The spectrum between not knowing a language at all and being “fluent”

And what kind of “fluent”? Daily conversation and flirting are in another universe from academic discourse and writing university papers.

Despite the effort and money I’ve poured in to date, I feel like my German language skills still really suck. I am nowhere near having the academic level German (including writing Bachelor-level university papers) which is my goal. I have moved along the continuum from “no German” or “rusty from a course I took years ago” towards “university-level fluent”; it’s just that in these kinds of situations one can sometimes mistakenly see things in an “all or nothing” kind of way. Some German is better than zero German, but it just doesn’t always seem that way when you want to be university-level fluent and when your spontaniety feels limited by your narrow scope of existence within the German language.

One interesting thing about Switzerland is that generally, in every day to day life in the place I live in which is not a major city, people don’t make assumptions about my language ability purely based on my physical appearance, which is generally unusual for Western Europe (Germany being another exception based on my experience). I am assumed to speak the local dialect, and if not, then standard German, until I (usually fairly quickly) prove otherwise. Even then, when the person I am interacting with can speak English, they assume I can also speak English, rather than assume that I don’t, as again is often the case in Western Europe. I actually am more on the receiving end of these assumptions that one’s language ability is somehow reflected by one’s physical appearance when I am in large cities and when other foreigners, including other foreigners of colour, rather than Swiss people, interact with me.

Welp. I’m going to ramp up and pour some more efforts into studying German.