Ten Unique Languages to Learn

Unique Languages on GoAbroad

Mix of Languages by woodleywonderworks, on Flickr

Words are a lot like people: they can excite us, disappoint us, comfort and anger us. They are as powerful as any physical reaction and and can be just as influential. With so many diverse languages throughout the world, including those still being discovered, how do you decide which languages to study and learn?

To help you make that decision, GoAbroad is featuring some the most unique languages to study. These top 10 selections are based on what students are searching for on GoAbroad, and will get you thinking outside the box when it comes to program selection. Learning a new language, or improving your current skills, is a great way to improve job opportunities and become a better global communicator. Is there a particular language that sparks your interest?

Aymara

Originating from the Aymara People of the Andes, the Aymaran language boasts over two million native speakers and is one of the official languages of Peru and Bolivia. Before the 16th century Spanish conquests, Aymara was a much more dominant language, but it soon faced competition from speakers of Spanish and Quechua. Despite this setback, the Aymara native language still remains in use and thriving throughout locations of South America. Check out all ways you can study the Aymaran language!

Estonian

Related to the Finnic branch of Finno-Ugric group of languages, and also influenced by German, Russian, Swedish and Latvian, the Estonian language is recognized as the official language of Estonia with over 1.1 million speakers and thousands of others outside the country. The oral traditions of Estonia have proved essential to preserving stories and customs, and the Estonian language continues to recognize this with its variety of dialects and grammar usage. There are lots of places that you can study Estonian!

Flemish

The name of the Flemish language is quite deceiving. Although it’s a commonly used term, Flemish is an informal way of referring to any Dutch language spoken in Belgium (also called “Belgian Dutch”). There are a variety of Dutch dialects in Belgium, with Flemish used as the general term to encompass the East and West Flemish accents. This is a language that can be very colorful and is a mark of originality to the Flemish people. And there are great locations in which you can learn Flemish!

Albanian

Albania is one of Lonely Planet’s to countries to visit in 2011! If you’re looking to learn a language that has roots centuries deep, Albanian is the choice for you. With over seven million speakers of the language spread across the world, this Indo-European language can be found in isolated village of southern Italy all the way to Canada and The United States. The rich linguistic history and literary merits of Albanian make this language a great study, no matter your skill level. Take a look at all the options for learning Albanian!

Waray

The Waray-Waray language, also commonly spelled “Warai”, is a language spoken in the Philippines throughout provinces like Samar, and Northern and Eastern Samar. It has a total of 3.4 million speakers and is among the ten officially recognized regional languages in the Philippines. If you find yourself abroad in the Philippines, keep an ear out for the tones of Warai, as it is widely used in radio and television media.

Irish

Irish Gaelic is the better known name for this language, and while it used to be the original language of the Irish, it is more common nowadays to be spoken as a second language. However, some Irish still speak it as a first language, and it is recognized as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland. The lyrical and rolling brogues are recognizable distinctions of Irish Gaelic and hark back to Ireland’s culture and heritage. If you have Irish heritage or are interested in Irish culture, consider learning Irish Gaelic!

Cantonese

Cantonese is a well-known dialect of Yue Chinese and is spoken by around 71 million people throughout southeast China and beyond. From Hong Kong to Vietnam, Malaysia and thousands of overseas Chinese communities, Cantonese is one of the most widely spoken Chinese dialects. Because it also appears in a variety correspondence, this language is ideal to learn in its written and spoken form. And there are plenty of places to begin learning Cantonese!

Danish

As another Indo-European language, Danish belongs to the North Germanic group which also includes other Nordic languages. Over time it has integrated thousands of words from other foreign languages, creating spelling rules that change often. The language is spoken by around six million people, many of whom are located in Denmark — and who also can use their language to communicate with some of their German, Norwegian and Swedish neighbors. With so many subgroups of dialects, there are a variety of opportunities to learn and perfect your Danish language skills.

Slovenian

Don’t let the size of Slovenia fool you. This country boasts over 32 different dialects of the Slovenian language and around two million speakers worldwide. It is one of the official languages of the European Union and much of its diversity can be attributed to the mountainous regions of Slovenia, which isolates regions of the country from others—thus creating different patterns of language development. Not only are there some great places to learn Slovenian, it can be a valuable language to have in today’s marketplace!

Hungarian

If you thought grammar could be complex, you haven’t tried Hungarian! With up to 238 forms of nouns alone, the Hungarian language is rich with learning opportunities. As the official language of Hungary, it is spoken by over 16 million people worldwide and is classified as a Uralic language. The 18th and 19th centuries were a flourishing time for Hungarian literature, so you’ll never be at a loss when exploring the history of this dynamic language in any one of the available Hungarian language programs!

