So you think you’re fluent?

100% satisfaction guarantee
Friday, July 27th, 2012 In Blog, Translation By Ulrika

Many of you out there with the travel bug have often ended up in some awkward place in your own country or some far-flung place in the middle of some foreign land struggling with language. Sometimes it’s just for a short time, sometimes for protracted periods. In travelling, you seem to always meet those annoying people who claim to be fluent in X, Y and Z language and they are always received with wild praise and awe, “Wow! How did you learn so many languages?” At the risk of sounding like a critic, I want to examine those pesky people a little bit closer and perhaps shine some light on just how fluent they really are. To start, I should humbly admit that I, too, am one of those pesky people. I grew up speaking English and Japanese and have received parallel education in both languages and both countries. I consider both as my mother tongue. But, I’ve also lived around and picked up more than a little of some other languages, so I think this puts me in a good position to shine my little light. My proposition is quite simple. Those annoying people aren’t actually fluent-fluent. They are just fluent in certain domains. [Cue: Begin arguing about the definition of ‘fluent’] For example, I’m interested in politics, so I could easily name off politic-y things in Japanese, like United Nations (国際連合), NATO (北大西洋条約機構), or perhaps the longest official name for a country in the Japanese language, North Korea (朝鮮民主主義人民共和国), without even blinking. But, ask me to do the same in Polish? Yeah, that’s not happening. My Polish vocabulary just hasn’t encompassed political terminology to the extent that I could converse comfortably about it. The same goes for other domains like health, science, names of insects, etc. Although I consider myself nearly fluent in the Polish language, if I had to take care of a baby I’d have trouble asking the question, “Excuse me, where are the diapers and diaper cream and, by the way, could you bring the pacifier and the baby carriage too?” I just haven’t had enough exposure to those situations. So next time you hear someone list off a litany of languages that they’re apparently fluent in, take it with a pinch of salt. [Cue: Continue arguing about the definition of ‘fluent’]

Reviews from Crowdpanthers

News Feed