Fluency in a language (Conversation(speaking/listening) and I guess for writing, but not really reading)

Would you say the average 3 or 4 year old child was fluent in their native language. I would say yes. I say this because they are confident in their ability to communicate in that language for it to be useful to them. I think that is the definition of fluency, not knowing as many words as a university educated person, not even knowing as many words as a high-school graduate. Just being able to use the language. I think many second language speakers have a tendancy to compare themselves to native adult speakers or to their own level in their own native language. The they say, “aw man, in my first language I would be able to talk about ANYTHING, but in this new language, I can barely string together a sentence. I suck in this new language therefore.” This is a mistake. The reality is that knowing maybe 500 words, the right 500 words, of a second language is not “sucking”. That is just seeing the cup as half empty. I think in the past I have done this, and part of why is because social ability in a language is a social cue. If taken out of the context of it being a second language, having only 500 or only 100 words to work with makes a person seems less intelligent. Especially trying to communicate, for fun, genuine communication, with only 100 words. It could feel like I’m saying, I think what I know is enough, and that is why I am willing to speak to you with only these words. It’s like I’m presenting myself as someone who only needs 100 or so words or as if I am that simple minded. I mean that’s how it could look to me, when a second language speaker of English talks to me. It can often look like they are less intelligent. I mean, a lot of people are very simple minded actually, and I am really not, so I definitely feel like it would be a struggle to have my personality shine through in a second language.

So I think people are not worried about if they can survive in the language or anything as frustrating as that. It’s purely a social pressure to sound smart. Also I’ve felt like, if you speak a bit of Chinese and no one is expecting it you will seem very cool for a few days, but then people will get bored of it and think, “so are you getting any better or are you content with where you are at?”. People may not want to talk to someone who’s language ability isn’t good enough to have a decent conversation. So it’s all social pressure that most people judge their language ability on. Now, I don’t think it is wrong to feel this way. I mean, I want to talk to people and have them feel comfortable around me and enjoy talking to me.

What I think though is that the size of vocab has little bearing on how smart you come across or how fun you are to talk to. I think you can communicate a lot with very few words if you learn the most important words and can improvise with them in intelligent ways. For example if you learned the word blonde in french, you can also use it as “dumb”, I mean this is offensive and from what I’ve experienced, has no truth behind it but it’s an example. There is a lot you can do with few words and it forces you to be creative which I am hypothesizing will be more attractive and show more intelligence and allow for more conversation, than knowing more words but not feeling comfortable with them. So what I think is that fluency is not about how many words you know, but how you use those words. I think fluency is lexicon independent just as I think communication is language independent.

Another problem that I’ve even had in my first language which carried over to my second was conversation skills in general. Especially with women. Things I’ve worked on are how to keep a conversation going mainly by asking about the other person, or commenting on what I notice about them. Also just talking about things I find interesting. I used to be so caught up in goals that conversation outside of my goals was hard and seemed meaningless and fake. Now that I see it as a very good method of making a potential friend for life or even more, I put effort into getting conversation skills down. On top of this, and very important was my ability to be funny which I do often by just observing something absurd in my environment and maybe restating it in an even more funny way by connecting it to something else ect. Even just saying silly stuff, being absurd. I think if you want to learn another language you need to be fluent in your first language first, and you aren’t if you can’t use it to do the things you want. If you can’t hold a conversation in your first language, if you don’t know the mindset you need to have of entertaining yourself and sharing entertainment, ect, then doing so in another language will only be harder. Well, you can be fluent in reading a language. If that’s all you want then go for it and in that case vocab will be more important because you can’t ask the words to explain themselves in a more simple way. If you want to be fluent like holding a conversation, you don’t need to many words, just know how to use them to have an enjoyable experience with someone.

I enjoy trying to get the most results for the least effort that’s why I am researching and put together this method. So my method as it stands, is basically learn 10 to 200 verbs, plus a few common words like I you , ect, plus how to conjugate the verbs, and all the while focus on using those verbs in as many ways as possible. Learning the verbs alone using mnemonics and also through sentences to help you learn the conjugations and more words is probably optimal. hearing the sentences and especially the verbs is also important for pronunciation and comprehension.


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