10 November 2020

Going to Timbuktu? Need to Learn an Obscure Language? No Problem!

Obscure languages

When you want to learn a language, you generally have a lot of options to choose from. You can access books, apps, language classes, maybe even in-house training at your organisation (plus virtual solutions if you are working or studying from home). But what if you want to learn a language that is ‘off the beaten track’, rather than the kinds of popular European languages you may have started learning at school? Where do you turn if you want to learn one of the rarer languages of the mind-boggling 7,000+ languages in the world?

We are delighted to be able to say that you can turn to us for language-learning support in situations like these – we already provide bespoke language training in more than 70 languages, and if you have a particular and unusual request then we are also able to explore our network of language experts to see if we can find a solution. In this article, we share one such unusual request… where a student wanted to learn the best language for a move to Timbuktu!

Picture the Scene…

Imagine that your path in life is taking you or your business into an intriguing new region that is not best served by your existing language skills, and where popular languages to learn (such as English, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin or Arabic) are not going to get you very far. You may decide you want to find an accessible way to start learning the language before you dive in too deep.

Finding resources online or in a bookshop or library may well be a challenge – while you might have no trouble finding a French phrasebook, a Spanish language novel or a German newspaper, you might find it more difficult to locate reliable resources for rarer languages – especially if its principle speakers are located in a small geographical region.

Without any DIY resources to help you get started, it is inevitable that you will need to turn to a language expert – but finding someone who can help could be tricky!

The Road Less Travelled… Heading to Timbuktu

We were recently approached by someone looking for a language teacher that could help them develop their language skills ready for an exotic move… to Timbuktu – a city in Mali, West Africa.

Timbuktu is synonymous with ‘a place that is a long way away’, but it is indeed possible to travel to remote Timbuktu. Finding a suitable language expert presented an intriguing problem for the team to solve, but we are not afraid of a challenge!

The official language in Mali is French, but our student was interested in learning a local regional language. There are a few candidates: for example, Bambara is a national language in Mali spoken to some degree by up to 15 million people (including as a second language), and it is used as a lingua franca by much of Mali’s population. Another option is Tamashek, which is widespread in Mali as it is the language of the Saharan Tuareg people. However, we finally settled on the Songhai group of languages, which are another common lingua franca in Mali.

After further exploring the student’s requirements, we were able to introduce them to a language teacher in Gao (another city in Mali) who could provide comprehensive language-learning training to help them get ready for their trip to Timbuktu.

Unusual language-learning requests like this may not come along every day, but as our company has grown we have been able to build a global network of language expertise that has helped us connect hopeful language students with experienced language teachers. In cases like this, it has enabled us to locate a suitable language teacher who has lived experience of speaking some of the rarer languages in the world.

While we recognise that hundreds and thousands of the world’s languages are on the threshold of becoming endangered, we are enthusiastic about doing our part to encourage and support language learners who are interested in helping to keep the rarer global languages alive. We welcome enquiries about any language, from Basque to Navajo, Balochi to Māori!

Here at Simon & Simon, we have a vast network of language teachers who can deliver language training in person (where possible) and online. With the course that 2020 has taken so far relating to COVID-19, we have also prioritised training our language teachers so that they can offer their expertise virtually as well as in person. This means that as well as being able to offer language training remotely, we can also provide a language teacher to fit with your (or your organisation’s) requirements from a variety of locations – and even time zones, where helpful!

To find out more about the languages we teach and whether we can help with your request, contact us today. Some of our most popular languages are listed on our website, but if you have a more unusual enquiry we are up for the challenge!

Want to learn a rare and unique language? SIMON & SMION can help with that too.
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Want to learn a rare and unique language? SIMON & SMION can help with that too.
You could learn Spanish or French or Italian or…you could try something completely new!
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SIMON & SIMON International
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