I came across an interesting article today which discusses some of the benefits of learning a minority language like Manx. The writer, a fluent Manx speaker, is currently studying French and Linguistics at Oxford University, and has found that her knowledge of Manx has enabled her to make all sorts of connections, and has opened many doors. She was also in Gleann Cholm Cille studying Irish, though in July during the week I’m usually there, and I heard that Adrian Cain had been there teaching Manx that week – it’s a shame I missed it.
When you learn a language with a small number of speakers like Manx, it is possible to get to know quite a few of them and feel part of the community, and there is quite a lot of interest in such languages among linguists and language enthusiasts. I’ve certainly found this with all the Celtic languages, and whenever I meet someone who speaks one or more of them, I feel an instant connection. In Gleann Cholm Cille, for example, I met an English lad who is doing Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth University, and we found we have some mutual friends, and chatted away happily in Welsh, though I was in Irish mode that week, so sometimes mixed in a bit of Irish with my Welsh.
Does the same kind of thing happen for other minority and endangered languages?
One of my classmates in Gleann Cholm Cille, a gentleman from Oklahoma, mentioned that he had studied some Cherokee, but that the Cherokee people are suspicious of outsiders learning their language, so it can be hard to find material to learn the language and people to practice with.