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Fluentzy.com > English > Fluency Facts > Fluency is not a either-or subject in which you...
  Back to index of questions   Fluency Facts >> 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15    
  Answer to Q11.
Fluency is not an either-or subject in which you either fail or pass

  Q11. I agree with what you've said. By the very nature of things, feedback can't be as important in fluency training as in learning other subjects or skills. True. But many people think that some sort of a final exam or test may help an instructor to evaluate the performance of a learner. Do you think they're right?
   Fluency learners, the best judges to measure their own progress
       You don't need an expert to say you aren't fluent
       Test performance, not really important in fluency training

There's certainly some truth in this. But please be clear about what such an exam or test can actually do. If competent instructors have long conversations in English with the learners, and if they put them through a series of oral tests in English, then they can certainly evaluate the performance of those learners at the time of the test and say how fluently they spoke in English at the time of the test. Yes, at the time of the test.

But mind you, such an evaluation can't be as realistic as a self-evaluation by the learners themselves. No. The reason is this: Suppose that some learners perform well at a final test. Based on that performance alone, can anybody say that those learners do speak fluent English spontaneously in almost all the real-life situations they face? You see, any evaluation of whether someone is fluent or not can be said to be realistic only if the evaluator can say that they speak fluent English in almost all real-life situations they face. You'll agree that the only person who'll be able to make such an assessment is the learner himself/herself.

Fluency learners, the best judges to measure their own progress
Remember this: What is really important is the progress of the learners through the weeks or months of their self-effort, rather than their performance at a final test. Their performance at a final test is perhaps important only to the extent that it helps to measure their progress through the whole period of their self-effort.

Now if you want to measure their progress through the whole period of their self-effort, it's not enough that you assess their performance at a final test. You also have to know the level of their fluency at the start of their effort in real-life situations - and how well they can perform in most of the real-life situations they face after learning from each of the Fluentzy books. Yes, real-life situations. Now, aren't the learners themselves the only people who are competent to say all this?

Mind you, all this doesn’t mean that only the speaker himself/herself will be able to say whether they're fluent — or that other people won't be able to find this out at all. What all this means is simply this: The learners themselves are the most competent people to evaluate and say how effective the self-study course they’ve done has been in helping them improve their fluency. You see, in other subjects and skills, this may not be so. But as far as the fluency skill is concerned, it is.

     You don't need an expert to say you aren't fluent
ust because learner-performance in certain subjects or skills can be evaluated in a certain way, many people tend to think that learner-performance in the fluency skill can also be evaluated effectively in the same way. But mind you, such a comparison is not valid.

As far as other subjects or skills are concerned, you need an expert to test and say how well you perform. This is because, as far as other subjects or skills are concerned, the test involves a test of the knowledge of the 'content' of what you say or write. And your performance has to show a display of that knowledge - according to a large number of rigid criteria fixed by authorities on that content.

But you see, the test of the fluency skill does not involve such a test of the knowledge of the 'content' of what you say. And your performance does not have to show a display of that knowledge according to any criteria fixed by any authorities. When you decide whether someone is speaking English fluently, the quality or correctness or truth-value of the 'content' is not relevant. The only criteria for judging whether you speak English fluently are whether you speak English smoothly and continuously, whether your language is appropriate and reasonably accurate, and whether you make sense. (And remember this: The degree of grammatical and lexical accuracy required in speech is quite relaxed and loose - and isn't as strict or exact as that in writing).

So as far as the fluency skill is concerned, you don't need an expert to say how well you perform. You perform well if you speak fluently, and you don't perform well, if you don't. And every speaker is perfectly competent to say whether they're speaking fluently or not on a particular occasion.

     Test performance, not really important in fluency training
From what we've discussed so far, you can see one thing: Fluency is not a subject in which your performance at a final exam or test decides whether you've succeeded or failed in your efforts to become fluent. No.

Actually, such an exam or test is not really necessary — even to find out if the learners have been working sincerely. You see, when somebody spends money and buys a set of books specially written to help people build fluency and does a self-study course using those books, it is only reasonable to expect that they're sufficiently motivated by a need to become fluent and that they sincerely mean to learn from those books.

And we've seen just now that fluency is not a skill that can effectively be measured by an 'objective' sort of exam or test. The cost of any 'subjective' sort of exam or test would be prohibitive, and so would not be feasible. And that's not all. Even if a subjective test is given to a learner, it can't effectively tell the examiner how consistently fluent the learner is in real-life situations - which is what is really important.

And mind you, fluency is not a final destination that you can reach. You can think of the fluency skill as a continuum from zero to infinity. Somebody who's not fluent at all moves up along that fluency gradient - and they keep on moving up all their life. You see, there can be no end to that movement or journey. This is because fluency is an ever-expanding skill. So strictly speaking, we can only speak in terms of various degrees or levels of fluency.


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