Learning an Endangered Language: Ainu

Mathias Barra
3 min readApr 9, 2019

I got to learn about the Ainu back in 2012 while doing my exchange program in Japan. While doing some research on it for a presentation, I saw how peculiar and interesting the culture and language were.

I found a website which has a podcast held every year from the first Sunday of April, teaching the basics of Ainu with different teachers and contents as a whole.

Back then already, it picked my curiosity.

Nowadays, the Ainu language is spoken mostly in Hokkaido despite originally coming from hunters from the northern part of Japan’s main island. As they migrated slowly towards the north, the language evolved, getting aspects from around them.

Among others, it now contains influences of Japanese and Russian while also having its own wording as well.

Back then, there was no writing system but in order to preserve it, they have since then been created and you can now write it either in using Katakana (one of the Japanese characters’ type) with some extra signs added or using the Roman alphabet.

Following 2012’s discovery of Ainu, I started trying to learn it but kept on giving up after a month or two. Every year, when it would start from the beginning again, I would give it a go and give up once more.



Mathias Barra

French polyglot speaking 6 languages. Writer. Helping you learn languages. Get my new ebook → https://linktr.ee/MathiasBarra