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How do you define "fluent"?


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I see posts on other forums where people state the are "fluent" in Spanish. That got me wondering how people define "fluency" in a second language. I am not talking about being a native speaker or bilingual. I mean speaking a second language that was not learned alongside your native language.

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When an individual says he/she is fluent in an other than first language, that individual's actual measurable fluency could be all over the place. There is a big range of "fluency" between being able to conduct everyday household business, expressing opinions, every day conversation with family and friends, etc., and defending a thesis in an academic environment.

If you are interested in what various oral fluency levels involve, you might get a kick out of looking at the ACTFL (American Council of Teachers of a Foreign Languayes) proficiency levels. There is an actual Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) that will designate a level at which an individual communicates. There is a lot more to "fluency" than what the average person realizes.

ACTFL proficiency levels

http://www.languagetesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ACTFLProficiencyGuidelines-2012-Speaking.pdf

Oral Proficiency Interview

http://www.languagetesting.com/oral-proficiency-interview-opi

I have a bachelor's degree in Spanish. Thirty eight years ago, I was a regularly enrolled student in classes at one of the top universities in Perú for two semesters. I then used the language in the reinsurance industry for 15 years, including the drafting of reinsurance contracts and negotiating deals with native speakers before bailing from the corporate world and entering the field of education. I would probably consider myself to usually be at the "advanced high" level, although I'm guessing that I was probably approaching the "superior" level during my last year in university after I had lived and studied for a year in Lima.

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Not an expert opinion at all here. I define fluent as very close to speaking and understanding a language as a native speaker does. To me the real mark of being fluent is understanding and using idioms. Without that, you're still a stranger looking in at another language that you don't quite get.

If someone says they're fluent on a forum and is soliciting work in anyway, I would expect them to be able to represent me the same as a native speaker.

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Not an expert opinion at all here. I define fluent as very close to speaking and understanding a language as a native speaker does. To me the real mark of being fluent is understanding and using idioms. Without that, you're still a stranger looking in at another language that you don't quite get.

I'm not an expert either,but I think your definition of fluent,especially the comment about idioms is correct.

Every Mexican knows what (a lo que te truje Chencha) means,but I doubt that many non-native "fluent" Spanish speakers do,just an example.

I learn new words and phrases in Spanish everyday and yet I know that I'll never speak it like a native speaker.

I read somewhere that to truly be fluent in another language you should be able to tackle a crossword puzzle in that language.:).

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When an individual says he/she is fluent in an other than first language, that individual's actual measurable fluency could be all over the place. There is a big range of "fluency" between being able to conduct everyday household business, expressing opinions, every day conversation with family and friends, etc., and defending a thesis in an academic environment.

If you are interested in what various oral fluency levels involve, you might get a kick out of looking at the ACTFL (American Council of Teachers of a Foreign Languayes) proficiency levels. There is an actual Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) that will designate a level at which an individual communicates. There is a lot more to "fluency" than what the average person realizes. ...

.

"There is a big range of "fluency" between being able to conduct everyday household business, expressing opinions, every day conversation with family and friends, etc., and defending a thesis in an academic environment. "

Very cool. Following these perspectives, most Americans are barely marginally fluent in English, as Madison Ave. and big media evaluations have found that average Americans function at a 5'th grade level ... which also explains why Trump is so popular as professional linguistic studies show Trump speaks at a 4'th grader's level.

fascinating

How do these concepts of varying fluency apply to typical Mexicans?

I've found it can be a big trap to learn Spanish from publicommon Mexican conversations, as most Mexicans don't even learn how to use all of their 14 verb tenses until the 2'nd year of secondary school - like learning English from a cockney east-ender.

Let the argy-bargy begin ...

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I'm not an expert either,but I think your definition of fluent,especially the comment about idioms is correct.

Every Mexican knows what (a lo que te truje Chencha) means,but I doubt that many non-native "fluent" Spanish speakers do,just an example.

I learn new words and phrases in Spanish everyday and yet I know that I'll never speak it like a native speaker.

I read somewhere that to truly be fluent in another language you should be able to tackle a crossword puzzle in that language. :).

.

"I read somewhere that to truly be fluent in another language you should be able to tackle a crossword puzzle in that language."

Yet more evidence that most Americans and most Mexicans are barely fluent in their native languages?

...

Consider the level of most posts on expat forums. Remember the reactions of some very adamant posters that all longer posts are automatically annoying and unacceptable, especially if the post includes some novel perspectives.

