It’s been said that a single sharp knife is more valuable than a drawer full of dull knives. This is probably true in most fields — being really fucking good at something is more useful (and marketable) than being mediocre at many things (really, being mediocre at something isn’t marketable at all) — and it is certainly true in language learning. While sort of being able to speak a language may help make your vacation to a country where that language is spoken more enjoyable, it won’t get you very far in your professional life — but real fluency will. From All Japanese All the Time (whose author, Khatzumoto, certainly has a few very sharp knives in his kitchen):
Too many of us language learners are dabblers, dilettantes, hobbyists. Of course, it depends on one’s goals. But if we really want the maximum benefits of knowing a language, I think those max benefits only come with (native-level) fluency. If you want to be able to actually cut stuff, you need a sharp knife. You want to be able to use your languages to do (cut) ANYTHING. And fast. Understand everything from standard to regional dialects, read fast, speak fast and correctly, write fast and correctly. Otherwise you just have a collection of blunt mental; it looks good on paper, but it doesn’t do anything or it doesn’t do enough.
This is, basically, my goal for Chinese, and I have yet to reach it despite living here for almost half a decade. While my Chinese is better than a lot of, perhaps even most, Westerners living in Shanghai, it’s not nearly good enough. My ability to speak, listen, and write have holes in them large enough to drive semis through (my reading is pretty decent, but you could still drive a couple VW Rabbits through the gaps). I still occasionally find characters I don’t know. I make silly mistakes with aspect particles. It’s frustrating.
I’ve been on this plateau for a long time, in which I am able to handle my everyday needs with ease and finesse but am still not able to represent myself in Chinese like I can in English. I know the steps that I need to take to get off this plateau, but I have not yet made them.
There’s no time like the present.