Accurate or Fluent - what type are you?

Each of us is different and has a different learning style.

On the opposite ends of the scale there are people described as “accurate” and “fluent” and most of foreign language learners find their spot somewhere in between. It is good to know what these terms mean and how they affect the learning process. Accuracy and fluency are two factors that may determine your success in learning English.

Accuracy - correctness above all

“Accuracy” means linguistic correctness, i.e. ability to produce sentences without mistakes, using the proper vocabulary and applying grammar rules. People who are accurate are great at solving written tests, understanding grammar is not a problem for them and they compose very good essays. It is a totally different story when it comes to speaking, though. If you need to build a whole sentence in your head before you actually utter it  and situations when you are expected to react quickly, e.g. answer spontaneous questions horrify you, that might mean that you are more “accurate” than “fluent”.

Fluency - quickly, smoothly, spontaneously

“Fluency” is ability to speak quickly and with no pauses. A person who is “fluent” may make loads of grammar mistakes but it won’t stop them from communicating effectively. They are able to have a conversation on any chosen topic with a native speaker from the UK or the USA even if their vocabulary range is limited.

Fluent students usually learn faster and feel comfortable in circumstances requiring communication in English. Unfortunately, they also face challenges at times. Passing a serious exam or composing a super-correct formal email gives them a headache.

What to do about it?

First of all, you need to understand that nobody is purely, 100% “accurate” or “fluent”. Each of us is a mixture of both with a greater tendency towards one of them. An perfect situation would be to be placed in the middle of the scale, however such lucky people are difficult to come across.

Second of all, remember that none of the two is “better” in any way than the other one. Depending on the situation and the kind of motivation you have for learning English each of these characteristics can be more or less beneficial for you. For instance, if you work in an international corporation and communicate with the world mainly via email or you prepare reports, being accurate is actually good for you. On the other hand, if you need English because you go abroad frequently or regularly use it to talk to people either face-to-face or on the phone - being “fluent” is what you want.

What’s important, if you manage your learning process wisely, you can improve your accuracy and/or fluency. By choosing the right classes you will boost your communication skills and reduce the number of grammar mistakes made. The key to success is to grab the bull by the horn - if you find speaking most difficult, attend conversation classes more often and look for any opportunity to practise outside of the classroom as well. We highly recommend classes with native speakers where you won’t be able to resort to Polish. Thanks to that, with time, you will start to speak English more easily and with greater self-confidence.

If grammar is your weak point - commit more time to solving tests and doing exercises. Bruce Lee used to say that he was not afraid of a person who had practised 1000 different kicks but he was afraid of a man who had practised the same kick 10.000 times. The same goes for grammar rules. Focus on one particular thing, e.g. a chosen tense and revise and practise it earnestly before you move on to the next structure.