yourself easily and articulately', ' to speak or write language easily & accurately'; but the key is in the word 'fluent' itself; from the Latin 'fluere', fluency should be flowing & smooth.
Getting that flow, is bigger than the nuances of the individual components of a language, greater than just the structure, the spelling, grammar or pronunciation. Its primarily about its communication and for that you need empathy.
You can know all the words, have a grasp of the grammar and understand the written & read text, but without empathy for that language & its culture, your communication will not ' flow'.
One of the best examples of this is in the use of body language which communicates the meaning, not just directly, but also indicates you have a knowledge beyond the actual words.
Travelling in India some years ago the men in the group became fascinated with the head actions of Indian males towards them. In the male world misinterpreting body language is potentially a dangerous activity and, if not read correctly, can end up in a fight. Described as drawing a figure of eight whilst your head is suspended from a fixed point, each guy in the group was intent to master this, so as to fit the cultural norm & stay safe. Turns out it is done increasingly when the person is anxious or nervous, but a lack of this action shows a lack of understanding on the part of the listener.
So it was a few years ago in rural France when there was a minor dispute about who was entitled to put animals on our land. Based on confusion between the local farmer and a French horse breeder, both of whom believed they could put their respective animals on our land, my husband Ron set about resolving this potential dispute. It was not an insolvable problem, but in dialect French and French body language, not easy.
It went like this:
- Farmer & Horseman stand facing each other, closer than English norm.
- Ron stands equally close feeling uncomfortable.
- Two Frenchman put their hands on their hips & continue talking.
- Ron copies the action looking confused.
- Frenchmen's voices get louder & arms are crossed.
- Ron slowly, uncertainly crosses his arms.
- Ron attempts to intercede.
- More loud French upward turned palms & classic shrug.
- Ron stands still, unsure.
- Frenchmen shake hands vigorously clap each othe on the back & laugh.deal done!
- Ron laughs nervously, deal done, not sure what!
- Two Frenchmen, resolved, "Calvados monsieur,ah oui"
It turns out that they simply agreed to share the land & put both cows & horse on the land. It wasn't a problem, but it wasn't just the words that communicated the interaction it was the actions and it only flowed in French.
People often refer to the Gaelic shrug but like all languages there are so many degrees of any one action & so many possible actions, your fluency depends on your imitative skills.
I found this out recently, because I am very good at mimicking facial & body actions, I don't think about it I just find myself doing them & have become quite proficient in female French body language. Problem is my actual spoken language does not always match my non verbal communication, so fellow conversationalists will often assume I know much more than I do & talk even faster, assuming complete comprehension. Suddenly the conversation came to a question, there was a silence, all eyes turned to me! I shrugged as best I could and uttered the cover all local phrase, 'bah non', it seemed to work, but I was left only half sure what I'd disagreed with.
You need all the aspects of communication to be fluent. Unfortunately in my case recently I was more, 'going with the flow' than 'flowing'.Still, as the advert advises, 'Every little helps' and I do love France!
'bah oui...exactement...bah oui'