Are you fluent?

I'm asked sometimes if I'm fluent in Swedish. I say yes if the questioner won't ever hear me speak the language. But there are times I'm forced to give an answer I'll need to prove. I then get philosophical and say it's hard to define what true fluency is.

I like this deep-thinking answer because I think it makes me seem smart. It may also be true.

 See that trampoline over there....

See that trampoline over there....

Is fluency when you can speak and understand the language? Well it's not that simple. It's one thing to be able to order a coffee. It's another to discuss politics over a glass of wine. Hardest of all may be speaking to kids. It takes a certain level of proficiency to swiftly tell some tike throwing sand: "I'm going to pile-drive you into the trampoline when your mother's not looking if one more grain hits my baby." It's all about nuances.

I would be much more confident saying I was fluent if I got a sense that people understood me. It could be good too if fewer listeners cringed when hearing my accent. Maybe I should also learn to write.

So yes, I'm fluent. Let me order coffee, tell you about the upcoming election, and show you how to pile-drive in Swedish.

This post was originally published at Avison - The Language of Communication.


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