“I don’t speak,” Bijaz said. “I operate a machine called language. It creaks and groans, but is mine own.”

“Dune Messiah” (1969) by Frank Herbert

Today, the BBC published an article on what it means to be fluent in a language. Fluency might be the unicorn sighting of the second language universe–that thing everyone carries on about and is alleged to exist, but no one ever attains–akin to virtuosity for musicians or happiness for people who have everything and should stop complaining.

What does the word “fluent” actually mean? In lay circles, this term has come to equal “native-level proficient”, with no grey area between the bumbling beginner and the mellifluous master. An outsider overhearing a conversation in a foreign language only hears a fog of sounds, thus perceiving anyone who can cobble together a sentence as “fluent”.

Read the whole article here: BBC: Future – “How Do We Measure Language Fluency?” by Eva Sandoval, September 4th, 2019

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