Most people want to speak more than one language. Are you one of those people? If you could become fluent in any language of your choice within the next 24 hours, which one would it be?
The interesting thing is that the majority of people in the world already speak an additional language, but not necessarily the one that they would like to. I recently listened to the creator of Duolingo say in an interview that there are more than 400-million people in China learning English!
So if you’re reading this blog right now, then congratulations! You know one of the most desired languages on Earth!
But if you want to learn a second (or third?) language, then one of the best things you can do right off the bat, is to learn the HOW TO of language learning so that you pick up the new language quickly and start using it right away.
I’ve recently read a book that has some excellent suggestions on how to do it. Are you interested to know what it is? Well, check out the picture below! I hope you enjoy my Fluent Forever review!
Fluent Forever is a book about learning languages. It’s written by Gabriel Wyner who is not only a polyglot (someone who speaks more than five languages) but he is also a trained opera singer. That skill of singing played a key part in his success at learning several languages since he needed to be able to speak several languages for his musical roles.
The method that he uses to learn new languages is one that he actually stumbled upon by accident. He tells a pretty funny story about a time that he cheated on a French test. Doing this got him placed into a level of French above what his skills were actually at, and he had to do something to to learn a huge amount of the language before his in-person interview with a french teacher.
What he ended up doing was use a unique form of flash cards combined with an advanced system of reviewing them during his daily train rides. Now you may have heard of Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS) before, but probably not the way that Gabriel uses them. He’s an expert in creating them, using them, and showing others how to so the same.
Elements of the Book’s System
The first thing that you learn about the system is the importance of correct pronunciation. Your brain is setup to ignore sounds that it doesn’t recognize, so when you hear people speak in another language, the normal thing it does it ignore it.
But if you spend some time, (especially at the beginning) learning all the new sounds of a language, then it becomes much easier to hear, recognize, and even remember those new words.
The second step is to learn some vocabulary and the book provides you with a list of 625 common words that are used in most languages. This part is easy to understand. You have to know words in order to communicate, right? But words by themselves aren’t enough. How do those words work together with one another? That leads us to the next part, which is getting familiar with the grammar of the language.
What’s pretty cool is how the book explains the way you picked up the grammar of your first language when you were a kid. As it turns out, your brain is setup to look for and recognize patterns. After listening to your parents talk when you were a baby, you brain figured out the rules of grammar from the way they structured their sentences.
Since your brain is still setup this way, why not use it again for the grammar of your new language? This is done by studying those 625 most common words in phrases and sentences, instead of just each word by itself.
Although you don’t always want to use complete sentences. Instead, sometimes you will want to use a sentence that is almost complete with a blank space or two strategically placed. That way when you see the phrase, your brain fills in the missing word(s) in the correct grammatical form.
The Spaced Repetition System
So now you know the importance of the different elements, but how do you combine them together into one cohesive and effective system? What the author of Fluent Forever uses is the Spaced Repetition System. Here’s how it works:
First, you learn a new word. Then you create flashcards, either digital or physical, so that you can use them to review the words you’ve learned. But you don’t just read the same card each and everyday. After all, you’re going to be learning hundreds and thousands of new words so you won’t have enough time to go over all the cards.
Instead, you review a card until you get it right once. Then you move it to a separate pile that you review once a week. Then the next time you see that card, if you get it wrong, it goes back into daily review, but if you get it right it gets moved to a monthly review. Eventually, you no longer need to review the word! This form of memory training is actually extremely effective, but I’ll leave the scientific explanations to the book.
And if this all sounds like too much work, don’t worry. Gabriel recommends a great app for your smartphone and computer that does all the timing work for you.
Something else that is unique to the timed flash cards method taught in Fluent Forever is the use of pictures. As it turns out, your visual memory is very powerful. Words by themselves are just black and white, but pictures include color, emotion, and a story. A picture really can be worth a thousand words!
Another reason to use pictures is to increase the speed at which you think in your new language. When you learn your very first language you link the picture of a cat with the English word cat. But when you learn the Spanish word for cat (gato) you think of a picture of a cat, then the English word cat, and finally the Spanish word gato. As you can see, a third step has been added to the process.
This extra third step makes the entire process take a lot longer. But when you learn a new language with the assistance of pictures, you directly link the picture of the cat with the Spanish word gato and you begin to think in Spanish (or another new language). And this “thinking in a new language” is what leads to fluency.
One Last Thing…
If you already have a language course that uses SRS, then you probably won’t need to get this book. Actually, if you are already using ANY course for that matter, then you can probably skip Fluent Forever and be just fine.
This book is really about creating a system yourself to learn a new language. So it does have one major advantage: it teaches you a free system.
If money is tight, then it would be a great idea to spend a few bucks on the book so that you can then learn how to create a system for yourself to learn the language you desire. Creating your own flashcards, with picture, and a timed system for the repetition will only cost you time, not money.
So it really comes down to personal preference. As for me, I would rather pay someone else to do all that kind of work for me, but a lot of people really enjoy making their own systems and schedules. I do have to admit though, that when you make your own system, it gives you complete control over what you learn. You don’t have to worry about learning “business Japanese” when all you want to do is learn Japanese to watch anime.
So, if you’re interested in Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner then click here to check it out.
Otherwise, leave me a comment below and tell me what you think! Thanks!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: