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The True Value Of Human Language

Nowadays, smartphones are just an arm’s length away. It is easy for you to type a question into Google and have the answer explained in a myriad of ways, all in just a matter of seconds. This can often be quicker than the time it takes for a person to respond to a question. You don’t have to worry about memorizing dates and names, let alone pulling out the dictionary to translate a word. 

Now, there are applications and software such as Siri, Alexa and Google Translate that do most of our heavy lifting. So you may ask yourself “Is learning a language still worth the struggle?” That’s a fair question to ask in such a world, but no matter how ‘smart’ technology may be, it can never replace the subtle differences between languages heard in conversation or read in novels.

In this article you’ll see just how vital human language learning and translation is in the language learning sphere. Read The True Value Of Human Language.

Numbers Aren’t Real: Limits

Let me tell you language learners something, don’t ever feel LIMITED. Anything in life that requires you to acquire knowledge wasn’t meant to make you feel limited. These things are meant to make you feel powerful. 

Language learning is one of the many knowledge treasure chests out there. It’s easy to introduce the concept of limits to language learning, there are so many things we can use to measure our own progress, such as vocabulary words, grammar concepts, scores of official tests, cards in our SRS deck. 

This week we’ll be discussing Limits in language learning and how you can push past them.

Mood Swings

There was once a time where I would learn new vocabulary words, just because I wanted to know them, and there was A LOT I wanted to know. I was happy, full of energy and big dreams. But that stage didn’t last long. I went through a series of emotional battles with myself and my Language. Sometimes my emotions would get the best of me, and I’d lose the learning game. Other times we managed to co-exist peacefully and learn without fuss or struggle, but that was a long time ago.

I’m not saying I’m a soulless being devoid of any emotions, but I’ve learned to become more conscious of their existence. I know when it’s not time to study, I know that if I’m sad I won’t learn even one new vocabulary. I also know that when I’m happy, I can spend an entire day stockpiling as many as two to three hundred new words.

This article will be about tuning into those emotions, and learning how they can either work with you or against you.

 

🔶Fluency: The Giant Of Language Learning 🔶

What does it mean to be fluent? This is a question that has been passed down through generations of language learners and polyglots alike. To give you a better idea of just how many people have given this word consideration, here are some explanations from ‘famous’ language learners, bloggers, enthusiasts:

Benny Lewis – Fluent in 3 Months

You’re unlikely to ever get a consensus on what “fluent” or “fluency” means. It’s like asking people to tell you at what point someone can be said to be “beautiful” or to give a clearcut scale of where beauty begins. It’s truly in the eye of the beholder.

Lindsay Dow – Lindsay Does Languages


There are a couple of things I think about fluency. Number one – we need to chill out about it. Take the pressure off because as I said, it means different things to different people so how can you possibly measure it accurately?

Donovan Nagel – Mezzofanti Guild (Personal Favorite)

Fluency is better and more accurately thought of as a spectrum rather than an end state or achievement. In other words, it’s incorrect to ask a person “Are you fluent?” or to say “I’m fluent” since there’s really no general consensus on what that actually means.

Our Cake Recipe Analogy

To make the point clear, fluency isn’t as measurable as you think it is. Imagine two different people making a cake; one from the box and the other from scratch. Even if the ingredients are different both sides are going to get a cake if they follow their individual recipes. In the same way, what is known as fluency can be composed of different aspects of language learning.

Recipe 1 (Box Cake)

  • Cake Powder (Obviously)
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 2 Eggs
    1 Stick of Butter

Recipe 2 (Scratch)

  • Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • 4 Eggs
  • Vegetable Oil
    1 Cup Of Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract

What The Pro’s Had To Say About It?

This isn’t to say that fluency is a term that can just be thrown around lightly. Others have accurately defined it to their liking and there is most certainly logic to what they are saying. Here are some more quotes of language learners explaining fluency.


Bartosz Czekała – Speaks 9 Languages, Founder Of Universe of Memory

My definition of fluency is rather straightforward. I can call myself fluent if I can talk to a native speaker of a given language, regardless of circumstances, about almost any topic. Politics, adoption, superstitions, describing a medical procedure – you name it.
Typically, such a command of language requires about 10000 words which is an equivalent of about C1 level (according to the CEFR).

Kris Broholm- Creator of Actual Fluency Podcast

Fluency for me means the ability to use the language without too many pauses or stumbles. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that considers fluency as absolute mastery of a language.

When considering spoken language I feel like you’ve reached fluency when you can speak at a natural pace. Additionally, if there’s a word you don’t know, you’re able to explain it in the language itself.

Steve Kaufman – Creator and Founder Of Ling Q – Speaks 15 Languages

The meaning of fluency in a foreign language is clear. It refers to the ability to converse with a native speaker, on a wide variety of subjects, without much strain on either side. This presupposes a large vocabulary, strong listening comprehension skills, and a somewhat smaller active vocabulary. It doesn’t mean perfection, neither in word usage nor in pronunciation. Fluency corresponds to B2 on the European Common Framework of Reference. Fluency usually refers to oral communication.

The Consensus…Kind Of

As you can see even the more strict meanings have some variations to them. Kaufman says B2 while Czekala says C1. While fluency has multiple meanings across the board if there is one thing we can without a doubt declare is that “Fluency takes an incredible amount of effort, but it’s worth it.”

