I didn't know why but I was not in a mood to use English lately, and I almost lost confidence in my English ability. I know it's terribly awkward to mumble like this, I can do many things in English, listening to podcast, watching youtube, talking to my friend in Utah and mailing to some friends in US and Canada... That's great, isn't it.
However, It's a different story once your English competence is measured by the standard of Japanese English education.
I took an English test, TOEIC, the other day, and I didn't do well as much as I expected partly because my back started to ache being forced to sit on a fixed seat for two hours, so I couldn't concentrate, and mostly because it was not allowed to write down any marks on the question sheet. I found it terribly difficult to remember the important parts of the story or the names. If I were to put some marks on the sheet, it would be much much easier to pick up the correct answers. sigh...
Furthermore, I have a chance to read some Japanese English textbooks for high schoolers and it was sooo difficult. Of course I can understand it easily, but I doubt it that I would ever be able to write such complicated sentences...phew
So these experiences made me doubt my English ability, but now I know the reason why I ended up losing my confidence.
Our English ability is measured only by the correctness and the amount of knowledge about language itself in Japanese education system.
But I'm able to use English not because the knowledge but something like my characteristics. My English ability wouldn't be measured properly unless my characteristics such as aggressiveness or curiosity is somehow included into the test. There is no room for me to show my strong points.
So, it's about the time when I lost my confidence in my English ability. I've been feeling positive and feel like nothing stops me from going ahead of my pursue of becoming a better user of English, so there aren't many stories I can remember, but here is one experience that is slightly related to the topic.
I do some easy Japanese to English translation from time to time for an indie project, that I'm working on with some friends scattered around the world. One time, I asked one person to check my translation and got a reply with the draft marked beet red all over the pages. Then this friend got too busy to check the rest of my translation, so I asked another person to check the rest. What happened is that she didn't make much correction and even said to me that my translation got some minor grammatical mistakes, but over all, it's very nicely done.
Huh? The amount of corrections they made on my translation was quite different. Why does it mean? And I began to wonder how seriously I should take those comments from native speakers of English about my English writing. Can't it be said that even if my translation was thoroughly corrected, it might not imply that mine was intolerably poor and doesn't make any sense. The amount of corrections might varies depending on what kind of writing a proofreader likes or how much a proofreader is familiar with Japanese way of thinking or communication.
I think it's a commonly believed idea that to improve your English writing, you've got to ask native speakers or teachers to correct your writing and you should learn from corrections that what kind of mistakes you're likely to make. But if you're able to write fairly acceptable sentences with simple grammar and plain words, there should be another way to improve your writing other than having made corrections all the time. Some might enjoy writing as many words as they can, and the more they write, the finer their writing would become. They don't need to be reminded again and again that their writing is not perfect. What they really need is to feel confident and being encouragement that they can do it. That makes them to be a frequent and happy writer, and slowly but surely, their writing will be improved and polished, I believe.