Fluency

 Photo from Creative Commons user Orban López Cruz

Photo from Creative Commons user Orban López Cruz

This is part of a series of short posts framing adult English language learning experiences for volunteers at a local English class in my city. 

As both learners and teachers of language it can sometimes feel like the language learning process is unbearably slow. I think this is in part because we compare ourselves to the “ideal fluent speaker.” While improving one’s ability in a language is great, we may be more encouraged to do so when we stop seeing “fluency” as the only worthwhile goal in language learning. Take a minute to think about the languages that you have any ability in. Maybe you speak just enough of your grandmother’s language to make her feel appreciated when tell her food is delicious, or just enough of your boss’s language to communicate about work related tasks. You may not be able to understand a lecture on rocket science in these languages, but you are still able to use them for important things in your daily life. We always use language in a particular contexts, so rather than imagining this ideal type of fluency that allows us to speak flawlessly across all contexts and about every topic, it can be encouraging, and actually more true to reality to think about our language learning goals and the language abilities we already have relative to the specific relationships, places and tasks that are important and meaningful in our lives.