eido wrote:For instance, as a teen I dreamed of raising my children bilingual or trilingual, and that's why in addition to falling in love with Spanish, I worked so hard to get up to a decent level. But "decent" isn't enough. You have to be really good. Know all the vocabulary, know the language like your own heart... at least in my view. I'll do more research on it at a later time, but for now, if anyone's reading this and going, "you don't know what you're talking about!" and would like to correct me, please do so in a kind manner and inform me. I love to read, especially if it has rich educational value.
I don't know if what I'm about to say has "rich educational value", but I want to share it with you:
I don't think you need to know or even to try to know ALL the vocabulary in you target languages. I mean, every language has so many words that even native speakers don't know them all. I'll tell you an anecdote:
About 10 years ago I was taking Japanese classes with a Japanese native speaker. She spoke good enough Spanish and it was easy to communicate with her in Spanish. One day she used a Spanish word none of us, native Spanish speakers in her class (we were a group of about 10 people at the time), knew the meaning of. To this day I don't even remember what that word was. We looked up the word in the dictionary and it was indeed a Spanish word we had never heard of. At that time it amazed us how a foreigner could know a word not even us natives were aware of. But this very same person, who knew this very rare Spanish word, also used to write tree like "álbor" instead of "árbol" because for her the "r" and the "l" sounded the same. And she also wouldn't know a word like "zurda" (being left handed) and confused it with "sorda" (deaf).
What I want to tell you with this example, is that more than trying to know ALL the words in a language, for me, at least, it's more important to get really good at the things I'm really interested to do in the language. It's better to have really strong bases in the language and in our areas of interest, than trying to go too wide and too deep to the detriment of more relevant knowledge. Of course, you can always go explore the language wide and deep after you can efficiently do with it the things that are more relevant to you and your key interests.
Even I, as a native speaker of Spanish, keep learning new Spanish words every day. Especially when I turn my attention to areas of interest I hadn't explored before or go deeper into old areas of interest. So I don't see the point in obsessing with the idea of getting to know ALL the words in any given language (and I don't say this only because of your comment, but because in general I see way too many people obsessed to learn an inordinate amount of words and then they feel lost because they never get to use/see/hear them, or they use them but sound weird to native speakers ears).
For me, getting proficient in a language is not about the amount of what you know in a language but about the quailty of that knowledge and the flexibility that you develop for using what you know in any given situation.