Is there a possible idiom or phrase in the following context that means satisfactory in all abilities?

For example, lets say someone knows three languages: English, Spanish, and Korean; however, their knowledge of all these languages (including their native language) aren't fluent, but not poor either, just satisfactory.

When they're asked, "What language do you speak?"; instead of answering "I speak English, Spanish, and Korean, but they're all just satisfactory", or "I speak English, Spanish, and Korean, but none of them are that great", is there an idiom or phrase that could replace that, to mean something along the lines of not any of my languages are fluent, just satisfactory? or all of my languages are just satisfactory?

  • I think that some of the baggage would belong to the speaker or hearer. If I say "I am proficient in..." that could be my claim to fluency or mere familiarity, depending on what I view as proficiency.
    – rosends
    Jan 3, 2014 at 1:25
  • with the specific case of language fluency, I think it will be hard to come up with such a phrase. Specifically, because it is hard to comprehend what the criterion of adequacy is if it is not fluency.
    – virmaior
    Jan 3, 2014 at 1:25
  • what if the speaker can have general communication, and he/she is able to grasp maybe about 1/2 of the content in the media?
    – Theo
    Jan 3, 2014 at 2:02

4 Answers 4


"Conversant" is one word you could use.

Alternatively, you could say "their knowledge of/ability in xyz is passable"

  • though I'm looking for an idiom/phrase, I quite like the word passable.
    – Theo
    Jan 3, 2014 at 3:30

Actually, there is: "jack of all trades (, master of none)"

That is, you're good in many things but none of those are particularly good, just good enough to work with

Usually the phrase is followed with "master of none", but could be used by itself (hence the brackets)


Perhaps, "while not fluent, he is able to communicate effectively" or "capable of daily and business conversations".


You could say that someone is "competent" at English, Spanish and Korean. This suggests that someone is capable, but maybe not excellent at the skill.

You could also say that someone is a "journeyman". This refers back to trades and apprenticeships, such as being a carpenter or blacksmith. It suggests that someone can do the job but is not yet a master. Depending on context, it could also be used to suggest that someone will only ever be competent, and will never be a master.

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