Never say 'I speak X fluently'Now, I have to agree that modesty is always the best policy. There's nothing worse than someone showing off and, frankly, half the things people say aren't true, so I can also see why he would be concerned that someone would try to prove you wrong. I think my issue here is with the assumption that someone 'fluent' in a language speaks it perfectly, or at native speaker level. Is this reasonable?Unless X is your mother tongue, it is not smart to say that you speak a language 'fluently'. Nobody speaks a language he learned perfectly. 'Fluently' in that context sounds very terminal - you can't know it better. What will happen if the guy sitting next to you is a native speaker of that language and he, too, is pumped with testosterone and wishes to teach you a lesson? Will you be able to have perfect pronunciation, to know every idiom? Chances are you will look like a moron. People might feel that you exagerated your command of that language, and that maybe everything else about you is fraudulent.
The prudent polyglot will say 'I speak X quite well'. Nobody will ever try to expose the gaps in your command of a language if you say that. And people will esteem you for your modesty. They will think perhaps there is more to you than meets the eye.
Actually, this is a very bad idea. Unless you are a seasoned polyglot, you will waste your energy, study time and will power over several languages and never reach an advanced level in any. It is much better to focus on one and only language until you become fluent, then move on to the next one.
Finish the language you are doing before moving on. This also applies to closely related languages such as Spanish/Portuguese or Italian/French. It’s much easier to build from a strong background in one language rather than trying to build concurrently the foundations of two languages.
Once you reach an advanced level in your target language, you can start a new language, and still work on perfecting the first one.
- You have a good aptitude for languages and/or are very keen and/or highly motivated.
- You start two very different languages at the same time. Having said that, I can see how learning two very closely related could help, albeit only for someone with the right kind of learning style and abilities, but generally, leave learning another related language until you've got a decent level of the first.
- You have a decent amount of time and energy to devote to the pursuit.