Personally I am less concerned with uniting humanity than what languages can do for ME, on a tiny scale. Yeah, I'm selfish. Selfish and 无聊 - a Chinese term meaning, roughly, that I have too much spare time. Namely:
- When you go to the dollar store and buy a suspect-looking packet of cheap biscuits in some foreign script, you can read what it says
- You can eavesdrop on tourists
- When characters in a book or movie speak a foreign language, or there is a foreign sign in the background or something, you can understand it and pick out grammatical errors even though it really. doesn't. matter.
- When your search for questionable goods takes you to strange parts of the internet, you can still find your way around
- Whenever you buy an electronic appliance you can have fun trying to read the instruction booklet in all 12 languages
- When you are at work and those goddamn foreign tourists come in, you can talk to them in their native language instead of everyone involved getting an aneurysm from just trying to communicate
- If you ever need to decipher an mysterious code, you'll know right away to try the kanji
Note that there is nothing there about "reading classic literature" or "appreciating foreign films" or "visiting beautiful lands" or anything, so it is a little difficult to explain to people just what I get out of this shit, exactly. And I am pretty hard pressed to think of a situation where knowing a language actually helped me in any significant way. But one of the main things that pissed me off as a kid was how I couldn't understand anything. Stuff like advertising slogans, adult conversation, etc. passed over my head - and I could FEEL it passing over my head, and it annoyed me to no end. So I guess you could say this whole language thing grows out of a compulsive need to know what is going on around me at all times, though it doesn't sound so great when you put it that way.
What are your reasons?