Which languages to abandon forever?

We’ve had to have a major reorganisation here (due to serious health issues of a close family member) and in the course of this upheaval I’ve been forced to review my library of langauge learning materials - which turns out to be a mind-numbing number of resources for an embarrassingly high number of different languages! Many of these languages I’ve only ever ‘tinkered’ with (albeit with the intention of focussing more seriously one day. ) Others I have devoted more time to, yet without making much headway in many cases, I fear.

There is something about major changes in life that brings clarity. Last night it just hit me like a train: I’m 42 now; I’m never going to learn all of these languages - it just isn’t going to happen! In most cases there isn’t really any motivation even, if I’m going to be quite honest. So I’m going to get real. I’m going to sell this stuff or donate it to charity in coming weeks.

BUT I can’t bring myself to consign all of it to history! So which to keep and which to leave?

My thoughts:

I will keep resouces for French, Spanish, Dutch/Afrikaans, Koine Greek and Ancient Hebrew. The first three of these are relatively easy for me seeing that I already have a decent base in Italian and a very strong base in German. So it’s possible that I could come back to them in the future, or even at an older age. The Last two are ones that I really have a solid motivation for (yet oddly have never really engaged with very much.)

Sadly, I will have to abandon the other (dozen or so) languages forever.

I guess I may hold on to my resources for Russian, Latin, Old English, Danish/Norwegian and Icelandic - but realistically I don’t think I will ever use them, sadly enough.

Sad sigh :frowning:

I don’t know man… I mean Steve learned a bunch of HARD languages after turning 60: Russian, Czech, Ukranian, Korean, and now Greek and Hebrew. I think “abandon forever” seems a bit overly finite

Moreover, from the languages you are looking at, most of them are old, uncommon languages which tells me it’s more about what you find personally enjoyable and interesting (perhaps the linguistic challenge and history), as opposed to practical use. So I don’t think there is any big rush.

I also don’t think you need to plan out piece by piece which languages you will learn for decades to come. Korean I randomly tried out of nowhere about 1 year ago and now it’s one of my favorite languages to study.

i say you go with your gut as you go through your books and decide which ones to sell… you can definitely find resources again if need be if you get the urge down the road to go after one of the languages.


Well as Picasso said: Every act of creation is first an act of destruction. If you want to proceed with your life you have to get rid of the things that are holding you back.

I guess I sounded all “poetic” now. But it’s very true in my experience. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of things myself, even language books. At some point they become useless relics and either you toss them or they stay in your house and on your mind, making you repeat the old thought cycles that led you nowhere. Also you become more dependent on material things and you lose focus on life itself. It can be difficult to get rid of things that strongly represent who you are, but really, there’s nothing like a good old faschioned act of destruction to revitalize your existence.

Seek and destroy. --Metallica

Here’s a visual demonstration:

^^ The very same thing I would say. Just lose the stuff you don’t think you’ll want to use for a while.

I would like to add that you shouldn’t stop working on your “strong” languages (Italian and German for Prinz_Brexiteer).

It’s a really good way to keep yourself motivated, since it is a constant reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Also, never study more than 1 language in which you’re weak at at once. Some people can manage more than one, but those people are the exception and not the rule.


I’m sorry to hear that, @Prinz_Skogsvin! Be strong and follow your heart.

We Love you.

Do you need the space? Can’t you just keep them anyway? Many people have bookshelves full of books that they keep regardless of where they move.

I would say, keep them all, it’s worth the effort and expense of moving them should you have to move.

You have no idea how you’ll feel in 30 or 40 years from now.

It’s only if you move somewhere smaller and you are forced to get rid of some due lack of space, that I would consider that if I were you.

Making yourself feel lighter is all good!

…if that’s what you really want :slight_smile:

Cool story


I won’t go into too many details, but, yes, this is fundamentally about there being less space for the books, tapes, CDs, etc (due to a family member needing modifications to the house, basically.)

