Don’t mind the title. I’m not trying to change what has been written in the dictionary. It’s more of redefining your own definition of fluency. I’ve been chatting for quite a while with lots of my fellow language learners colleague and I noticed a pattern.
If you were to ask people their definition of fluency, I’m sure this will be on the list – to be able to speak smoothly without any mistakes and have a great native-like accent. That’s pretty much the standard definition of fluency and I used to believe on this one too.
When my friend asked “so, are you fluent in Spanish now?” I said not really. I know and can have a basic conversation but that’s about it. This made me question myself, what’s my own definition of fluency? I realized all this time, I let the dictionary define the definition for me. Now, it’s time for me to redefine it.
I started to have all of these what if questions… this is where the “pattern” starts to connect.
- If a person can carry out a conversation easily without having to have much pressure on the grammar and the other person listening able to understand it, can he or she be considered as fluent?
- If a person can understand what their friends are saying but don’t know how to reply to it simply because of the grammar, can he or she be considered as fluent?
- If a person isn’t able to have a conversation about certain topics simply because they have no knowledge in that area, can he or she be considered as fluent?
- If a person doesn’t know what this or that called in the target language, can he or she be considered as fluent?
I can go on and list all the rest of the ‘what if’ but these are on the top of my list.
My answer to all of the above is yes. Simply because…
There will always be times where you can communicate smoothly regardless of the topics of the conversation. One can’t be good at everything.
There will always be issues or topics that we have no knowledge about.
The main problem is everyone has their own definition of fluency. Thus, when we say we are fluent in a certain language, they might end up asking “Is that what you called fluent?” All this confusion happens because our definition and theirs are totally different. So, who’s to blame? The dictionary?
Another thing people will notice when speaking in foreign languages is the accent. Apparently, some people have a thing for this one (including me). I kind of had brain-washed my brain that if you’re not good with grammar, at least, you’ve to have perfect pronunciation and accent. You may be good with grammar but if your pronunciation is all over the places, no one is going to understand you.
This is just from my point of view so please don’t judge me on this one. I’d like to know your perspective on this topic. Let me know in the comment below.