As humans, it is natural that when we speak our listeners/audience get to understand what we say, not only for how we say it, but more so for what we intend them to comprehend. The intended meaning and the possible meaning are the two possible comprehension outcomes of spoken communication.
Let us understand the difference between the two meanings which a listener may derive from the speech of the interlocutor.
The intended meaning in a discourse has to do with what the speaker intends his/her listeners to understand or derive from his/her speech; this is the real meaning of the message.
The possible meaning, on the other hand, is what the listener is likely to understand as meant by the speaker.
The latter is usually likely to completely differ from the real or intended meaning (This is what we usually refer to, when we say we misunderstood or misinterpreted).
Mention be made that you might have experienced the situation where several people listened to the same person at the same time but each person gets away with a different message. Ever thought of what causes these disparities?
Here are some causes to consider: The speaker might have been ambiguous, the speaker might have used a language above the level of the listeners, the speaker might have stepped out of context or the speaker could have been inevitably unable to express him/herself in the language used or has little knowledge on the subject matter being discussed.
On the other hand, the listeners might be not familiar with the issue discussed, their language command might be too low to completely or correctly understand the intended meaning, the listeners might simply blow what is said out of proportion (perhaps because of past experiences), listeners might mistake the /possible/immediate meaning for the intended meaning, and finally, individual circumstances of the listeners with/within which they receive the message influence, too, how they receive, understand and interpret the message.
So far, one might begin to ask, how what I made reference to in the above elongated introduction is related to fluency.
The answer to your possible question is that everything that I presented so far has everything to do with fluency. These are the foundations, in my view, to a clear understanding of what fluency entails and possibly what it does not. It is on the basis of the above that I would like to present my understanding of fluency as a language scholar.
It cannot be denied that here are as many definitions of fluency as there are people who seek to comprehend its meaning.
The latter depends on what, why and where. In the following few lines, what I present is my understanding of linguistic fluency.
In my view fluency is one’s ability to express her/himself freely, being contextually appropriate and above all, being able to say what you want to say without being bothered by how you say it. Overall, you are able to speak or write smoothly, easily, or readily.
A fluent speaker’s speech flows and ideas are generated with ease in the target language during interlocution or discourse.
When you are fluent, you do not stammer or stop in the middle of discourse to generate ideas, you are able to maintain the talk and at the same time contain yourself while in the process generating ideas without struggling.
Fluency is above all communicational satisfaction; which is that feeling that you’re understanding (yourself and others) and that you are being understood within your very own context. In fluency, therefore, there is a sense of comfortability and easiness in the way the fluent speaker speaks.
There is joy, witty and humour in her/his expressions, There is an unquestionable ability to manipulate(positively) content and context to ensure that the intended meaning is passed on and is received as such. The fluent speaker has an aw! or waaw! ability to impress, drive, convince and inspire the audience into the direction in which her/his intended meaning lies.
The four WHYs you should be fluent in any language, therefore, are that when you are fluent:
1. You impress 2. You convince, 3. You inspire, 4. People pay attention to what you say Fluent speakers apprehend their audience, not necessarily because they are saying a lot of important things, but because the way they say what they say makes them sound like too good to be missed!
Listeners get impressed by the speaker’s ability to say what they say and in this way, the audience becomes easy to convince.
While they seat/stand listening in awe of the speaker’s ability to say what she/he wants to say without being bothered by how they say it, the speaker gets the lee way into convincing the audience on the issue of discussion.
It is easy to get convinced by somebody whose knowledge, skills and abilities are outstanding and in your view are no cause for questions or doubt. We all speak for a reason. Some speakers, be it in the circle of friends, at work, at school or even at church, are inherently inspirational. They inspire by the way they say what they say, by the amount of vocabulary they choose to reach out directly to the core of the listeners. In the end, these speakers, without saying it, cause their listeners to emulate and model what they say.
They influence attitude, behaviour and inspire understanding.
The fourth and the last WHY one should aspire to be fluent is that when you are fluent people pay undivided attention to you and to what you say.
I believe you are aware that your inability to use language appropriately and your inability to speak to the context causes your audience to lose focus, dose off, get bored or even day dream even in the course of your speech.
Non-fluent speakers allow their audience to judge them and to question their credibility and ability.
NOW, the more reason for you to be fluent than ever, so that you get value for what you say without struggling to do so, so that you get to be understood for what you truly mean and so that you prevent being misunderstood by all means.
Remain on top, capture your audience, be fluent. In the next article, where we shall discuss and look at how fluency can be achieved as well as clarify on who and what the enemies of fluency are.
*Theresia Nepolo is a Junior Lecturer for Education and Languages at Namibia University of Science and Technology