Usually, language learners get praised for their level of self-discipline and dedication as everyone knows – learning a new language is hard. However, as Reddit has shown, there are instances when you can get judged for acquiring certain languages.
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- Reddit discussions reveal that learning less common languages, or languages perceived as “impractical”, can lead to judgments and misconceptions from others.
- Many learners of Japanese face questions about their motivations, with some wrongly labeled as “weeaboos” or accused of fetishizing the culture. Meanwhile, Irish, perceived as a “dead language” by some, raises eyebrows and questions.
- Choosing to learn less popular languages can provide a professional edge, bridge cultural gaps, and enhance travel experiences, among other advantages.
People have different motivations for learning a new language: moving to study/work in a different country, wanting to travel abroad, speaking with their international friends, or talking to their partner/spouse/parents in their mother tongue. Some learners, however, decide to acquire a completely new language just for the fun of it. They are intrigued by grammar rules and phonetic structures and they get off on learning 100 words per day.
This was the case of one Reddit user, who shared his interest in particularly unique languages:
“Perhaps an odd question but as someone who loves languages from a structural/grammatical standpoint I’m often drawn towards languages that I have absolutely no practical use for.”
Considering their eccentric preferences among languages, the OP asked the question “Which languages have people judged you for learning?” He further explained:
“For example, I have no connection to Sweden beyond one friend of mine who grew up there, so when I tell people I read Swedish books all the time (which I order from Sweden) I get funny looks. The worst assumption I’ve attracted was someone assuming I’m a right-wing extremist lmao. I’m genuinely just interested in Nordic languages cause they sound nice, are somewhat similar to English, and have extensive easily accessible resources in the UK (where I live). Despite investing time in learning the language, I have no immediate plans to travel to Sweden other than perhaps to visit my friend who plans to move back there. But I do enjoy the language and the Netflix content lmao.”
We decided to dive right into the discussion and see if there were any other circumstances where people received “funny looks” for learning a specific language.
It seems that one of the most popular languages among learning enthusiasts is Japanese. And so happened that it was also the one that attracted a lot of questions from average people:
“I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had at least 70% of my extended family ask „Why Japanese?“ in a weird way. Not like excited but like in a „why not something more useful“ way. I try to explain it but if they don’t get it I don’t bother. I’ve made so many good friends in the short time I’m learning it now and I’m having a blast learning it. Straight-up joy I’ve never felt before kind of fun.”
“This happens to me too, nobody can just accept the fact that I’ve been studying Japanese but barely watch anime. Apparently just thinking the language sounds nice isn’t a good enough reason. That was honestly why I initially wanted to learn it lol I didn’t actually know much about Japan or their culture at the time but now I do and I think it’s awesome. Idk why people don’t believe me”
“I got interested in Japan when I was studying Architecture at university. Contemporary Japanese architecture piqued my interest, and I slowly became more interested in Japan and its wider culture, particularly the language. I’ve never been interested in anime, manga, or any stereotypically weeb things, nor do I idolize the place as some sort of fantasy utopia, but for years I still felt the need to qualify my interest in the language if I told anyone I’ve dabbled in learning it to avoid judgment. I don’t do that anymore, though. If they want to project their weird shit onto me, that’s their problem.”
Many went on saying that there were also a few other reasons, aside from the language not being practical, why Japanese was perceived with such judgment. And it was mainly because on average, “people are so quick to call every Japanese learner a weeaboo or accuse them of having a fetish.”
Irish – the Dead Language?
Another language that seemed to have a lot of attention in the language-learning community, but not so much outside of it, turned out to be Irish. Redditors mentioned that it was mainly perceived by others as a dead language, and that’s why its acquisition raised a lot of questions:
“Irish. Every time I say I’m interested in this language people say even the Irish don’t speak Irish Why are you wasting your time”
“American with a good level of proficiency in Irish. Once had a native speaker shake his head and wonder why I’d waste the time and effort (the ONLY native speaker I’ve ever had this reaction from).”
“This is absolutely accurate. As someone who wanted to an ordinary, English-using primary school and then a meanscoil lán-Ghaeilge, I didn’t even realise just how poorly Irish was taught until I was in an environment where it was spoken daily. My Irish massively improved, but I realized how bad it actually was, compared to fully speaking a language, and how my friends all thought my Irish was great and complained about having to learn a “useless” language. The irony of it is that there are lots of jobs it’s easier to get with Irish too!”
Aside from really niche(or not really) ones there were also a few mentions of people being judges for learning Breton, French, and Arabic languages:
“I’ve had similar experiences with Breton but rarely from Bretons, although some yes. It was usually the more franchouillard* sort of French people, especially outside of Brittany. The most upset anyone got about it was a LaRouchite handing out pamphlets. A friend and I were walking along, chatting in Breton and the guy yelled at us “Breton has never been spoken in Rennes”. To be clear, Rennes is in the traditional Gallo area but it and Nantes have always had a Breton-speaking community. I told the guy “Well I just did” and he got fucking mad saying how modern Breton is a fake language created by fascists, that the quicker regional languages are destroyed the better, and all such nonsense, and that I’d be better off learning English**. In English, I told him that LaRouche was a fascist piece of shit and we walked off. The temptation to do something violent was strong.”
“French. In my country, it is reasonable to learn English and German. Learning French was seen as an extremely stupid choice of romantic morons. Well, turned out my fun language changed my life and actually got me a several times higher salary. 😀 Wasn’t my initial intention, but I am happy about it and the critics can put their opinions you know where.”
“Arabic, lol. My mom called the FBI on me (yes, really) when she found out I was learning it. She told them her daughter was becoming radicalized and that I needed to be on a watchlist. I was learning it as a minor at university bc the program had lots of scholarships and it’s a beautiful language. She’s insane. They told her there was nothing they could do lol. She and I still sort of talk a few years later, just not about that.”
What do You Need to Know About The Most Unpopular Languages
What defines the language to be popular or not? In today’s world, the popularity of language depends on how many people speak the language (but not only in the country of origin), job and travel opportunities, as well as the overall influence of the culture that this language is a part of.
We browsed a little, and found a list of the less popular languages that might be interesting to dedicated language learners though:
- West Asian Languages (Turkish, Pashto, etc.)
- Southeast Asian Languages (Bahasa, Javanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai, Malay, Burmese)
- North Asian Languages (Tibetan, Mongolian, Wu, Cantonese)
- Slavic Languages (Bulgarian, Belarusian, Croatian, Czech, Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian)
- Finno-Ugric Languages (Finnish and Hungarian)
- Germanic / Scandinavian Languages (Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish)
- Romance Languages (Romanian and Catalan)
- African Languages (Swahili, Hausa, Amharic, etc.)
If you decide to learn one of these and will get asked the question of “why?”, there are a few points that you can choose as your reasoning:
Professional Edge – “With a lesser-known language under my belt, I will stand out in the professional world, giving me an edge.”
Open Career Paths – “An uncommon language opens unique doors in translation, interpretation, and global business roles.”
Bridge Cultural Gaps – “Mastering a new language breaks down barriers, making me a bridge between different cultures.”
Authentic Leisure Experience – “So I can experience movies, books, and music in their true essence, without relying on translations.”
Travel Deeper – “Travel isn’t just about sightseeing; speaking the local tongue can help truly immerse in the culture.”
Language Leverage – “Starting with an uncommon language can pave the way for learning even more languages, thanks to shared linguistic traits.”
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