Fluency Ideologies Amongst Undergraduate Bi- and Multilinguals

Kendall Vanderwouw, Rachel Liu, Julia Tran, Nessa Laxamana, Thalia Rothman

UCLA is an incredibly diverse institution, with over 5,000 international students and 100 nations being represented. It is no surprise, then, that they boast a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. From this wealth of information, we sought to explore fluency ideologies amongst bi- and multilingual undergraduates, aged 18 to 22. Through this course and personal experiences, it’s become evident that the definition of fluency is in constant flux. A largely self-defined term, fluency could encompass everything from native-level repertoire to conversational proficiency. Thus, we aimed to investigate whether linguistic background impacted self-perception of fluency.

We engaged in semi-structured interviews with 30 undergraduates to explore this phenomenon and its implications amongst different languages. As we dove deeper, however, we observed little variation in how different languages defined fluency. Rather, most participants revealed similar definitions, centering around, “the ability to express feelings and complex ideas.” Instead, participants expressed a positive relationship between self-perceived fluency and a sense of familial or cultural connection. This finding and others ultimately led us to a new research question that targeted whether an individual’s fluency in a language, upbringing, environment, and cultural background can influence linguistic identity.

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