I've spent the afternoon thinking about what a huge role my knowledge of languages plays in my sense of who I am, and how differently I feel about teaching English (where I am an undisputed 'expert' because I am a native speaker) compared to how I feel about teaching German (I have a degree in German and near-perfect command of grammar but would never be mistaken for a native speaker).
Can a non-native speaker ever feel fully equal to a native speaker in a business or academic situation? I personally never overcame some nagging insecurities about not being a native speaker of German throughout my fifteen years as a German teacher, although in some ways I was a better German teacher than I am an English teacher. I was able to fully identify with the struggles my students faced as they learnt German - after all, I had faced and overcome these struggles myself. As a novice English teacher, I was often at a loss to explain WHY something was grammatically incorrect, and had to fall back on the rather inadequate explanation that it just 'didn't sound English'. That would never have happened when I was teaching German, as I knew every rule and the exceptions to that rule inside out. Nevertheless, now that I am a (relatively) experienced English teacher, I am confident with explaining most aspects of grammar and, most important of all for me personally, I never have to worry about my accent or the breadth of my vocabulary, as I did when I was teaching German. I have a strong and positive sense of my own identity as a 'good teacher'.
Next year my husband and I are planning to spend three months in Berlin - I wonder how I will feel about myself as a speaker of German after that?
I'd be very interested to hear from other language learners and teachers about how they feel their language abilities (and weaknesses) affect their sense of who they are.