At What Point Can You Say You Speak A Language?

Many of those who have completed their chosen language course explained that they came to a point where they can confidently claim that they can speak a foreign language. It is when they can communicate and converse in that language almost fluently and can express themselves positively.

But if you are thinking that when you speak a foreign language also means that you are ‘fluent’ at it, are they really the same? The fact that you are confidently articulate in a foreign language you have chosen to learn could mean that that you are also fluent, but could also mean that you are not. Confused? Here’s why – there is no right or wrong answer to the question “Are you fluent?”

Basically, studying a language is a continuous process – there is no end. The word ‘fluent’ theoretically mean or is related to the word ‘fluid’. By being fluid, there won’t be any specific border that you need to pass just to converse in a foreign language fluidly. It’s shapeless or undefined. As such, there is no tangible threshold to precisely identify whether or not you can convey a different language fluently.

You can speak your target language fluently when you can communicate or read in a smooth manner, undisturbed by a thinking method of interpretation. It does not really mean that you’ve got to have a proper vocabulary. You’re never going to have an excellent vocabulary, primarily if you’re learning a foreign language such as Korean, which has more or less about 50,000 characters in it. The process of learning has become so dramatic sometimes you just don’t realize that you’re achieving any improvements.

We always learn a different vocabulary every single day, even in our native languages. Research indicates that, on average, we learn a unique term daily until the medieval period. All through the subsequent phases of the language development phase, you may be able to carry the language fluently for some days, but maybe not for the following days.


We always come across ‘Language Acquisition’ but what is it really?

Language acquisition is the procedure through which people obtain the ability to comprehend and understand their target language (in other words, gain the ability to be aware of language and to understand it), such as generating and utilizing terms and phrases to interact.


First -Preproduction

  • It was also termed the ‘quiet phase.’
  • At this point, hearing and understanding are also very crucial.
  • You’ve got little or no comprehension.
  • Rather than expressing things verbally, you always use expressions such as gesturing and nodding.
  • You begin imitating what everyone else is suggesting, creating the basis for communicating, but not the real language design.
  • Several language students get up to almost 500 words of vocabulary across quiet acquisition.
  • This phase could last for a couple of hours to at most six months.

You can’t communicate your target foreign language articulately.

Second – Early Production

  • Through your training language, you can eventually go into functional status.
  • You construct easy sentences, mainly constructed of mastered words.
  • You talk mainly in the present tense, and you work with yes/no and either/or variations.
  • You can start asking questions which answers: Who, What, How, Where and many more.
  • There are prominent errors in your grammar and pronunciation.
  • Your foreign vocabulary can reach up to 1,000 words.
  • This phase eventually lasts up to 6 months.

You’re on the way towards being a fluent speaker of your chosen language.

Third – Speech Emergence

  • The conversation is more prevalent, and you can communicate in continuous statements.
  • Knowledge is escalating, but still entirely dependent on meaning hints.
  • You’re beginning to read and compose in your different foreign language.
  • If you’re confident enough, you can begin a meaningful conversation.
  • Grammar mistakes are still normal, but you can already be understood by natives who live in that country.
  • Your foreign vocabulary can reach up to 3,000 words.
  • Jokes and humor are still confusing to grasp.
  • You feel like staying in that country for a couple of more years.
  • Since you can explore widespread scenarios, it’s simple to set up a milestone at this point. Keep going and don’t stop!
  • With a little more push, you can soon be fluent in your chosen language, just keep on practicing.

Fourth – Intermediate Fluency

  • Your foreign vocabulary can reach up to 6,000 active and useful words.
  • You can compose intricate phrases, communicate your point of views, and use imaginative word patterns to depict ideas and thoughts.
  • You can think about things around you using your global language.
  • Newspapers and magazines are easy to read. You can start reading more complex books.
  • There would be a few communication errors
  • There will still be some holes in your vocabulary, along with sentences and expressions.
  • You will often still depend on translation references and writing techniques from your foreign language, on the other hand, your writing skills had greatly enhanced.
  • This phase, however, will last from three to five years.
  • This time, you can confidently boast that you are fluent in a specific foreign language

Fifth – Advanced Fluency

  • You have reached the ‘cognitive academic language proficiency’ level.
  • Give yourself five to ten years of committed learning and practice and you will sound like one of the natives, no one can tell the difference.
  • You can review intricate topics using your newly mastered language.
  • Conversing, understanding, and writing seem as simple as your mother tongue.
  • Gaining new knowledge and growth should never end. You ought to continue communicating through your foreign language, as well as follow mentored courses, to retain and stimulate your power to know and speak the foreign language fluidly.

It is believed that your truest language skillfully develops in the ‘Third’ and ‘Fourth’ stage. Some metrics incorporate an extra stage of language development dubbed as ‘Beginning Fluency‘. This is where it starts to feel like a global language begins to shape up its own life. The impulse is quickly boosting up. You’re at the top of the mastery level.

Around that stage, expect that you are still researching for new words and terms – it should always be that way – and acquiring the ins and outs of the linguistic framework. Although, you are reaching a stage where you can express anything that you have in mind.

At What Extent Can You Measure Your Fluency?

A great number of individuals believe that being fluent in a different language other than English implies that you’re regularly using it to communicate or you are so fluent in it like your mother tongue.

Language fluidity is a spectrum. Period.

Your objective in the initial phases of a new foreign language must be to concentrate on studying sufficiently about your chosen language to express its significance and establish a new and fresh language without the need or urgency to go back using your language of origin.

