I don't know about you, but my attempts at learning a language have been...erratic, at best.
I began with Spanish in 10th grade against my will. I wanted to take French, but my tiny, rural North Carolina high school only offered Spanish. And since you needed at least two years of a language to graduate and get into college, that was that.
When I got to Chapel Hill, I wanted, again, to take French. Or Italian. But by some bizarre miracle during my placement exam, I placed into Spanish 3. At Carolina, you have to take up to Level 3 of your chosen language. I could take Spanish 3. Or I could take French (or Italian) 1, 2, AND 3...taking up 3 of my elective classes versus one. Once again, I went with Spanish, and that was that, although since half the men's swim team was in my Spanish 3 class, it wasn't all bad...
And then I studied abroad in Italy. I took an Italian class there and promptly confused the heck out of myself. But I became obsessed with Italy and all things Italian, and I tried to learn Italian.
Years after my Italian excursion/obsession, I met this guy. He had to travel to France for work. And even though we'd only been dating 5 months, he took me with him. Thus began my love affair with France (and him). But this went one step further. He wanted/needed to learn some French for work, so he bought the Rosetta Stone disk and gave me a copy. And I actually learned a fair amount before I fell off the wagon.
At this point, the three languages are basically a big mishmash in my head. I call it "Fraspangitalenglish." In France, three years ago, I kept trying to speak an incoherent blend of Spanish and Italian - I knew I needed to speak a foreign language, but those were the only ones I "knew" (and I use the term "knew" VERY loosely). When the aforementioned guy and I went to Costa Rica in May on our honeymoon, I kept trying to speak French. My brain is basically one big tangle of Romance languages, and the only thing I can consistently say in any of them is "May I have a glass of red wine, please?"
Clearly, I need help. Enter Fluent Forever.
I don't know what I expected from this book, but this wasn't it. It's more of the "teach a man to fish" school - he doesn't teach you a language, he merely gives you the tools to teach yourself. The book is chock-full of memory devices and suggestions, flash card ideas, and how to use grammar books, dictionaries, and other standard resources to their full potential.
I really liked the idea of using Google Images to help you learn words and "spot the difference" and the nuances of different words. His use of an SRS - a Spaced Repetition System - was interesting. I had never heard of this concept, but I can definitely see how it would be useful.
I also really like how he suggested using a frequency dictionary - learn the 1,000 or so most frequently used words in a language, and then learn whatever other topics YOU want to learn (business words, academic words, artistic...whatever). In French, I'd be super happy if I could speak fluently at restaurants and cafes and get around in everyday life. If I can learn how to say, "How much does that Longchamp purse cost?", I'll be just fine. I don't need to know about, say, cats. Every foreign language loves to tell you about cats and dogs right in the beginning, but let me tell you, the only phrase I'll need to know about cats is, "Get that @#$%ing cat out of here!"
His writing is almost...scientific at times, and there were parts I wasn't ENTIRELY sure I understood. But as I was merely reading it for a review (right now), I wasn't too concerned. This isn't a "read it once and shelve it" kind of book. It will be as much of a resource as your grammar books.
It's also hard to rate this book because while his writing and suggestions were good, until you REALLY devote time to studying a language and actually USING his methods, it's impossible to tell how good his advice actually is (or isn't). While his methods are supposed to make language learning easier, there would still be a lot of time and energy that you would need to dedicate to this effort. I don't have the time and/or energy right now to really jump into this fully. However, I'll definitely keep this book around in the event we get to visit France again - or I suddenly find a plethora of free time.
The verdict: A great book with great suggestions for anyone who is serious about learning a foreign language. I give it four stars. Want to check it out for yourself? Click on the picture below to check out some pages of the book.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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