# A language fluency scale for use in this subforum

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Fraggle Rocker, Feb 21, 2011.

1. ### Spud Emperorsolanaceous common taterRegistered Senior Member

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3,899
Spud Empress comes in at around 22-23,000

This doesn't surprise me at all.
And I know she's not bullshitting.

Surprisingly we win about 50% each at scrabble.

3. ### chimpkinC'mon, get happy!Registered Senior Member

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4,416
Phi Beta Kappa now wants money before they'll induct you. Your GPA has to be either above a 3.0 or 3.5, I can't remember.

But I was either making $8 or$9 an hour, half my income was paying for asthma medications, my lungs weren't at full capacity. I was eating caffeine pills like a pac-man to deal with the chronic fatigue from the sinus infection I didn't yet realize I had. Not diagnosed.

I was probably running a low-grade fever off and on at the time too and not realizing it; my cognitions were pretty fried. I had to take more and more notes because I couldn't remember things quite as well as usual-even low-grade fever messes with memory formation.
The 2x weekly migraines from the pressure buildup was an extra added bonus. I figured out 800 milligrams of ibuprofen stopped them, but if I forgot the bottle, it was bad.

So...to paraphrase (and I had to google the quote to remember her name) Dorothy Parker, I didn't lightly toss their glossy mailer aside...I crumpled it and hurled it in the garbage with great force.

My Smarter Half beats me at Scrabble pretty regularly when we play...which is funny, because I like it better than she does.

5. ### keith1Guest

It may be disingenuous to conclude any relevant intellectual level proficiency to language fluency, as observed by the lack of communicative proficiency between the various cultural diplomatic leaders of the past, as it seems unchanged also, into our modern times.
Yet too, I must admit, it would seem rudely bold to conclude a lack of a need of such comparison, as if to conclude that all languages, other than the Yankee English, are an archaic and non-global communicative avenue.

7. ### chimpkinC'mon, get happy!Registered Senior Member

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4,416
Communication runs deeper than language alone...and often miscommunication occurs cross-culturally because peoples think of things in different ways, without realizing it.

That's why a really good translator requires many years of training. They do not just have to understand the spoken language, they must understand both cultures well.

8. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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24,690
* * * * NOTES FROM THE MODERATOR * * * *

TO EVERYONE:

• I have to get ready for work and haven't had time to take the test yet. I'll see if I can fit it in tonight.
• Although much of what I post on this subforum (and others) might quality as "original research" (by an educated amateur), the vocabulary figures in my O.P. are not, so I can't take credit or blame for them. Nonetheless, they're probably A) forty years old and B) taken from a long-forgotten source(s) whose authority I might be better able to judge today than I was in the Flower Power era.
• Since then I have never encountered rigorous estimates of the higher numbers, although I still occasionally run into the assertion that Winston Churchill's vocabulary was pretty close to six digits.
• I don't know how people count words. The definition of a "word" varies wildly from one language to the next. I haven't yet found a decent definition of a "word" in Chinese, where virtually every one-syllable morpheme can stand alone. Are "close" and "closing" two separate words? How about "admonish" and "admonishment"? Or "admonition"?
• I invented this fluency scale strictly for use on SciForums and have never shared it outside this website. New members often log in and say, "Oh I guess my fluency level is about 5 in Nahuatl and 7 in Aramaic." Those numbers don't mean anything to us, especially when the next person claims to be 6 in French after taking university classes in Paris. (All of these anecdotes are fictitious.)
• I'll be delighted to improve this scale based upon all of your input, and I look forward to taking the test.
TO NCDANE:
• Please dial back the rhetoric. This is not the Politics or Religion board where sensitive issues are raised, tempers run high, and the Moderators have to put up with a certain traffic in insults or half their members would be banned.
• "Trash talk" is always accommodated in small doses like any other form of humor, but I do not tolerate flaming and personal insults on the Linguistics board, where there is absolutely no reason for such passion.
• Please consider this an "unofficial warning." If this happens again I will skip the "official warning" step and go directly to the ban-escalation scale.
• The Moderators are charged with rebuilding SciForums into the place of science and scholarship that it was ten years ago. We expect the members to comport themselves like scientists and scholars. Of course since many of our members are teenagers we understand that every now and then they will take their lab coats off and start tossing erasers at each other. But that does not extend to vile personal insults.