The moment you hit the ground running in learning a new global language, the primary goal is to know exactly the following key points as quickly and efficiently as possible:

  • Basic, most common nouns. Food, family, house, food, and a lot more are just some of the things that would be under this category.
  • Basic, most-used verbs. Verbs such as come, go, walk, talk, sing, eat, sleep, etc. would be added under this category.
  • Easy adjectives. Some standard and very basic descriptive terms such as tall, pretty, good, fast, etc. are just a few of the many words that will fall under this type.
  • Simple prepositions. Logically, there is a myriad of prepositions, but they concentrate on 5-10 fundamental and prevalent ones.
  • Pronouns and demonstratives.

You still need to be able to carry out definite matters just to be silver-tongued in a different language. This may include the ability to read a newspaper in that foreign language, for instance. Having said that, if you are studying the Chinese language this gesture may not be applicable since it is not phonetic. So, potentially, you might be skilled and could not read any publications in that language, but in many other circumstances, anyone that is proficient in a language needs to be capable of reading a newspaper.

Granted, you might have complicated phrases and intricate sentence constructions, but in essence, the primary distinction, especially if you’re referring to proficiency ratings, would be how many comparatively less widespread words are being used.


1. By just thinking about the language, you can instantly speak it

Research has discovered that 70% of multilingual are thinking about “both” or “all” language types. It is because the idea, at its core, starts at a prelinguistic level. You only transform them into your conversational language when you are ready to speak or write something using it. 

Accordingly, to be accurate, you are not thinking of any foreign vernacular. But if your brain tricks to transform those ideas into various language forms, you might realize that you are expressing them in your chosen language rather than your native language. This is indeed a powerful indication of language proficiency.

2. You have subject identification without even translating it

You will visually notice an object, and the first term that immediately comes to mind is the definition of the new language for that item, rather than the term of your home language.

3. You sometimes fail to remember the native term for an item

You have fully embraced your chosen language to the extent where it becomes as relevant in your view as your mother tongue. Most likely, of course, you wouldn’t neglect your primary language wholly. However, this scenario is and can possibly happen. It’s called ‘language attrition.’

4. When you dream about the language, you can speak it articulately

Having a dream about a language indicates that the structures of words and sentences are embedded deeply in your subconscious mind and emotion. Since you have direct connections among both things and their chosen language descriptions, your subconscious can dream in that new language without depending on your cognitive skill to interpret.

If this happens to you, breathe a sigh of relief! And because you are nearing the stage where you can speak directly using your new language flawlessly.

5. You Can Use it creatively

Artistic language usage implies that you can think about complex ways to convey your feelings and emotions. This implies that you can express your views and participate in discussions. It presupposes that you no longer rely entirely on practiced sentences, but you can form a combination of words and sentences that you have never heard or read since.

6. If you can understand foreign jokes it means you are fluid in that language

Do you remember the ancient saying that jokes are the very first thing that is being mistranslated? Adequately, it has been one of the latest things you receive when you learn to communicate in a new language. Let alone a partially-fluent person might discover himself losing out on the humor and seeking to mix together the punch lines that might have offended other people. 

If you can stay consistent with the jokes and say humorous tales, then major kudos! You have reached the integrated phases of language proficiency. Language acquisition emerges in levels too. It takes a lot of moment and self-discipline to get through all of them and communicate in a foreign language fluidly.


Acquiring the knowledge of a new language can be challenging, but how many words do you actually need to learn before you can finally master a foreign language?

In order for you to determine how many words you would need to be able to communicate well in your second language, you can actually check first how many words you are well-versed at in your mother tongue, which mostly is English.

By utilizing your dictionary, you can start from A to Z and jot down all the terms and words that you know. Mind you, based on the Oxford English Dictionary, approximately 171,146 words are presently in use in the English language which does not include yet the 47,156 outmoded words and terms.

The theory is that once you have summed up the terms you know from the 50-word list and multiply it by 500 you can eventually assess the total of your English vocabulary. Words can begin with simple terms such as ball, cat, dog, envelope, fruit, and can soon lead to vague words and terms.

So How Many Words Do We Actually Know?

A professor of applied linguistics at the University of Western Ontario, Stuart Webb, has dedicated his research about the methods of studying vocabulary and terms which is also known for its classier term – language acquisition.

He found out that it was extremely hard for a language student to ever understand as many phrases, terms, and words shifting their natural-born language to their newly learned language. Usually, indigenous speakers have 15,000 to 20,000-word families in their first language.

Is it really necessary for someone who can keep a meaningful conversation using a second language understands 15,000 to 20,000 terms and phrases? Should this be the ideal goal for anyone who wanted to learn a new language? Not really.

As a matter of fact, research in Taiwan indicates that, after nine years of studying a foreign language, about half of the students were unsuccessful in mastering the 1,000 most regularly-used words.

This is, in fact, the real goal, that the foreign words you have learned should regularly be present in your everyday communication. You don’t have to know ALL the foreign words, just the common ones that are frequently used daily.

Which Words Should language learners know?

If you can at least comprehend and grasp about 800 of the most used words in English, then you can clearly understand almost 75% of a foreign language as if it’s your daily language.

So, do you think you can already see a light at the end of the tunnel? The answer to that depends on your interest and dedication in learning a second language.


If you begin striking the above points, and you’re in the latter stages of language acquisition, you can confidently tell people that you’re speaking a foreign language fluidly. It’s been a challenging, difficult path to get through, but all that learning process pays off.

Of course, the best way to learn is by challenging yourself and one option is to reside in the country where your chosen language is being spoken. One important thing also is to vigorously maintain a conversation using your foreign language. This can either be done personally with friends or virtually through international online forums and groups.

Engage in reading materials that can greatly challenge and at the same time improve your skills in speaking your chosen language proficiently.

The point that this article wanted to address and make you realize is that though it is never simple to learn a foreign language instantly. But the moment you can confidently keep up with a global conversation without any doubts or confusion, you have already achieved your goal in speaking a language other than your mother tongue.

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