Adventures in Language

Teaching Tips & Tricks | What is the Fluency Illusion?

September 21, 2021 Mango Languages
Adventures in Language
Teaching Tips & Tricks | What is the Fluency Illusion?
Show Notes

What do pop quizzes, cognitive science, and Francis Bacon have in common? It's all about the Fluency Illusion! Whether or not you’ve heard of the term - we guarantee you’re familiar with the phenomenon.

In short, the Fluency Illusion is the cognitive process that can lead learners to overestimate how much of the learning material they truly understand. It’s a problem for language learning because it leads students to believe they can actively produce something in the target language just because they can passively understand it during comprehension.

The solution to overcoming this problem lies in active learning strategies. If that’s what you came for, then keep listening! In this episode of Adventures in Language, we will be dropping some knowledge about the Fluency Illusion and how teachers can help their learners overcome the it.

Looking for some more information about how the Mango app helps learners sidestep the Fluency illusion? Sign up to download our (free) worksheet on Setting Good Language Learning Goals, and we'll send along a bonus whitepaper: Mango Languages and Our Approach to Second Language Acquisition! Click here:

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Emily Sabo (PhD, University of Michigan) is a linguist at Mango Languages. A Pittsburgh native, her areas of specialization are the social and cognitive factors that impact bilingual language processing and production. 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? ‘হ্যালো’ (ha-LOO) and ‘বিদায়’ (BEE-die) are the words for ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Bengali (a language spoken primarily in Bangladesh and surrounding areas). ‘Ahoj’ and ‘dovidenia’ are ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Slovak (also sometimes called Slovakian; the national language of Slovakia). Interested in learning Bengali, Slovak, Brazilian Portuguese or one of the other 70+ languages that the Mango app offers? Visit:

Want to know more about the scientific research underlying this episode? 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. He does a great job of sprinkling in engaging reviews of the experiments that laid the foundation for how we know what we know about how learning happens in the brain. A good paper to share with your students that illustrates the “testing effect” 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.