I could crate up and store some of it (and I probably will do that for Russian, Icelandic, and one or too others) but it has also become clear to me that I need to let go of some of this stuff. I mean, darn it, I have resources for Egyptian Arabic, Thai, Czech…the list goes on and on! I don’t have the time or motivation for all of this. Maybe I did once, but things change, ya know…


There is no WAY that my German library is going anywhere soon! :slight_smile:

(It’s partly to ‘defend’ the space for these books that I’m having to let other stuff go - if you see what I mean.)

afrikaans /dutch? why

I think I would pick the resources that were relatively difficult to get in the first place or that I have a special connection to instead of making a selection of languages.
What are you going to do with the resources you are ready to let go? Public book shelves? Sale?
Maybe you could publish a list of what you want to get rid of here?

All the best wishes for you and your family!

Honestly, I wouldn’t think too much about the future. At least for me, long-term goals aren’t as motivating as short-term goals. Thinking about all the languages I would love to learn always feels sexy, but it decreases my motivation for learning specific ones. I start comparing languages and my interest goes back and forth between them. It’s easy to get into this mindset when you follow polyglots online. Remember that learning 1 well is a huge feat in itself and a major accomplishment. So I would say embrace the mystery of the future, choose one, and let yourself decide on the next language in a few years.

Also, ask yourself why this language stands out among all other languages in the world. Try to avoid vague reasons like “literature” or “travel”. What specificly about the literature? What makes the history or the people truly unique? If you’re having trouble answering these questions, it may either not be the right language or you may need to learn more about it first. This is a big undertaking.

Everyone is different, but shifting my thinking this way motivates me :slight_smile:

1 Like

Yes, I would be very loathe to get rid of things like my 1960s era Linguaphone courses for Egyptian and Algerian Arabic seeing how very rare they are - even though there is zero chance that I will ever use them.

In the end I will crate up and store quite a lot, probably. Some non-rare or expensive things (such as copies of the older Teach Yourself books) will go to charity shops. Some things I may sell on Ebay.

Dutch and Afrikaans come (relatively) easily to me seeing that I can already very comfortably read any average non-specialist text in German. This means I could come back to them in the future (maybe even when I’m 60 or something) and have another crack. But Mandarin, Hindi, Czech, etc…nah, you’d need to be someone special like Steve Kaufmann to learn them when you’re over 40, in my opinion.

It’s a similar story with French and Spanish (and, I guess, Portuguese). I already have some gackground in Italian, so it’d be relatively easy to come back to them.

“…What specificly about the literature?..”

In the case of Koine Greek and Ancient Hebrew this one answers itself, seeing that I am a big time Bible thumper! (Only half kidding :-D)

But it’s a fascinating point in relation to French and Spanish too. Spanish is a bigger language on the world stage than French, but I have hunch that there could be (from my personal perspective) more interesting published material out there in French than Spanish. Maybe I’m wrong, but I kind of get that feeling from some bibliographies that I have seen. Hmm…

I wish I could convince you to keep everything anyway.

Languages are obviously a passion of yours.

Can’t you find someone who has enough space who can look after them for you?

When is your deadline?

Perhaps I can get some of my family to mind them for you. How much space are we talking about?

I really don’t want you to lose any of them.

Who knows what the future brings?

You might feel relief now but a sense of loss and sadness in…who knows?..5, 10, 15 years from now.

Of all the things to get rid of, these are things I would keep if I were you.

How’s the Farsi going? I find even with a limited ability in the Arabic alphabet I can recognize proper names in Farsi language tweets, so my curiosity is increasing.
I won’t even offer an opinion on downsizing as I’m still trying to dispose of things that I should have gotten rid of 10 years ago.

Farsi…yup…that’s one (like Russian) that I’ve devoted time to on and off. I did a bit of Assimil then discontinued it for a while. When I came back after a hiatus I found a lot was still quite fresh.

It’s one for very deep storage, methinks…

These are very kind words, but I think I really do need to to get a grip. The truth is, a passion can have a negative as well as a positive vibe - as I guess any teenager who has had an unhappy crush knows! :-0 Truth is, I reckon things have slid a little out of control over the last decade or so!

As for time, well, the builders are done now - but I’m still clearing a lot of stuff up right now - been running up and down stairs this very evening!

(Last week was worse though. I literally had Farrow&Ball paint in one eye and up one nostril at one point - NOT something I recommend to anyone…)