Adventures in Language

Learning Tips & Tricks | What You Need to Know About the Fluency Illusion

September 23, 2021 Mango Languages
Adventures in Language
Learning Tips & Tricks | What You Need to Know About the Fluency Illusion
Show Notes

What do pop quizzes, cognitive science, and Francis Bacon have in common? They’re all mentioned in this podcast! In this episode, we’re talking about the Fluency Illusion. Whether or not you’ve heard of the term, we guarantee you’re familiar with the phenomenon. Beware – its name may sound magical, but it’s unfortunately no fun trick.
In short, the Fluency Illusion is the cognitive process that can make you overestimate how much of the learning material you truly understand. It leads you to believe you can actively produce something in the target language just because you can passively understand it when reading or writing. The solution to overcoming this problem lies in active learning strategies. If that’s what you came for, then keep listening!
We will drop some knowledge about the Fluency Illusion and share our 5 go-to learning strategies to help you avoid falling prey to the Fluency Illusion.

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Emily Sabo (PhD, University of Michigan) is a linguist at Mango Languages. Having studied 7 languages and lived in various countries abroad, she sees multilingualism -- and the cultural diversity that accompanies it -- as the coolest of superpowers. Complementary to her work at Mango, Emily is a Lecturer of Spanish at the University of Tennessee, a Producer of the “We Are What We Speak’ docuseries, and get this...a storytelling standup comedian!

Wondering what languages were used in this episode? In addition to being written in English, Sæll (sightl) and vertu blessaður (vair tuh blessothur) are ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Icelandic (the national language of Iceland; roughly 328,080 speakers worldwide). Did you know...the way to say ‘hello’ in Icelandic is literally the Icelandic word meaning ‘blissful’? Bonjour and au revoir are ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in French (the statutory national language of France; also spoken in a multitude of other countries, such as Morocco, Canada, and Côte d’Ivoire). ‘இதுக்கு அப்புரம் (ithuku aprom) means 'without further ado' (lit. 'after this') in Tamil (a language of India, predominantly spoken in the Tamil Nadu and Kannada states). Interested in learning Icelandic, French, Tamil or one of the other 70+ languages that the Mango app offers? Visit:

Want to know more about the scientific research underlying this podcast? For a fun, easy read that summarizes the takeaways of how we learn - check out Ben Carey’s 2015 book entitled How we learn: The surprising truth about when, where, and why it happens. Chapter 5 (titled The Hidden Value of Ignorance: the Many Dimensions of Testing) is of particular relevance to this episode. We highly recommend this read because Carey writes in a way that’s clearly well-researched but accessible and free of jargon. 
One academic article that illustrates how active learning strategies can combat the Fluency Illusion is Roediger III, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on psychological science, 1(3), 181-210.