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I found this site that appears to be a very extensive blog from someone claiming that fluency in a language is attainable within 3 months. It seems pretty ridiculous to me, as a professional interpreter who spent years on your language, do you find these kinds of claims insulting? Seems like kind of an off topic question, but I didn't know where else to ask it.

The site in question:

asked 30 Aug '13, 11:15

rowan's gravatar image


edited 02 Sep '13, 09:10

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

This sort of thing annoys me on commercial sites because for 99% of people 3 months is impossible and it's an advertising con trick. The one that really annoys me is "learn languages in your sleep"! Also they don't mean "fluent" in any sense we would recognize. They, and this guy, mean "speak a bit of".

This site doesn't look particularly commercial. And I think the title of this site is just to attract attention. It's some guy sharing good ideas but he's a bit contradictory because he says "One confusion people have when they arrive on my site is this non-existent “claim” that I’m here to prove that fluency in 3 months is possible, which I’ve never made." Derr! What about the title of your page? I haven't looked in detail but I reckon his site might actually be full of good ideas - again, the 3 months is just to get people's attention because if you write "it'll take a lot of hard graft and you'll make an ass of yourself at least 100 times" noone will read what you have to say.

NB There's a very interesting book called "Babel no more" (Erard) where the author tracks down what he calls hyperglots (people who've 10+ foreign languages) and asks them how they do it. The interesting thing that comes out of the book is that they all love what they do, which is put in hundreds and hundreds of hours of hard work. It's not a glamourous conclusion but "phew!" I thought, I have a least one thing in common with these "geniuses" ;)

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answered 31 Aug '13, 05:03

Andy's gravatar image


I don't know if you do understand French, so allow me to respond in (poor) English.

First of all, all language professionals know that random people don't have the same standards as we interpreters have. My friends admire me for my sooooooo amazing English level, yet it's only the weakest of my C languages.

Second, what you mean by fluent is at least as vague as the definition of, earm, lets say, a B language.

I do know people who managed to learn Hungarian and were able to have discussions with locals in Budapest after a month or two.

So, why be pissed? A website that is targeting the average couchsurfer is posting articles about how to learn a language and pick up local girls. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't bother me much.

Addendum: I have a few colleagues who aren't fluent at all in their C language. They do understand the language, but they don't speak it. And when they try to, either their grammar or accent is the cause of ceaseless laughter. So again: We don't have the same expectations, standards or goals as other people when it comes to the use / mastery of a language.

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answered 30 Aug '13, 15:16

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 30 Aug '13, 15:23


I'm not really pissed, just irked. I wouldn't care, I just feel like people use "fluent" extremely lightly. Basic knowledge? Sure. But it seems absurd to claim fluency in like ten languages over a learning period of ten years, which is what he does.

(30 Aug '13, 15:23) rowan

As much as any interpreter (or other professional who doesn't work in the IT industry for a living) would pretend (and actually believe!) to be IT literate and know who to use Excel. Whenever you're not an expert, you tend to over estimate your skills. The reason being that you compare your skills to those who don't have any ; not those who are specialized in the given field.

(30 Aug '13, 15:28) Gaspar ♦♦

I suppose, but I don't see that as an excuse for claiming fluency when all you'd have to do is read something and count all the words you had to look up in the sentence before knowing what it meant.

(30 Aug '13, 16:57) rowan

To be frank I did not really notice you were non-native in English until you pointed it out I think it would be appropriate to call it "so amazing." The ACTFL has a label for a level of English proficiency below yours called "Superior." Outside the language aficionado world, it's a major achievement.

I was told here that a "B" is the equivalent of the USA's ILR 5 proficiency, which is a sky-high goal. Hats off to anyone who achieves it.

(22 Oct '15, 21:55) Adrian Lee D...

I'm not a professional interpreter (yet!) but "basic fluency" really irritates me. I left a comment on the site telling the guy, whom I've interacted with on various social media, that "basic fluency" is simply bogus. I really can't stand it. You're fluent or you're not fluent (and speak at an intermediate, conversational or whatever level).

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answered 31 Aug '13, 06:37

TheInterpretator's gravatar image


Andy: Yeah, I would say even 99% is totally impossible, 90 days is maybe a little over a thousand hours of waking time, even if one did nothing but work you'd still only have a pretty shallow knowledge of the language, nothing like fluency. I agree it doesn't look commercial either, although low and behold he does sell stuff on there, though the site itself does seem a bit too elaborate to be an intentional scam.

Theinterpreter: Agreed, how can you call yourself fluent if all you do is highschool class level conversations? Start up a movie and watch yourself struggle to understand every other sentence, even after playing it back five times. Or read a book and see what fraction you understand without a dictionnary. That's not very fluent I'd say.

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answered 31 Aug '13, 09:13

rowan's gravatar image


edited 31 Aug '13, 09:16

I have not heard him speak or seen him write in any of the languages he claims fluency in, but his ability to write coherently in English casts certain doubt over his multilingualism. Maybe his ten years abroad has made his English suffer, but real polyglots should be, in my opinion, rather eloquent in their own native language

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answered 01 Sep '13, 01:45

charlielee's gravatar image


This is his French:

(supposedly among his best two foreign languages, lol)

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answered 01 Sep '13, 17:28

rowan's gravatar image


edited 01 Sep '13, 17:28

It is very irksome. There are a few people who can learn languages very quickly - some documented cases linguists have found, the language guru fellow, and there's also MIIS's parent school, Middlebury. Occasionally there are students who can become "conversationally fluent" in Chinese after a month of training there, but if you considered Ivy League students average, they would be considered brilliant. And the fluency they'd achieve in a month is at best enough to carry on daily life at school and have conversations. There was some research - I don't know if it was published - where students with just 6 weeks of training in a hard language (including Chinese) could give a full interview in their second language regarding second language motivation and learner acquisition strategies.

Realistically, the best students working with the best teachers will expect to study the language for 15-18 months before they can study academically or function in an office. That's minimally fluent. Whether someone goes on to become really fluent depends on opportunity, personality, surroundings, and motivation. University and most jobs, according to some academic opinion I have read, does not do much to improve your Chinese. Few people are really motivated, and fewer yet have a strong Chinese support network invested in you mastering the language. Even then, it will take quite a few years.

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answered 22 Oct '15, 21:34

Adrian%20Lee%20Dunbar's gravatar image

Adrian Lee D...

I spent several years learning a language till the level of fluency. I assume by claiming 3 Months to fluency they must have some methods to improve a person's skill to a certain level, maybe for talented people.

But in my opinion, fluency doesn't equal to mastering the language and for an interpreter, that's far from enough.

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answered 01 Dec '15, 00:30

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question asked: 30 Aug '13, 11:15

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