The importance of being earnest
I am a strongly accuracy-based language learner, which means that I really have to be sure I know what I’m saying before I attempt it. While this may lead to me being good at saying the few things I know thoroughly, it doesn’t keep much conversation flowing with people who don’t also speak English.
I know several people who are voracious and fearless language learners, and I admire the way they constantly ask questions and try to get their meaning across. While focusing entirely on fluency isn’t always the best way (you do need to make sure you have a few important rules under your belt), I think it goes a long way towards helping achieve good language skills.
One acquaintance of mine in particular is very encouraging when it comes to language, and isn’t afraid of making mistakes himself. Even though I speak very little Chinese, and he speaks very little English, we manage to communicate through a combination of Mandarin, English, Cantonese, and hand gestures. His attitude keeps me engaged, and less afraid to make an idiot of myself. Smiles make a big difference! I think we need more people like him out in the world.