Over on Mutantfrog Travelogue, a post went up earlier this week called “My Japanese sucks and always will.” The post talks about how the author, somebody who’s a long-time student of Japanese, passed the JLPT 1, and has worked and lived in Japan for several years, still doesn’t feel like his Japanese is good enough.

As a student of Japanese, this is probably the most discouraging thing in the world to hear. You might think, “if even he doesn’t feel good about his Japanese, how can I?”

But if you go beyond the article and into the discussion, there’s a bit more than meets the eye.

Reading through the comments, there are plenty of people who empathize with the author, saying that they’re in a similar place.

One the other hand, there are lots of people who say that the author is too hard on himself.

The JLPT And Other Standards Of Japanese Fluency

When you start talking about Japanese fluency, probably the first topic that comes up is the JLPT, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test for the uninitiated.

The JLPT is a test given a couple times a year by the Japanese government to foreigners who want to prove their Japanese language skills. When it comes to Japanese tests, the JLPT is the most widely-recognized and legit test out there.

Unfortunately, the JLPT isn’t a perfect test. It’s a multiple-choice test, so your written and verbal skills (which are important if you ever want to, y’know, talk to people) are never tested.

But if the JLPT isn’t the marker of fluency, then what is? This is where things get a bit hazy, and definitions of fluency become pretty arbitrary.

Everybody seems to have their own standards. Is fluency when you’re able to hold a translation job? Is it when you’re able to have a conversation with a stranger?

The weirdest standard of fluency I saw from the article comments was being able to have an affair with somebody entirely in Japanese. I guess that’s one way to see it.

If there’s disagreement on what it means to be fluent in Japanese, then it might be easier to figure out what it means to be fluent in your native language. How do you know that you’re fluent in your mother tongue?

Native Fluency

Even in your native language, there will be times when you forget words, stumble to find the right ones, and find words inadequate. Language is a big, complex, and imperfect form of human expression.

It’s scary to think about, but in your mother tongue, you only speak a very, very small piece of the language. Your accent and dialogue isn’t the norm everywhere, you don’t know the slang of every subculture, and you’re definitely not familiar with all technical terms.

“Mmm, quite.”

So when people say things like “you’re only fluent in Japanese if you know the on’yomi and kun’yomi of all the Joyo Kanji,” think about what that means in your own language.

What would the English-language equivalent of this be? The closest I can think of would be learning a slew of SAT vocab words, then breaking them down and identifying their Latin roots.

I’d like to think that my English skills are pretty good, but that seems like a tall order. Would you expect any given fluent English speaker to do that much?

Don’t hold yourself to a higher standard in Japanese than you do in your own language.

What You Should Aim For

If you study Japanese and were discouraged by “My Japanese sucks and always will,” don’t be. This kind of frustration is normal when you’re learning something new, but you shouldn’t view it as a permanent setback.

Instead, you should see this as an opportunity to learn from people who have been studying Japanese longer than you, people who hit obstacles before you do.

As a Japanese student, set actionable, concrete goals for yourself instead of saying you want to be “fluent.” Fluency is a big, abstract goal that isn’t really helpful to anybody.

But if you instead set a definite goals for yourself, you’ll be able to hit the mark.

To read more of the discussion, check out the article here, take a look at the Gakuranman’s Google+ post, or follow the conversation on Reddit.

[Header image source.]

  • Anna Marie Pesut

    Thanks for this article…I’ve been studying Japanese for 7 years, and am majoring in it in college, and I still don’t feel like I’m any good at it. I guess I just gotta keep setting goals for myself!

  • Paul

    I agree that the JLPT isn’t a good measure of fluency, but it is a metric. Granted there are exceptions, but most people who have been exposed to enough Japanese to pass 一級 or 二級 are, in my experience, good at speaking (and maybe writing, I dunno), too. It’s certainly possible to just study listening and reading and suck at the other parts of the language, but kind of counter-intuitive.

