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Linguaholic

At what point can you declare "I'm fluent"?


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Great question, there's always more to learn but I have three scenarios I think are quite telling. One involves a noisy social setting, a dinner or party for example. If you are able to comfortably maintain conversations and catch all attempts at humour then you're doing very well.

The second is a more formal/professional setting that requires you to talk at length about a specific issue. It can be a doctor's appointment, a conversation at the bank, or a chat with a mechanic. After five to ten minutes you'll have a great idea just how fluent you are.

The final scenario involves your ability to react to completely random situations, how well are you able to comprehend and express yourself without any preparation whatsoever?

These are my keys to fluency, I wonder what everyone else thinks?

 

 

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Good question. Whenever I get asked by an English speaker if I'm fluent in Japanese, I answer like this: "Well, I would never call myself fluent, but when speaking to a native Japanese, they will say I'm fluent." Beating around the bush? Maybe. But I also believe it is very hard to discern your personal level of a language, even if you can understand 99.9% of everything you see and hear. For me, although I can speaking in various levels of Japanese, read the newspaper, write essays and watch television programs, there are still moments when comprehension goes out the window. The Japanese say I'm fluent because I can read, write and speak coherently. If that's how they judge my level, that's cool. But, I won't say I'm fluent until I don't suffer from moments of vapor lock, where my brain goes, "Wait, there's a word for that... Hold the phone, I'll be back in 12." When I can talk about esoteric topics like quantum physics, maybe then I'll achieved a personally acceptable level of fluency. 

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I think if you get to the point wherein you can already speak with a native speaker without any hesitation and you could even joke using the language, you could already be called a "fluent" speaker. I teach English to Koreans and I encounter students who feel they are fluent, but when we start joking around and all, they would lose it. I think that means they're not that comfortable with the language just yet. If you can already think using the language and not by translating your thought word per word, that is also an indicator. 

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English is my first language, but whenever I am required to fill out a survey that asks me to gauge my proficiency level, I'm very hesitant to say that I am fluent as well. Because for the same word in English there are 3253463 others that means the same thing, and I don't think I can ever master them all in my lifetime.

But for simplicity's sake, I would consider anyone "fluent" if they are able to comfortably hold a conversation in said language.

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Well, I'm not fluent, but my answer would be : you'll know. Ha ha ! The reason I say this, though, is that that's how I have felt about a lot of new skills I've learned. It took me years, but I know now that I'm an expert at crochet. I can even design my own patterns. But once, I could barely make a chain without it being sloppy and uneven.

When you become really good at something, usually you are proud to show off your skills, and generally other people notice too and compliment you on your abilities.

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I'd say I'm fluent in Spanish as well as English because I'm able too hold conversations in both languages, able to speak at length about many topics in both languages, and have even dreamt or thought in Spanish rather than my native language. I'm easily able to follow TV in Spanish too and understand the jokes which I think is a good sign of knowing the language. I would also say that busy social settings or places with multiple people talking to you at once can be a good sign of whether you are fluent or not. 

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Fluency is so subjective. Say, for example, I could learn basic speech patterns and hold without any qualms casual conversation in a safe environment that didn't challenge me to push outside of common vocabulary. Now, If I go to a literary or philosopher campus you can bet I will feel confused and beginner again.  Even I would get some serious endeavor in trying to understand gibberish hasty speech that don't pose a any problem to a native by phone. I can't understand texans, for sure.

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For me what I use as a standard of measure is to speak without having to pause to think or just being able to speak straight without even thinking about it anymore. Once I get that comfortable I can feel that I am fluent enough not to have to worry about if I'm using the correct words or structure. It takes a while for me to get there though since I  mostly just learn phrases and usually depend on English words as substitute for missing words. 

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Personally, I compare my current fluency to either my native languages or my level of English. How well can I express myself in said language, and how challenging will I find it? I usually do not find the need to 'cheat' with English or knowingly do grammatical mistakes whilst in my Italian or Spanish it is common - even though I can have a conversation with friends, authorities or the shopkeeper 'fluently' (without awkward pauses). 

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I feel like there are two definitions for fluent.  On a technical level, probably a masters degree in a language or over ten thousand hours of focused study in a language would make you fluent.  Then on a practical level, I would consider myself fluent when I can listen to music, watch movies, dramas, and interact with native speakers without needing a translator or dictionary.  Even if I don't know all the words, I feel as long as I understood the majority of it, I'm fluent.  Because even in my native tongue, English, there are still words I have to look up because I've never heard them or seen them.  So the same will always be true in any other language.  You could even add to the practical part and include the social aspects of language like knowing how to properly greet your elder or be in a foreign country without sticking out like a tourist.  

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I consider myself to be fluent in English (as second language). Fluent is for me the moment, when the second language nearly matches my native language speaking skills, including the vocabulary. Since I am broadly interested in an enormous amount of topics reaching from making music, crafting leather goods to psychology, philosophy, or history, that meant adjusting a very large amount of vocabulary to my own standards. Fluent was also for me the moment when native speakers couldn't really place me but would never have guessed from my accent that I was anything other than an English native speaker. 

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I think there is a difference between being proficient and being fluent in a language. Because You could easily talk in a certain language and be fluent, but you'd have to proficient in a language in order to master the grammar. There are a lot of obscure rules that must be known as well.

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I'll consider myself fluent in another language if I can converse confidently with a native speaker of that language in all areas of discussion that I would also be confident to talk about in my own native language. I am more or less fluent in English but I can only be confidently sure about it if I can understand without googling the idioms that native speakers use in their daily speech. Besides the accent, I believe that it's the use of idioms that separate a second language speaker from a native speaker.  

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I consider a person to be fluent in a language when he can look around him and talk about the things he can see without having to struggle to find the right words. He should also be able to talk about himself, his work, his home and his family. Oh, also his country. Is that too much? No, I don't think so. A language is a medium for communications. So when a person is fluent in a language, he can easily convey his thoughts in that language. He can tell you about what he thinks, what he sees and what he feels. Even about what he plans to do. Without struggling to find the right words. That, in my opinion, is fluency in the language.

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I've never actually given this much thought. Every time I 'feel' like I am fluent in a language, I just move on to the next one, but I've never sat down to think about it or to ask myself, "Am I fluent enough now?" I guess you just know when you get to the point where you can actually hold your own in a conversation and you can understand things that are being said to you without asking people to repeat themselves slower, or having to look things up in the dictionary. Also when you speak and the native people have no problem understanding you, then I think you're fluent enough. 

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For me, I consider myself fluent enough when I can speak, read, listen, and write just like the average person who speaks that language natively. That doesn't necessarily mean I know every single word and grammar rule for that language; it just means that I can use that language and communicate with someone who speaks that language natively.

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To me, being fluent in a language is when you can speak, understand, write, read and think without needing a dictionary. It's when you know enough words to know that you can make yourself understood no matter what. 

I consider myself semi-fluent in Russian, because I know that my grammar isn't that good in Russian. Even though according to international Test for Russian as a Foreign Language, I'm on level B1. I would've gotten the B2 certificate, but I was missing 2 points in the grammar subtest. I can speak fluently and take part in conversations with native speakers, even if they speak really fast. 

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You can say you're fluent when you can establish a conversation with somebody and are able to understand almost everything that's being said and what you understand you're able to make something out of it through context. I believe at that point you can declare yourself you're fluent in that specific language. To some people it will take them less time and to others more but that doesn't mean you should give up when trying to be fluent, you should keep practicing.

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