We all have our own unique reasons for learning a language. Some want to have a better travel experience, learn more about a culture through their language, learn a partner's language, read literature in the original, watch cinema, understand songs, or even just an academic challenge. I've never been under the illusion that I will become part of a culture by learning a language. I am an American from the Upper South of the US. That's my base culture, but it doesn't define me. Over my lifetime I have had other experiences that have altered that baseline. I have lived in Northern England and have two children there. I have lived in Puerto Rico and now in the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. What am I? Who am I? I am still me but I'm not who I used to be anymore. I consider myself a culture of one. In a sense, we are all a culture of one. Our life experiences change us and make us who we are, whether or not we travel or live abroad. We grow and we change.
No matter how well I may speak Spanish or Portuguese, Haitian Creole or Ladino, I will never be mistaken for being Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Haitian or Sephardic. That's never been my objective. I love who I am, where I'm from and where I live. I like being recognized as a foreigner who has made the effort to learn to speak a second language at a high level. I wouldn't have that feeling if I just fit in without anyone noticing. This gives me an entree into aspects of a culture I wouldn't see if I weren't able to speak the language and had no cultural reference to appreciate it.
While I will never be Brazilian or Puerto Rican, there are many, many benefits to learning a second language. For me that has meant, new friends, wonderful travel experiences, learning about new cultures and people, experiencing good literature, films and TV. Learning languages has broadened my mind and opened it in a way that is invaluable to me. If my language abilities, as I have them now were taken away, I would feel greatly diminished as a person.
Sometimes, here on the forum, we can get carried away with languages, as if they are the begin all and end all of everything. I never intended to learn as many as I have. High ability in Spanish made me want to replicate that in Portuguese... which opened the door to Haitian Creole (through my experience with the DLI Portuguese Basic Course) and Ladino from knowing both Spanish and Portuguese. As I said before, we all learn languages for our own reasons, but just because many of us here make language-learning a priority, it doesn't mean that language-learning is everything. Life is out there. Love is out there. There are many facets of life to explore and enjoy... and...hey!.. they don't have to be related to language-learning! I've enjoyed reading your log over the years, Gary. You can be proud of your accomplishments in language-learning.