Here’s a little dilemma I’ve been having. I’ve got to a point where I’m considering learning a new language and I’m weighing up the pros and cons of learning what is essentially a dead language; Cornish.

I’m originally from Cornwall which is a county with a strong regional identity and even its own language; Kernewek, or Cornish. Having been dead, the language has been resurrected and there are now about 500 speakers globally. In Cornwall itself there have been drives to teach the language to a certain level.

I’m not actually of Cornish stock, I wouldn’t brand myself a fiery and proud Celtic man and I will probably never live there again, as beautiful a region as it is. But something draws me to learning the language. Perhaps it’s because it is close to Olde English in terms of grammar and vocab and therefore it might be interesting to learn. Maybe because I like the idea of being part of a renaissance of a once dead language from a region that I do have an affinity with.

But will I ever have a conversation in Cornish? Outside of a language exchange, probably not. Will I ever be lost in deepest Cornwall with a language barrier problem? Definitely not, for various reasons, accent issues withstanding.

So why bother? As a native English speaker, the same could be said for any language. Why bother learning Spanish when talking slowly in English and pointing at things will probably achieve the desired result, although without the cultural interaction.

I think the thing with learning a language is the way it opens up your understanding of the way a certain culture works. Slang, idiomatic expressions and swear words are often the most fascinating aspects of language learning and say a lot about a culture. I see a lot of Cornish idiomatic expressions, in English, in the way genuine Cornish people talk, From the little that I’ve studied I can see how Cornish peoples grammar differs slightly from mainstream English.

However I am not aiming to achieve any kind of proficiency in the language and I don’t expect to be using it any time after I’ve finished studying. For me, studying Cornish is a way to look more closely at a culture I grew up in.

If you’re interested in studying Cornish then by all means get in contact with me as having a study buddy is an essential part of language building.

I’m intending to use the book Cornish is Fun: An informal course to build my basic skills. I’m only intending to study for 3 months maximum. After that point however much I speak will be the sum of my Cornish knowledge!

Aside from the book below which will form the basis for much of my study (review to follow soon!) I will also be using LearnCornishNow which has a lot of info if you’d like to take a look.


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