During high school, I made a huge effort to become proficient in French. Here are a number of ways that I can think of where it has paid off:
There are so many Francophone countries! This includes in Europe, Africa and the Pacific. Last year during my Europe trip I spent a month in total in France, even just by passing through it to visit other neighbouring countries. French-speaking people don’t necessarily have good English, so it’s super helpful for communication.
I’ve been able to connect with all these people that I wouldn’t have otherwise, had I not spoken or been learning French. It’s pretty special to me.
3. Cultural understanding
Understanding of the language takes this to another level, because you gain insight into how people think, based on the structure of the language. This is preferably combined with cultural immersion.
I’m very proud to be able to read books in their original language! It opens up a whole other world – now I have two lifetimes’ worth of books to read instead of just one (;
I have immense joy in discovering new music all the time, especially international artists. It’s a bonus to be able to figure out the meaning and sing along.
6. Language learning
Once the process has been achieved the first time, it becomes easier to apply to other situations. Knowing French made it quicker for me to pick up Spanish – similar words and grammar theory. Even for other languages in the same family (e.g. Portuguese, Italian), it becomes often possible to successfully guess at the meaning.
You’re bound to make mistakes or trip up when talking to native speakers. All part of the process! Trust in it and have fun.
8. Problem solving
During the aforementioned travels: the car needed servicing and repairs; I had to make a call to get a parcel delivered to a relay point in Paris; we made many Airbnb reservations; I got into an argument with an angry Moroccan bus driver and called him some bad names; I received free entry into several galleries as an architecture student; we had to claim a shopping receipt against our parking ticket; I warded off some potential scammers; we mailed some postcards… The list goes on. I can laugh about some things that others may find frustrating.
I learned this language before I had the means and independence to go off travelling by myself! It helped to keep the dreams alive.
Language learning has shaped who I have become today. It helps me become a global citizen, sensitive towards ways of living other than that of my own.