|Rate your foreign language fluency
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We never stop learning a language : there are
always new words to learn, old skills we forgot, and all our life we have to work on the
foreign languages we learned.
Is there a way to define what is "fluency" in a
foreign language ? Where can we stop in the first stage of learning ? This page discusses
For the purpose of the learner, we can break foreign language
fluency in 4 components :
|Reading books, newspapers,
|Writing letters, memos
|Speaking live, on the phone,
In terms of difficulty, reading skills usually
come first, then you begin to understand the spoken language. At about the same time you
learn how to speak, and finally the student can write. Of course, you learn everything
simultaneously, and the components overlap a lot.
So, if you want to rate your fluency, you can test each of
these four components in turn. Some people only need to understand the language, others
speak it but never write it, so you can choose the relevant part for you.
Rate your reading skills in your target language by answering
the questions below. They are listed in order of difficulty, and you must choose the most
difficult you can answer positively. The number in the first column on the right will give
you your specific fluency for that component, and the second column gives you one fourth
of the overal fluency score. When you have answered for all four components, add the four
overall fluency scores to get the total overal fluency score.
You can see an Example of how I
used this page to rate my russian skills.
1. Reading skills
Reading fluency depends a lot on the difficulty of what you read. Letters are quite
easy, newspapers are moderately difficult and litterature is the most difficult. If
everybody does not want to read Tolstoy or Maupassant in the original, most people still
aim to read newspapers fluently.
|You understand what the newspapers
articles talk about, but no more.
|You can read the newspapers and get
about half of the content.
|You read the newspapers fluently,
with some words you don't understand here and there (5 by article or less)
|You read newspapers with total
fluency, with almost no unknow words.
2. Oral Understanding
the language when it is spoken is more difficult in some languages than others. German,
Russian and some spanish accents are very clear, but french, some english and spanish
accents are more blurred.
|You understand approximately what
people want when they talk to you, but no more.
|You can follow basic conversation you overhear, and
understand about half of what is said in the news on the radio.
|You understand most of what you hear, be it on the
street, on the TV, radio, with a few words or expressions here and there that stay dark.
|Hearing an unknown word is very uncommon for you, even
when listening to elaborate cultural sendings on the radio or when they interview country
people on the TV.
3. Oral Expression
Being able to speak is a must for most people, with the notable exception of those
who learn dead languages. Speaking fluently in basic conversation is not very difficult
for most languages, but to learn it correctly you need either live speakers or good tapes.
Let's see what you can do :
|You can explain what you need in live very basically,
with the use of gesture. Expressing opinions and answering beyond yes or no is very
|You can tell people what you need without too much
trouble, and you can express basic judgements or give sensible answers when asked.
Nevertheless, you have to stretch your vocabulary to achieve this and you you use
|No problem to speak with people, you can speak about
most topics without feeling constrained. Here and there, you miss some words, but you can
usually explain them by another way or ask what they are by giving their definitions.
|You can converse in any condition (over the phone in
particular) over any topic. You make jokes, use idiomatic expressions and can convey your
thought with all the subtleties and disctinctions that you want.
4. Written Expression
a language correctly is the most difficult part to learn. Some languages, like spanish, have an honest and efficient writing system, and passing
from oral fluency to written fluency is pretty straightforward. Others, like french, russian and the worst of all, chinese, require much time.
|You are limited to the most basic phrases and writing
anything takes you ages - if you can do it at all.
|You can write simple emails without needing too much
time, but expressing something complex (hypothesis, conditions, future) requires much time
and you're still unsure if you wrote it correctly.
|You write emails and letters fluenty, needing to look
up words in the dictionary from time to time.
|You can write long love letters with no hesitation,
you "feel" that something is correctly written when you look at it. Writing a
memo or essay does not scare you off. Your vocabulary is big enough to allow you to make
subtle writings between the lines.
the scores automatically and work with the main browsers, please contact me.