The deeper access to the culture requires there language. Nothing creates the sense of connection better than few familiar words.
When we purely think from our own culture, we cannot get very far. We have to start speaking the language. There are all kinds of barriers in speaking the language, including the cultural barriers.
While learning Vietnamese, I’ve had challenge getting my head around the idea that I need to be really respectful of elders. Compared to my native Finnish language there is little distance between speakers, even the formalities that Finnish language has are not that much used.
From Eastern languages Japanese has come naturally to me, probably because the anime, I can understand conversations and I’ve quite good vocabulary. I used to take some beginner courses as well, but from those times I’ve forgotten most things. I really like the deeper understanding I’ve gained of Japanese thanks to immersing myself into that culture.
Same could be said about Russian language and culture. I put a lot of effort to my Russian studies during the college, however I haven’t really kept up the skills after that so I cannot speak much at all and even barely read.
I love the idea of deciphering the unknown, especially this has been the case with the Cyrillic script that I see quite often, but haven’t been able to understand.
Furthermore, has been helpful to understand that why things happen to be so as they are. Cyrillic script for example has come long way from the Greece and spread with the Eastern Orthodoxy, whereas Latin Script spread to west.
With language we can gain deeper insight in to the context we might be already familiar with. More importantly we can gain another perspective to the how things are. Learning with a one language is awfully limited world view. I guess this is why the academics encourage learning languages.