  • Michael

    Don’t hold yourself to a higher standard in Japanese than you do in your own language.”
    I’d never really thought about that way before: thanks :D  All these people (me included) are aiming for “perfect Japanese”, but not even natives have “perfect Japanese” when you think about it.  You should really aim for a point where you are making mistakes only every so often, instead of ” 100% perfect accuracy and no mistakes whatsoever”.  If you *can* reach the perfect stage, kudos, but it’s not a reasonable goal for the majority, I don’t think.

    I think even if you forget how to say things sometimes, certain words and/or grammar escape you, the true test of “fluency” is if you can still get across the same point by talking around it.  If you can express everything you want to express – any thought that might come into your head – even if the way you say it isn’t particularly native or verbose, that’s fluent enough to me.

  • Stephanie J Maas

    Wow, thanks for the enlightenment, there! I am a rather anxious person by nature, so even when I speak my native English, I often stumble on my words. I never thought to make that connection with my Japanese for some reason! My friends, family, and even past classmates have told me I am fluent in Japanese (on some level or another), now maybe I can actually consider believing them :) Just gotta find some way to keep it up now that I’m a recent college grad. ps- one life goal = pass the JLPT1.

  • Mescale

    If you ask a linguist their most favouritest question ever. “Which language is the hardest to learn?”

    One of their many answers might be.

    The one you don’t want to learn.

    My point here is that if you don’t think you’ll ever be fluent then you have the wrong attitude, you are building a barrier to success straight away, and its a barrier that you can’t cross easily because you made it yourself and it doesn’t exist.

    To do anything to get better at it just requires two things, not setting up mental barriers for yourself, and just doing it.

    If you don’t think your fluency is improving, speak more Japanese, reading, writing, is nice, keep doing it, but its only through actively speaking with Japanese people you will find yourself improving, and keep doing it and then one day you’ll realise you are fluent and you didn’t even notice it happening. 

    And if you can’t just do it, you need to break down your mental barriers you’ve constructed to stop yourself from succeeding. And then when you finally realise there is nothing holding you back, you just do it.

    Either that or I’ve been watching too much Anime and taking weird morals from the story’s, am I crazy, I mean in Kaleido Star the protagonist just didn’t think about it and just did it right, it worked for her right, I’m not crazy am I? Sure you can say its just a cartoon, but its only a cartoon because that is what you are making it right, make it real and then you know, if she can do it, so can you.

    Also never ask a linguist what the hardest language to learn is, its their least favourite question.

  • Satoshideath

    Great post, Hashi-san. I always think that people misunderstand what fluency means and what not and why a pragmatic approach to it should disregard fluency.

  • Kathris

    In my opinion, you can determine your fluency in a language that you’re learning when you realise that what you just said makes perfect sense but if you had to translate it to your native language, it would sound stupid.

  • x_stei

    I’ve been wondering about this for a bit now. I’m translating a currently airing Jdrama but I don’t consider myself nearly “fluent”. I’ve got no plans to take the JLPT any time soon, and even less plans to becoming more “fluent” in Japanese. I know I am passive about my Japanese learning…. =/.

    I suppose the goal at the moment is to finish the series without giving up. And then maybe do the one year JET stint after graduation. Hah. *daydreaming*

  • Layla Nascimento

    For me being fluent in a language is to be able to watch a movie/cartoon and be able to understand the story with minors doubts about “strange/not so used” words. English is not my native language, I’ve studied for more than 10 years (English Language school + college) and I do think I have a “not bad” knowledge (and confidence) to speak with others. And that’s the goal I have in mind while studying Japanese!!! The first step is to be able to understand a kid’s show then a j-drama and… how knows, maybe the news! :D

    Ps. Sorry my English :3

  • Lauren

    Thanks for this. I’ve picked up some Japanese here and there, have been doing my own studying (Learning hiragana and katakana, few words) and I plan on taking Japanese when I start college. For me, I’ll be happy with being able to understand Japanese when it’s spoken or written. I guess I consider it fluent if you are able to speak and understand the language of everyday life…not every single detail that most people don’t use to get by.