" Intermediate Low speakers express personal meaning by combining and recombining what they know and what they hear from their interlocutors into short statements and discrete sentences."

... They are also able to ask a few appropriate questions. Intermediate Low speakers manage to sustain the functions of the Intermediate level, although just barely. "

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In your case, I thought it was when you won your first argument with your wife.....in Spanish. LOL

I have yet to win an arguement with my wife,I don't even try anymore,now I just say, (si lo tu que digas).

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I am aware of the ACTFL oral proficiency interview/test having taken it in the past and scoring an advanced high. I probably could have scored superior if I had read the descriptions of each level before going to the interview to better understand what was being looked for. I also wondered at the time if the person doing the interview questioned some of my language because he was not accustomed to Colombian vocabulary. I never use the word "fluent" to describe my command of Spanish. I prefer "highly proficient." I am well aware of my shortcomings in the language.

As far as idioms go, some are commonly used in Spanish everywhere yet there are also those which vary from one country (or even region of a country) to another.

To me true fluency means being able to use the language learned as a second language almost equally as well as one's native language. This is not bilingual, as that means being raised in and using both languages equally.

And I have no idea what "a lo que te truje Chencha)" means but the biggest influence on my Spanish is Colombian Spanish, not Mexican. Please enlighten me Do you know what "colgar los guayos" means?

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And I have no idea what "a lo que te truje Chencha)" means but the biggest influence on my Spanish is Colombian Spanish, not Mexican. Please enlighten me Do you know what "colgar los guayos" means?

It means,do what you came to do and don't waste your time doing it,or (get to the point).

I have no idea what "colgar los guayos" means.

A Columbian I met in California remarked that I must have learned Spanish in Mexico because she said I had an "acento ranchero". :)

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It means,do what you came to do and don't waste your time doing it,or (get to the point).

I have no idea what "colgar los guayos" means.

A Columbian I met in California remarked that I must have learned Spanish in Mexico because she said I had an "acento ranchero". :)

That's ColOmbia, with an O. Common mistake.

In Colombia :"guayos" are soccer shoes, so "colgar los guayos" literally means to hang up your soccer shoes, but is an idiom for "to die." Similar to "estirar la pata."

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It means,do what you came to do and don't waste your time doing it,or (get to the point).

I have no idea what "colgar los guayos" means.

A Columbian I met in California remarked that I must have learned Spanish in Mexico because she said I had an "acento ranchero". :)

----------------------------------------

I learned the hard way the difference between coger in Mexico and Colombia. LOL

Chris did the Ticos ever call you an "andale" because of your Spanish. They sure did me, and even worse, a "gringo andale".LOL

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

The level of fluency depends on the SRE office.

gringal wrote in the past about how the Guadalajara office held her & her husband to higher standards than they could pass.
http://www.chapala.com/webboard/index.php?showtopic=59055

Over on Mexconnect, John Shrall, Viktor Remski and YucaLandia have written detailed accounts of their personal experiences at SRE when getting naturalized citizenship. Some SRE office's Spanish language standards evolve and change over time, some requiring only very low levels, as others (like Yucatan) currently have fairly rigorous standards:

http://www.mexconnect.com/cgi-bin/forums/gforum.cgi?post=207337;search_string=citizenship;#207337

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angelpie, I do not think that is correct. I only thought in my language and translated with the first foreign language I learned after that with the others I never translated from one to the other . At least that is what happened to me and I think it is why the other languages are easier to learn.. .

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When I apply for jobs here in New Mexico, I claim my Spanish is "functional" and explain that I can use it to speak to customers, for example, in various veins of language. I could speak to customers when I worked in an herb shop about remedios, a subject I am passionate about. Anytime I am in mexico, I am seeking out info on herbal medicine so can get going well on that subject. Recently, however, I re-entered the profession of mental health counselor and of course, just because I had lived and worked on the other side of the border they thought i could conduct therapy in Spanish. That would require absolute fluency, not just little pockets of functionality that I have. It is really important to know how to adequately and honestly claim your level under professional circumstances. That is why I use the word "functional". It's a little better than what people call "getting by".

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  • 2 weeks later...

fluent is very subjecive but I would think it is when you are just as comfortable speaking and understanding a foreign language as your own. That does not mean you speak it without making mistakes but you hink in the foreign language and can switch back and forth without problems.

There are degrees of fluency for exemple I am much more at ease speaking  English when it comes to business, finance or computer, I am more at ease with poetry in French.

And then you have the written language which is a different challenge for many people.

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