Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When people lie about fluency

In the polyglot community, the question of fluency is a question that always pops up. Ever since the disappearance of the infamous Chezrocksall, the topic is always a hot button issue. How do you know when you are fluent and when can you tell other people that you can speak another language.

Lets take the case of Ms. Jane Doe. Jane Doe has been taking Spanish at her local community college which is a great start. I took both French and Italian at community colleges and highly recommend it. The credits transfer and it is a great way to get your feet wet. Jane Doe has already taken Spanish 101 and 102. Now she is on her second year of Spanish and has decided it is a good idea to start telling people that she can speak Spanish fluently.  

NOT a good idea.

I have seen this happen many times. It feels good to convince people that you are fluent in a language. It makes you feel good. But lets be honest - a few semesters at your local Jr college is not nearly enough to become fluent in a language. Anyone who says that they are fluent after a few semesters of community college education is a liar.

Liar, liar, pants on fire. :--)

Fluency means you have a high level of proficiency. Being able to conjugate verbs and read at a 3rd grade level ( which is what you will have after taking Spanish 101 -202 ) does not make you fluent. Do not say you are bilingual because you are not telling the truth!

Being fluent in a language means you can speak without a lot of breaks, pauses, and awkward silences.  Being able to understand much of the target language also does not make you fluent. I can understand a lot of Italian, I took 6 credits of Italian in Manhattan over a summer and still would not even think of saying that I am fluent in Italian.

Fluency means you can have a fluid conversation in your target language. It means you can speak at a normal speed. Fluency means that you can talk to a doctor about a medical problem or a lawyer about a legal problem. Fluency means being able to tell a joke, and the other person understand the humor. Being able to order tacos and a diet coke does NOT make you fluent.

Insecure liars say they are fluent when they are not. Attention whores say they are fluent when they clearly are not fluent. I posted a new thread about this issue in  www.how-to-learn-any-language.com

Please post comments and let me know what you think about this topic.

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