Language Fluency: How do you know when you have it?

“So, how do you think your Spanish is?” This is a question I’ve been asked recently, as I complete 3 of my 4.5 months abroad, by my host mom, my biological mom, and friends. This is another one of those questions that is hard to answer from my own perspective. Though I am not the one listening to myself speak each day, throughout my experience, it is incredible to look back on the first 3 months and see the growth that has occurred in my language ability!

When I arrived in Ecuador, I had just finished a summer and semester without taking any Spanish classes. I knew the vocabulary, and speaking would come back to me, but I felt apprehensive about academically using my Spanish. I knew my grammar would need a great deal of help, and let’s face it, my vocabulary was really quite small. Since I have had some shorter experiences abroad in the past, I was in an awkward in between stage of needing to try to translate things in my head before speaking, and just starting to talk out loud. I was confident that I would be able to get my point across and talk with anyone I needed to conversationally, but I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect.

Throughout the course of the semester, I have improved in every area of using the Spanish language! This brings up the question once again, “So, are you fluent?” While I am obviously not a native speaker, it is universally recognized that I can’t become a native speaker. Yes, I am fluent in Spanish, and this semester has helped me accomplish my primary goals I have for using the language. As a business major, my goal is to use Spanish as a supplemental skill to my future professional life. Most importantly, I want to have the conversational capacity to develop meaningful relationships.

The fact of the matter is that there is always more to learn, whether I am speaking English or Spanish (honestly, my Spanish grammar is probably better than my English). In a world where we are never done learning, we will continue to learn and grow and strengthen our skills. As I explained to my mom just this past week, it is sometimes hard to gauge how I am doing when I am not listening to myself. However, I am thankful for the confidence that I have gained to be able to use the language wherever I am, knowing that I will be understood and respected in a colloquial or professional manner.

I feel so blessed to have this experience abroad; for an entire semester to be immersed! Dominating another language is something that requires taking the time to be fully immersed, and it is an opportunity foreign to the United States in comparison to the rest of the world. I don’t know where my professional life will take me, but I am thankful for the acquired skill of Spanish that I am ready and capable to use in the future!

 

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