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Two Main Factors to Consider When Assessing Speaking Fluency

Two Main Factors to Consider When Assessing Speaking Fluency

Speaking fluency is a key component of effective communication. Assessing someone’s speaking fluency can provide valuable insights into their oral proficiency.

This article examines the primary factors to consider when assessing speaking fluency. I provide a comprehensive overview of the characteristics that contribute to fluent speech, including rate, rhythm, pauses, vocabulary, grammar, and more.

While acknowledging that all these factors play a role, I emphasize two main elements that I believe deserve the most focus when assessing someone’s speaking fluency: speech flow and comprehensibility. Then, I outline specific techniques for assessing them.

I conclude by offering a practical framework for analyzing speaking fluency in a holistic yet targeted way.

For anyone interested in boosting their fluency or assessing others’ skills, this article provides helpful insights and considerations.

Here are the main factors to consider when assessing speaking fluency:


Listen to how quickly or slowly the person speaks. Fluent speakers tend to speak at a natural, relaxed pace without too many pauses. Non-fluent speakers may speak slowly and haltingly.


Fluent speech has a natural rhythm and flow. Non-fluent speech may be choppy without much rhythm.


Some pauses in speech are natural, but too many long pauses can indicate a lack of fluency. Assess if pauses are distracting and interrupt the flow of speech.


“Umm,” “ah,” “like,” etc. are examples of fillers. Some fillers are normal, but excessive use usually indicates speaking anxiety and a lack of fluency.


Fluent speakers stress words properly and speak with a natural intonation. Non-fluent speakers may have monotone speech. 


Fluent speakers use precise vocabulary suitable for the context. Non-fluent speakers may fumble for words or use a basic or limited vocabulary.


Proper grammatical structure indicates fluency. Frequent grammar mistakes are signs of a lack of fluency.


Assess if the speech flows smoothly from one sentence to the next. Lack of fluency is noticeable through a choppy, disjointed flow.


The overall ease or difficulty of understanding the speech indicates the level of fluency.

The best way to assess speaking fluency is to consider all the above factors holistically while listening to someone speak, rather than relying on any one factor alone.

But here are the two main factors (from my point of view) you should focus on more when assessing speaking fluency:

1. Speech Flow

Speech flow is an important characteristic of speaking fluency. Here are some tips to assess speech flow:


Fluent speech generally flows continuously without abrupt stops and starts. Disfluent speech tends to be fragmented and choppy. Notice if the person connects their words and ideas smoothly without many unnatural pauses.

Smooth transitions

Assess if the person transitions smoothly from one sentence to the next. Fluency is indicated by using connecting words (e.g. however, therefore, additionally) and transitional phrases (e.g., as I was saying, to expand on that) to link ideas and progress the speech nicely.

Appropriate pace

Fluent speech usually occurs at an appropriate, steady pace—not too fast, hurried, slow, or halting. The pace should sound natural and relaxed.


There should be a natural rhythm to fluent speech. It’s not monotone. Fluent speakers stress words properly to give the speech a nice cadence.

Maintaining flow

Check if the person maintains flow while moving between ideas or answering questions. Fluency involves continuing with minimal interruptions to the speech flow.

Recovering flow

Notice how well the person recovers from any interruptions, like pausing to find a word. Fluent speakers quickly pick up the flow again with minimal disruption.

2. Comprehensibility

Comprehensibility refers to how easy or difficult it is to understand the overall speech, and it’s an important indicator of fluency. Here are some tips for assessing comprehensibility:

Effort required

Fluency involves speech that is easily and readily understandable to the listener with little effort required. Disfluent speech requires more effort by the listener to understand the message.


Assess how clear the pronunciation and articulation are. Fluent speech is clearly articulated, while disfluency leads to mumbled or garbled speech.


A very strong accent could negatively impact comprehensibility for some listeners, regardless of grammar and vocabulary.


Proper vocabulary usage increases comprehensibility. Disfluent speakers may use incorrect or unsuitable words.


Proper grammar makes speech more comprehensible. Frequent grammar errors make speech harder to understand.


Well-organized, logical speech is easier to follow. Rambling or disjointed speech is difficult to comprehend.


Fluent speakers provide good details and elaboration. The lack of supporting details reduces comprehensibility.


Check if the person rephrases or summarizes when needed to increase understanding. Fluent speakers rephrase skillfully.

Non-verbal cues

Cues like gestures and intonation can enhance or hamper comprehensibility.

My Point Of View

Fluent speech should have a smooth, connected, appropriate-paced flow with proper rhythm. The continuity, transitions, pace, rhythm, and recovery of flow are the key indicators of fluency. Choppy, fragmented speech indicates a lack of fluency.

Comprehensibility depends on how successfully the speaker conveys their message. Fluency leads to straightforward understanding, while a lack of fluency requires greater listener effort.

This is my point of view about how to assess speaking fluency and the two main factors to focus on.

What about you? What do you think of how to assess speaking fluency? What is your point of view about the main factors we should focus on?

Thank you for reading

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