Is fluency just a byproduct?

It’s a thought that occurred to me the other other day, both from advancing in some of my languages, and from reading discussions on the forums on the meaning of “fluency.”

No matter how you define it, isn’t fluency really just a byproduct of actually using the language?

People get so hung up on the idea, and the “ideal” of fluency. Tell someone you speak a language and the first question they will ask is “are you fluent”? Or the often asked “how long does it take to get fluent.” Let alone the various catchphrases of web language gurus peddling wares to get you “fluent in…” however many days. (Note: Some of these guys actually have excellent advice on language learning, so this is not meant as a dis on anyone. I’m simply talking about the use of the word itself.)

What people should worry about is “what point do I need to get to so that I can actually USE the language in various ways.” Because once you’re there, regular use of the language can eventually create this byproduct of fluency.

Myself having become fluent in one language, English, and currently feeling like I might be approaching it with French – depending on who you ask :slight_smile: – I feel like the real precipice of studying vs. using is at about the top of a B2 level. In the cases of my recent studies, I felt that once you’re at that level is when any sort of study oriented material has reduced usefulness, and native level materials, books, podcast etc. became the go to, if I wanted to build on what I had. It is also at that point where you start conversing in a more useful manner – not that you shouldn’t try before.

SIDE NOTE: When it comes to study materials, I think it’s good to round down a level from what they advertise. Meaning, if a book says it will get you to B2, it’s better to expect that you might be at a B1 after studying it. So you’d need a C1 course to get to a good solid B2 level, in my experience. (And some courses will claim B2 and you’re lucky to be at an A2 after, which doesn’t mean they’re not useful.)

So, yeah, just something I was thinking of this morning.

The first step to fluency: don’t worry about fluency. It’s a byproduct.


The amazing thing about learning a language is that there is no definitive end to it. :stuck_out_tongue:


To me it’s a pointless word and a pointless discussion (as much as i’ve previously discussed it).

It will never be agreed upon.

You can do whatever you can do in the language. If you want to be able to do more, study more, listen more, read more, speak more. ‘fluency’ is just a word for other people to use to describe your level of skill. It’s arbitrary and doesn’t really matter in the real world of language usage where understanding and being understood are paramount regardless of whether you’re fluent or not.

What annoys me about language learning, is people expect results only rather than the process. If you’re not fluent, the person asking the questions suddenly goes, “oh…” and instantly loses interest.

It seems with the popularity of polyglots putting out results and fake polyglots selling snake oil, people don’t seem to care about the learning aspect.

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