In part I of How to Know if You’re Fluent in English, we discussed the different stages of English fluency, defining general fluency as natural and effective communication that serves a function in the speaker’s life.
The first part of this article concentrated on Emerging Fluency and the precarious beginnings of English fluency. Today we’re going to describe this process as it evolves from emerging to the next level of fluency, which I’m calling Stable Fluency.
This is not to reject the many definitions of fluency that exist (all valid on their own terms), nor the many tests and systems that have been designed to measure and guide fluency (which give integrity and congruency to these definitions).
Real Life English’s goal is to COMPLIMENT AND BALANCE the systematic and abstract side of learning English by offering a perspective that is dynamic, integrated, and open the many kinds of methodologies and experiences that teachers and learners have available to them.
In Part I of this article, we discussed how Emerging is an exciting, but precarious time in your learning process.Not only does this stage bring the momentous discovery of the “real life” aspect of the language, which opens you up to the authentic experience of the language, but this new perspective can revolutionize every other part of your process because you start to enjoy participating in it.
At this level, you start to experience states of basic fluency in certain moments or situations, but these often do not last very long. But the important thing is that you now know what it’s like to communicate fluently, even if it’s not permanent.
My perception of a speaker on this level is that they are learning and that it takes a lot of courage to go through this level, but their intention and personality can compensate to create a meaningful connection for me. The problem is that a lot of these learners don’t have an accurate self-perception, as they think they sound worse than they do (mistaking form for essential communication), and they tend to get embarrassed by their grammar mistakes.
A lot of people get STUCK at this stage because they constantly say, “I’m so embarrassed to speak English. My English is so bad,” which becomes their mantra and then their reality. They expect their English to be perfect and don’t understand that they must accept and relax into their imperfection before perfection is possible. If you’re stuck here, here are some tips:
TIPS TO STABILIZE YOUR FLUENCY
- Relax and cultivate confidence.
- Trust the process that has brought you to this point.
- Recognize that there will be lots of ups and downs.
- Increase dedication to your process. With practice, you will soon be at a new level.
Although it’s one of the most difficult and psychologically challenging phases of learning, with the right approach, it can be used as a quick and natural springboard into higher and more stable levels of proficiency.
While Emerging Fluency is marked by the excitement and frustration of your new communication ability, and the struggle to make it permanent, stable fluency is generally a big relief because the psychological war is over and you finally accept that YOU CAN SPEAK ENGLISH.
The previous Emerging Fluency level is like a child learning how to walk, walking a few steps, falling, getting up again, falling again, trying to adapt a new skill, but the learner who has reached Stable Fluency almost never has trouble walking (although it may not always be easy) and only falls on rare occasions (and he knows how to pick him/herself up).
Communication, in the grand majority of situations, is FINALLY normal and relatively natural for you, even if it’s not perfect. But you know that perfection is a process and you start to see how extremely proficient speakers make mistakes all the time. When you do have problems or make mistakes (as this tends to happen regularly) you know how “go with the flow,” learn from them, and you know that perfection is not required to express yourself in a natural and effective way.
To be at the stage of Stable Fluency, you have to be comfortable speaking, comfortable making mistakes, and comfortable learning from them. You may say “I don’t speak English well” not as something you deeply believe, but as a formality, because you know you can communicate in an effective and natural way.
A native English speaker feels comfortable speaking with you at a normal, or near-normal velocity, and you feel comfortable asking them to repeat, speak slower, or clarify a certain point. You realize that most native speakers will understand that you aren’t a native speaker, and reasonable people don’t expect you to be.
The beauty of this stage is that you feel stable and secure in your communication ability, you feel engaged in the language and the culture, and you have built the platform for more advanced and refined levels of English proficiency, which for the purpose of this article, we’re going to group into MASTERY (which we’ll cover next week).
The challenges of this stage are to fix all major grammar problems, to develop an awareness of all holes in your development (even if they don’t greatly impede communication), and cultivate a lifestyle that promotes consistent contact with native speaking media channels.
While Emerging Fluency is not technically solid fluency, it’s a beautiful but very challenging place to be. Stable Fluency, while not the magical land of perfection that most people expect, is an excellent springboard into higher levels of fluency and mastery, which we will cover in Part III of this article.
Advanced Fluency/ Mastery are levels that very few learners have the privilege of reaching. There are a lot of reasons for this, but IN A NUTSHELL, it demands a special type of person with a special type of process. Learners who reach mastery have at least a few of the following characteristics:
CHARACTERISTICS OF LEARNERS WHO REACH ADVANCED FLUENCY
- A strong DESIRE to reach higher and higher levels of fluency (i.e. perseverance).
- A true ENJOYMENT of the language learning process.
- Constant ACCESS to English speaking culture.
- A clear AWARENESS of their language learning processes.
- Superior EDUCATION or instruction that has helped them learn.
- An exceptional TALENT for language learning/ special ability in this type of intelligence
Stay tuned for the subsequent publication of the 3rd installation of this article, which will deal with ADVANCED FLUENCY/ MASTERY. No matter what your level, remember that fluency is a personal experience, and nobody else can give you the confidence and cultural understanding to speak in a natural, relaxed way, or tell you how well or poorly you speak.
This is something you have to earn through your own experience, which is often painful, but IT IS rewarding. Get support from people who have been through this. We hope this article was helpful, and if you enjoyed it, we would really appreciate it if you could like, share, and we would love to know what you think in the comments below. Your feedback, experiences, and thoughts on the subject are really important not just for us, but also the rest of our readers.
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