This session was lead by Richard Simcott who dove deep into the subject of speaking fluently in a language. A fitting title, seeing as he knows 20 languages and his Facebook/blog handle is SpeakingFluently.
Simcott talked about the different levels one can achieve in a language and when/where on the spectrum one is considered fluent. Interestingly enough, there were several different interpretations from the attendees about where on the language scale one can be considered fluent.
Language fluency is often depicted as a mountain, with each level growing closer to the summit. Fluency can also be considered a funnel; the more advanced one gets, the more language content there is to learn. Although this may seem overwhelming, this also makes it seem easier to “touch-up” your current languages. You only need to fill the funnel with a little bit of water and you will regain that level in no time.
Richard explained it’s a lot harder to fill up an empty funnel, because there is a hole in the bottom. When you are first starting out in a language, the funnel needs to be filled almost constantly in order to maintain the first level.
Many attendees were curious about the concept of scaling the intermediate plateau. The polyglots’ response to this: to read authentic content. Reading introduces you to an incredibly rich vocabulary that you would not be exposed to in normal conversation.
In talking about fluency, there is also the idea of “islands of fluency.” You could be fluent in daily conversational topics such as the weather, however the more intangible topics, such as philosophy, might be harder for you. Richard gave the analogy that being conversationally fluent is like swinging from one vine to the next. If you are not sure how to express yourself in a certain topic, that vine could be a mile away and you would land on the jungle floor, wishing you somehow had longer arms. Richard talked about sticking within the realms of what you know, so swinging from vines that are close to one another.
Richard explained how one of the biggest aspects of fluency that people take an interest in is “sounding native,” however, this can be a blessing and a curse. You’ll receive a lot less forgiveness for incorrect words when you have an accent that makes you sound like a native speaker. Richard suggested that instead of accent, you should work on pronunciation.
One of the biggest questions language learners have is how to overcome the intermediate plateau. The polyglots explained that reading is one of the only ways to get you over that hill. By reading, you are exposed to a much richer vocabulary than you would experience in conversations.
Not to add a shameless plug here, but Mango is currently developing a reading app to help you to increase your vocabulary through reading. We’re also including as many tools as you may need in order to better understand authentic content. You can sign up to be a beta tester and try this innovative new tool below. (Psst! You’ll get cool, free swag by doing so).
Mango Languages has had an amazing time experiencing the polyglot community’s enthusiasm first hand. We can’t wait to see how the community grows in the next year and hope to be able to continue to play a part in helping these incredible language learners keep spreading the joy of multilingualism.
We hope to be able to see everyone next year in Thessaloniki, Greece!
Mango Innovations Team