On my adventures around Pinterest, I recently came across this image which is filled with thoughts of "language fluency". It addresses a question every learner asks him- or herself lots of times - What exactly IS fluency? So many of you quote fluency as the ultimate learning ambition, so have you defined what it means to you?
A word about SMART goals
If you have taken on challenges in the past, you may have come across this very corporate acronym before. SMART stands for specific - measurable - achievable - relevant - time constrained. Generally speaking, this is considered to be the best possible way that you can formulate a goal. "Fluency" therefore needs to be made measurable, and it's really important that you try and spell out to yourself what exactly it means to be fluent.
For example, a vague and not very effective goal would be "I want to be able to have a conversation with a French person soon."
Now compare that to this goal, which can be considered worthwhile and functional: "I want to be able to have general small talk about the weather and travel methods (specific and achievable ) with my French aunt (relevant ) when I go and see them in a month (time constrained )." And even with that, the question of how you measure it is not too clearly answered. Measuring fluency is up to you. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, fluency happens when you believe it's happening.
Checklist - what makes you fluent?
In the image shown above, you can see a few good indicators that you could take as measurements of fluency. For me, these are the most important ones:
- You are able to communicate without hesitation and without long gaps, and feel confident to compensate for words you don't know
- You are secure enough in your understanding of grammar and word order that you can produce sentences without wondering where the words go or what tense the sentence is supposed to be in
- You feel that you connect, share information and understand your partner's responses in a conversation
- You find that using your language brings you a sense of achievement and confidence, which increases your core skills
If you are a language learner or educator, what would you add to this list? Or would you take something out?
Remember it's attitude and skill combined
Finally, there are two parts to becoming that fluent speaker you dream of being. It's in your attitude, trying and going for it without worries of whether your verb endings are spot on or not. But there is also an aspect of practice and expertise, so don't think that with the right attitude you could completely neglect the study part. Once you get both of those up to the right level, you will just know that it's working. Until then....invisible progress.