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Sometimes I want to learn a language but give up due to the lack of resources available. These languages tend to be the ones that very few people learn using English.

In my opinion, one of the core but often missed factors on the difficulty of language learning is the availability of learning resources. Some languages like Mandarin and Russian are difficult (for English speakers) yet resources-rich, so you can learn them if you are dedicated enough.

But some languages clearly lack resources, such as Cantonese or Persian.

My usual learning method is use apps (Rosetta Stone, Duolingo) as well as finish a grammar book (or online if it has good resources) to reach enough level (B1) and then move to the country and attend a language program. But that is not possible or very hard for some languages that lack resources, such as Cantonese, Ukrainian, Persian and Hebrew. On top of that, it is also difficult to find a language program even in the country the language is spoken in, because there isn't enough demand.

I won't say that the resources are non-existent, but that few resources mean it is difficult to find ones suitable for me, as many resources don't fit me for various reasons (for example I find 2000s-like ugly websites intolerable to see.

In these cases, how can I get over the lack of the resources?

(If the specific language is needed, I'm considering studying Cantonese.)

  • Assimil. Learn French, and then you will have access to a ton of languages that Assimil has books for. They have a dozen or so languages in English, but wayyy more in French. – AML Apr 2 at 1:56
  • So are you looking for resources for Cantonese (which would be a valid question in its own right) or is this a more general question? – AModHasNoName Apr 2 at 9:27
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    According to Wikipedia, Cantonese has 80 million native speakers. Does this number imply that it is a "minor language"? – AModHasNoName Apr 3 at 12:22
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    @ChristopheStrobbe Yes, in terms of learning resources. The disproportionate amount of language learners comes from only a few languages that have millions of native speakers. – Blaszard Apr 3 at 12:29
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    Someone marked your question as a duplicate of How can I learn a language with little documentation/resources (Georgian)?, so it looks like a good idea to focus specifically on Cantonese. – AModHasNoName Apr 6 at 18:20
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I think to get over what you think doesn’t exist, you should actually stop focusing on that and instead search for what exists and what’s available. I believe you should expand your research scope for the resources, as sometimes the problem isn’t the lack of the resources; but where we’re looking for them is. I can’t comment on all the languages that you named, but what you’re saying is incorrect about Persian.

  1. There are various courses offered to non-native learners in Iran as well as some universities in the US and other countries
  2. There are many good books available to buy online on sites like Book Depository
  3. There are groups on social media for those who are learning the language or the culture, so maybe search in Facebook or Instagram instead of Google only
  4. Rosetta Stone does exist for Farsi/Persian
  5. Persian is not that minor of a language when you consider the number of its speakers around the world that was 110 million as of 2009 (Windfuhr, Gernot: The Iranian Languages, Routledge 2009, p. 418)
  6. There are a lot of podcasts and Youtube video tutorials
  7. There are language exchange groups and other social occasions to learn
  8. Worst case scenario, you can always pay a native teacher to teach you individually and assuming even worse that there’s no native teacher around where you physically are, you can always do it over video chat.
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Learn Mandarin first. I recommend this for a few reasons. Both in China and abroad, I have found that native Cantonese speakers are more likely to be fluent in Mandarin than vice versa. At least in my experience, I have found Mandarin speakers more supportive in general as I attempt to speak their language.

Once fluent in Mandarin, you will find it easier to learn Cantonese. Most of the Cantonese language learning materials you will find in English are superficial and barely get you past the beginner level. However, you will find plentiful resources for learning Cantonese through Mandarin.

  • Welcome to LL.SE. We generally hope for answers with a little more substance. Could you, for example, tell how it has worked for you to learn a language through a second language you have learned just for that purpose, or could you link to a source describing this process? – Tommi Brander May 5 at 8:13
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    Thank you. You might advise whoever downvoted my answer that there are better ways to welcome newcomers to LL.SE. – K Man May 5 at 10:58
  • Downvotes are anonymous; it was not me. So there is no way of knowing who it was. You can start a thread on meta if you believe the reaction was bad and have better suggestions for behaviour, but in the end all votes on SE sites are anonymous and can be given for whatever reasons or without one. I would suggest not being too worried about downvotes; they happen occasionally. – Tommi Brander May 5 at 17:09

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