Fluency: Language that Flows…
Fluency is one way to speak about a person’s language ability. While the word is sometimes used in a very general sense, as in “She is totally fluent in English,” it is better used to refer to language flow. It is distinguished from accuracy or correctness, though fluency without a modicum of accuracy would be worthless.
When we say someone is fluent in English, we mean that the language can be described as fluid, natural, coherent, and easy as opposed to slow and halting. In other words, fluency is often described as the ability to produce language on demand and be understood. Some experts talk about “automatic language,” meaning that you do not really have to think before you speak. The words and structures are readily available, just like in your native language.
Among English teachers, we generally think of fluency in terms of flow. Thus spoken English fluency means being able to speak easily, with little hesitation, in a given language. For you linguists, fluency comes from the Latin word fluentem meaning “to flow.”
How can you improve your fluency? Here are the essentials.
- Vocabulary and idiom: you must have enough of these building blocks in order to express yourself.
- Grammar: the rules must be internalized so that you do not have to think about them
- Practice: There is no fluency without practice. Like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you will become.
- Control your pace: find the right speed for optimum accuracy and flow.
- Eliminate pauses and pause fillers such as ums, ahs and ughs: these words are bad habits and it is difficult to unlearn them, but you can try!
- Control your nerves: staying calm helps with fluency.
- Maintain good quality input: in other words, listen to fluent speakers.