9. ### GeoffPCaput gerat lupinumValued Senior Member

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22,087
Scored a 22K on C. I was surprised how many words I'd never heard of.

10. ### EnmosValued Senior Member

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43,184
Part A: 4500 (75%)
Part B: 7560 (63%)
Part C: 10750 (43%)

But in my defense, English is not my first language.
I get a lot from context, but so does everyone else of course.

11. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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24,690
18,250 on Part C, although I only got 11,040 on Part B. I learned a lot of new words so that was fun, although at my age I'll probably forget most of them unless I encounter them within the next few weeks. Come on folks, lets start seeing posts about torose plant organs and the constant whining of valetudinarians.

Oh wait, I'm going to give myself credit for kail. If I ever saw it in print I would assume it was a misspelling of kale, of which it truly is an accepted alternate spelling. That makes 18,500. I wonder how many other words I missed because I didn't think they'd be rude enough to tease us with offbeat spellings?

I thought the test was slanted toward British usage. Did you Brits encounter a lot of unfathomable Americanisms? The only way I could surmise the meaning of "dory" is that there's a fish called the "john dory" and I once dined in a seafood restaurant by that name.

So let's recalibrate the fluency scale.

12. ### DywyddyrPenguinaciously duckalicious.Valued Senior Member

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18,953
I was initially stumped by "hoiden" and "sillabub", but assumed (correctly as I found out later when checking) that these are alternative spellings of my more usually-seen hoyden and syllabub.
Kail was slightly easier for me because I've seen it spelt both ways in "real life": in fact on one occasion on two different greengrocery stalls within 10 feet of each other.

13. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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24,690
I've never seen "hoyden" and I've only seen "syllabub" in stories about Olde England. Since I couldn't remember what it was (some sort of foul alcoholic beverage, apparently) I didn't give myself credit for it.
Nobody spells it that way over here. Of course it's not that popular a vegetable over here. And we buy our food from supermarkets, not "greengrocers," whatever those are!

Many cities have "farmer's markets" in parking lots on Saturday and/or Sunday morning, where the nearby farmers truck their produce in to sell directly to the public. Maybe that's the closest thing we have to "greengrocers."

Despite the fact that the USA is a net food exporter and even one of the world's primary food producers (most of the land in California, for instance, despite its huge cities, is farm, forest or desert) it always seems like the fruit I eat was flown in from Chile. I recently learned that almost all of our cut flowers come from Colombia.

14. ### DywyddyrPenguinaciously duckalicious.Valued Senior Member

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18,953
It's a dessert!
The sort of thing landed gentry still ate after the main meal in the likes of Agatha Christie and E. M. Forster tales.
Pfft, Merchant Ivory have probably copyrighted it by now.

15. ### Me-Ki-GalBannedBanned

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4,634
Thanx my Rocket Man !! I got to learn Creole . Ahgg!!! So hard given English has being a daunting task for Me. The Haitians will have to help Me big. If they like Me I think they will. Maybe I can get to be a three year old before I get there . Self doubt is a cancer. Ugg!! Life is hard and language is my devil.
You the Man

16. ### NCDaneRegistered Senior Member

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155
I wish her the best, but I still do not believe her score.

17. ### adoucetteCaca OccursValued Senior Member

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7,829
The test might have been more accurate when it was devised, nearly a century ago.

A test to determine vocabulary today needs to be based on the way word usage changes.

A number of the words used are no longer in use at all.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/amain

No sense using a word if no one knows the meaning of it.

Arthur

18. ### NCDaneRegistered Senior Member

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155
She knew from my first post that she was claiming a vocabulary
size in the range of Shakespeare's.

Oh, I think anyone who really does know 100/100 of the words in
part C of the test can be reasonably assumed to possess a 25k-word
vocabulary, and I doubt the other sections are that far off either.

I suspect specialized technical language is not counted, nor should it
count in a test like this: we are trying to vocabulary size for words in
general use, such as in media and literary production.

"Educated" is a somewhat archaic term referring to a person with
a college degree.

