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🔶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.


Honorable Mentions: 

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.

Confusion The Win All And The End All

Have you ever been on the brink of a colossal discovery on your language learning journey and out of nowhere you hit a roadblock? The roadblock I’m talking about has many names, “uncertainty, indecision, hesitation, doubt”, but for simplicity sake, we’ll call it confusion. Confusion in and of itself is a massive deterrent for all language learners, the only real way to get over its perplexing nature is with time and adjustments (multiple adjustments). The Confusion, The Win All And The End All article will guide you through confusion’s mysterious nature by providing you with relatable experiences and worthwhile solutions. 

The Hunt Is Here

Language learning is a blend of spontaneity and planning. What better way to complement its complex nature by completing a scavenger hunt?  Plan your adventure and then enjoy all of the random experiences you’ll have along the way. The Hunt Is Here article is the perfect blend of cultural immersion, self-discovery and language acquisition for the eager language learner!  After reading the article, feel free to message us or leave a comment telling us about one unforgettable experience you had while traveling in your target region.

Zero Budget Language Learning

Language learning is a huge investment, but it doesn’t have to cost you a kidney! Think about it, how much money have you spent learning your target language? Combine the costs of applications, tutors, notebooks and everything in between, can you give us a price? Well even if you can, hold that thought- language learning is a priceless journey, so price shouldn’t necessarily matter. The important thing is that at the end of the journey you’re successful. However, as I said earlier – it doesn’t have to cost you an arm or a leg.

In this article, we’ll be discussing a zero-dollar budget language learning program and how you can get just as much benefit from it as a normal language learning routine.