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Does fluency matter?

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Fluency is the dream of many people studying Japanese. It seems that Japanese fluency has become such a coveted commodity that an entire industry has sprung up to deliver it fast and hot to your door, like pizza. Mmmm, mouth-watering fluency. So crispy and delicious.

I suddenly became fluent three years ago, while staying in a minshuku in Nagasaki. A minshuku, as I’m sure you know, is like a cross between a rundown B&B and some old Japanese family’s house. It’s quintessential Japanese budget travel, and when I arrived, they acted like I was the first white guy who’d ever stumbled through the front door dripping with sweat and cradling a bottle of sake.

And after several days of speaking constant Japanese with minshuku guests and staff, taking tours of Nagasaki in Japanese, and conversing with my companion who spoke only her native language, I realized I had ceased to use English altogether. I just literally stopped thinking in English. If I wasn’t awesome, at least I was functional.

Now, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly like getting struck by lightning. I’d spent a number of years prior reading Japanese books, watching Japanese dramas, and eating boatloads of brain-boosting sashimi. Not to mention all the Japanese beer I drank. No doubt that helped. I took classes and did Rosetta Stone and slept with "Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar" under my pillow. (By the way, best book ever.)

But for some reason, I thought being fluent would mean I was finally done with studying. Japanese? Excuse me while I check that off the list. I’ll just be heading to the park now with these books, CDs and a can of gasoline. Unfortunately, the reality had a little less earth-shattering kaboom.

What is fluency?

Let’s define what fluency is and isn’t. It certainly isn’t knowing all the words in a language. It doesn’t even have overly much to do with grammar. Many native speakers have abysmal grammar and pedestrian vocabularies. But then, what is it? Certainly one overriding characteristic is the skill of thinking in a language without translating. That ensures that both input and output occur relatively smoothly and with a minimum of processing time.

In order for that skill to develop, two prerequisites must be met. The first is a vocabulary sufficient to enable thinking in Japanese without reverting to one’s native language, drawing pictures, or employing a series of grunts, clicks, and whistles. While those may be effective for communication, they certainly don’t qualify as fluency. Thus, if a word hasn’t been learned or can’t be recalled, one simply “talks around it,” and arrives at the same idea through the use of other terms. If you can’t remember how to say “grape,” then at least you can say “that round fruit used in the making of sweet, sweet wine." If you forget “zebra,” just say “that black and white donkey-looking thing like they paint down in Mexico.” You may have done this when trying to recall actors or movie titles, which draw upon rarely-used memories that are harder to access.

The second prerequisite would be grammar sufficient for comprehending and expressing concepts, such as who’s doing what to whom and when. Those two abilities, along with practice applying them in real-world situations, are what lead to fluency. But, still, what’s so great about it?

What Japanese fluency feels like

After my Nagasaki miracle, I realized fluency shouldn’t have been my goal, because it wasn’t a goal at all, and here’s what I mean:

Have you ever talked with a seven-year-old? I’ve got a nephew who’s seven, and I can tell you, it’s great. For about, oh, a minute. Sure, he’s completely fluent, but all he wants to talk about are fire trucks and cartoons. He’s got a head full of cotton candy. But ask him who he wants to win the U.S. election and he runs outside with his skateboard. I don’t even know if he’s a Democrat or a Republican.

That’s what it’s like to be fluent in Japanese. Speaking is one thing, but having something to say is quite another. I’ve found myself in this situation hundreds of times, where I fall into a conversation with a stranger and they’re amazed. Wow, you’re from America, yet you speak fluent Japanese! And for a while, we have the best conversation ever. We learn about each other’s backgrounds, interests, and opinions. And then the novelty wears off and we run out of common ground. Suddenly, it’s like being on a first date, where you’re just poking at your salad. Sometimes it takes five minutes, sometimes a weekend, and sometimes a month, but it’s hard to stay fascinating forever. Then it comes down to: What can you really talk about?