  • Christian Opperman

    I’ve always told myself I’ll consider myself fluent (in any language) when I can:
    a) have a conversation on any standard topic at the level a native speaker would (the standard bit is important – I couldn’t hold a conversation about triple-bypass surgery technicalities in English, let alone a foreign language).  That basically translates to having little to none grammatical errors in my speech (and when they are present they’re minor and natural), and without having to grasp for words that would readily come to a native speaker.
    b) be able to read a book at a general audience (again, technical manuals are right out) without having to look up more than the occasional word, if at all.

    That being said, I’m pretty critical of myself in my native language, so I guess that carries over into my foreign language self-evaluations as well.

  • Stuart Ferguson

    Spot on. Great post. Its so easy to get stuck in the minutiae. I suppose its all about relevance and what your gonna do with it instead of attaining an ideal of perfection.

  • Stephen Knight

    There are some standards specific to Japanese that you might want to use as measuring sticks, and others that are more generally applicable to learning any language. For example, can you use *keigo* appropriately in a business setting or on the phone?  (And don’t be fooled by young people who say it’s fallen out of fashion–it’s still a critical skill in business.). How much of the NHK nightly news can you understand without looking at the screen (there’s a reason for all the subtitles–partly to avoid any confusion from homonyms)? On more of a daily living level (and assuming you are living in Japan), do you still handle numbers in your head in your native language, or can you “think” numbers–counting money, etc.–in Japanese naturally, without having to do mental conversions? (Some people consider this the last a sign that one has arrived at true fluency in any language, though I don’t necessarily agree…). Other less concrete measures:  Could you sit in on a freshman-level general college course and follow the instruction at the same level as your fellow (native speaking) students? Do you find yourself generally understood (without extraneous explanation/repetition) in daily conversation? Can you get through most of a newspaper? How about a general-interest magazine? (In Japanese, this requires the added skill of knowing how to navigate the page, which should certainly be considered part of “fluency” in reading.). Do you still carry an accent over from your native language? (Many people discount this as a measure of fluency, and indeed, I know people–mostly academics–with much larger vocabularies and more sophisticated speaking skills than my own who still have a strong accent. But *perceptually* I think an accent can be a barrier to being accepted as fluent by native speakers.).

    Etc., etc. As other comments have noted, you have to set your own incremental goals, in combination with objective measures like the JLPT, to determine where you are in your own progress versus where you’d like to be. My earliest metric, when I was still a sophomore in college and spending my first year studying the language in Japan, was how much of the announcements on city buses I could understand. By the end of my second year, I was up to about 90% on most of the routes I rode–even unfamiliar ones–which gave me confidence to keep on working.  

  • Mali

    nice article!
    To me “fluent” means to be able to communicate in a language…well fluently. Without thinking much for the right words, being able to understand what the partner is saying and to reply to it naturally. Just keeping a conversation. To me it’s enough, or would be enough, to be able to talk to japanese friends, read the newspaper and understand the TV. And maybe use Keigo not too wrong ^^ But I really dont need or want to be able to have conversation in really specific topics..

  • James O’Neill

    The best definition of fluency I have encountered is the point where the language becomes a ‘closed loop’, meaning that you can (1) stumble naturally and (2) use Japanese to learn more Japanese.
    I’m actually beginning to think that one of the best early goals that somebody starting out can have is to pick up a few authentic pauses and hesitations and learn to use them naturally before they worry about being correct in their language use.

  • Eggers Christopher

    Thanks Hashi, I never realized that a dart board was really a small round Imperial flag. Sorry, I don’t read too well, so I just looked at the pictures.

