Has this idea ever come into your mind or am I just crazy?

Namaste. I recently decided that I should focus only on languages spoken in countries with high birth rates. I mean what’s the point of learning a language which is doomed to die out in 20-30 years? Maybe not completely, but the number of speakers of some (particularly European) languages is decreasing tremendously each year. I suppose you’ll call me crazy but have you ever thought of that?


Never thought of this before as far as I am concerned. Korea has a sharply declining birthrate, but I have been learning Korean for 8 years because I have a love affair with Korean literature and cinema.


I think that we study languages for a lot of different reasons, so you should follow whatever you think is more appropriate for you that will keep your interest for a long time.

You have a pragmatic approach, that many of us have, but instead of being focused on the current economics, it is focused on the possible future demographic.

However, things can change a lot in the world, and we never know for sure how things are going. If you are able to create a connexion between your current pragmatic approach, and a spiritual/heart/historical/passion connexion, it will be a lot better to keep your languages for a long time in the future.

As an example, I study languages that are at the core of the European culture and that are still relevant (Italian, English, Spanish, French and German). If things would have gone different in my life, I would have added Russian and Chinese as well, that were part of the project.

Besides the pragmatic approach, what fascinated me when I was younger, was the so called “Gran Tour” in Europe. With the importance of Italian, French, German and English language, in different fields, that many artists, intellectuals, thinkers of that time would use to discover other important cultures of their heritage.

I was fascinated by the fact that someone could go around Europe, starting around 1600-1700, for years, travelling across countries, with a lot of danger, just because they wanted to open their mind and learn.

I believe it would benefit you to have some additional reason that just the birthrate, even if any reason is legitimate to learn a language.

Plus, don’t forget that we are much more resilient that what someone might want you to believe. Who knows? Maybe there will be another babies revolution. :rofl:


and what about the people that learn languages that are already dead? :slight_smile:


Exactly. We learn languages to communicate with people likely to be alive during our own lifetime, not those alive after we’re long gone. Unless we mean to leave important writings behind for posterity in our TL.


Obviously, they have other priorities! For example, talking with ghosts. Tandem exchange could be problematic though.


It is perfectly reasonable to consider how you will be able to use an L2 in the future. I know I have more languages on my “wish I could learn list” than I could ever learn, and it can be a challenge to choose.

There was some pragmatism to my L2 choices so far, but I also love the cultures, the music, the food, and the sound of the languages I’ve chosen. I have people in my life who speak them.

Slogging through the unavoidable drudgery of language learning might be difficult without an underlying love, or need, driving us.


Well, there might be reasons like studying religious scriptures or works of philosophy. This actually makes sense to me.

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I guess you’re right, there should be something else apart from just pragmatical reasons to learn a language. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic.

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Yes, I think it makes more sense than my reasoning.

Yes, I think most of the languages that I want to learn will not disappear in my lifetime. Maybe it’s not such a big deal.


No doubt with the gradual unification of the EU, it will soon mandate one language, probably French, so I’m sorted. Russian may dominate in Eastern Europe unless Chinese gets there first. And with the rapid advances in AI, we will have no need to learn a foreign language to communicate.

I’m learning what interests me, a couple of languages spoken by near neighbours. No doubt by the time Britain becomes part of the Chinese Democratic Popular Peoples Republic of the World, I’ll be long gone.

Demographics change over the years, as do borders, and political realities.

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I don’t think you are pessimistic at all, your mind is just looking at one side of the apple without seeing the entire apple, which is not something easy at all. Learning very well one language will help open your mind anyway, so it is always a good thing regardless.
There is nothing wrong to be pragmatic or utilitaristic, but if you are able to expand more on your reasons, you will help your mind to better analyse the situation.
Think about learning a language as a very long journey, not something that will excite you for a couple of months, but something that will engage you for years, plus maintenance.

By the way, the fact that you have opened this thread is already a clue that you are trying to better understand if this line of reasoning will suit your language journey. Which is something very good to do.

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I definitely disagree with everything, but ours are just speculations. :rofl:

EU won’t mandate any language at all, everything the European parliament does is translated in 27 languages, which I think it’s madness, but EU will preserve any culture because that’s the point of this unification. If EU will mandate one language, EU will be politically dead. There is a big difference between using one language for convenience, and mandate one language!

Compared to history, EU is just a baby. We never know how history is going, and contrary on what we might thing, there are many tiny realities that are already reinvigorating their language because they are disappearing. Imaging what bigger realities would do.

AI won’t reduce the language learning experience but will increase the language learning experience. I believe there will be MORE people learning languages because it will become economically more accessible.

Communicating in person is not the same thing that communicating with a robot. People want to make contracts, exchange philosophies, eating different food, expand their knowledge, visit historical places. A lot of these thing motivate people to learn other languages.

I don’t see any language uniformation happening soon at all. A human brain is well more capable to talk in one language. I might see in the future a better school system that will teach languages properly, and more bilingual or trilingual people.

You know that you own lifetime is limited as well, right ? You won’t live long enough to be alive when a language that is currently spoken dies out because of declining demographics.

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I think it’s a bad idea.

Just because a country have a big population, doesn’t mean their language will be useful for you. Compare for example usefulness of Japanese vs, for example, Bengali (no offence).

And relying on high birth rates is even worse, because they are common in underdeveloped countries. Maybe they will become developed in the future, but will you manage to wait for it?

If you want a more “objective” measure of a language usefulness, I recommend to look on total GDP of countries where it’s spoken. And I think, it should be evident that a big population not necessarily means big GDP.

Latin is still spoken and studied in schools, so you have a couple of thousand years more to think about.
Esperanto is still spoken and studied and there are not even natives speakers.
Klingon exists, and its popularity is even increasing, with a Klingon Language Institute. However, language exchange with a real Klingon could be dangerous. :rofl:

I thought it was obvious that I wasn’t being serious, though there is a hint of truth in my earlier post.

We don’t know what the effect of AI will be on language.

It will allow simultaneous translation, and that could save a fortune for the EU (meetings and documents), and for companies selling overseas. It could also be a boon for tourists, and scientific collaboration.

Yes the internet allows youngsters to learn a second language to native level like never before. And AI will add to that thanks to chat bots and AI teachers.

AI could paradoxically lead to less people learning second languages, or more, we don’t know. But I don’t see school language teaching improving, not in Britain. We are stuck in a need to test rut, where rigour counts i.e. testing grammar and vocabulary.

@LeifGoodwin as there are people thinking that way, I couldn’t be sure about it. But yes, the French mandate hint should have ringed a bell. Not for French people though. :rofl:

Regarding AI and the future of language learning, I believe it is a question of attitude. Some people think we are doomed and it will substitute everything, others the opposite.

I have read an article about second language learning declining in Britain, but I have never actually seen much interest in learning a second language for anglo saxons countries in general. Unless they are given some sort of incentives. Maybe it is like that for many other countries, honestly, I don’t have any idea.

If we had a completely different educational system for language learning, starting from when we are kids, we would probably be trilingual at 18yo without much of a problem.

I’m an admirer of France, so my comment was a gentle dig at French pride.

Yes, the number of British children studying a second language at school has declined. I’m not convinced this is bad as the teaching methodology is so poor. We Brits lack confidence when it comes to second languages, when compared to Germans, Dutch and Nordics. Americans probably have less motivation than us, except in Hispanic areas of course.