I know many people who are truly bilingual i.e they read, write, speak and think in two languages ever since childhood.
I also know a few who had tried to learn a third language a little later in life and managed to acquire a basic level of proficiency, one of them is my youngest daughter who learnt French for about three years at school. But on a short trip to France could barely make herself understood.
My eldest son, who studied formal Arabic up to SPM quickly picked up Jordanian street Arabic while doing his degree there.
They say the way to be proficient in any foreign language is to live among the native speakers and speak their language until it becomes a natural tongue.
I recently read that information about our native languages are stored in the left side of our brains, and that of languages that we are still learning or had mastered later are stored in other areas of the brain.
Why am I fascinated by this?
It is the realisation that an extra language can serve as a back-up communications tool should one happen to suffer damage to the left-brain and completely lose one's native language(s).
It happened to a 13 year old girl here: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/teen-wakes-coma-speaking-fluent-german/story?id=10395859
It happened too to a friend who had suffered a stroke. He has reportedly lost his Malay and powerful English but is communicating now only in Thai, a language he was learning or had perhaps only just mastered.
I mean... seriously, though I do not wish it on anyone and certainly not on myself, a trauma to the left brain could leave us totally incapable of communicating to anyone.
But if we had been learning a new language prior to it happening, this language might just kick in during recovery and help us be understood.
I'm thinking perhaps Mandarin, Tamil or even Javanese... there are many such speakers here in the Klang Valley
And also memorising more of Quran verses, for the Arabic capability......
I must reiterate, I do not wish brain injury on myself or even to anyone else, Na'uzubillah min zalik
Yes it is scary... but hey, let's insure ourselves... just in case...