In today's world it literally and metaphorically pays to be worldly. Understanding others' languages and cultures can open up untold business and social networking opportunities!
For a myriad of reasons, our world is getting smaller. Travel is easier, communication methods are both cheap and abundant, and the Internet cinches everything up in a cozy package. Importing, exporting, outsourcing, diversity initiatives, students, travelers, business relations, and all other manner of stitches criss-cross the globe to pull us in closer and closer. By not opening up to learning about our ever-encroaching linguistic/cultural neighbors (and they about us) it will make for some tense moments and lost opportunities.
Beyond being a fan of anime (Japanese cartoons) and Japanese pop-culture, I wasn't too worldly when it came to things. But, while at Ohio Univeristy I was fortunate enough to pursue my interest in anime, manga (Japanese comics), and even the language itself. Which, if any of you reading this can speak fluently I would love to practice with you. That aside, my additional involvement with the International Student Union really opened my eyes to just what and who was out there. My Resident Director in my hall was Abdulbaset Abdullah, a math doctorate student. He lived in the hall with his wife and two daughters who taught me how to count to 10 in Arabic. He and his wife taught me about Islamic culture including The Hajj.
As well, they grieved with us over the events of 9/11 the morning and months after it happened. The Japanese exchange students from Chubu University ate wings with us at BW-3s. The Korean Student Associate made an excellent bulgogi during the street fair. At our cores, we are all still the same kind of human being. We seek the same opportunities in life and require the same socialization.
To reach out and help us realize this, many wonderful tools have been created. There are language courses you can take such as Rosetta Stone through your computer, My Coach Games by Ubisoft which makes titles like "My French Coach" for the Nintendo DS, and even Google Translate on your mobile device. We also see that some online titles, especially games such as MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online roleplaying games), feature an auto-translate option for words and phrases so that you can communicate battle strategy or commerce with German or Japanese speakers. Final Fantasy XIV supports this tool.
There are even published works in genres that don't typically see translated editions of their books. One is that the popular independent comic "The Walking Dead" just started releasing its graphic novels in a Spanish edition - which I do carry, as a small plug. The other book bucks the stereotype of conservatives only wanting their message heard by old, white, rich people. The book is the Spanish translation of Mark Levin's "Liberty & Tyranny". The point to both those examples being there is an essence contained within each that appeals to people everywhere, not just English-speaking Americans.
You would be doing yourself a favor to pick up a book on language or culture. Seize it as an opportunity to improve yourself as well as reach out to someone you never fully understood before. Six degrees can become six continents very quickly by doing so. I suppose a seventh if you know someone on Antarctica...
If Spanish is a language that has tickled your fancy and you want a quick primer, let Chris Farley help get you going with this amusing clip:
じゃ また後で 皆さん!!
P.S. - For a fun game, trying using Google Translate to swap a sentence back and forth a few times to see how it ends up. In many cases it is fairly accurate (at least, literally) but sometimes you get some unique results! This is especially true depending on the contextual circumstances or if slang is used. That said, there is a swelling market for "localization", not just translation. For instance the Japanese say "Koko ha doko desu ka?" which literally means "Where is here?" instead of "Where am I?" for example. Sayings, set phrases, and ESPECIALLY puns all need context and not just translation in order to come across correctly for the intended audience.