Last week I posted an infographic from Kaplan about how non-native speakers learn English. Soon after it was published (and I revealed my unhealthy obsession with Friends) I discovered another Kaplan infographic that took the second-language acquisition theme from the practical analysis of how to a theoretical study in why — why do people learn a second language, and what are the benefits of doing so?
As someone who has studied several languages other than English, become fluent in two (French and Spanish), and subsequently lost fluency in one (Spanish… qué lástima), I can honestly say that learning another language has benefited me in each of the categories mentioned above. I could tell you all about how reviewing the subjunctive tense made me more intelligent, how embellishing my Spanish skills has gotten me countless odd jobs, or how speaking French led to a memorable walk of shame under the Eiffel Tower, but seeing as this is a travel site I should probably just throw in my two cents about how second-language acquisition as helped me see the world.
On a technical level, of course knowing a foreign language is a travel aid. But the biggest benefit for me as a traveler has been the process of learning the language. When taking up the challenge of cramming a different tongue into your head (that sounds sketchy but just go with it), you first must let go of the fears and inhibitions that tell you it’s an impossible task. These are the same mental barriers that keep you from dropping everything and going on an adventure, or even make you think that travel isn’t an option. Learning a new language makes you realize that anything is an option and that everything is possible, and when you apply that to how you approach travel the world opens up before you.