Information silos

Many people studying Japanese know quite a bit about subjects related to Japan, such as anime, gaming, martial arts, maid cafes, whatever. This single-subject expertise can be thought of as a vertical silo, and as long as you’re speaking to someone who shares the same expertise, who’s in your silo, you have something good you can both discuss. If you’re into Japanese horse racing and the dude sitting next to you turns out to have that same passion, you are, perhaps literally, off to the races. The problem lies in talking with people who aren’t in your silo.

A lack of stuff

This is not a problem of language. It’s one of culture. It’s not a deficiency of vocabulary, grammar or fluency. It’s simply being outside of the shared understanding that comes from years of living within a society. Rather than a series of vertical silos with specific information, native speakers share a broad, horizontal base of common knowledge. Simply put, everybody knows the same stuff. If you’re American, you know why Mr T pities the fool, what Cheese Whiz goes with (everything), and understand why Sammy Hagar is incapable of maintaining a constant speed of 55.

Even with a shared base, it’s not uncommon for communication gaps to develop within native populations. A good example is a generation gap, where older and younger people don’t share common references because their accumulated knowledge is different. They may both be fluent, but it’s hard to talk about music when one person thinks Maroon 5 is a paint color. Information silos also frequently occur, such as when men talk about football and women talk about, well, who knows? Shoes or something. Eh, probably men, huh.

This brings us to the classic party problem. It may be easy enough to have a conversation with one person, but when native speakers get together, how do you follow them? It’s like listening to Australians talk about rugby. Sure they’re speaking English, but if you know none of the teams, none of the players, and none of the terminology, how do you participate in the conversation? All you’ve got is a head full of cotton candy.

The typical way non-native speakers approach this challenge is by asking questions. You may be able to coax out a conversation simply by making queries and listening to the replies, although answering a string of questions can become boring very quickly.

Conversations in Japanese are also hindered by cultural customs and norms. Now, this may come as a shock, but the nation isn’t exactly known as being the most expressive on the planet. “Westernized” Japanese people (i.e. all your Japanese friends who speak English) may be accustomed to speaking openly with strangers, but for many Japanese people, this is possibly something they’ve never done. They may ask few questions of substance, or reply with short, dead-end answers. Not the greatest conversationalists really, the Japanese.

Putting fluency in perspective

Fluency, in popular books and on the web, is frankly a bit overrated, for at least three reasons.

  1. Fluency isn’t exactly a goal, since it’s closer to the starting line than the finish. Whether you can become fluent in three months, three years, or whatever is immaterial. In your native language, it took years of formal and informal exposure for you to amass a sizable base of cultural knowledge, and you shouldn’t underestimate the time required to do so again in Japanese.

  2. Facts may get you further than linguistic ability. Knowing the names of players and teams is far more helpful when talking about sports than the ability to construct a proper sentence. Consider ways of supplementing your overall knowledge base with widely-known and often-used information. How many prefectures can you name? Who are the top Japanese singers and actors? Who are the key government officials and newsmakers? Historical figures? What are the popular television shows, movies and songs? How many can you sing?

  3. How you approach conversations is important, since it’s possible to be too “Japanese.” You may find that the more of the language you learn, the more the customs of and behaviors of the society you acquire, which is not always a good thing. Americans tend to greet all news with, “What the eff? Say what? Why?” which are great for promoting discourse. Japanese, on the other hand, more typically respond by looking thoughtful and mumbling “heeeeey” and “huuuuum” a lot. Conversations flow a lot better with meager Japanese and more of a “Western” attitude than with perfect Japanese that ends in a culturally-appropriate mumbling and starting at one’s shoes.

Beyond fluency

Fluency is a useful skill, no doubt. It smooths interactions and makes life in Japan a lot easier. It also promotes learning directly from native speakers. But fluency alone won’t make you a stunning conversationalist.

  1. Watch a ton of TV. If you have access to Japanese television, there’s no better way to mainline popular culture into your veins than by watching TV. It’s an extremely lightweight way to pick up information, since it comes with moving pictures and pairs nicely with malt liquor and dried squid.

  2. Read the news headlines. Now the hard way to do this is by using that giant paper thing that people used to look at before Al Gore invented the Internet. The easy way is to read Yahoo News in Japanese. Use Firefox as your browser with the Rikaichan add-on and Boom! You’re a kanji master.

