There are really two dynamics to this topic that I feel are important. The first is relevant to me personally and the second is a bit more mainstream.
I learned to read/write/speak Dutch while I was serving a two year mission in The Netherlands and Belgium. It is not a very common language since those two countries and a few former Dutch colonies are the only places that speak it. I actually like that though because it is fun to know something a little more special.
I was actually reminded of my time there tonight while reading my scriptures and I came across a verse I had memorized in Dutch 15 years ago. It was fun to see how close I could come with my translation based on what I remembered.
One of the biggest things I did to help with learning the language in the early days of my mission was to open the Book of Mormon in Dutch and English and go through it a verse at a time trying to compare word by word.
As you might imagine this was a slow process and even spending significant time everyday it took months to get through the book. One of the amazing things about this process was the insights I gained into a book I had read multiple times before.
While I think it is most powerful in a religious book like that, there is potential value in any book. As you go through the book the words that are chosen when translating may cause you to think about a phrase differently.
For example, the word “van” in Dutch can mean both of and from depending on the context. So when you translate the phrase “liefde van God” to English you could translate it as love of God, or love from God. While similar in context in does paint a slightly different picture.
This is one small example though I think the point is clear of the value learning a second language can have.
The other, and arguably more valuable aspect of learning a second language, is the value that you can gain from learning about another culture. The only way to really learn a language is to be amongst the people and be a part of their society. When you do that you can’t help but learn about their culture and gain a respect for it, even if you don’t agree with all of it.
The amazing thing about learning about the Dutch culture is that it is a serious modern melting pot. In my two years there I met people from over 100 different countries and it changed my view of the world. There are so many amazing people all over the world with amazing stories that never get heard.
It is so important for us all to step out of our comfort zone and learn about other cultures. As fun as it is to do that in other countries, there is no reason you can’t get started right at home because we all have plenty to learn about each other.