People have various kinds of reasons to learn a language. Sometimes a foreign language is just imposed on them at school, sometimes their choice is based on the perceived "importance" or usefulness of a language (number of speakers, job opportunities, ...). Sometimes, however, people decide to learn a "rare" language or a minority language.
So my question is: Are there any surveys or studies on what motivates people to learn minority languages and/or rare languages?
I am looking for something more formal than the discussion thread What makes you learn a minority language? on how-to-learn-any-language.com. Obviously, answers don't need to focus on all rare languages or minority languages; a small sample is fine.
(Sidenote: This question was triggered by the recent launch of Tribalingual (at most a few months ago), a site that tries to revive rare and endangered languages by matching learners with native speakers who offer courses.)
- "Rare language" is probably not a linguistic term. Linguists normally use the term "endangered language".
- The UNESCO report Language Vitality and Endangerment (2003) uses nine factors to determine whether a language is endangered, one of which is its absolute number of speakers. However, "It is impossible to establish a hard and fast rule for interpreting absolute numbers". So determining whether a language is endangered is a bit complicated. (See also A methodology for assessing language vitality and endangerment on the UNESCO website.)
- Not all "rare" languages are endangered. In a PBS documentary, the poet Bob Holman says that he visited one of the Goulburn Islands, where there were 400 people and 10 different languages. In spite of a small number of speakers, some of the rare languages in Australia are stable because people don't find it a big deal to learn other languages, and learning the language of another people is a sign of respect.