  3. Get out of your silo. Cultivate widely useful information that’s known by everyone. What do people talk about when you’re not around? What types of knowledge would be helpful in conversation, with anyone? Figure it out, find it out, and learn it. Also, “get out” in general: out of your apartment, out of your circle of English-speaking friends, out of your comfort zone. You can’t go back in time and thoroughly acquire what it took other people a lifetime of growing up in Japan to learn, but you can go forward.
© Japan Today

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46 Comments
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the only people you're going to be communicating with are japanese or foreigners who think they're all that with their ikkyu but can't even pronounce the ri in arigatou properly. and what is it you're going to learn from speaking to the locals? not only do they not want to speak to you, they resent you for making the effort.

Someone's grumpy today :-) ...I think it's important to learn the language of you're going to live here...I'd rather not be dependent of other people in order to understand things, or get things done.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

cleo@

any work I submit should need no checking

so there you have it, we can fire all editors!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Very interesting. When the shoe is on the other foot, I tell my students much the same. It is easier said than done, though, especially the "get out of your usual zone" part!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Do we take it then that snackswithbeer isn't fluent? :-)

I like to compare fluency in a language with swimming.

First of all, you have to be prepared to get wet. Just as sitting on the beach reading about how far/fast other people can swim isn't going to help you learn to swim, reading grammar books and memorising vocab lists isn't going to make you fluent - though the theory helps, of course.

Next, know your limitations. Your first entry into the water should not be a jump off a high cliff into the foaming waves beneath; there may be rocks under those waves, or lots and lots of deep water. (Some people may have survived this method, but it involves a lot of inhaled water and bashing your head on rocks, and isn't recommended except for the psychotically impetuous or unavoidable circumstances such as being pushed forcibly off the cliff). Your first entry should be from a nice sandy beach into gently lapping waves. Avoid the surfing beaches for the time being, as well as the shallow-water coral reefs that you are likely to cut your shins open on. Test the water, and if you like it, go a bit further.

You'll likely spend a lot of time splashing around in the shallows and not seeming to make much progress, but who cares - it's fun. After a while you'll want to go a bit further out, into deeper waters. Be prepared to swallow a bit of water, and to look less than glamorous when your hair gets wet. You may even encounter the occasional rogue wave that flips you upside down; many people panic here and head for the beach hut, never to venture out again.

But if you stick with it you'll gradually learn to move your arms and legs in ways that allow you to get around without being a danger to yourself and a nuisance to others. When you find you aren't bothered even when your feet can't touch the sea bed, and you're more interested in exploring the rocky crevices and chasing the pretty fishes, and you no longer need to hang on for dear life to your inflatable life raft (=electronic dictionary), you've cracked it. You're fluent. You may not win the Olympics, but you can get by.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I did classes, learned basic Japanese... and no-one in Japan spoke to me in Japanese. When I tried it on people in shops and my friends they didn't understand why I was doing it. Oh well.

One thing I noticed between last year and this year is that I have now forgotten some of what I learned - don't use it you lose it seems to be true.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

After living in Japan for 2+decades I just tell everyone I am illerate in two languages so there haha! DONE.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@luca

Your rite!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Excellent article, I feel your pain.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Cultural references are key to bridging the gap between being relatively proficient and fluent; there is so much more you can understand once you accumulate these cultural references; which explains why Japanese TV seems so bad when you first view it, as many of the references are lost. It gets marginally better, but is still painful to watch ;)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

is like a cross between a rundown B&B and some old Japanese family’s house.

Perfect description :-D

Well-written, enjoyable article, more from Mr. Seeroi, please!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Nice article - I agree with all of it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You're not "fluent" in a language until you can write something that is of the same level as a native speaker.

I think you're confusing fluent with literate.

Take a native speaker from a country where the literacy rate is low - say Afghanistan, where the overall literacy rate is 28%. By your reckoning, you'd be fluent in Dari Persian if you could mark an X for your name, which is all 72% of native speakers are able to do - without being able to speak a single word. Obviously does not compute. If you can go with the flow without getting into too many scrapes, you can call yourself fluent. If you can read and write without having to dive into your dictionary, you can also call yourself literate.

