Why learn so many languages?
One of the commenters on a recent post posed an interesting question:
what is the point of learning so many languages if one is never going to be able to speak them well or use them all? Are they sea shells which we collect to look at or tools that we use?
This made me think about my motives for learning languages, something I do from time to time when trying to decide whether to continue to working on the languages I’ve already ‘collected’, or to go out and collect some new ones.
I learn languages for a variety of reasons – in preparation for holidays in countries where they’re spoken; because they’ll be useful in my work; because I like some aspect of the culture (usually the music); and/or simply because I like the sound of them. I also enjoy the process of learning languages and seem to have some aptitude for it. I realise that I probably won’t become fluent in all the languages I’m studying, and this doesn’t worry me unduly. I’ve been able to make use of all my languages in a range of situations, though opportunities to use some of them are quite rare.
Are you collecting sea shells or forging tools for practical use? Or a bit of both?