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What is fluency?

Is it the ability to "continue to talk" in a foreign language? Or, is it the ability to use many words and expressions?

For example, person A speaks (maybe he likes to talk all the time), but he often makes so many  grammatical mistakes. In addition, he might not be good at using many vocabulary words-- he only knows very basic words; maybe he only knows one fifth of the amount of the words person B knows.

Person B's speaking ability is actually not that bad; in fact, his pronunciation and accent are much better than person A. Person B enjoys talking about science, life, and other deep topics, but might not take so much pleasure in having chitchat. So, maybe some people say he's fluent, but obviously not as much "fluent" as person A is, because the fluidity of person A's speech is better than B.

For example, person A's English is like, "yeah, it's amazing!" "Yeah, you can do it" "I think it's true because it's cheaper!" "I do exercise because I want to build more muscles!" How do you like it?" "How are you? I'm good! It's so hot today!"

Person B's is not that talkative, but again, knows more words and has better pronunciation and accent that sound much closer to native speakers.

※This question is specifically about their speaking skills and doesn't take the listening and writing skills into consideration.

Jul 29, 2016 5:13 PM
Comments · 13

There are so many conflicting definitions of fluency that I find the term useless. If you tell me you're fluent, I have know idea what you mean by that. That's why I recommend not using the term at all. If I talk about my level, I use the CEFR.

July 30, 2016

Well,thank you@Chappyrich0705 for your response.Firstly, you have asked-What is fluency? and I gave my answer what I, myself think.Secondly, I've read your example,and I got one thing that A has not much word power as  B and do grammatical mistake but still a good speaker than B.B knows more words than A and has a wide area of knowledge on science,life and other topics and he has also better pronunciation and accent skill than A but still he lacks in fluency or not as fluent than A.This is what you've written.So listening to this, my first impression is like, A knows less word than B but a good speaker ,so obviously, he can connect himself to others more easily than B. Though B has more knowledge than A but he is unable to connect himself due to his shyness(may be)or due to lack of practice in conversation. So if you compare them then in my view A is more fluent than B because it doesn't matter how much knowledge we have,but how efficient we are in delivering that.Hope I answered your question.Please correct me if I'm wrong.Thank you:)

July 29, 2016
Chappyrick, you are right in the observations you've just made here. As someone once said 'questions are the answers!'. Good questions give you better answers. You're headed in the right direction! Good luck
July 29, 2016

Hello there

I'd say person A represents fluency especially in ELT (English language teaching), which means the ability to put sentences together fairly quickly without hesitation or pause.

Person B would be more of what is termed 'Accuracy' which is the ability to produce language which is free of mistakes. In general learners need to strike a balance between fluency and accuracy to improve their speaking skill.

I hope this was helpful?


July 29, 2016

@hmano,you've raised a good question.I want to give you my example that when I talk with my friends or my relatives then there is absolutely no problem in speaking or expressing what I want to say.But when it comes to speaking in front of 100 or more people being standing on a stage then I may stammer due to stage fear.But that doesn't indicate that I'm not fluent in my native language.Here the fear barrier acts as the obstacle though I'm fast enough to speak clearly.

So summing up this thing,I don't think that if someone can not express him/herself in front of others, really makes him/her a non-fluent person in the language they speak.Please correct me if I'm wrong.Thank you:)  

July 30, 2016
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English, Japanese
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