Polyglots Answer – What is Fluency?

Are you trying to learn a language and reach "fluency"? What does that even mean? Well, I have asked the pros to share your thoughts on what it all means!

Share This Post

My mission here at Discover Fluency is to help people discover their path to fluency, Kinda obvious when I say it like that I guess. But, is it that easy? When I speak to students, the common goal I hear is “to be fluent”, but when I ask them what that actually means they often struggle to define it. Some feel like it is being perfect “like a native speaker”. Others want to just “understand everything”. This ambiguity can be a big cause of frustration and going round in circles that halts progress. 

So, I thought I’d put it to the language experts, polyglots and other language learners in this community to let them have their say. To help you understand different ideas of fluency and help you find your own. Here are their thoughts…

Lindsay Williams – Lindsay Does Languages

“You are fluent when you can get your point across with some level of comfort, confidence, and ease. That’s not to say you’ll know every word and feel 100% comfortable and confident 100% of the time. Being fluent isn’t about that. It’s about communicating, and working around the words, phrases, grammar that you don’t know to enable you to keep communicating and keep getting your point across and understood. With that in mind, I also believe there’s different levels of fluency for different situations. You can be holiday French fluent, business emails in German fluent, or mistaken for a native Spanish speaker fluent. If you’re comfortable and you’re doing it, you’re fluent in that situation.”

Kathryn McCann – 365 Small Steps

“You are fluent when you have the confidence to communicate with native speakers in the contexts you will personally need. I think it’s so easy to assume that once we reach a certain grade or level in language it quantifies our fluency, but we all have different learning contexts and needs from an additional language. For me, I will feel fluent when I can join in natural conversations confidently with my Norwegian family and friends. No test can measure my personal feelings of confidence. It’s about understanding 95% with that 5% unknown still pushing you to keep expanding your vocabulary.”

Kerstin Cable – Fluent Language

“You are fluent when you can communicate in your target language with speed and ease. We talk about fluency and often mean interactional fluency, being able to speak a language and navigate conversations easily. You’re fluent when you aren’t a burden on your conversation partner and feel confident and able to keep conversations going. There is no adequate way of putting this into short words, but I have dedicated a podcast episode to this and I know you will enjoy it! Click here to listen and read more about the definition of fluency.”

Rebecca Howie – Irregular Endings

“You are fluent when you feel confident to communicate with others on a range of personal and general topics that you want and/or need to be able to discuss. Fluency is all about confidence, in my opinion – it’s having the confidence to respond and say what you want to say, because you already have the structures and vocabulary that you need to express yourself at your disposal. You don’t need to be able to talk about every possible topic of conversation or write a university-level thesis to feel that you are finally fluent! As long as you can put together coherent sentences that flow, in the contexts that are relevant to you, you should feel comfortable to call yourself fluent.”

Now it’s your turn. 

What does “fluency” mean to you? 

Finish the statement “you are fluent when…” in the comments to share your ideas.

 I can’t wait to hear from you.

Until next time!

More To Explore

Italian Teachers Answer – What is Fluency?

Buon Ferragosto a tutti! As a special Italian treat, I have an Italian special of “What is fluency?”. Where polyglots and language experts tell us about what “fluency” means to them. Check it out!