Monday, January 14, 2019

Learning a Lingua Franca or a Niche Language by Sienna Walker

Which Should I Choose?

Learning a language is no small undertaking. Many people find that languages are one of the most difficult things to learn. The process requires a lot of discipline and retraining your brain. If you're going to learn a new language, you want to make sure that your hard work is going to pay off.

Most people who decide to learn a new language either want to learn a lingua franca (a common language that people speak to communicate with one another) or a niche language (a language native to very few countries and not often spoken outside of those countries). Learning either of them opens up new opportunities and deciding which route is the best for you largely depends on how you intend to apply this new language in your life.

Consider Your Passion

Some people learn a language simply because it's on their bucket list. If this sounds like you, it mightn't matter which type of language you choose. As long as you're motivated and have an interest in the language or choose a language that's commonly described as relatively easy to learn, you're setting yourself up for a smooth journey.

If you intend to use a new language to set up a new life in a new country or to properly appreciate the art and culture of a place, learning a niche language might be more helpful. Scholars of Japanese culture might as well master the Japanese language – especially if they intend to go to Japan for an extended period of time.

For a Career

Learning a new language to increase your career prospects is a fantastic idea. If you've ever had a look through online job boards, you've probably seen jobs asking for employees with language skills. When learning a new language for a career, both the lingua franca route and the niche language route are good ideas. It all depends on what you intend to do with your career.

International companies have a strong preference for people who are fluent in a lingua franca because these people can help bridge gaps and forge connections to strengthen relationships with overseas partnerships. People who speak a lingua franca can do more in more parts of the world.

On the other hand, people who speak a niche language are highly valuable when it comes to specific countries and are usually harder to find. If a company wants to open up a manufacturing plant in Hungary, they might need someone who is highly fluent in Hungarian, a language commonly considered to be “difficult”, to get the job done.

For Travelling

Travellers need to know how to communicate with natives in the country they're visiting. It's helpful when purchasing something in a store, ordering a meal at a restaurant, or securing accommodation for the night. It's necessary in case of an emergency. If you need to speak with local authorities or get help, you're going to have a difficult time if you can't find a common language to speak.

In most parts of the world, it's not hard to find someone who speaks English. After all, it's the most common lingua franca. Despite that, you don't want to take for granted that you'll be able to find someone who speaks English when you're in an urgent situation. It helps to keep a translator app on your phone for emergencies – or learn some useful phrases in that particular language.

Research the lingua franca languages used in areas of the world you intend to travel to. If there aren't a lot of English speakers, learn the lingua franca used in a given region. In areas like the middle east, Persian and Hindustani are widely spoken as second languages and native languages. Knowing these languages will make your life easier.

Why Not Learn Both? 

You don’t necessarily need to learn one or the other. There are instances in which knowing both a niche language and a lingua franca will help you cover all your bases. If you travel frequently or work overseas, it’s best to know as much as possible. There are numerous benefits to learning a second, third, or even fourth language. Communication is one of the most invaluable tools that human beings have. Anything you can do to maximize your ability to communicate is a worthwhile pursuit.

Sienna Walker is an experienced tutor, avid traveller, and a languages lover from Australia. She's passionate about self-improvement and is currently learning how to manage her travel finances through Brighter Finance. Whenever not working or planning another trip, Sienna is trying hard to pick up some new languages. She's currently focusing on Spanish and Norwegian. Feel free to reach out to her on Twitter.