Fluency?

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Fluency?

Postby Jayan » Sun 19 Apr 2009 8:02 pm

Where do you draw the line between proficiency and fluency? How do you know when you've crossed that line?

What is your opinion of this fluency test?
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Re: Fluency?

Postby Stosis » Mon 20 Apr 2009 2:57 am

Its not clear and distinct when you become fluent. Much like when did Homo Sapiens start being Homo Spaiens and stop being Homo Erectus. Some countries like those of the E.U. have a system of standardized tests. I guess when you reach the highest level you can consider yourself fluent. This really is a fickle question and I think that each student has the decide for themselves when they are fluent. Of course you have to base your decision on how well you can understand and be understood in your other language.

Another factor to take into account is whether or not you count literacy as a component of fluency. I know many second generation Chinese who would have no problem having any level of difficult conversations in Chinese but know only a little about the writing system.

I hope this helped.
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Re: Fluency?

Postby Jayan » Wed 22 Apr 2009 2:19 am

Thanks, Stosis, that did help. Does anyone know where I might find some standardized EU tests, say for Danish?

I think one would have to count literacy as part of fluency (maybe excepting things like Mandarin). I'm actually far more fluent in written Danish than spoken. Is that unusual? Which usually develops first, spoken or written fluency?
Native/Fluent: English (on a good day :P)
Pursuing fluency: Dansk
Entertaining self with: 日本語
Up next: русский язык
Eventually: Gaeilge|Deutsch|Kiswahili|Suomi
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Re: Fluency?

Postby Stosis » Thu 23 Apr 2009 12:25 am

It depends on how much you practice. I can read some of the hardest Latin texts (with a dictionary and grammar of course :P ) and I can write fairly complex sentence, even if they're almost always wrong I feel like I'd still be understood if a Roman read them. On top of this I would have a very very hard time actually speaking a word of the language. Sometimes I remember a line or two of poetry or a sentence from a speech but nothing that could be considered actually speaking. This is because I never took the time to even learn the proper pronunciation of the letters.

As for finding standard tests, I don't know. I found a practice test for German once, I think it was for level B1. This was a few years ago but unless someone has made a large effort it might be hard for you to find one.

On the topic of writing counting towards fluency I just want to point out that there are perfectly normal humans alive to day that can't read a single word but if someone can't speak then they are largely impaired in pretty well any society. What does this mean? not much since these illiterate people speak languages that only the most daring and devoted linguists would attempt, I just thought it was an important thing to point out.
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Re: Fluency?

Postby formiko » Thu 23 Apr 2009 1:23 am

I agree with Stosis. When I was in Nigeria for a 3 month Missions trip, I had to learn Yoruba. Yet when i was there, there were people in the markets who spoke 5 or 6 languages at LEAST and couldn't read a word. Many people in the city of Oyo spoke Yoruba, Hausa, English, French and sometimes Fulani and a Gbe language. And they couldn't read any of them!
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Re: Fluency?

Postby Neqitan » Thu 23 Apr 2009 1:37 am

Jayan wrote:What is your opinion of this fluency test?

That as for this comment:
In terms of difficulty, reading skills usually come first, then you begin to understand the spoken language. At about the same time you learn how to speak, and finally the student can write. Of course, you learn everything simultaneously, and the components overlap a lot.

I've always thought it was reading >> listening/writing >>> speaking. Myself, I can write English waaaay better than how I speak it.

Also, I think the gap between C and D in his Oral Expression section is huge.
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Re: Fluency?

Postby Talib » Thu 23 Apr 2009 3:06 am

Glad to see I did well on that test.

To me fluency is sort of a fictious concept, because you never really stop learning a language, but I'd say you're fluent when you can hold a decent conversation or read a newspaper without stumbling. Ie. proficient in using the language for daily life.

I personally tend to learning reading and writing much faster than listening and speaking.
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Re: Fluency?

Postby Sobekhotep » Fri 24 Apr 2009 11:11 pm

Jayan wrote:What is your opinion of this fluency test?

I think it's a pretty good way to rate yourself.
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Re: Fluency?

Postby SamD » Wed 29 Apr 2009 6:46 pm

Here are some questions I would ask myself to determine whether I'm at an advanced beginner or intermediate level:

Can I understand a native speaker talking about simple subjects: food, the weather, travel, family, perhaps my hobbies?

Can I make myself understood when talking to a native who doesn't speak any other language that I speak: finding food, accommodations, washrooms; simple conversation about the subjects in the questions above?

Can I read signs written in the target language? Can I read relatively simple reading material aimed at natives: children's books, short stories, some newspapers and magazines aimed at a general audience?

Can I write a letter or note that expresses simple ideas in that language?

Here are the questions I'd ask to determine if I'm at a more advanced level:

Can I understand all or most of what I hear on the radio, TV or in movies? If I overhear people talking on the street around me, do I understand much of even all of what they say? Do I get jokes? Do I understand people who mumble or have an unusual accent?

Can I make myself understood when I run complicated errands in a shop or a bank? Can I talk about current events or advanced subjects? If I'm highly emotional or even drunk, do the natives still understand me?

Can I read novels or other sophisticated material in my target language?

Can I write a personal letter in my target language to someone who doesn't understand any of the other languages I speak? Can I write business letters or write about advanced subjects in my target language?
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Re: Fluency?

Postby Declan » Wed 29 Apr 2009 11:34 pm

A great test for aural fluency is if two conversations are going on at once, can you totally tune out of one to listen to the other, and can you almost keep track of both together. Also, how much of your attention goes on listening, so could you be doing something else at the same time and still follow the conversation.

I agree too, fluency is an almost a false concept for a non-native speaker. Not having to think about grammatical constructions both when speaking and listening is obviously a prerequisite. The hardest thing to grade is vocabulary, because even native speakers (well me anyway) come across words fairly regularly that we remember from the context, but probably couldn't define if given out of context, or even words we just don't know. So, personally, I'd put rarely stuck for a word in a variety of situations (television, conversation, shopping etc.) as a pretty good indicator.
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