I use four languages every day, both in written and spoken form – a few days a week I also need to speak a fifth one. Let’s be clear, that’s a fact, not boasting. (I always have a feeling that people think I’m boasting when I mention languages, so that’s why I prefer not to talk about them at all).
However, I feel that the level of my language skills is slowly sinking – I make stupid mistakes (not only in English), and I often find it difficult to express myself. My brain seems to be stuck – the information should be in there somewhere, but how do I recover it? There is no use of information that only wants to hide. And it should be growing.
I’m also very insecure about my language skills (or any other skills, for that matter) – maybe that’s a cross every perfectionist has to carry.
The question is – what is the ultimate goal? I can communicate, people understand me perfectly well – most of the time, at least. That’s not enough. Producing texts is not impossible a task either. I managed to write a first-class dissertation in English, among other things. What then?
For me learning a language is becoming the language. It’s about understanding every word, every nuance. I’ve never had a proper mother tongue, nor a complete cultural identity. For me, a language has to achieve just that, it has to offer me a “home”, a place where I belong – provide me with the roots I have never had.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Picking a foreign language, deciding that this language is the place where you belong. Making it replace a whole childhood, culture and years of existence. You’ll never belong: you can be good, very good, fluent – but never perfect. And those people who are part of that language, who have lived with it for all their lives, they are perfect in the way that matters. At the same time, you will never stop halfway, you will struggle until the end, because that’s all you can do when you don’t have another place to go.