In 33 years of my life, I have visited only a handful of countries. I have lived 2/3 of my life in Kuwait and 1/3 in India.
Over the years during my schooling and childhood, I have been fairly shielded from the unknowns of the Arabic language. Doing my schooling in an Indian school, it was mandatory by law to learn the language of the natives as well as a bit of the history of the country at least for a few years in school. While history of Kuwait (nor of India) evoked no interest in my cortex, learning a language somehow came a lot easier to me.
I recall my Arabic lady teacher Asma gifting me a paperweight for my prowess in the language during my budding school years in 1993. For years on, even after I left school, Dad kept it on our TV stand as a recognition of my affection for language.
Probably the first language other than my native Malayalam and the regular English from school, I found an immediate liking for Arabic. Being a left hander, it was the first language that gave me a respite and an opportunity to actually enjoy writing from right to left.
The French language was introduced for the first time as we moved into higher secondary schooling and I had a general distaste for Hindi, making my decision to move on to French easier. And yet again, I turned out to be one of the best in handling French pronounciations. That is when I realized, I had this affinity for detail.
Ironically my mother tongue is probably my least polished language. I hardly read any Malayalam literature. I have a poor grip on vocabulary and I constantly fluctuate with regional slangs in Kerala.
I did my MBBS from Kasturba Medical College Manipal. I attended tuition classes to learn the basic vocabulary required for patient interaction. Over the next few years, as I conversed more and more with the patients, I started inadvertently conversing in Kannada even as I picked up an auto ride or talking with vendors.
Language is one of the easiest ways to create a bond with the person we are communicating. No matter which strange land you are visiting, if you learn their language, speak to them like one of them, you become a part of their culture and that in turn invites more harmony. Try it. It’s always worth it from my experience!