Understanding Fluency: How to Know You Can Talk the Talk
We all know that just because we took a semester or two of Spanish classes in college or high school we’re probably not ready to hop on a plane to live in a Spanish-speaking country. We also know that a 90-day streak on Duolingo doesn’t mean we’re fluent in Korean, either. There’s nothing wrong with either of those ways to learn a language, it just takes a little more practice to speak and read fluently in a second or third language. It’s pretty easy to know when you’re not fluent in a new language.
How, though, can you tell when you’ve overcome that initial hurdle and are now speaking fluently enough to get by? Or even fluently enough to express yourself fully in the language you’re learning? Maybe you’re a really great speaker but your reading comprehension is only so-so. Or maybe you can read with ease in a new language but listening comprehension is a real challenge. Figuring out fluency can be tricky, but here are some ways to know if you’re ready to take off the training wheels and take your new language for a ride.
Spend some time immersed in the language you’re learning and you’ll know soon enough whether you know what you’re doing (and saying). If you’re learning Korean, spend a week in Seoul. If you’re learning Castilian Spanish (Spanish from Spain), take an extended trip to Madrid. Not only is language immersion one of the best ways to learn a new language, you’ll also get a very clear picture of where you stand in terms of speaking fluently. You’ll have a hard time buying groceries or grabbing a cab to an event if you can’t speak with the cashier or driver. And you’ll be hard-pressed to enjoy whatever event you’re heading to without the necessary lingo. Taking a trip to the region your language hails from is a great way to speed up your learning and see if you’re really fluent in one fell swoop.
Switching Things Up
Even if you can order a cab and ask for directions in German, Spanish, or Mandarin, that doesn’t mean that your proficiency is complete. After all, those are very specific aspects of language use. Could you manage a work situation in another language? Could you attend a conference where the presenters spoke a language other than your mother tongue? Can you discuss a book, or field a professional phone call, in another language? In order to ensure full fluency, you need to make sure that your language skills are applicable across various realms. Once you’ve shown that you can get along with basic language skills, spend some time in other settings to see if you’re fluent there as well.
Finding the Best Language Test
Of course, you may not have the wherewithal or time to spend a long weekend in Paris in order to check on your French proficiency. Most of us don’t. If that’s the case, you can always take a language test. Sure, a language test doesn’t get you a glass of French wine and a plate of petit fours, but it’s an inexpensive, easy way to show off your skills. And those skills could land you an advanced job or a role with more global responsibilities. These days, the best language tests don’t entail sitting in front of a proctor who marks off questions on a notepad. Modern language tests are available on-demand and are fully accessible, with results made available in 24 hours. It’s not quite as much fun as a month in Seoul or Madrid, but it’s probably the more doable option.
Language learning can be an incredible tool for opening up new job opportunities and international adventures. Fluency is a great skill, and it’s one you can now prove you possess.
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