Learning any of these languages will set you apart from the crowd and make you a valuable asset in the job market. In some cases, there are scholarships available to help finance your learning of less commonly taught languages. Check out GoAbroad’s scholarship database for more information!

Want to know more? Check out all the language learning options at GoAbroad.com!

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14 Responses to “Ten Unique Languages to Learn”

  1. Marlene
    Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 12:52 #

    Disappointed that there aren’t any African languages on this list. How about a relative new-comer: Africaans (first transcripted in Arabic text)? Or Xhosa? Xhosa, especially, is ‘fun’ as it has 3 ‘clicks’ and you can’t help enjoy it as you speak it. I learned ‘a few words’ when I did my summer abroad this year in South Africa.

    • Tiffany Harrison
      Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 1:37 #

      Hi Marlene, thanks for the comment! This is just a sampling of unique languages and we definitely agree with you! We actually featured a post about Xhosa and Miriam Makeba in March of this year, which you can check out here: http://blog.goabroad.com/2011/03/04/noise-language/ Glad to hear you picked up a few words yourself :)

  2. Adrienne
    Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 2:08 #

    Sorry if this is being a nit picker but this website says that Estonian is NOT related to those languages: http://www.estinst.ee/publications/language/language.html

    “The Estonian language belongs to the Finnic branch of Finno-Ugric group of languages. It is not therefore related to the neighbouring Indo-European languages such as Russian, Latvian and Swedish. Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian are the best known of the Finno-Ugric languages; rather less known are the following smaller languages of the same language group: South Estonian, Votic, Livonian, Ingrian, Veps, Karelian, Sami, Erzya, Moksha, Mari, Udmurt and Komi, spoken from Scandinavia to Siberia.”

    • Tiffany Harrison
      Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 3:07 #

      Hi Adrienne, thanks for the feedback! You bring up a good point and the post has been edited to add clarification that Estonian isn’t directly related to German, Russian, Swedish and Latvian–but rather that there are influences of them in Estonian. We hope you enjoyed the post!

  3. Adrienne
    Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 3:31 #

    You’re welcome :) and yes I did very much!

  4. Wan
    Wednesday, 17 August 2011 at 9:49 #

    Hi Tiffany, I live in a part of Malaysia near to the Philipines . I have been to Northern Philipines twice. There are lots of filipino workers in my city and I have quite a handful of filipino friends. And you came out with the Warray-warry language which I have never heard of! Thank you for the new info!

    • Tiffany Harrison
      Wednesday, 17 August 2011 at 10:11 #

      Hi Wan, thanks for the comment! We always love being able to bring new information to our readers and I’m glad this post was helpful to you :)

  5. kanachan
    Monday, 10 October 2011 at 9:52 #

    Wow! It’s surprising that you included Cantonese and Waray. These are languages that I have always wanted to learn! I am Filipino-Chinese from the Philippines and I have always thought we only had “one” Filipino language. Believe it or not, most people here think that we only have one language which is tagalog and the other ones are mere dialects. I realized that they couldn’t be just dialects because if they were, I would at least be able to understand half of the things they say.

    Thank you for such an interesting post!

    • Tiffany Harrison
      Tuesday, 11 October 2011 at 9:48 #

      Hi Kanachan, I’m glad you enjoyed the selection of languages! There are so many unique and amazing languages out there, and we always enjoy bringing them to our readers’ attention. Thanks for the comment as well!

  6. Projects Abroad
    Tuesday, 11 October 2011 at 7:37 #

    Hey everyone,

    Projects Abroad has some great new options for learning unique languages now, too, from Amharic to Wolof.

    http://www.projects-abroad.org/projects/language-courses/

    We will get them up on GoAbroad soon!

  7. Gregory Jundanian
    Tuesday, 11 October 2011 at 7:07 #

    You may want to consider Armenian. Not only can one travel to Armenia, which is a fairly unique destination, but one can travel throughout the Middle East speaking Armenian in Lebanon, Jerusalem, Turkey, Iran and other areas where there are strong enclaves.

    • Anne O'Connor
      Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 1:13 #

      Greg, have you and Seta had a chance to travel to Armenia? Hope you have!

  8. hola
    Friday, 14 September 2012 at 2:51 #

    Check out the Basque language, the oldest in Europe and no related to any other language in the world (at least linguists can’t agree about that, although there are theories)

  9. Mon
    Thursday, 5 June 2014 at 2:16 #

    There are 180 plus languages in the Philippines and 3 still living alphabets.

    Waray speakers, especially the women are known for being fierce. Whereas, on anearby group of islands, people speak Hiligaynon, and the people there are known for being soft-spoken and sweet. Even when their angry, the tone of the language is still nice and soft.

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