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 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 in this one too.
However, it changes once I started learning Spanish. You can’t simply label fluency by just that. There are a lot of things you should take into account before determining the definition.
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.
So the idea that, because you speak lots of languages you should be able to say something on request or instantly start up a conversation is wrong. You’re not necessarily going to be able to pull it off, in my opinion. – blog.thelinguist.com
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 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 or he/ she doesn’t speak the language, can they be considered 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 fluent?
- If a person doesn’t know what this or that called in the target language, can he or she be considered fluent?
I can go on and list the rest of the ‘what ifs’ 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.
- Just being able to understand alone is good enough to be considered fluent. If only he or she has the confidence to put aside the ‘perfect grammar’ I believe they can improve much more.
- There will always be issues or topics that we have no knowledge about.
- There will always be words we don’t know what they’re called or we do know or heard of it but don’t know the meaning.
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 fluently?” All this confusion happens because our definition and theirs are totally different. So, who’s to blame? The dictionary?
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 brainwash my brain that if you’re not good with grammar, at least, you have to have perfect pronunciation and accent.
You may be good with grammar but if your pronunciation is all over the place 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.