  • Fred

    Nice article. 
    In my opinion I think you can say you’re (almost) fluent if you can stand a phone call and read a book in a chosen language.
    When I learned English (I’m a native French speaker lol) I found speaking on the phone to be the most difficult thing to do, you don’t have the person in front of you so there’s no gesture to rely on and sometimes you don’t even have a context (when someone calls you out of the blue to ask you something you didn’t expect for example).
    But then again it’s the highest standard you can can consider in my opinion. I can communicate in Spanish or Italian, even read a newspaper article (and understand it, mas o menos lol) and it’s plenty sufficient. Eventually if you can communicate one way or another, even though it’s far from perfect, you can be proud of yourself.

    It’s a nice idea to switch side and wonder what you consider as acceptable in your native language since usually people are very tolerant toward someone trying to speak his language. Even though the person might be struggling some, people recognize your efforts and are somewhat grateful for it.

  • David @ Ogijima

    I find this whole discussion(s) both fascinating and a bit strange too.
    I wonder how many people are monolingual, bilingual, trilingual or more among the people taking part.

    Some people seem to think there is a clear limit between fluent and not fluent. Well, there is none.
    I also make a difference between fluent and bilingual.
    The way I see it, “Fluent” is being able to function in a language with little to no help.
    “Bilingual” is being as close as possible to native level. But it’s all very subjective.

    So if we divide the language in the four usual skills, that gives something like:
    – Reading: Can I read a basic text, let’s say the newspaper?
    – Writing: Can I write a piece about a common topic?
    – Listening: Can I understand what people are telling me?
    – Speaking: Can I get my point across when I say something to somebody?

    If you can answer “yes” to the four questions, you’re fluent. As simple as that.

    The thing is that fluent for one person is not fluent for the other person. People have different standards and people live different lives in different environment.
    So, in the end there is no such thing as an absolute “fluency” it’s all relative.

  • Ezra

    I agree. The pauses and hesitations is a huge aspect of being perceived as fluent.  I remember reading about a study where they had people listen to recordings with the natural pauses/hesitations and without and the ones with the natural pauses and hesitations in them were always picked as more fluent.

  • Kamizushi Akinari

    Sure, that’s what it means to learn a second language. My English sucks and always will, yet I use it at work or on the internet daily and it works just fine. Sure I have a heavy French accent and my attempt to hide it are futile but who cares. People understand me just fine and I understand them even better so I guess it’s all right.

  • Hikosaemon

    I did a blog on this myself last year –!/2011/05/what-is-it-to-be-fluent-in-language.html 

    People seem to get so hung up on fluency without realizing what it really means, or even considering that by some measures, they are not fluent in aspects of their own language.

    To me, situational fluency is actually a much easier goal than a high degree of technical proficiency, yet many people I admire for being more learned than me confess to having  a complex about lack of fluency, as Adam from Mutantfrog here did.

    Point is that fluency is subjective and situational. I feel bad for people hopelessly trying to jump straight into parallel fluency. It’s an admirable but false goal. It’s not about vocab, grammar, predisposition or intelligence either. It’s 90% just conditioning, repetition and patience. That’s the really good news, really. ANYONE can be fluent in another language, so long as they can accept the reversal process in terms of ability communicate, and be patient to do things in bite sized chunks, the same way we did as little kids.

  • Lan

    It occurs to me that being a translator isn’t ideal for attaining native-level fluency, since while your understanding would be quite deep, most of your daily output would be focused on English.

  • Akbar

    Nice article, a lot of people are gonna want to talk about this i’m sure. 

  • Tuzzer

    I have been learning Japanese for two years. At times, I was also thinking that perhaps I will never master the language. But then I thought about the time when I was learning English.

    I was born in Hong Kong and only moved to Canada when I was in secondary school. (I sometime hear that some people think that most Hong Kong people can speak English…. I thought that is ridiculous… Maybe because I was from the “countryside” of Hong Kong, but I know I didn’t speak English, nor my parents, nor anyone that I knew who are living in Hong Kong). During that time, I remembered that I was struggling so much. In class, I didn’t understand a word that people say. I relied on the few classmates who can speak a bit of Cantonese. I thought that I will never be able to learn English and speak fluently as a normal Canadian would.