Just because you can speak a language well, that doesn't make you fluent in it.

Actually, yes it does.

fluent

adjective

(of a person) able to express oneself easily and articulately : a fluent speaker and writer on technical subjects

(of a person) able to speak or write a particular foreign language easily and accurately : she became fluent in French and German.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

People are way too quick to define themselves as "fluent" in all kinds of foreign languages. I used to interview people for jobs, and it could get really embarrassing when people would say "I'm fluent in (say) Russian," and I'd say "Me too! (not true). Tell me your life story in Russian!" Silence....

I'd say that if you could pass as a native over the telephone or on a chat site then you're fluent. Anything less, then you're "good" at best.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I can read, write and speak pretty well wherever I happen to be. Beyond that I don't care for snobbery. To me, fluency is about communicating and if you can do that without problems, you're good to go. Well done, keep on learning and improving!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Imo fluency is the ability to read, write or and speak and understand a language in all its nuances, dialects, slang and so forth.

When I first moved from the north of England to London, very few of my fellow students from the south could understand when we northerners were speaking together. So all those undergrads were not fluent in their own language?

In Japanese, the dialects of southern Kyushu (Satsuma-ben) and Tohoku (Zuzu-ben) are unintelligible to Japanese from other parts of the country. So most (all?) Japanese are not fluent in Japanese?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Speaking a language a little bit is not good enough, especially in Japan. This language is so advanced and complex you really need to have it completly in your grasp.

Cortes,

Wrong! While writing is indeed a chore, the spoken language isnt so hard, although the locals like to think it is

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the native would be able to compose to a more "native" or "natural" level.

Well yes, but I feel you're working in unnecessary absolutes. A person who is 6ft tall is still tall, even if they're standing next to someone who is 6 ft 2.

A person who is fluent in a second language will be able to work his way around (eg) gaps in vocabulary by rephrasing what he wants to say - his speech will continue to flow - while the non-fluent speaker will either be reduced to diving into his dictionary, or the conversation will grind to a halt (or both).

I would never let anything translated just go through to the client before being checked by someone native in the language. No matter how "fluent" the translator may be.

Now there you raise another interesting point. I'm a professional translator, and I do J to E only; and since I consider myself fluent in my native tongue, both spoken and written, any work I submit should need no checking (and I do in fact get asked to check work others have done, and to evaluate other translators to determine how much they should get paid). However, if I'm translating something quite specialist that I'm not completely up with, like medicine or engineering or what have you, I will ask my coordinator to have a native speaker who is conversant in the subject in question to have a look at what I have written. Obviously my English is native-level, since it is my native language; but that doesn't mean I'm completely fluent in every aspect of every specialist subject under the sun.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Probie

”... there are a lot of native speakers who read and right horribly."

That was deliberate, Probie, wasn't it ? Please tell me I'm write!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Probie

Well, that's a releaf!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One on Ken's best articles I've ever read. I can agree with it almost completely. However, only people with an upbringing in monolithic blocks of monolingualism really tend to think about fluency. Other people simply know that given practice, it will happen someday. Fluency has happened when you don't worry anymore about whether the language you speak is foreign or native.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Excellent article. Amusing and true. I'm going to use parts of it with my ESL students as it pertains to learning any foreign language.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In my experience, fluency only counts when you're going for a job interview. If you're in the pub, hotel or even buy JR tickets fluency is not important as long as they understand what you;re talking about and you have the confidence to ask 'sorry I missed that, can you repeat it please?'

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Fluency in any language is overrated. There's plenty of immigrants who came to the states who continue to butcher the language, but still make millions and have decent lives. Nobody really cares if you only know a couple thousand words of any language and can't pronounce them correctly.

It's what you do with them that counts.

Unless your job is a translator, fluency for fluency's sake is nothing more than a personal hobby for personal reasons.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I also enjoyed this one Ken, well done.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think I will have to continue poking my salad for the next few years trying really hard not to poke anybody in the eye with the fork. Actually, I almost stopped trying to learn the language altogether. Nobody is interested in talking to the dumb gaijin anyway.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Very well written article with appropriate humor. I'm glad i stumbled upon this gem of information and perspective.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Excellent article. It is the 1st time I realise what exactly is the meaning of fluency.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is an interesting article. I agree with your definition of fluency. I had a similar situation with Spanish in New York. There are so many types of Spanish. In the case of Japan, I believe reading ability is the most useful although it is not as showy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

By thinking that way, the number of people who would be classed as 'fluent' would be huge.

