Peter exploring the Middle East
I recall reading an article just over 11 years ago as I was about to graduate from Uni on the decreasing interest among Brits, already pretty low, in learning foreign languages. Inspired, perhaps by my contrariness, and still licking the wounds and scars left by learning French at school with Miss Bell, for whom I was a right pain in the arse, I decided to start learning Russian and move to Russia. In the intervening years, I've learned three other languages to varying levels of fluency, but all good enough to enter into and build friendships in those languages.
My friends know me as a grumpy so-and-so who avoids other people at the best of times; however, randomly meeting someone and getting to know a little about them and their background in their own language is a massive source of pleasure and an absolute privilege, which dawns on me afresh every time I have one of these weird communions.
This morning I had one such exchange with a taxi driver in Fes in a mixture of standard Arabic and Moroccan dialect, which was just about understandable, and it has left me in a fantastic mood and slightly emotional all day. I didn't end up where I had wanted to go, but that was not ultimately the point. I had had a great time arriving where I did and learnt a lot along the way.
To those of you who don't speak a foreign language, all I can say is that it is the most incredible, challenging and rewarding journey and one which I recommend wholeheartedly. It's a long hard slog, but it's worth it.
To those of you who think you're too old to learn something new, there's a couple at my school here in Morocco who are well into their retirement years and are learning Arabic together.