    Fast forward to present time, and I realized that I have already been living in Canada for 9 years! Still, if you talk with me for long enough, you might still be able to catch some Cantonese (or a mix of a bunch other languages) accents. If I try to talk and write really fast, I might sometime make many grammatical errors. My vocabulary is not as rich as most native-born Canadian. I sometime stumble when I try to explain some complex ideas. And as you can see here…. my writing is not elegant at all.

    But I do consider myself as fluent speaker… (or even as a native speaker, especially when I was in Japan where the people can’t really tell). If I can’t say that, I guess I simply don’t speak any language fluently. My writing skill in English is a lot better than my Chinese writing skill (I haven’t written anything long in Chinese since I moved to Canada). There are more occasions when I couldn’t come up with the right words, and I found it harder to explain complex ideas in Cantonese. Most importantly, I do do all my thinking in English.
    Some people say that you can only be considered native speaker of a language if you think in that language. I don’t think so, because when I talk with myself, I don’t need the perfect grammar or a lot of vocabs. It’s sort of like thinking in my own form of English. In fact, right now, when I speak Japanese, I don’t think in English; I think in Japanese directly…. even though my level of Japanese is nowhere near fluency.

    As you pointed out, I think fluency and native-ness is a really ambiguous term. I think that language is actually a complex set of skills. It actually takes efforts to learn, even for your “native language” (whatever that means to you). I believe that there’s a continuum of fluency, and with different branches. In certain context (likely those you encounter often in your daily life), you have higher fluency, and in some not as fluent.
    I actually don’t see what’s the need to label ones as fluent or not fluent. I think it’s just a matter of how easy one is being understood. For example, it’s easier and quicker to communicate with friends than some university professor in another field.

  • Tuzzer

    I think it’s not simple. What if someone who can read and write fluently, but not speak and listen? And vice versa. Back in time, when literacy was a privilege of the rich, most fluent speakers of a language cannot read and write. However, I would argue that they are still fluent speakers.

    What if in languages, such as Chinese, which the writing and speaking aspects are different? In ancient China, the grammars and words used in writing are very very different from spoken Chinese. In other word, people speak one way and write another way. Even now, if a person from Hong Kong who cannot write the standard form of Chinese, but can write in transliteration of Cantonese… is he or she a fluent in Cantonese or Chinese??

  • Rob Cole

    What constitutes fluency is incredibly obvious. You need to be able to talk fluently. That means that your speech is natural, fast, and accurate. You react in a Japanese way and tend to express ideas from a Japanese perspective. You can’t get that by studying, or taking some test, or memorising on/kun readings etc. You have to live with native speakers, talk with them everyday, and have a wealth of practical experiences where are lived through the target language. Go work in a Japanese company (where no one speaks English), live in a Japanese family (where no one speaks English), or get a Japanese girlfriend (whose English is worse than your Japanese), and as long as you’ve learned most of the common vocab previously, then you’ll be “fluent” with 1 – 2 years. There’s nothing magic about it!

  • Jonadab

    When you can have normal everyday conversations in the language, and you don’t have to unnaturally restrict the topic to language-textbook subjects (food, weather, etc), that’s called being “conversant”.  This is a lesser standard than fluency, but it’s a very important step.

    The definition of “fluent” that I have always gone by is, whenever you’re having a conversation in the language, you don’t have to mentally translate things to another language and then translate your reply back.  You can just understand what’s said in the language and answer in that language, directly.  You know the meaning of everything that’s said without needing to relate it to wording in some other language.  

    Japanese is one of the few languages for which verbal fluency is easier to achieve than basic literacy.  I’m literate in a couple of languages in which I am nowhere near fluent.  (In Japanese, I’m neither.)

  • guyhey

    In Japan I’d ask if someone spoke English and 9 out of 10 times they’d say “little bit” in a sheepish voice. After that they’d speak English better than any American high school student. My point is they feel the same way about our language.

  • Julie

    This is a really encouraging and positive article. I love Hashi!
    Koichi, you need to keep this guy!

