But First Things First – Think About Your Why
That’s why I want to say – if you’re happy with your language level and you don’t feel that additional work on that level would benefit you adequately, I’m not going to try to convince you to change that. But I would like to share a couple of reasons why, even though I’ve reached an advanced level, I’m continuing to learn. You may see yourself in some of my examples, either as a tutor or as a student.
There Is No Set Finish Line in a Language
It isn’t written anywhere that at the highest level you will know everything. In fact, the highest level of a foreign language, commonly accepted as C2, still leaves room to grow. The CEFR Companion Vol. 2020  states that C2 is “not the highest imaginable level for proficiency in an additional language.”
This guide breaks down the various language levels in a very interesting way, delineating many different areas of competence for any given language. One in particular that I found interesting spoke to general comprehension. It gives a C2 candidate the ability to understand with ease virtually any form of a target language, whether live or broadcast, delivered at fast natural speed.
But what is behind “virtually”?
Not to mention that I still repeatedly find words in my native language that I don’t understand. Also, my native vocabulary – as an IT student – is not going to completely imitate that of my doctor friend. Language reflects everyone’s world, and why should we expect any certification institute to be able to fully integrate those worlds?
Even the Teacher Doesn’t Know Everything
Language Is More Than Just Words
Such situations are rare though – mostly I want to get to the root of even the most mundane nonsense. Why, then? Because I have a sincere interest in language and in culture. Because many times, with teachers, I uncover something that I hadn’t even considered a topic before – a teacher thinks of a saying, an advertisement, or a political affair associated with the word in question, and the discussion takes care of itself. There are also culture-related issues such as:
- How strong is this word? Would a person of my generation use it? How direct would you be in a given situation?
- To what extent do you use words from foreign languages? German, for example, uses many more unchanged English words than Slovak, or the word is used in a different context. If I don’t like someone, I say in Slovak that we don’t have a vibe, in Spanish you would be more likely to talk about a connection or a feeling.
- Are the cultural sidenotes really as prevalent in a society as they are written in a language textbook?
- Juicy tidbits, gossip, and trivia. While it’s nice to read about the sights in the capital, do you know which of its neighborhoods people look down on? How do people perceive tourists, foreigners and differences? What does my teacher think about the current political crisis in their country?
These are all questions that, with a native speaker, help you to keep your spark for a language that you’ve been married to for a long time.
Sometimes You Don’t Even Need Lofty Goals
Do It For Your Self-Esteem
Lessons with teachers from different places showed me that there is not just “one” German, and when my German teacher shook her head in incomprehension at some Austrian expressions, I realised that the fault did not only lie with me. It also helped me to realize that not all expressions from my language exist in others when, even with multiple tutors, we weren’t able to find an equivalent for what my native language has such elegant formulations for. And vice versa, I have, many times, come into contact with concepts and phrases in foreign languages for which I have not yet found an equivalent variant in Slovak.
You Are Your Own Best Guinea Pig
What’s more, in the case of Slovak for foreigners, I like to participate in lectures and discussions about teaching methods and materials, of which there is no shortage, even in a language spoken in such a little corner of the world. Imagine, then, the lesson development opportunities you have if you teach one of the main world languages.
The biggest empathy trainer for me has been the classes I am currently taking in the new language I am learning. Time and time again, this is how I test the principles and practices that I, myself, recommend to students and how I experience both the pleasure and frustration of learning new phenomena. Indeed, in the language teaching community, most people are not monolingual (hello America!). It has become almost a cliché, thanks to any individual’s foreign language abilities, to say, “I know full well how difficult it can be to learn a language.” It seems logical to me, then, that even as a teacher, you would continue to be a student in order to be a shining, congruent example for your students in turn.
You Are Not Only a Teacher, But Also an Entrepreneur
1:1 Lessons Don’t Have to Make You a Lone Wolf
Here I attach a graphic with topics that are not directly related to lessons, but I find discussing them at teacher events and forums very beneficial:
 Vlach, Robert. The Freelance Way (p. 39). HarperBusiness. Kindle Edition.