Not Quite Fluent

Can being confident lead to being fluent? (YES!)

Spoiler alert: yes!
After putting the task off for a year, I finally decided to contact the pastor of a Hispanic church near me to ask about volunteering and helping out with their children’s ministry. I typed away busily at my computer, occasionally pulling up Google Translate to check a word that I wasn’t sure on, and writing pretty quickly. But all of the sudden, I came to a dead stop. […]
I looked at the email I had written so far.

“¡Hola! Me llamo Sydney, soy una adolescente, y voy a la Viña (en inglés) los sábados. Hace más o menos un año alguien me dijo que ustedes necesitaban voluntarios para ayudar a los niños durante del servicio de los adultos. ¿Aún necesita voluntarios para servir a los niños cada semana?  Soy una estudiante de español. Puedo conversar y charlar en español con fluidez, pero no es mi primer idioma.”

[Hi! My name is Sydney, I’m a teenager, and I go to the Vineyard (in English) on Saturday nights. About a year ago someone told me that you guys needed volunteers to help the kids during the adult service. Do you still need volunteers to serve the kids each week? I am a student of Spanish. I can converse and chat fluently, but it’s not my first language.]

No.

Stop.

Wait.

Hold on.

I’M NOT FLUENT IN SPANISH!!!!

I quickly erased that last part about being able to speak ‘with fluidity’. I didn’t mean to say that I was fluent in Spanish. No way. I only meant to say that I could hold flowing conversations without any awkward pauses, I had enough vocab to talk about most subjects that would arise in conversation, and I could understand and respond to another person chatting with me informally.

I definitely didn’t mean to say that I was fluent. After all, the definition of “fluent” is:

1. 
spoken or written with ease: 
fluent French.
2. 
able to speak or write smoothly, easily, or readily:
a fluent speaker; fluent in six languages.
3. 
easy; graceful:
fluent motion; fluent curves.
4. 
flowing, as a stream. 
5. 
capable of flowing; fluid, as liquids or gases. 
6. 
easily changed or adapted; pliant. 


……….huh.

Maybe I’m not that far from fluency in Spanish. Maybe I just need some… self-confidence?

And that takes me to the point of this post today. In my eyes, learning a language isn’t about strict fluency—like “I have to pass the C2 test or else I’m not fluent” kind of fluency. In order to say that you can speak a language, you just have to be able to use it for your purposes and be confident in that. For some, that may be business. You know business really well and you can talk about it easily. For your intents, that’s fluency. Others like to be what is called conversationally fluent—able to have confident conversations in their target language. But the only way you know if you are fluent or not is by talking to real people. That will give you the confidence needed to be able to wear your language proudly and in turn practice it even more.

Do you agree? Disagree? Give your thoughts below!

Sydney Sauer • September 8, 2015


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