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Top Five Languages I Would Like to Learn

Darren Rowse has challenged his readers to participate in his latest writing project, which involves a “Top Five.” Since I’m running short on brilliant ideas these days, I figured I’d join in.

I’m a language junkie. If I had the time and money, I would be taking languages classes on an almost continual basis. It was much easier to dabble in language study back in seminary. I had to learn Greek and Hebrew anyway, as well as German when I started doctoral work (man, is my German rusty!). Along the way, I was able to brush up on my Latin and teach myself a wee bit of Dutch and Portuguese–just enough to read scholarly articles with my dictionary open and at the ready.

It has been a while since I’ve tried to learn a language in any kind of systematic way, and lately I’ve been missing it. One of my main problems, however, is deciding how to narrow down the choices. There are modern languages I would like to know because of acquaintances who speak those languages. There are ancient languages I would like to know for scholarly reasons. And then there are the practical considerations: what resources are out there for someone with an interest in learning but a budget of effectively zero? Well, I’ll deal with that last part after I’ve decided which end of the pool to jump in. Here are the top five languages I am currently interested in learning, in no particular order, as well as a brief explanation of why:

  1. Indonesian. According to Barry Farber (How to Learn Any Language), Indonesian is a very easy language to learn. In fact, any true language junkie ought to learn it just to get it under his or her belt. Plus, it is one of the most important languages in the world in terms of number of speakers–and what other criteria makes a language “important”? Since I already have at least a passing knowledge of three of the top 10 languages (English, Spanish, and French), I’ll disqualify Arabic and some of the other biggies from the rest of the list.
  2. Welsh. I’d love to speak a Celtic language, and it’s truly a tossup between Welsh and Irish (Gaelige). Having two parents born in the South, I’m guaranteed to have some Irish ancestors somewhere, but so far I’ve only found one Irish sixth-great-grandfather named Robert Kilgore who came to America in the 1700’s. On the other hand, some sources trace my mother’s maiden name back to Wales. That and my interest in Arthurian legend tips the balance in favor of Welsh.
  3. Coptic. The alphabet is derived from Greek, so it would be fairly easy for me to become familiar with it. Apart from the liturgical, church historical, and text-critical advantages, Coptic would also give me a stepping stone into ancient Egyptian later on. Furthermore, learning Coptic would be an excellent way of showing solidarity with Christian brothers and sisters enduring serious persecution for their faith.
  4. Aramaic. For many of the same reasons as Coptic. Plus, it’s the language Jesus spoke! If it turns out that there are better online resources for Syriac, a later dialect of Aramaic, I reserve the right to change my mind on this one. I would rather learn Aramaic, however, as I already know the alphabet.
  5. Irish. OK, I really didn’t want to eliminate Gaelic back under #2. Plus, I’ve seen enough written Gaelic to really want to understand why it doesn’t ever seem to be written the way it sounds!

I’m pondering diving into one of those languages some time this summer. I won’t guarantee any degree of fluency come September, and there will definitely be whole weeks when I won’t have the time to work on it at all. I would at least like to get a basic overview of the grammar and vocabulary and (where appropriate) know a few simple conversational phrases. Mostly, I’m hoping to get my brain out of mothballs and dig into something that has always energized me.

technorati tags: language learning, languages

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17 Comments

  1. […] Top Five Languages I Would Like to Learn by Darrell Pursiful […]

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  2. Mjuboy says:

    I know Indonesian and its pretty easy, tbh.

    Personally, I would like to learn Russian.

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  3. ps says:

    You sound like my husband, only more ambitious. He has tried to teach himself Korean, French, and currently Spanish. But when he went to countries where these are spoken, I don’t think he tried much to speak those languages. We met in German class, so at least learning a language did some good.

    I took German for 7 years, but I’ve never traveled to a country that speaks German. I don’t remember much except the little plays our teacher made us learn.

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  4. […] Top Five Languages I Would Like to Learn by Darrell Pursiful […]

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  5. D. P. says:

    PS: A couple years ago I found out that two of my former students started dating and eventually got married?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùall because they met in my Greek class! See? There is definitely a benefit to the study of foreign languages 🙂

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  6. Probably one language that I really like to learn would be arabic language. My parents are working in Saudi Arabia and I found out that their language is pretty hard to learn. Maybe because that they have their own word for every thing (well at least that’s what I’ve heard)

    I didnt know that indonesian is very easy to learn. Ive always wanted to learn a different language. Maybe I should try Indonesian? ^_^

    Thanks for your post.

    If you have time, why don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t you drop by my post:
    http://mobileko.blogspot.com/2007/05/snatch-top-5-tips-on-how-to-be.html

    It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s also an entry for the problogger top 5- group writing project. ^^ Goodluck to us all!

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  7. […] Top Five Languages I Would Like to Learn by Darrell Pursiful […]

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  8. Nick says:

    Awesome post. I’m planning on learning a new language next year as well, but I’m not really sure since there are so many options. I want something practical, so maybe something like French or German. I plan on studying abroad too, so the language will probably depend a lot on where I travel to.

    Anyways, I have a post up at http://www.luxuryglobetrotting.com that is in the writing project also. Check it out if you’d like.

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  9. […] Top Five Languages I Would Like to Learn by Darrell Pursiful […]

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  10. D. P. says:

    Nick: French and German would both be good choices in that they are both spoken by many people around the world. Arabic and Spanish would be good for the same reason. Here are some data about the most widely spoken languages in the world.

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  11. […] Top Five Languages I Would Like to Learn. Learning Coptic or Aramaic may not help you order a beer but any language study can enhance your travel experience, Darrell Pursiful’s list is intriguing. […]

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  12. I love languages too and I would also study more languages if I had the opportunity. My site is published in 3 languages (English, Portuguese and Spanish) and I am working with a Universtiy in China to translate to Chinese… pretty cool stuff. If you are interested in reading my group writing project article you can find it here:

    http://ww-success.com/blog/index.php/2007/05/07/top-5-tips-for-achieving-success/

    Good luck!

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  13. LearningNerd says:

    I’d also love to learn a bunch of languages, but right now I’m just going to focus on my Spanish. My top five post is actually really similar to yours, only I listed five general things I want to learn before college. 🙂

    By the way, I had never heard of Coptic! I’ll have to look that up, cause it sounds interesting.

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  14. D. P. says:

    ?Ǭ°Bienvenido, LearningNerd, y buen suerte con sus estudios!

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  15. Jennifer says:

    I have a hard time with English a lot of the times.

    I took French 1 in high school. I changed schools to a school that didn’t offer French, so I took Spanish 1. I am about a confused as it gets with the basics now. LOL…

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  16. Jon Allen says:

    I’d love to learn more languages, being in Seoul I thought I might be able to pick some Korean but it is very difficult, off to Japan next hopefully, so may try Japanese there.

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  17. Marc says:

    I am learning Tagalog right now myself. My wife comes from the Philippines and I have told her that I won’t go back there with her until I can understand what her family is saying about me. 😉

    I also wouldn’t mind learning to at least read Greek and Latin, for reasons you have already mentioned for Coptic and Aramaic.

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