It is huge. (I'm not just talking about Japanese-speaking furriners)

When it comes to writing, 'fluency' is a lot harder to achieve.

No argument with that. But lack of written fluency doesn't rule out spoken fluency.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

grammar sufficient for comprehending and expressing concepts, such as who's doing what to whom and when.

This is exactly why I bought a grammar book for revision the other day. I'm not getting any, but I'm pretty sure other people in the office are.

At any rate the word fluency is bandied about all too often. I've met just a few foreigners I would consider fluent in Japanese. I am not one of them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Imo fluency is the ability to read, write or and speak and understand a language in all its nuances, dialects, slang and so forth. I would love to be able to read/write/converse in Japanese so well that it would be like speaking/writing my native language and could be done subconciously. Breaking down the barriers to language communicaction is a great but very rewarding hurdle to get over.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They are not fluent in those dialects.

Of course they're not. But does that mean they're not fluent in English? That seems to be what you're saying. That makes no one fluent in anything, even their native language.

I'm from the North of England too (Yorkshire), and it is not that we speak a different dialect, it's just that the accent can be difficult to understand (except for Geordies, who speak in Martian).

As a Lancashire lass, I will refrain from saying that you being a Yorkie 'splains a lot. :-)

My best mate at uni was a Geordie girl, I understood her perfectly once I realised that she said sarnie when she meant butty.

both of your points are missing the mark and have nothing to do with fluency.

So what did you mean by the ability to read, write or and speak and understand a language in all its nuances, dialects, slang and so forth?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

And I dunno about in Yorkshire, but in Lancashire we use lots of words/expressions that are not standard English, as well as the accent.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Probie - sorry, you're right, it was HonestDictator who wrote that fluency is the ability to read, write or and speak and understand a language in all its nuances, dialects, slang and so forth.

You and I are agreed that you don't need to be fluent in every aspect of a language to be considered fluent. But I still think there is a huge difference between fluency and literacy. Would you like to comment on countries with a low literacy rate? Would you say most of the people of those countries were not fluent in their native language, because they couldn't write it? How well would a foreigner have to be able to write that language to be considered 'fluent', if most native speakers couldn't write anything?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Great topic. And I liked what Cleo wrote about language and swimming.

The problem with a complex language like Japanese is that just when you think you're about ready for the Olympics you fall flat on your face.

If there's one thing being in Japan has done for me is it's made me humble. In a way the more confident you get the more dangerous it gets.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I was in full flight and suddenly realized I didn't know a word which everyone expected me to know. In the early days, you tend to think ahead about whether you can say something or not.

I still think that Japan is the best place for language learners. How many other people will tell you you're good when you're bad and be happy that you've made the attempt to learn the language. Not to mention, I can't remember any time that people have rolled their eyes in impatience. (Oh, except for my wife ...)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

fluency in japanese... what is that? when you dream in japanese? when you can hold your end of an argument not only with you wife but with her father too? when you can understand anything and everything being said to you? when you can say anything you want to? when you can talk to kids the way they expect? when you can get past the gaijin-filter at the deriheru? when shop staff irritate you by using incorrect or impolite language? when you not only understand the lie but immediately compensate your own lie to reward the first one? when this doesn't bother you anymore?

in the end, what's the point? seriously. how much time out of your life would you dedicate to mastering the penny farthing? to learning the handloom? to memorising the names of synchronised swimming judges over the centuries? the only people you're going to be communicating with are japanese or foreigners who think they're all that with their ikkyu but can't even pronounce the ri in arigatou properly. and what is it you're going to learn from speaking to the locals? not only do they not want to speak to you, they resent you for making the effort. it's like obama bending down for the emperor. you're just completely missing the point.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Yes, good article. Thanks for the tips on becoming culturally fluent. Now I can tell the lecturers and tutors that watching t.v. isn't a waste of time. I'm not sure about the assertion that Japanese aren't great conversationalists though. It's only been 3 years since you've been 'fluent'. Oh and to end on a positive, I like the bit about the all conquering, all inventing Mr Gore.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Imo fluency is the ability to read, write or and speak and understand a language in all its nuances, dialects, slang and so forth.

