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Fluency VS Proficiency: Explained

Fluency and proficiency are objectives every language learner wants to achieve. While they are very different from each other, one can reach both with proper education, guidance, dedication and exposure.


Fluency is speaking a language confidently and comfortably. When you are fluent, you can form sentences to express what you want to say and make yourself understood by speakers of the language. You don't necessarily have to know the logic or grammar of the language to be fluent.


Proficiency is mastering all facets of a language. You understand the logic, grammar and sentence structures. Because of this, you are able to manipulate the language, and express yourself in and understand a wide range of expressions.


When you are fluent, you can talk smoothly and continuously. You also sound similar or close to the native speakers of the language. You have the confidence to express your thoughts in the language even if you commit mistakes while speaking.

Practice and constant exposure to the language is extremely important to achieve fluency. In your language classes, your instructor will teach you expressions and engage you in practice conversations so you get used to communicating in the language. You have to actively participate in these activities and review the expressions after the class until they become more natural to you. In class, you will also learn new words that you can use to express yourself better and more adequately in the language.

You may listen to songs, watch movies, read articles or speak with native speakers to supplement what you learn in class. In your classes, you will be guided and taught by your professors, and outside classes you should try to use what you have learned and keep interacting with the language as much as possible.


Proficiency is often measured through standardized tests (IELTS - English, HSK - Chinese, JLPT - Japanese, TOPIK - Korean, DELE - Spanish, DELF/DALF - French, PLIDA - Italian, Zertifikat - German, etc.) which normally evaluates 4 skills: (1) reading, (2) writing, (3) listening and (4) speaking.

You need to be able to reach a certain mark in all 4 skills to be certified to the level you are testing, and thus move to the higher level.

Reaching proficiency requires the proper input, suitable materials, appropriate structure depending on level, dedication, practice and a clear end-goal. Your teacher can provide you with the education, learning materials, recording of the classes and a standard structure, but you have to take an active role in your learning. You need to practice at home, do your homework and clarify your doubts. You have to know the level you want to reach and drive yourself to reach that.


Your journey to fluency or proficiency starts with your decision and commitment to learn the language. The beauty of learning new languages is in the deliberate process of studying them. The right mindset is key to achieving your language learning goals.

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