I doubt the rate of creation of new technical terms is very high,
even limiting the number to terms used only by technical specialists.

That would be hard to do since a majority of English words
are derived from French and various Germanic languages.

considered standard while "maison" and "schadenfreude" may
not be considered standard. Yes, there is an arbitrary element
in deciding what is and what is not standard. However, such
arbitrariness occurs in most if not all fields of human endeavor,
and cannot be avoided, so you are just going to have to adjust.

The entire corpus of Joyce's grossly overrated canon is to be
considered substandard, and unworthy of admission into
mainstream usage.

Yes, I know the word "quark" appears in Finnegan's Wake. However,
Its creation as a technical term by Murray Gell-Mann was coincidental,
as Gell-Mann relates himself in his autobiography titled The Jaguar and the Quark.

As for word creation in general, I believe Mr. W. Shakespeare is the
uncontested leader, and by a big margin. Take a look at some:

Shakespeare- neologisms

Shakespeare- neologisms

Shakespeare- neologisms

Joyce could not carry Shakespeare’s jockstrap.

At 22.25k you did not recall stumbling on exactly 11/100. I would
really like to have administered the test to you and everyone else
claiming over 20k, but alas I will have to live without being able
to contradict anyone’s self-promotion. Knowing the meaning of a
word like “suss” does make you more credible than anyone else who
has posted here. Use of the word “Canine” leaves you with no hope
as a comedian, however.

Straw man fallacy.

"Never use a ten-dollar word when a 50-cent word will do"

Wittgenstein is to philosophy as Joyce is to literature. Hopefully both
will be forgotten by the end of this century, as they deserve.

A professional linguist such as Chomsky might be expected to have a
much larger than normal vocabulary, even for an “educated” person.

19. ### chimpkinC'mon, get happy!Registered Senior Member

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4,416
You didn't know a dory was a small boat, or a fish(that I believe was named for the boat)?

I guess you're not a Pixar fan...didn't watch "Finding Nemo." The goofy fish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres...Dory wasn't just the fish's name, it was the fish's species also.

Oh crap! I thought it was some sort of sweet, alcoholic beverage one would drink before bed too!

Got it wrong! That's what I get for not liking British mysteries.
To bad H.P. Lovecraft didn't like syllabubs.

Hoyden/Hoiden=slut and/or hooker though, of course.

What I get for skimming, I just read it phonetically. Know what it is??? I'm growing it...it's going to seed now, I think. Found a bunch of the so-called ornamental variety on sale...I find the purple-leaf to be the hardiest and the most delicious

.It's too bad kale isn't more popular...I usually eat it raw, but stir-fried kale and jalapeno peppers, or kale steamed with multiple garlic cloves, is to die for.

Last edited: Mar 31, 2011
20. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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24,690
Yes, an icky-sounding concoction of cream and booze. Hmm. Put that way, it sounds appealing to a man whose favorite cocktail is Sambuca black with cream.
Huh? I thought you were a native anglophone. What is your primary language then? I suppose you do give off clues. Only a foreigner would spell "Me" with a capital M, assuming that since "I" is capitalized, the pronoun must be capitalized in all its cases, including My, Mine and Myself. Only anglophones are so cocky that we capitalize the pronoun for ourselves. In other languages if any pronoun is capitalized, its "you" out of courtesy! German Sie, Spanish Ud.--although not when it's written out as usted.
I can believe that someone who is currently enrolled in university classes and is enthusiastic about them has a large vocabulary. I already completed my degree in 1967 and since then the knowledge has steadily attenuated. When my wife was working on hers in the late 1970s, she was way smarter than me. And since she continued onward and got a master's degree--going nights while working so it took seven years--she is still way smarter than me.

Notice, for example, that she doesn't hang out here.

