In one of our Notes in Spanish Gold Q and A sessions, we were asked the following common question:
When can I say that I am “fluent” in Spanish?
Our listener went on to clarify: When people hear that I travel to Spain or Mexico to study Spanish, they often say “so, are you fluent in Spanish?” My eyes glaze over as I contemplate the question and try to formulate an honest answer.
Here’s the problem: While I can converse with almost anyone, anywhere, I still make tons of mistakes. And while I can understand most of what I hear on the news, I understand very little of the morning radio show (mostly comedy) on my way to work. Even if I follow a joke, I often miss the punch line! So it seems misleading to say I am “fluent” when I have so many gaps, even though I can communicate in Spanish all day long.
Interestingly enough, I’ve heard many people at levels much lower than mine declare confidently that they are “fluent.” Obviously, they have different criteria than I do. When did the two of you start answering “yes!” to that question? What should be my criteria for knowing I’ve crossed the line into “fluency?”
First of all, it is common to make mistakes when it’s not your mother tongue, no matter what your level. We (Ben and Marina) make mistakes, but can communicate fine and consider ourselves fluent in each other’s languages. When you hear someone with a difficult accent, or if you still find it difficult to listen to the radio, don’t worry! You just have to keep working at it.
And if you communicate in Spanish all day long, you’re definitely fluent! With reference to the jokes on the radio, Ben and Marina have the same problem. The phone and radio are two of the trickiest places for comprehension.
So, what can you do to increase your chances of getting fluent fast?
Make sure you have a copy of our free PDF report:
Zero to Fluent in 9 Months (PDF) (Just click on the link to automatically start the download of the pdf document.)
And make sure you keep filling your life with real Spanish! Listen to our real Spanish audio conversations, and if you need help with getting every bit of language-goodness from them, pick up the worksheets in our store to follow along with the transcripts and drive it all home with the vocab analysis and exercises included.
– Ben y Marina