Ask Bee — Are you fluent in Korean?

This is a question I get really often! Am I fluent in Korean?

Yes, and no!

If you consider fluency as an absolute, where one either is fluent and able to hold their own in all contexts, then I would say no. However, I think we should conceptualize fluency as a spectrum, or at least in different areas. Looking at it that way, I would say I am fluent in some areas and not others, and this is honestly how most people are in their first language. For example, I can’t really talk about science or, say, geography in Korean, but I can’t do that in English either! In neither English nor Korean am I fluent in terms of those areas. However, I can communicate with everyone I encounter in my daily life problem-free (that is not to say error-free at all, but we understand each other with no issues), including doctors, bankers, my fiance’s mom, and so on. I can read news articles and books written for native speakers and discuss them. My word choice is not perfect, and my grammar certainly takes some weird twists and turns at times, but I can talk on a wide variety of topics, so… I would consider myself a fluent speaker, just not in all areas. So, I am fluent, but I’m also not :B

Fluency is not an absolute. Remember that to become a fluent speaker, you do not need to have perfect pronunciation, or even perfect grammar! As a language student, I don’t get too hung up on my shortcomings (though I do try to improve them) and focus on being communicative and otherwise achieving the goals that I have set for myself, and as a teacher, I also encourage that sort of attitude among my students (and here on this blog)!

I rambled a bit >.> Anyway, happy studying~