So we've been here 8 months and I really don't think I know much more Spanish than I did when I got here, at least for speaking. I could already understand a reasonable amount and it is has been enough for what I need to do. I know I could obviously learn a lot more, but I just don't have it in me.
We always hear that little children learn languages quickly, but I'm not impressed with that anymore because I can speak four-year-old Spanish and it didn't take me much effort to do it. Do younger children really learn languages so much faster than older children or adults or is the bar just much lower? If they stick with the language they have years to build their language skills, just like native-speaking children. But if you drop a teenager into a new language where the expectations are higher, they often struggle a lot more and usually don't get to the same point as or progress like their native-speaking peers do unless they spend a lot time in the country.
The same goes for missionaries. They're in the perfect language learning environment which helps greatly, and they have two years to work on the language, but we don't really have very high expectations of their ability, especially in more difficult languages. At best, they're going to end up as a 3 on a 1-5 scale, and in languages like Japanese and Russian, they're probably going to be a 2 or 2+. They can be very comfortable with the language, but they're far from native and only fluent in certain subjects.
And almost no adult has the time to invest in a language the way missionaries do. I am too aware of the investment I'd have to make in learning Spanish and I just don't think it's worth it especially since I'd rather put my efforts into shoring up a language I've already invested it, like Arabic and Russian. We're also not looking to stay in Latin America so Arabic and Russian make a lot more sense.
Even though I griped and griped about learning Russian here for years, I did learn some and I know now that I like it and I'd love to go back to a Russian-speaking country and learn more. I never, ever moaned about learning Arabic because I always loved it and it would be wonderful to resurrect it. I'd also love to do any Turkic language. So can't we just stay in those parts of the world? Works for me. :)