I will obviously be learning the language spoken in Mongolia during my 3 months of pre-service training, and that language is *drum roll* Mongolian! No, they do not speak Chinese. No, they do not speak Russian*, although if someone were to look at a random sign in Mongolia they might assume Russian is the national language…
People who are familiar with what Russian looks like could be forgiven for thinking Mongolians speak Russian, because they both use the Cyrillic alphabet**. Back when Mongolia was a satellite of the Soviet Union, Mongolians were forced to adopt the Cyrillic alphabet, and it just kinda stuck.
Anyway, the Mongolian language is the most well-known member of the Mongolic language family, which itself is (according to some linguists but denied by others) a member of the larger Altaic language family, which includes the Turkic, Tungusic, Korean, and Japanese languages.
Mongolian is apparently a very difficult language to learn, not helped at all by the fact that it’s not really similar to any other language. So no matter what your native language is, trying to learn Mongolian as a foreign language will suck. Yay!
I’ve decided that learning at least a little bit of the language before I leave for Mongolia would be a good idea, although I haven’t gotten much further than struggling to comprehend the alphabet. But that’s a post for another time!
*Obviously there are some people in Mongolia who can speak Chinese or Russian, just like there are people in any country who can speak a foreign language. Here I’m referring to the national language of Mongolia.
**The Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet is only used in the country of Mongolia. People in Inner Mongolia (which, as you’ll remember, is part of China) still use the traditional Mongolian script.