Debate:Accuracy versus fluency

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This is a Teflpedia debate page started by a teacher. Debate pages are used for discussing issues in English language teaching. Please be civil. No matter how much you may disagree with another user, please criticize what has been said and not the person saying it.


The ongoing debate between accuracy versus fluency in learning and using a language is one that affects both students and teachers. Where do you stand on this issue?

Put simply, students who need to speak in public, often reading aloud from texts or negotiating might need to concentrate more on the accuracy of their pronunciation, for instance, as opposed to those students who need to use English more on a one-to-one basis or possibly need English for their own interests, leisure activities, and so on, and may therefore prefer to aim for fluency. Issues such as when and how to correct mistakes may also need to be taken into acount.

Accuracy[edit]

Pros[edit]

  • Many students have this as an objective and it is therefore a primary motivating factor in their learning process.
  • If a high level is actually achieved then student is happy and will progress.

Cons[edit]

  • Student speaks more slowly.

Fluency[edit]

Pros[edit]

  • In reality listeners will be more patient with a foreign speaker who speaks fluently but who makes mistakes than they will be with one who speaks perfectly but very slowly.

Cons[edit]

  • Students may think that they can happily ignore rules. They may get away with this when speaking but will have problems when they need to write.

Your opinion[edit]

Obviously each have importance in differing situations. But which do you tend to concentrate on in class and why? Please sign your comments.


  • I tend to concentrate on fluency. Most of my students have had grammar rammed down their throats since they were five and don't really have much stomach for much more of it. In my opinion it's far more important to teach them how to communicate.--Bob M 20:05, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Ditto. What I provide - and what the students request - is a "safe" setting and the opportunity to rehearse the kind of situations they come up against. Although they are invariably more or less expert in their respective professional areas, and can express themselves adequately in formal situations where accuracy is required, their biggest difficulty always seems to be the "small talk" associated with pre- or post meeting situations, etc. where fluency is more desirable.--Technopat 05:37, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
I have also taught language teachers whose formal, academic level - and knowledge of Shakespeare - is at least on a par with mine, but whose spoken level of English one would be hard pressed to grade at a low-intermediate level, or, to use the now fashionable barometer, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, A2/B1. Such students obviously have no desire at all to go through grammar explanations and are actually pretty desperate for straightforward conversation classes. Needless to say, they have no interest whatsoever in following anything remotely like a coursebook.--Technopat 14:42, 21 September 2012 (CDT)

Well, shouldn't it be accuracy AND fluency (or: fluency and accuracy)??? Real fluency (i.e. fluency that conveys meaning and is socially acceptable...) needs a certain degree of accuracy while accuracy alone never tested in actual conversation is meaningless. As teachers we do not have to choose between either accuracy or fluency but to be aware of the foci of our activities - are they fluency oriented (in which case I have to refrain from constantly intervening and correcting) or are they accuracy oriented (in which case students need and want to have a clear and if possible immediate feedback)? Thus, very often fluency oriented activities might be followed by accuracy oriented ones in which, drawing on the the teacher's or peers' observations during speaking activities, accuracy is focussed and (hopefully...) improved leading to another fluency activity (or: creative writing...). Variatio delectat...This unsigned comment was made by user:84.146.235.126

Sure in an ideal world we'd both. But typically teachers tend to favour one over the other. :-)--Bob M (talk) 12:17, 27 October 2013 (CDT)

References[edit]