Writing by Peter Hilton

Why obscure languages are more fun to learn

see also: European Phrase Book

People find it odd that I deliberately learn small bits of obscure languages, so I thought I'd explain why.  WHY? 

Surprise people

No-one expects you to speak an obscure language, especially if you're anglophone. This means that people are more impressed and appreciative when you do, even if you only know a couple of phrases. For example, in Luxembourg you get a better reaction from Luxembourgers if you say 'hello' in Luxembourgish than you do if you have a whole conversation in French.

Make people smile

The normal motivation for learning a foreign language is because it is useful for communication. For a native English speaker such as myself this simply doesn't apply in a country such as the Netherlands, where the population are unfailingly able to communicate in English. My only motivations to learn Dutch, then, are for the hell of it, to amuse the locals and because people appreciate you learning their own language. Noble as they are, these motivations are not particularly strong.

So, if you're not going to learn a foreign language to better communicate with people, you might as well learn a minority language: for the same amount of effort, you will surprise, amuse and impress the locals much more.

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