Friday, July 1, 2016

how to measure fluency

Am I a polyglot?

I don't think I am... I am fluent in only three languages, and I am not even 100% certain of my mother tongue anymore :-D

Language skills are very subjective... there isn't really any good definitions or measurements... It would be wonderful if one could test one's skills and be verified by other language speakers, but that really isn't a good proof... because one could get lucky and know the answers but nothing else. So even when *I* count myself as fluent in Finnish, English and Swedish, I'm sure there are people out there who would disagree. :-D

So, do I know French? 
I say "no", but I received a C2* language fluency in an internet test. I don't think I am "proficient" in French. I wouldn't even grade myself as A1 yet :-D Maybe my expectations are too high :-D

Why do I consider myself fluent in Finnish, English, and Swedish?
* I am not aware of which of these three languages I'm using.

"When you have mastered all, I emphasize all, the nuances contained in a given cuss word, and know when and when not, to deploy the word, so that you obtain the precise effect you want, not more, not less. This you do a native speaker of the language."

Nah... I haven't even heard some of the Finnish swearwords and I, most definitely, don't know "all the nuances" of them, and my knowledge of "when and when not to deploy the word" is basically, "Ladies don't swear. Ever." There really is no need for such. Because ladies never lose their temper, they never get overpowered by their emotional responses to a situation, they are always cool, calm and collected, and when you are, you don't have the need to swear.

"if you can make a joke or be humourous in a certain language, it's fair to say you can speak it."

This isn't a good criterium either. Some people can't joke in their mother tongue, some can joke even when they are just learning. But understanding jokes, especially jokes based on wordplay, do demand some mastery of the language.

Can I do my job in the language in question?

This is actually a very good definition. Because people who don't need much language skills to work aren't most likely using much of their mother tongue either, whereas people whose work demands high verbal skills are better at their native language also. One must remember that "native speakers" skills are not equal... so if you can use a language as well as a native speaker... are you talking about an uneducated person who is only interested in one thing, and who doesn't read books nor newspapers, or a journalist?

Do I think or dream in the language?

Yes. But my mind works that way. I dream of languages I have just heard, I think in languages I know I don't know that well, like French and German. When I hear someone speaking a language in the train or bus, I repeat the words in my head and adopt the accent, so that I think in Finnish with Portuguese or Russian accent etc.
So, no, this doesn't count. It only means I have a good ear and I think of these languages a lot.

I still sometimes think in one language and then translate it to another when it comes to Finnish, Swedish and English. "What is it in ANY language?" is something I say often :-D

And then there is this word... Chèvrefeuille. Kuusama. What is it in English? Can't remember. What is it in Swedish? Can't remember. I know the word but can't remember. The funny thing is that I can't ever remember it in the language I a using... only the others :-D

Anyway, this is only a sign of that there are words that I use most often when speaking one of the languages, and not so much with the others.

"if you speak to a person in their native language and they respond in that language" is a great sign of fluency :-D

Some other points:
* you can translate with ease between the languages, have a discussion with one person in one language and with another in another language about the same time.
* you can express emotions and your opinions on any matter with ease
* you can read anything without any help
* you understand song lyrics, radio and television shows and movies without any help
* being functional, managing your life and any situation that might appear as well as when using your native language.
* being able to communicate over the telephone

* European standard for grading language proficiency

The Common European Framework divides learners into three broad divisions which can be divided into six levels:

    Basic Speaker
        A1 Breakthrough or beginner
        A2 Waystage or elementary
    Independent Speaker
        B1 Threshold or intermediate
        B2 Vantage or upper intermediate
    Proficient Speaker
        C1 Effective Operational Proficiency or advanced
        C2 Mastery or proficiency

The Common European Framework describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing at each level:

A1 - Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

A2 - Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment, and matters in areas of immediate need.

B1 - Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst traveling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
B2 - Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

C1 - Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
C2 - Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.

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