Fluency is a speech language pathology term that means the smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are joined together when speaking quickly. "Fluency disorders" is used as a collective term for cluttering and stuttering. Both disorders have breaks in the fluidity of speech, and both have the fluency breakdown of repetition of parts of speech. Fluency disorders are most often complex in nature and they tend to occur more often in boys than in girls.
Language fluency is the degree to which one is fluent in a language. Someone is said to be fluent if he has a high level of language proficiency, most typically foreign language or another learned language, and more narrowly to denote fluid language use, as opposed to slow, halting use. In this narrow sense, fluency is necessary but not sufficient for language proficiency: fluent language users (particularly uneducated native speakers) may have narrow vocabularies, limited discourse strategies, and inaccurate word use. They may be illiterate, as well. Native language speakers are often incorrectly referred to as fluent.
Fluency is basically one’s ability to be understood by both native and non-native listeners. A higher level would be bilingual, which indicates one is native in two languages, either having learned them simultaneously or one after the other.
In the sense of proficiency, "fluency" encompasses a number of related but separable skills:
- Reading: the ability to easily read and understand texts written in the language;
- Writing: the ability to formulate written texts in the language;
- Comprehension: the ability to follow and understand speech in the language;
- Speaking: the ability to produce speech in the language and be understood by its speakers.
- Reading comprehension: the level of understanding of text/messages.
To some extent, these skills can be acquired separately. Generally, the later in life a learner approaches the study of a foreign language, the harder it is to acquire receptive (auditory) comprehension and fluent production (speaking) skills; however, the Critical Period Hypothesis is a hotly debated topic. For instance, reading and writing skills in a foreign language can be acquired more easily after the primary language acquisition period of youth is over.
Reading fluency is often confused with language fluency (see above). Reading fluency is the ability to read text accurately, automatically and with appropriate expression. Fluency bridges word decoding and comprehension. Comprehension is understanding what has been read. Fluency is a set of skills that allows readers to rapidly decode text while maintaining a high level of comprehension (National Reading Panel, 2001).
Reading fluency encompasses both rate of words read per minute, as well as the ability to read with expression.
A first benchmark for fluency is being able to "sight read" some words. The idea is that children will recognize on sight the most common words written in their native language and that such instant reading of these words will allow them to read and understand text more quickly.
As children learn to read, the speed at which they read becomes an important measure of fluency.
(National Reading Panel, Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction—Reports of the Subgroups. A complete copy of the NRP report can be read, downloaded, or ordered at no cost from the NRP website at www.nationalreadingpanel.org.)
Fluency in creativity
Studies in the assessment of creativity list fluency as one of the four primary elements in creative thinking. The others being flexibility, originality and elaboration. Fluency in creative thinking is seen as the ability to think of many diverse ideas quickly.
- Precision teaching
- Speech disfluencies
- Speech and language pathology
- Synthetic phonics
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