The ability to speak or write a foreign language easily and accurately.
Oxford Dictionaries, 2018
It goes without saying that for the majority of language students, this is a question which pops up fairly often in conversation. When people discover you are studying a languages degree at university, it is a no brainer to them that you must be fluent, right?
As a third year French and Spanish student, this is a question I’m asked all the time; but what exactly is fluency?
Benny Lewis, author of Fluent in 3 Months
I’m happy to strike up a conversation with a local, can read the news in my target languages and participate in a debate in a university seminar; so am I fluent in French and Spanish? Definitely not!
Some people might say you have reached ‘fluency’ in a language when you can have a conversation with a native without making any mistakes, or when you know every word in your target language.
Stop: who really knows every word in their mother tongue? I definitely don’t! There are plenty of times I am having a conversation in English when I have to stop and rephrase something I have said, or my speaking appears stilted if I lose my train of thought or forget a word.
Alex Rawlings, author of How to Speak Any Language Fluently
Author and polyglot, Alex Rawlings highlights that language learning is a continuous journey; it doesn’t stop at the end of a language course or degree.
Instead of looking at the idea of fluency as crossing the finish line or closing your language book and changing your language status to fluent, it may be better to look at fluency as a spectrum.
Measuring our degree of fluency on a sliding scale and not as a black or white response gives a language learning journey a new purpose; not looking to achieve fluency, but simply looking to improve your language skills.
Do you think there is a point at which you can call yourself fluent in a language?