Recognizing Foreign Language Fluency

24.08.21 06:04 PM
What does it mean to be fluent in a language? 
What are the signs that your child is reaching fluency in Chinese?
boy looks nervous to use Chinese skills with parent

What is fluency anyway?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, fluency is “the ability to speak or write a language easily, well, and quickly”. This definition is probably what you think of when someone says they are fluent in a language. However, when your child learns a language from Key Babel Institute, there are more specific ways to describe fluency. Language learning is like developing a muscle in your mind--it happens slowly, over time, with consistent work. Sometimes we expect to see learners speaking perfect Chinese instantly--but real language fluency takes time and patience to develop. There are some things that you can look for to ensure your child is on the right track during their beginner days. Knowing how to recognize these different signs of developing fluency can help you understand and appreciate what your child is learning with Key Babel, even if you don’t speak Chinese yourself. 

Types of Fluency

The four types of fluency are reading, oral, oral-reading, and written. You can spot them at work in your language learners in the following ways:
  • Reading fluency is the ability to read in a foreign language and understand what is being read easily. If your child can read Chinese characters like like 一(one) , 不(no/not) and 还 (still/also), they’re on the way to developing reading fluency. You can also see reading fluency beginning to form in your language learner when they read short sentences from their Key Babel worksheets and correct their own mistakes when reading. 
  • Oral fluency is the ability to speak easily and understandably, and to respond well when others speak. Your child will show they are beginning to develop oral fluency by responding to the teacher’s Chinese questions during class time, asking questions, and experimenting with new words and sounds in Chinese. You can help with this skill by asking your child to tell you new words they learned in class. See if they can teach you the pronunciation tricks they’ve learned! 

  • Oral-reading fluency is similar to oral fluency, but it includes the ability to read out loud at a natural speed and tone. You’ll see your child’s oral fluency begin to show  when they can read Chinese from picture books and their worksheets out loud smoothly, with natural intonation. They’ll sound native in no time!
  • Written fluency is the ability to write well and expressively  without using a dictionary very much. You’ll see your language learner demonstrate the early stages of writing fluency by practicing their Chinese characters in their workbook, or keeping notes in their Key Babel Chinese study planner.  Encourage your child to keep a Chinese journal and write about their daily thoughts in Chinese--it will help them develop great writing skills! 
While these four expressions of fluency are easy to spot if you know what to look for, it’s equally important to know what fluency is not
Fluency is not just: 
  • Reading really fast

  • Repeating things perfectly

  • Having perfect grammar 100% of the time

  • Never making mistakes

  • Impressing native speakers

  • Overnight language success

The most important thing to remember when supporting your young language learner and checking their progress is that fluency is a process, not a performance. Over time your child will improve their skills until they can demonstrate all four expressions of fluency effectively and communicate with Chinese native speakers easily.
You can do it! 
加油![ jiāyóu ㄐㄧㄚ ㄧㄡˊ  ] 
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Mel Watkins is a freelance writer and blogger based in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a passion for language and literacy which can be seen on her blog EqualOpportunityReader.com. 


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