Nicholas Kristof (on the importance of learning languages)
It is necessary, especially for Americans, to see other lands and experience other cultures. The American, living in this vast country and able to traverse three thousand miles east to west using the same language, needs to hear languages as they collide in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
A tourist, browsing in a Paris shop, eating in an Italian ristorante, or idling along a Hong Kong street, will encounter three or four languages as she negotiates the buying of a blouse, the paying of a check, or the choosing of a trinket. I do not mean to suggest that simply overhearing a foreign tongue adds to one’s understanding of that language. I do know, however, that being exposed to the existence of other languages increases the perception that the world is populated by people who not only speak differently from oneself but whose cultures and philosophies are other than one’s own.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.
Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
According to her Wiki page, Angelou speaks Spanish, French, Italian, Arabic, and West African Fante. Amazing.