Passed N2 and am preparing for N1. Like the person above me mentioned, I’m pretty comfortable with listening and reading (passive skills), but when I’m actually producing language, I am acutely aware of the unnaturalness of my phrasing. My meaning usually gets across, but the problem is that I don’t want to settle for being intelligible, I want to be eloquent.
For that reason, I think I’ll need atleast a decade of study before I can really call myself fluent.
I can get by without worry, but I want to speak/write pretty.
Earlier I’d have been satisfied with something even below my current level of comprehension, so the journey of learning Japanese has been one of constantly shifting goalposts for me. I’m guessing it is for most people.
A decade is actually not bad considering that the difference between an English paper written as a high school freshman versus an undergrad thesis written a mere 8 years later is approximately what you’re describing.
Want to hear something frightening?
I have a friend who grew up in France, French is his first language, was the only language he spoke for a long time, and he’s been living in the United States and speaking English for about 8-10 years now.
He tells me that he’s starting to forget some French.
So I have a suspicion that all languages are languages that you never really stop learning – including your native language…!
You ever try describing something to someone but you just can’t remember the word you want to use but you know the concept and when you remember the word you wonder how you could ever forget it? It’s like that.
You’re not really losing the language at all, your brain has just put that stuff in storage and it takes a while to find it.