When I first moved from the north of England to London, very few of my fellow students from the south could understand when we northerners were speaking together. So all those undergrads were not fluent in their own language?

In Japanese, the dialects of southern Kyushu (Satsuma-ben) and Tohoku (Zuzu-ben) are unintelligible to most Japanese from other parts of the country. So most (all?) Japanese are not fluent in Japanese?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Interesting article and a good read. While fluency usually refers to spoken language, I think in Japanese culture it takes on an additional dimension as what is not spoken can just be as important as what is, along with the ability to be able to 'read' it. i.e. 空気を読まないと

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@cleo

I see what you mean, but if they were literate, they would still be able to write better than someone who uses it as their second language.

Learning to read and write is a very easy thing compared to becoming truly fluent in a second language.

Also, there are a lot of native speakers who read and right horribly- your/you're, there/their etc... But native language and second language is different.

If both had equal levels of literacy, the native would be able to compose to a more "native" or "natural" level.

Like in translation. I would never let anything translated just go through to the client before being checked by someone native in the language. No matter how "fluent" the translator may be.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@cleo

There is a difference when you can tell it's someone who is not native writing in their second language.

Just being able to express yourself is different. By thinking that way, the number of people who would be classed as 'fluent' would be huge.

When it comes to writing, 'fluency' is a lot harder to achieve. And I'm not talking about correct kanji either. Also, nothing to do with literacy.

If you class being fluent as being able to "go with the flow without getting into too many scrapes", your idea of what constitutes fluency is very different to most people.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@cleo

When I first moved from the north of England to London, very few of my fellow students from the south could understand when we northerners were speaking together. So all those undergrads were not fluent in their own language? In Japanese, the dialects of southern Kyushu (Satsuma-ben) and Tohoku (Zuzu-ben) are unintelligible to most Japanese from other parts of the country. So most (all?) Japanese are not fluent in Japanese?

No. They are not fluent in those dialects.

Also, I'm from the North of England too (Yorkshire), and it is not that we speak a different dialect, it's just that the accent can be difficult to understand (except for Geordies, who speak in Martian). My wife speaks very thick Satsuma-ben, and it isn't just the accent, but the words themselves that are different. So, both of your points are missing the mark and have nothing to do with fluency.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

No, it is not what I'm saying.

Dialects are branches of a language. So yeah, you can be fluent in a language but not some or all of the dialects. I though that was something obvious.

Anyway, anyone who calls themselves fluent, when they can't write to the same level as a native speaker, isn't fluent. Fluent in speech, is not fluent in the language.

I never said anything about having to understand all the dialects or slang etc. Don't put words into my mouth. I said that if you didn't understand a dialect, you weren't fluent in that dialect, not the language. People who use a dialect, are able to use the main language also, in most cases.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

You're not "fluent" in a language until you can write something that is of the same level as a native speaker. Until I see an article from Mr.Seeroi written by him, in Japanese, I'll pass on complementing him on his alleged "fluency'.

Just because you can speak a language well, that doesn't make you fluent in it.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

You're not "fluent" in a language until you can write something that is of the same level as a native speaker. Until I see an article from Mr.Seeroi written by him, in Japanese, I'll pass on complementing him on his alleged "fluency'.

Just because you can speak a language well, that doesn't make you fluent in it.

Hahaha the real expert! I think your thinking of "Native" is when you can write the same level as a native speaker. "Fluent" means you can write the same level as a "Fluent" speaker... sigh

Fluency does matter in Japan. I'm fairly good in Japanese but still it is hard to express myself correctly in some cases. Speaking a language a little bit is not good enough, especially in Japan. This language is so advanced and complex you really need to have it completly in your grasp.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Suddenly, it's like being on a first date, where you're just poking at your salad.

i wonder what are you trying to say...

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

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