I looked up many of the words I didn't know and they certainly did seem archaic.
I would like to have seen quite a few more words like asynchronous, telecommute, securitize, biofuel and paparazzo.
We have this nifty new Bronze Age technology called "writing," which both allows and encourages people to receive direct communication from people who died long ago. Scholars are expected to read old books, and this means they have to understand a few old words. I don't see how anyone could achieve a vocabulary that large--or even bother trying to achieve it--without being at least an amateur scholar.
But Early Modern English didn't have as many words as 21st-century English. That's why Shakespeare had to invent them! It's quite reasonable for a precocious scholar in our era to have as many words at her command as he did. Shakespeare didn't have to converse about microbiology, particle physics, plate tectonics, global warming, trickle-down economics or deforestation, like anyone who professes to be at all educated has to do today.
As I've pointed out, technical language is not so "specialized." Everyone who lives in the mainstream of civilization has to know what a gene, a server, autotune and a meltdown are.
You've got to be joking. I've been an I.T. professional for 44 years and every year I'm overwhelmed with new words I have to learn. Particularly now that I'm a technical writer so I'm obliged to know how to "use it in a sentence."

Not "various Germanic languages," but Anglo-Saxon or "Old English" as it was known in my day. We did pick up quite few words from the Norsemen who colonized the northern shores of Angle Land in the days when it was known by that name, but their number pales in comparison to the Latin and Greek words we've absorbed--and created--in the last few centuries. Including Greek-Latin hybrids like "television."
I'll give you maison, but among scholars Schadenfreude is basic vocabulary. It's in Dictionary.com, while maison is not.
Please present your credentials as a literary critic. Mrs. Fraggle has an M.A. in English Literature and she considers Joyce one of its luminaries--an opinion she did not entirely come to on her own, but AFAICT is a consensus among the scholars in the field.
Since that personal insult is not directed at any of us, I'll let it slide. The Mrs. would certainly insist that he is qualified to carry that jockstrap, but I don't know how much closer she would elevate him to the Bard's level.

As I said, I did indeed know that a John Dory is a fish, although I've never heard of a plain Vanilla Dory. From that I guessed that an uncapitalized dory is a boat. I gave myself credit for guessing correctly on that word and several others since I felt this conformed to the instructions.
Sorry, no. I do enjoy silly movies more than the other kind though, and loved "Wall-E," "Up!" and "Rango."
I think it is so close to that that you get credit. When it comes to food the Brits don't know doodley-squat about texture, so it happens to be a sort of alcoholic pudding. These are the same people who eat a hamburger with a knife and fork, so there's no point in trying to understand their food quirks. (Says the man who thinks "real pizza" has to be thick enough to require a knife and fork.)
The same way I like my spinach.

21. ### parmaleeperipatetic artisanValued Senior Member

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3,015

Perhaps, yet I've encountered many lawyers (not singling out lawyers here, simply borrowing an example given in the accompanying text) who've undoubtedly a sizable vocabulary, but wouldn't likely be familiar with more than 20 or so of those words.

I think Joyce would fare better were we simply to disregard Finnegan's Wake and Ulysses

If I recall correctly, I picked up "suss" either from Hawkwind or from a former Hawkwind groupie whom I met somewhere in Nepal many long years ago--in the States, both the term and the concept are quite foreign.

And "Canine" was no jest (see Bateson, et al), as even Chomsky has recently revised certain of his notions regarding language. I'll provide a reference upon request, provided I can track it down again...

Just a guess, but I suspect that you may be ignoring Wittgenstein's later work (most of which was published posthumously) and adhering to certain unsavory interpretations proffered by stodgy Analytic-types. I would suggest looking into the work of Stanley Cavell and Cora Diamond for a more coherent exposition.

22. ### ULTRARealistically SurrealRegistered Senior Member

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1,555
I started with school sciences, then high-school sciences (physics chem, Bio, Earth, Geog) then trained as a lab tech, then worked in a biotech lab, then worked in another lab (genetics), then did an access course for uni (environmental biology, organic and inorganic chemistry & earth sciences), then did a year working at the Uni (applied evolution), then ran my own biotech lab. So, 9. 30,000 + would be my guess. I also attended a number of residential courses in fieldwork (biology & statistics). And yes I can tell a mol from a mole!

23. ### NCDaneRegistered Senior Member

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Attenuated? Attenuated???

I will get to the rest later, but for now stop right there.

Without looking it up I can tell you that “attenuated” means
something like “diminished” or “reduced” in strength or force.
I recall writing a college paper on Plato’s Third Man Argument,
Attenuated version.