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Passive fluency


Passive fluency is where a person can fluently read and audibly understand a language whilst not having the ability to fluently speak or write the language. Passive fluency is often brought about by being raised in one language (which becomes the person's passive language) and being schooled in another language (which becomes the person's native language).

People who are passively fluent in a language are often latent speakers who were raised in an environment where the language was spoken but did not become native speakers.

A more common term for this phenomenon is 'passive bilingualism'. Grosjean argues that there has been a monolingual bias regarding who is considered a 'bilingual', where people who do not have equal competence in all their languages are judges not speaking properly. 'Balanced bilinguals' are, in fact, very rare, and the fluency of a bilingual in his/ her languages is domain- specific: it depends on what they need the languages for. This means that speakers may not admit to their fluency in their passive language, despite the fact that there are social (extralinguistic) factors underlying their different competencies.

Karlos Cid Abasolo discusses that passive bilingualism would be a minimum requirement for the co- official status of Basque and Spanish to become a working reality. As there are currently many monolingual Spanish speakers, and no monolingual Basque speakers, there is not yet a situation where an individual fluent in Basque could speak in his/ her mother tongue, regardless of the domain, circumstance or interlocutor.

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