I always get surprised when I hear someone complain about their English very articulately. Normally, I have been speaking to the person for a while, perhaps even in deep conversation.
“What do you mean?” I inevitably respond. “I think your English is great. Sure, you could probably work on your tenses and gender usage, but really I can understand everything you say.”
“No, I’ve been studying English for my entire life. I feel it’s still so bad. I want, no, need to improve!”
I have these types of conversations all the time. In fact, I’ve even felt this way myself when learning other languages like Chinese or Spanish. However when a language learner catches themselves making these types of complaints, they are forgetting a fundamental rule. Language is not about eloquence, (although that part doesn’t hurt), but communication.
Webster’s suggests that communication means “the exchange of information”. I define it as “getting your point across”. Neither of these includes anything about fancy accents or perfect grammar.
Learning how to communicate in another language means learning how to share ideas. Ideas, it turns out, are what matters. And if you can share your ideas properly in a second language, then you shouldn’t be worried about making other minor mistakes.
Actually, those mistakes give you more personality.