Do you speak Japanese?
When learning a language, or really anything in life, I find that we humans tend to be very binary in the way we think about learning things. The reality with learning anything in life is that all of our apprehensions function on a gradient, and not as some sort of all-or-none basis. There isn’t a day where after years of study you wake up and “know” a language, where just a day before you did not.
When is the line for when you can say that you actually “know” a language? Is it after you finish 2 or three years of coursework? Probably not, you could have very well not cared in class and just fooled around. Is it when you finish an entire textbook, or other resource (e.g. Rosetta Stone) for learning the language? Surely not, you’ve just learned a certain set of words, and although they are valuable, the vast majority of the language is still unknown to you.
The way I view education is that we are all students of everything. All languages, histories of all of our world’s peoples, hobbies, sciences: EVERYTHING. It is all in front of you, waiting to be interacted with. You can put all of these fields on a bar graph. Of course, most of these bars would be at the zero mark. But if you put energy into that skill or subject, the bar goes up, and the more energy and time you put into a field, the more and more proficient you will be. The minute you learn a single word of a language, you have begun your quest for knowledge along that path. Perhaps you already have already begun scores of language pursuits. In a sense, you have therefore have a certain degree of proficiency in each of these languages The proficiency for most of these is at the base line, of course, and you probably would not want to devote all of your time to nourishing all of them, as there just isn’t enough time in life to juggle all of these pursuits. The point is that you can choose to grow and cultivate anything you want in life; you just have to choose which ones to water and how much you want to tend to each individual plant. You are the gardener of yourself. Do you want a lush garden of many different species of plants, or do you want maybe a few REALLY special plants that you can exhibit? It’s up to you.
I find that this way of thinking in terms of gradients is a much more realistic way of seeing the world, and therefore is extremely valuable to helping my progress along this beautiful buffet table of knowledge in life. Life becomes more deliberate and all endeavors become illuminated by the light of possibility.