The Mezzofanti Guild Language Learning Made Simple
Podcasts   /   Episode #32

[Ep. #32] Fluency Does Not Equal Proficiency


  • People often confuse the terms “fluency” and “proficiency” and use them synonymously.
  • Asking people¬†“how many languages are you fluent in?” is difficult to answer because it has such a muddy definition and people often mean to say ‘proficient’.
  • ‘Proficiency’ refers directly to your skill level.
  • ‘Fluency’ literally refers to the speed and flow of what comes out of your mouth as you speak.
  • My original definition of fluency is ‘being able to use your target language to acquire more target language’ but my thinking has evolved on this point.
  • These days I use ‘fluency’ to refer to the flow of your speaking and reserve ‘proficiency’ for skill.
  • Fluency and proficiency can overlap.
  • You can be highly proficient but have poor fluency on topics that you’re unfamiliar with.

Related blog post:

I wrote in detail about the difference between proficiency and fluency here.

Resources: For spoken fluency training, I highly recommend Glossika.

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic) and simplifying language learning.
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