Second language? More like second culture.

The problem I see with second language learning, as it is put, is that it is put as second language learning.

Often when monolinguals think of second language learning, and I'm talking about in NZ here (and also partly Japan, but Japan is better in this regard), they only see the financial benefits speaking a second language can get you. They see it in terms of an investment in time, for which they expect a return.

For someone who doesn't speak another language or have a deep enough understanding of another culture, it is easy to see why they would think this way. They are only thinking of language at the surface level, because that's all they see.

I'm going to put it straight. The return on your investment in learning a second language is worth more than all the money in the world.

The thing is, only those who have accomplished this can truly appreciate it for what it is.

It's a shame that monolinguals often have a big say in language policy, especially in NZ, and I am extremely grateful that there are more positive efforts to give Maori a much bigger role in NZ society.

When I visited Singapore about five years ago, I was well impressed with the multilingual announcements on the train, and I wondered how long it would take NZ to catch up. I have seen efforts to add Maori announcements to trains in NZ, which I wholeheartedly applaud.

Learning a second language does indeed give you practical benefits that can be used for your financial gain, but the real way to benefit from learning a second language is by learning a second culture.

Why? Because it gives you innumerous insights into human thinking. These innumerous insights lead to ideas, ideas that can change the world.

By simultaneously having an understanding of two or more human cultures, meaning multiple perspectives, you are much more exposed to opportunities to gain insights.

I am a firm believer that insights are what change the world, it is the one thing computers will never be able to do (at least I hope so). Plus, there are no original ideas, only ideas that are linked and then worked upon.

So, I propose that instead of calling it second language learning, we change it to second culture learning. Maybe then people will begin to understand that learning a second language isn't simply learning a second language.

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