I’ve also taken the liberty of questioning some of my peers on the matter, and here is what they had to say:

Question: Do you think you’re truly able to define fluency?

Youssef (Native Arabic Speaker, Fluent in French, English, Japanese)

Currently Studying Spanish/Russian
Masters Student In Japan

Hmmmm let’s see what I believe in when it comes to fluency for me, when you can understand right away what the speaking person is saying without the delay of translating in your head, when you know mostly used daily conversation words and can use them to have a deep conversation with someone with no problem, and even if a certain word comes up that you don’t understand you can get it from syntax. You can use grammar well and are aware when you make a mistake.

Emily (Native English Speaker, Fluent in Spanish)
Spanish Teacher In Chile

I teach a lot of multilingual students and we talk about this in class often. We’ve reached the consensus that fluency is being dropped in a country of the other language for a day and being just fine without having to look up how to say things, but doesn’t necessarily mean you could write a novel in the language.

Additional Question: So personally, you observe fluency from an immersion point of view?

Ha I think so? But I think that’s also the background of me and my students. We are all language learners who learned by immersion. So that’s the definition from our personal experience. (For context, about 50% of my students are Asian students who largely learned English from international schools in Asia or from being thrown into US schools).

Rita (Native Spanish Speaker, Fluent in English)

Currently Studying Korean/Japanese
College Student

Fluency (in my opinion) is when you no longer need to translate in your head. When you don’t understand a word, you read about it in that other language aside from your first & are able to interpret it in that other language. One is able to get their sayings & slang and know that there is truly no appropriate translation that makes sense, but you somehow were able to understand.

The Consensus From These Brave Souls

From the three answers provided by my colleagues, you’ll notice three different schools of thought.

Youssef relied on the mastery of passive understanding. That is to say unconscious comprehension of the language, yet full conscious awareness of incorrect syntax.

Emily used an immersion complex explaining that her background was hardwired into an immersion environment.

Rita’s approach is similar to Youseff, however, she not only mentions the unconscious comprehension of the language, but also the comprehension of cultural phrases.

If we were to deduce three main aspects of fluency from just these three we’d get something like:

  1. Total Comprehension
  2. Immersible Adaptability
  3. Cultural Flexibility Within The Language

What Does L-Lingo Think?

We believe that fluency doesn’t have to be overall mastery of a language. People can be fluent in different things at different times. One person can be fluent reading something but can’t speak anything, others can understand every word they hear but can’t speak. Because of this, we think that fluency is more of a spectrum, but a spectrum of mastery. Meaning that at any point in the spectrum you’re at a mastery level of something, but it doesn’t have to be mastery of everything all the time.


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Honorable Mentions: https://www.lingualift.com/blog/what-is-fluency/ 

The Imaginary Phone Call

Have you ever faked a phone call to escape an awkward or unpleasant situation? I have at least once in my life and as rude as it is, this strange technique has its place in language learning. The Imaginary Phone Call article will have you  dialing digits in no time. You’ll be sure to use 100% of your imaginative power in this creative language learning technique.



Relateable Moments In Every Language Learner’s Journey

I have them, you have them, everybody has them!

There are moments in every language learner’s journey that can be considered “relatable”. Think back on experiences you’ve had so far in this incredible journey, do any of them strike you as déjà vu or give you the thought “wow, this must happen a lot with other language learners”? This article will be a short, comical overview of some of the most “relatable” experiences in language learning.

Relatable Moments In Language Learning

Escape Your Comfort Zone, The Zombies Are Waiting

Just like the Friend Zone the Comfort Zone is something you want to escape in language learning. It’s like an overprotective mother who really cares about your wellbeing, but at the same time terrified to let you out into the real world.  This article will focus on escaping your comfort zone, and adjusting to the harsh world surrounding it. There is also a zombie apocalypse scenario in here so don’t be too surprised when you feel a little nibble on your leg.

Big Words

Do you know what’s scary in any language? BIG words.

No, I’m not talking about words like “delicious” or “enjoyable”

I’m talking about those words that were designed to make you feel like an academic scholar of the highest order. Length is one thing when it comes to vocabulary, meaning and context however is something else. In this article, we’ll be discussing the purpose and benefits of learning these “big” words in language learning.

 

The ABCs of Language And Culture

Language does not exist as a stand-alone being. It is fused with the lifestyle of people and painted with an array of cultural beauty. The reason language transcends borders is not because of bridging the gap of communication but the gap in intercultural agility. Defining yourself as part of a cultural community means being able to grasp the cultural shift between worlds. Read more about The ABCs of Language Learning and Culture here.

The World Is Your Oyster

Why Did Kiandro Stare At His Sensei?

Well, it all started when I decided to take that Asian history class in Japanese. I thought I could make it through one lesson without too much of a headache, but as time progressed it felt as if I was floating. What I mean is that I was completely and utterly lost. In the last minute effort to regain some sense of my consciousness, I held firm, pried open my eyes and stared at my Sensei’s lips. This week’s article will discuss the importance of Reading Lips, and how you can use the visual-audio technique to improve your comprehension skills.