segunda-feira, 12 de março de 2012

What are the "symptoms" of being Fluent?

Well, when a person asks me how long time will it take for him/her to be fluent, I have to take a breath and answer vaguely "this will depend a lot on you". Now, I will share with you the real definition and the "real how long time".

Let's first understand the meaning of the term fluent, this word came from the word flow, which means something that flows, something like a stream of water. So, if you can really speak without too much difficulty even without having a quite long vocabulary, you can consider yourself fluent, I always explain my pupils the following:

Imagine a very early beginner student at the beginning of his language course, that has mastered only about 500 to 800 basic words, and other student with a long experience of being in the classroom for, shall we say 4 to 5 years.

The beginner can deal really well with the basic words, and can easily maintain a conversation like the following:

----Hello, I want to speak to you about a very important thing, because I need and want to visit a museum, can you help me in a thing very important?

-----Yes, sure, how can I be useful?

-----Sorry sir, can you repeat slowly, please.

----- yes, s-u-r-e. w-h-a-t do you w-a-n-t?

-----I want to go to Oxford street, but I don't know where it's possible to take the bus.

-----You Can take the number, s-i-x-t-y t-w-o.

-----wow, thank you.

----- ok.

But on the other hand the advanced student who knows a lot of difficult and useless words, perform the following conversation:

-----Er, Er, Er I am uhn, uhn, uhn lost, and Er, Er, I wonder if you uhn, uhn, could help me.

-----Yes, sure, how can I be useful?

-----As I had.... Uh, uh, said, Er, Er.. I....., I...... Am a, and Er... Er... I lost my...., And I wonder, if you .... Er, Er.. Er.. Can you tell me where.... Is the.... Er, Er, Er, bus stop and uhn, uhn, which one.... Er.., Er... Should I take, to go to the British museum.

-----You Can take the number, s-i-x-t-y t-w-o.

-----uh, uh, uh, thanks.

So, now it is your turn, which person is fluent? I am sure you have answered the first one, although his vocabulary is limited he can deal well, and his conversation flowed quite naturally, but the second one even with a strong vocabulary, cannot access easy the knowledge, so the conversation did not flow, and put us in a tiring state. So, now you can easily conclude that fluency has little or nothing to do with time of studying, but more with ability to deal and manage with pieces of information.

So, the myth about the term fluency, is due to other term that is "proficiency" in a foreign language, this one will be treated later in this blog, but to give you an idea it is closer to a native knowledge and it is required more time to be reached.

Be continued...

Best wishes

Jimmy Mello

According to Cambridge dictionary:

Fluent When a language is fluent, it is spoken easily and without many pauses. Eg. He speaks fluent Chinese.

Proficient: is being skilled and experienced. Eg. She's proficient in two languages.

It takes a couple of years of regular driving before you become proficient at it.

Definition came from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press

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