  • Horror Chan

    After studying Spanish for 4 years of my high school career I’m better at reading than speaking or writing. xD I have to look up verbs, verb conjugations, and old/new words every now or so. I just get all nervous when it comes to talking or writing to people in Spanish. I worry that I’ll mess up but making mistakes are okay. Everyone makes them. People need to have a little more confidence when it comes to using a different language. 

  • Hashi

    I don’t know how I missed your blog from last year, but I’ll definitely check it out now. Thanks for mentioning us in your video, by the way! I really enjoyed it

  • RainSprite67

    I think “fluency” might be when you can think in the language, not just speak it. Because even in English, there’s many different types of fluency, and it’s really hard to evaluate. I must admit though it’s a bit discouraging when I see people making comments saying they’ve been studying Japanese for many years and they still don’t feel fluent in it. I’m currently in my 2nd year of Japanese

  • guyhey

     I have to agree. Hearing people say that knocked some wind out of my sails as well.

    I try to focus on why I’m doing it, and that I was planning on doing it for the long term anyway, and even if I never master it that it’s a good hobby for the mind.

  • Ramoncoutinho

    be able to read newspaper in Japanese?

  • Empathyart

    I think you’re fluent when you can watch a genuinely good stand up in the language you are learning and get it

  • Leah

    “Fluency is a big, abstract goal that isn’t really helpful to anybody. But if you instead set a definite goals for yourself, you’ll be able to hit the mark.”

    One of the things I like best about my new N1 kanji/vocab book is that it’s teaching me to write/remember/use stupidly easy household terms I still don’t know like “clothespins” and everyday medical terms like “mucus membrane”–makes me feel like a grownup in Japanese!

  • Siri

    “Language is a big, complex, and imperfect form of human expression.”
    How true! Every time I don’t seem to find the right word to express something, or I see how one small word could be interpreted in so many ways, it really shows that words can’t surpass feelings. This article was really inspiring! Thanks!

  • Lee McGeough

    I could say that I have been learning Japanese for 2 years but to be honest, I feel I haven’t. I know Hiragana, some words, some Kanji but I haven’t been consistent with my Japanese learning. I love Japan and I love learning Japanese but at the moment I am learning about my social anxiety, so I have put Japanese on the back burner. Consistency is key here. I will be moving out soon from my parents home, which means I will have loads of quietness (Which is rare here) and then I shall dive into my Japanese Language pool and binge as much as I like while staying consistent of course. ^^;

    I have a lifetime account at Textfugu, so I will be heading there when I do. I love how much it has improved! ^^ 

  • Javierj

    I have found that learning to use such pauses etc. in a natural way and having developed a more authentic Japanese accent works both for and against.

    The benefit is that people perceive you as far more fluent than you actually are – they don’t feel obliged to try and dumb-down their conversation, they relax and feel more comfortable.

    But that brings an immense problem. Once they assume I am more fluent their conversation speeds up and jumps to a far higher level, usually way beyond anything I can understand. And my Japanese is not at a level where I just miss the odd word or two – I’m missing all except the odd word or two! 

    I’m then left with the dilemma of trying to pretend I understand when in fact I only have a vague gist of what they’re saying. Or admitting that I don’t understand in which case the other person feels embarrassed and awkward…

  • Kate V.

    Bittersweet as this may sound, but it feels good to know that other Japanese learners also feel the same way as I do as well. Only recently it clicked that fluency itself is quite a fluid concept and this article only reaffirms that again.  So thank you for sharing and hopefully other people will read this and feel a bit more rest assured that all those baby steps they take initially will turn into giant strides later on. :) Now, time to hit le books and getta me some more language knowledge. Xx

  • emma

    Great point! Although I would say it takes a bit more to be considered “fluent” (e.g. the definition for fluency in terms of writing might be different), I think this is a really good and useful guideline. 
    I would not be able to read, listen or so on in Japanese without mentally translating words, but I can (and do) in English so this has definitely given me a clearer idea of what being fluent in a foreign language means. 

