From B to C: Part I – How to Become Proficient in Any Language by LUCA LAMPARIELLO

It’s the biggest buzzword in all of language learning. If you don’t have it, you want it, and if you have it—well, you’ve made it!

For some, this word simply means capability, an ability to listen, speak, read, and/or write in a language without much difficulty.

For others, the word implies mastery, nothing less than complete dominance of the language in nearly every aspect, at a level comparable with any native speaker.

With such a range of possible meanings and implications, it is impossible for us to discuss fluency without first defining our terms.

For the purposes of this article, let’s divide upper-level language skill into two parts: fluency and proficiency.

Fluency is the lower of the two skill levels we will discuss here. If a learner is fluent in his or her target language, then she knows between 5,000 and 10,000 words in that language. We will say that this corresponds roughly to the B2 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Proficiency is, for our purposes, the higher of the two skill levels. A proficient learner has near-complete mastery of the language, and can be said to know more than 10,000 words in his or her target language. On the CEFR scale, proficient learners can be considered at the C1 level or beyond.

To explore these terms in more detail, let’s look at them in terms of the four major language skills: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.

Everybody knows what real fluency means. Some charlatans attempt to distort the meaning to make themselves feel better.

You need to ask yourselves one question - if i speak, about any non-specialist topic (ie, talking about wood, and cabinets, and chisels doesn’t necessarily mean i know what a rebate plane is etc), would the average person say i was fluent or would they call bullshit?

If you can eloquently order a coffee but can’t, at least in basic terms, describe everything you see, you’re not fluent. If you can talk about yourself for hours but can’t ask for directions then you’re not fluent. Etc.

If i can speak in French about my life, what i did yesterday, my family, the football, but can’t order some cement from a builders merchants you can bet i’m not gonna be claiming i’m fluent. We need to have higher standards than that.

Drew is right. Fluency imo is complete mastery of a language in all aspects: reading, listening, writing and listening. Other than potentially having a minor accent, you should be understood as practically a native in the language (compared to a fairly educated native ofcourse). You must be able to read high level literary texts and be able to express an understanding of that text in writing. In addition, you must be able to listen and understand almost everything of any tv show, movie, news etc in that language. If you do not fulfill these criteria, you are not fluent in my book


This made me smile. I was in Belgium once ordering a drink. I did it all perfectly. I was on full flow so to speak! The lady returned with my drink and asked if I would like to sit outside. Not knowing what this was in French, I froze and looked at her completely blankly and confused. Luckily she spoke English and quickly assumed my problem but it was funny.

I really can relate to the mountain climbing analogy and that intermediate platau. I do often feel I am on that platau with my German and often feel I am trying to push through it. I just keep going, listening, reading - I do feel speaking would be a huge benefit though. That is something I’m trying to work on finding new ways to speak. I am going to Hamburg next week for a little break though!

i hear people claiming their b or c this and can’t communicate better than a nine year old

You see, fluency is a relative term.

Just kidding!

It means you know every single word and grammatical rule in your target language, of course! If you don’t have that then you suck at the language and you should give up.

: )

You’re showing your age here, kid. Nobody said that.

I know a guy who is Estonian. He gets his point across in English when speaking. He knows the words for everything and if he doesn’t he can describe them in detail.

He has a massive heavy accent.

He understands every word he hears, and no matter the context understands explicit and implicit meaning. He is fluent.

Someone who doesn’t understand what he is hearing, doesn’t know simple structures, doesn’t know basic everyday speech isn’t fluent whether they can ‘use’ the language fluently or not.

People can claim what they want but most people know what fluent really is and they know when someone isn’t fluent. This isn’t a slight. You can be very, very good in a language and not be fluent. But people desperately want to claim ‘fluency’ as it’s a badge of honour and so will misrepresent the word to suit their own ends. But the rest of us still know they’re not fluent. Anthony Lauder cough.

I can fluently say hello and goodbye in French. That doesn’t make me fluent. If market sellers stick to familiar lines i can converse ‘fluently’ with them. This doesn’t make a person FLUENT.

Yes you can use the language fluently. This is different from ‘being fluent in’. Everybody knows it. Except some.

I was joking

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Well, I was, but you can think about me whatever you want.

Good luck on your French


DrewPeacock, Not only did you write this long reply to someone who was 100% joking, but you had to start with “You’re showing your age here, kid. Nobody said that.”