Many of us learn languages for travel, love, adventure, curiosity, or career reasons, but when we think about ‘learning a language’, we usually think of living languages. In this post we’ll look at what are referred to as ‘dead’ and ‘extinct’ languages and share some of the reasons they might be worth learning.
Firstly, there’s the intrigue factor. Learning a dead or extinct language can give us a tantalising window into a time that’s now literally been consigned to the history books, and can give an unusual insight into the lives of people many hundreds or thousands of years behind us. And since dead and extinct languages have often acted as the forerunners of today’s living languages, studying an ancient language can give us a greater appreciation of how contemporary languages developed - and make these easier for us to learn.
From a more practical point of view, those of us who are normally shy about speaking in foreign languages can hide behind the fact that nobody is ever going to spark up a conversation with us in Latin or Sumerian. If you’re a literature fan then you can enjoy feeling immersed in the language without having to depend on it to overcome real-life challenges. And you’ll never be stuck with learning cliché holiday phrases, because knowing how to ask where the beach is will be largely redundant in a language you aren’t likely to be speaking.
Finally, there’s the pull of the unusual. Studying an ancient language can mean feeling part of a small community of people who value a vanishing language. It can mean using our spare time to pursue an activity that few people would think of getting involved in. It can mean using our imagination to learn something cool just because we can, just for the enjoyment or the intellectual challenge of it.
What’s your take on archaic languages? Would you like to learn a historical language, or are you more focused on those that are spoken today? We’d really like to hear your thoughts on this topic, and to find out whether there are any secret ancient language fans among you! Feel free to share your ideas below.