Episode 25: What Is "Fluency," Anyway?


17 October 2022

19 mins 19 secs

Season 2

Your Hosts

About this Episode

"You're been studying Spanish for five years?! Are you fluent yet?"
"You lived in Poland for two years? You must be fluent now."
"You study languages? Sp how many languages do you speak fluently?"
"Your kids have gone to the German school for a year now. They must be totally fluent!"

We've heard them all. And, while we all have a general idea of what the words fluent and fluency mean, there comes a point in our language journeys when we realize it isn't so cut and dry. There is no definitive point when we reach fluency, yet we notice that we are speaking the language. We are communicating. So why don't I feel fluent? When will I get there?

In this episode I share a bit of my language learning history when fluency was my only real goal and what happened when I realized it wasn't a goal at all. I take the Webster's dictionary definitions of fluency and fluent and break them down to get very specific about what fluency is not when it comes to speaking other languages. I give my thoughts on how the word fluency could be viewed and used in a more practical way that doesn't seem like such a far away destination.

If this is your first time hearing this word discussed, you may be surprised to find yourself challenging your own definition, thoughts, and ideals about fluency. Below are links to more podcast episodes, YouTube videos, and online articles produced by others in the language learning community that give thought-provoking messages regarding fluency.

Podcast Episodes:
S1E7: The Fluency Trap by Emily Richarson of The Langauge Confidence Project
What Is Fluency, What Is Mastery...And How Do You Get There? by Kerstin Cable & Lindsay Williams of The Fluent Show
How to become fluent? by Heather Koziol of The Future is Bilingual
Am I Even Making Progress? Episode 22 of Love, Joy, and Languages, referenced in this episode

YouTube Videos:
What Is Fluency? by Lindsay Williams of Lindsay Does Languages
Learning a Language is NOT getting fluent! How to learn a language without the stress by Jamie of Multilingual Mastery
What does fluency in a foreign language mean? by Olly Richards
When are you fluent in a language? (Polyglot opinion) by Lindie Botes

Online Articles:
What do we mean by language fluency? from International Center for Language Studies
What Is Fluency In A Language? from Lingualift
What Does "Fluent" Really Mean? by Ramsay Lewis on Leonardo English
Dear Duolingo: How do I become fluent in a new language? by Cindy Blanco on Duolingo Blog