Some years ago I started going to evening classes to learn German. In the early stages of my studies, I frequently thought of two German speakers who I aspired to be like in my language ability. The first, Bettina, is a native German speaker in her fifties whose English level at the time was only elementary. She was always patient and generous in her efforts to converse with me in German, and despite my low level of German, our conversations were largely very rewarding. But I longed to have the language resources that she did as a native speaker. You’d think this might have motivated me to invest more in my German language studies, but sadly not.
The second person I aspired to be like was Izzy, a fellow student in the evening class I was attending. While grouped at the same level, Izzy’s vocabulary range and language knowledge were a little more advanced than mine. I always chose to sit next to her in the lessons, worked hard to keep up, and outside of class would invest extra time into studying. In this sense, although a lower level learner like myself, Izzy had far more of a practical influence on my engagement with both the language and, perhaps more importantly, my learning.