  • KanzaiGaijin

    Yeah when you’re thinking in Japanese, while speaking to an American person. That is a sign that you’re Japanese is top notch… But this also can be bad because you might not remember, the word you want to say in English but you can say it in Japanese… Sadly this is what wrong with me because when I studied the vocab, I forgot the original English word.. for example when I study the vocab & kanji for HANA, I told myself Hana is flower multiple times… so when my friend ask me to bring him some flowers for his mom. I was like… what are flowers again? and when he told me.. I was like.. oh yeah.. its Hana lol I didn’t say Flowers :P

  • KanzaiGaijin

    Sorry I meant to say that, When I was studying Hana, I pictured Flowers , and kept saying this is Hana, this is Hana….and I erase the word Flower from my mind.. So I incorporated Hana with an Image and totally forgot the word Flower. Sorry If I got you confused.

  • AnadyLi

    Hey, I have a similar problem with my Chinese! I’m actually trying to learn Japanese/Chinese at the same time, but problems include but are not limited to:
    * I’ve technically started learning Chinese as a second mother tongue since I started from… my baby days. Do I think I’m fluent in every aspect? HELL NO.
    * I’m only using Japanese as an excuse to try Japanese candy, read manga, and watch anime. Plus, I started only recently (within past year or so) and it’s passive learning.

  • irinuca

    What book is that?
    (I’ve been thinking about taking the N1 next year, so I’m looking for study material)

  • Dokosan

    Another great post by Koichi’s adept and son, Hashi.

  • bobballs

    to be honest I think this definition of fluency doesn’t take too long… Surprisingly I’ve found speaking foreign languages much easier than understanding them, and I think my definition of fluency therefore has become much more centred around the understanding than the talking.

    For me when you can just talk and listen almost effortlessly is fluent.

  • Lava Yuki

    For me, fluency is being able to talk about all kinds of topics, read various books, understand the news abd tv shows and video games, able to write compositons, and be able to express feelings, opinion, as well as hold intellectual discussions. Thats what im aiming for, especially being able to play video games all in japanese nd understand at leadt 95%.

  • Silver Sabrewulf

    What it means to be fluent is a somewhat personal question. Obviously one of the criteria is to be highly proficient, but that is a nebulous term in and of itself. To me, personally, fluency in a language means having a proficiency in the target language similar to my native language.

    – Read newspapers, novels, forums on the internet, blogs
    – Have every day conversations about a wide variety of topics
    – Be able to understand any mainstream movie and TV show
    – Be able to understand, write and speak about my hobbies and interests in great detail, including philosophy, lucid dreaming, playing guitar, video games and so on.

    I would not expect to be able to understand even an introductory text about mathematics or chemistry, but I’d be just as lost reading about that in English as I would be in any other language. Basically, all I’m able to do in English, as far as reading, writing, listening and speaking go, I want to be able to do in whatever target language as well. When I’m roughly near that point, that’s when I’ll start calling myself fluent. This does exclude some cultural things that are too language-specific, of course (but that goes both ways).

    And one last thing, a goal I always set for myself: I want to rid myself of my foreign accent as much as possible. But that’s not necessarily a prerequisite for fluency, as long as you’re understood. That’s merely a personal obsession of mine.

  • Aaron Sannicolas

    i think being fluent in a language is being able to express what is in your mind. being able to add your own style to it and being able to make up new sentences without having to think very much. cuz in ur native tongue you dont memorize phrases to say to people you sort of just IMPROVISE. So i would say one of the most important things to test ur fluency is if u can IMPROVISE wit the language ur speaking.

  • Aaron Sannicolas

    this is kind of a weird way to think but……try to clear ur mind of all english thoughts.and just learn like a baby and a kid does. babies and kids dont translate from language to language they just imitate even if they dont know wat they are sayin. even in english i jus now understand som of the phrases ive been sayin my whole life,just because i never really thougt about it much i jus say it and use it how ive seen other people use it.