At what point can you say that you are fluent in a coding language?

Hi there!

At what point can a Codecademy student consider themself “fluent” in a coding language? I just completed the “Learn HTML” course online and recognized it was marked “Language Fluency” and I just wanted to confirm whether this completion certifies me as fluent or not. Does this apply to all of the courses marked “Language Fluency”?


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For me yes. If I understand everything in a course I would say I am fluent in it but when I don’t understand something I definitely say I am not fluent but it really depends on the person.

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Fluency is subjective.

For a language, it tends to mean you can hold a conversation and live in a community where people only use that language. This is problematic when determining if you’re fluent by the standards of others, because talking about a topic you’re comfortable with is always going to be easier than something random. If you can do the latter, I’d say you’re fluent in a (spoken) language.

For a programming language, you can apply the same principles: can you do <whatever you need to do> in it? If so, do you think you could also - in theory - do whatever someone else asks you to do? If yes again, then you are fluent, but that will take much more time than you expect.

As for this? Well, certification means nothing here.

If you’re certified as having a high grade in French class at school, does that make you any better than someone who speaks French as their first language? Thinking about it, you’re probably better qualified on paper, because you’ve got something to say you speak the language. Then again, if they can prove their fluency, then they could turn out to be just as good or - likely - much better than you.

…so, what does a certificate do?


In general terms, fluency could be pared down to, being able to think in the language. Any language will have its nuances, which is why translation is so hard, and even using supercomputers there are still misinterpretations.

If one can write like Flaubert or Voltaire, in French, it would be proof of their thinking in the that language, and are fluent in it. Writing like they think, in any language would also be proof of fluency. It’s the thought process that leads up to fluency. We were/are graded for our literacy skills at the level we’re expected to have reached by a certain age. There will always be the small group of learners who exceed that level, whether naturally through reading a lot, or by exercise working on endless writing assignments.

A young person’s diary soon turns to a journal if one is inclined to write everyday. Through introspection and retrospection and interpolation they tend to see their emotional side better than the average person. That’s another language altogether, but channeled through thinking.

Chess is another language with very simple syntax and playing rules but more moves possible than all the stars in the universe. When does one consider themselves fluent at chess? Tough question. There are so many exceptional players in the world though I would be surprised if any one of them would describe themselves as good chess players.

In coding we gain fluency through our ideation of code. We create code from scratch knowing the outcome we plan for, and then try like the devil to break it. Doing this helps us learn about failure points and edge cases, given the limitations of the language, or the code, or both. This takes thinking, not just doing. How many patterns do we recognize by only looking at them? It’s no different in this respect than Maths and Physics, the former being the language of the latter.

On a more personal note, I was probably more fluent at coding on a Timex Sinclair or any of the range of 8-bit computers of the 80s than I am today. Then it was a hunger that drove me to really think about things. Without the benefit of High School Maths, I was still writing code that could do integration and all manner of low level logic without really knowing what I’d stumbled upon. Today, with all my acquired skills, one can honestly say that that person was way over my head. I have spent years being a learner, and more than likely sacrificed my fluency.

Challenges invite us to discover for ourselves what is still out there to be learned, around a particular type of problem. The study of strings could be a rote description of every available method, but it will lack in the ability to expose every type of problem. You could know little else about coding for other data structures and still be an expert if you knew everything there was to know about strings, or character data in general. The same as a designer with CSS in their kit can produce spectacular layouts without a hint of HTML or programming. It all comes down to thinking in that language.

For me, the language of beginners is the fluency I have sought this past decade or more. To be painfully honest, it’s still a work in progress.

At this juncture in our learning path, it is more important to have fun than it is to reach for fluency any time soon. That will come in measure with effort and interest. When we play a sport, we think in the language of the sport. Ask any hockey, basketball, football, soccer, etc. player and they will tell you the same thing. They think in the language of their sport, and have tonnes of fun doing it, despite the hard drills and training.

Saying one is fluent goes profoundly against our human weaknesses. The moment we put our finger on something and exclaim, “I’ve got it” we’ll see that we haven’t put our finger on anything. Better to work toward something than to’ve arrived. It’s all down hill from there.


Wow. I just want to take a minute to thank you guys for responding to my question. It may not seem like much, but I was honestly blown away by the time and effort you put in to helping me answer this in such a helpful and detailed manner. To be completely transparent, I kind of posted that thinking no one would ever give me a response in the first place! I am so new to Code Academy but am already so thankful for the wonderful community of people here to help each other learn and grow. Hope you all are enjoying a happy new year!


With the chance to get a response like this from the person requesting help, is there any good reason to not provide it?

You’re welcome.

P.S: Code Academy “Codecademy”


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