cool website which documents and offers lessons online for free (check out http://www.tusaalanga.ca/splash ). From then on, I became rather dependent on that site.

My second encounter was when I was embarking on my Ainu journey. It is an endangered language in Hokkaido, Japan, spoken by possibly a few hundred Ainu, all of whom speak Japanese. Coincidentally, I was in Hokkaido last December so I could start exploring the bookshops there. As one would expect, the books regarding the Ainu and their language are all in Japanese, and gosh they were expensive (I remember one costing 4700 JPY). They were mostly good finds, however. The Sapporo-based radio station, STV, also offered free podcast-based lessons, which are in Japanese. These podcasts come with a set of notes too. So the main problem here was that, you have to use another language to learn the target language. Something like a buy-one-get-one-free offer, but way more difficult. Fortunately, for me, I know Japanese “well”, as in sufficient Japanese to help me get around in Japan as well as understanding the news there.

So, if you wanna learn lesser-known languages (Mapuche, Peruvian Quechua, Saami, Azerbaijani etc), don’t let the apparent lack of comprehensible resources discourage you. The native speakers of these languages definitely would want to make their language known to the world, or to save their language from extinction. Resources will exist, no matter what language they are presented in (Some Greenlandic books I have are written in Danish, my Quechua textbook is in Spanish and my Saami book is in Finnish!). Instead, appreciate these resources for they would also strengthen your skills in other languages. Yep, really. The Ainu resources I read through really helped me strengthen my Japanese, and also introduced me to linguistic technical terms in Japanese. It’s so cool 🙂

Wishing y’all all the best in your language learning endeavours 🙂

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