I really think there’s something almost mystical and magical about learning a language. They say you’re not quite the same person; I know I’m not when I’m in the Spanish mode. Our students are trying to communicate with far less lexis and grammar than in their native tongue, so it forces them to say things differently, and in so doing there is a sort of journey of discovery; you express yourself in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have considered.
It also seems that learning a foreign language affects your native tongue as well. I won’t go into it here, but one of my students once said that learning the second and third conditional in English has changed the way they say it in Spanish. I believe learning to express yourself in a different way can affect the way you think, and your attitude, thus the “magical” element of learning a language.
On a bit of a negative note, being a long-time teacher in Madrid, I get the impression many of our students are much more stressed out than 25 years ago. Some of them have a job, then go to their master’s degree program, then to English class; and they can be pretty worn out when we get them: the downside of our hyper-competitive world.
Still, I like seeing my students. Besides, teaching is a two-way street: I learn a lot from them. Recently in class my students were saying that Inditex doesn’t off-shore to the same degree as other companies because it needs to come up with new fashions so fast. I did not know that. You can learn a lot by teaching.