Fluent with chopsticks

Just four months ago, I struggled to pick up anything with a pair of metal chopsticks. To me, they seemed more difficult to handle than the wooden or plastic ones.

But that was four months ago. Now, I’m fluent.

Since my first day in Korea, I’ve eaten with chopsticks almost exclusively. They serve chicken here with two forks, so I use forks then. Otherwise, though, I’ve used chopsticks more than most Koreans. Koreans, unlike most of the rest of Asia, eat rice with spoons. For practice, I’ve usually stuck with chopsticks.

I still drop things. I still have trouble with the slippery foods. I still get help from friends when my piece of sausage sticks to others (that’s what communal eating is all about).

But I’d still say I’m fluent. I’m probably 97% as good as natives who’ve eaten with them all their lives. More important than the comparison, I eat with chopsticks without thinking about the mechanics.

When I’m first learning something, anything, I approach it more methodically than someone who already knows how to do it. I have to reason through the mechanics. I have to analyze why some approaches work and others don’t.

After a while, it becomes natural. I don’t have to think about the specifics anymore. They just flow.

That’s what I think fluency is. Fluency is the point, if there is one, where you can do something without being aware of it, you know, the way fluid flows, without thinking.