There was a time in my life where I wasn't a language enthusiast and didn't think about becoming a language coach or a language teacher once.
Before I turned 14, I liked science and dreamed of being a scientist (especially a biologist or an astronomer), though I was never good at math so I eventually lost interest and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, the only culture I knew was American culture and I only spoke English and didn't think I needed anything else. I thought about learning a foreign language, but I was very comfortable the way I was.
However that was all about to change when I went on my first trip to Europe.
On this family trip in Europe which happened exactly ten years ago, I was exposed to completely new cultures, ways of life, ways of thinking, architecture, and languages. Traveling through Spain, Italy, and Germany greatly expanded my world beyond anything I ever imagined, though I thought that I would just need English to get by and I only learned a few phrases. Then I got stranded in the subway in Italy for ten minutes when I jumped out of the subway car in Rome too early before my parents told me to get off. Never in my life was I more traumatized and frightened than in the moment the subway cars sped away with my parents still inside.
I didn't know what to do, what to say, how to ask for help (I didn't know the Italian word for "help"). The worst part for me was that no one spoke any English. I froze in paranoid terror, fearing that people would try to capture me and take me away to god knows where. I was ready to scream and cry with no one to understand my plight. I thought I would never see my parents or my grandparents or anyone I knew again. I was isolated from everything I knew.
Fortunately my parents came to the rescue, with my mother asking the subway office how she could find a "grande bambino" (thanks mom!) and my father running down to where I was to get me. I was so relieved to see them both (even though they were only one stop away from where I was)!
That memory was so burned into my mind that I made a vow to myself right afterwards to never go to another country again without speaking at least a little bit of their language because I never wanted to relive my horrible experience in the Roman subway. I associated monolingualism with having a serious handicap from then on.
On a more positive note, being exposed to the Basque language in the Basque Country of Spain got me extremely interested in learning languages because I had never heard of Basque before I went to Spain and it was not related to any other language on earth. I thought Basque was really cool and it made me want to learn multiple languages to see how these languages were different from English. During that trip I began to get both the travel bug and the language bug, which only got stronger during my high school and university years and a second and third trip to Europe (more on those in a future post).
I originally wanted to learn a few languages, but after three years of Latin, three years of German, and one year of Mandarin Chinese in high school (along with hosting a German exchange student for six months and then visiting her a year later), I fell in love with languages and decided I wanted to learn as many as possible so I could travel more and learn more about the world. Languages cultivated my love for learning in general!
So what makes you motivated to learn a language? Why do you want to learn a language? Do you want to learn multiple languages or are you a language enthusiast as well? What was your experience with learning about cultures different from yours? Feel free to let me know in the comments! Thanks!