Sometimes, I would ask myself this question — given the time, resources and opportunity, which languages would I have got to learning? Recent events have provided opportunities to get started on some of these languages, but for the most part, I felt that I had accumulated quite a bit of backlog on language learning. Here, I want to share some of these languages on my list, that I really want to get started on when I can. I realised most of these languages tend to be indigenous languages, where many lack any sort of documentation or study, but are rather endangered in one way or another. So, enough with the introduction, and let’s dive in!
Nahuatl is a member of the Uto-Aztecan language family, and the Aztec/Mexica are among the most well-known speakers of the language. From the get go, like many languages spoken in Mexico and Guatemala, Nahuatl has the rather characteristic consonant cluster “tl”, or /tɬ/, although some dialects only produce the /t/ or the /l/ sounds.
Probably one of the more interesting aspects I would want to explore is the agglutinative nature of the language. Compounding several things into a single word, it does sound like a single word could contain every element in a sentence. Does it sound like the Eskimo-Aleut languages? Maybe, but investigating this structure is something that has interested me. So far, in my background reading, I have come to hear about the complex nature of the Nahuatl noun and verb, where there is a whole bunch of possible suffixes and inflections for various aspects surrounding a particular noun or verb. So yeah, Nahuatl has become one of the languages I would want to learn.
Mapudungun, or Mapuche, is an Araucanian language mainly spoken in the South American countries of Argentina and Chile. Today, most Mapuche people in the region are either monolingual or bilingual in Spanish, posing a looming threat for the endangerment of the Mapudungun language.
For some years, I have been following a Chilean Mapudungun Facebook page which posts eye-catching graphics about certain Mapudungun words, or grammatical aspects, giving me a brief inside on the features of the language. You can find their page named “Kimeltuwe, materiales de mapudungun“, which also seems to advertise Mapudungun language classes. However, most materials I could find are in Spanish, meaning that I may have to brush up a bit of Spanish before embarking on this journey.
Understanding the circumstance Mapudungun is in currently, I see myself supporting revitalisation efforts of the language by learning at least the fundamentals. So far, there have been mixed results in reviving Mapudungun in rural communities in Chile. But independent efforts like Kimeltuwe could help spread the awareness of the Mapudungun language and culture, and hopefully interest people in learning Mapudungun.
In the Altai mountains of the Altai Republic in Russia, is a Turkic language which is pretty similar to Kyrgyz. However, its isolation in the mountains and influences from other languages have made determining its classification within the Turkic language family rather shaky. Split between the northern and southern variants, the written form of the Altai language is largely based on the southern varieties. Yet, in Altai Krai, where a variant of northern Altai is spoken, a Cyrillic alphabet was created for that variant as recently as 2006.
Recently, I have stumbled upon several throat singing videos in the Altai language, and so started my interest in the language, to understand the lyrics of these traditional songs. Written in the Cyrillic alphabet today, getting used to the reading and writing should pose little problem, having the experiences from learning Russian and some bits of Mongolian. While not much resources are accessible in English, there may be more of such Altai resources available in Russian, which may also require me to brush up quite a bit on the Russian language as well.
While I search for resources to learn these languages, posting reflections, first impressions, or updates on learning these languages here would take more than just months, maybe even years. Nevertheless, I would try to write some of these posts on this site, perhaps in regular intervals for readers to learn about how I developed throughout a language learning journey.
I am interested, what languages have you always wanted to learn? Let me know in the comments, and I will see you in the next post.