If you’ve spent any time on the internet looking for methods to learn a new language, you will probably have run across a website called “Fluent In 3 Months” which is known as the most popular language learning blog on the internet.
The guy who started that mega-useful site, Benny Lewis, also wrote a book that goes by the same name. Today’s post is going to be all about my Fluent in 3 Months Book Review.
At its heart, Fluent in 3 Months is really a strategy book. The mission is to learn a new language – any language!
Benny Lewis tried and failed to learn languages several times. Learning German in the traditional classroom setting didn’t work for him. Neither did fully immersing himself by moving to Spain for six months to learn Spanish.
But now, as of the book’s printing, Benny can speak twelve languages confidently, and he knows the basics of another twelve (24 total!).
What changed for him to make such an enormous difference? He found a better approach to learning a new language.
Fluent in 3 Months is his book that tells how he went from being a monolingual to a hyperpolyglot (someone who knows dozens of languages).
In this book he also shares his primary methods for learning new languages rapidly.
This book is primarily aimed at people who are about to start learning a new language, but it is certainly useful for those who are already working on that goal.
It’s a decent sized book at a little over 200 pages, and you can probably get through it in a few days of reading at a normal pace.
Be sure to have a notebook to write down the tricks you learn, as you’ll want to be able to refer back to them when you apply it to learning your new language.
Set Yourself Up to Win
Fluent in 3 Months starts off by busting language myths that hold people back from learning a second language. It knocks out a total of twenty of them!
Some of the more common ones that he debunks are:
- It’s harder when you’re an adult
- You don’t have enough time
- You have to learn a lot before you use the new language
- You have to have no accent when speaking the new language
Then the book helps you to clearly define what it is that you want to do with the new language. Is your goal to have a normal conversation with a native? Read manga or books in the new language? Get a job in a new country or just visit?
Each goal should have a slightly different focus on what vocabulary to learn and an appropriate time frame to aim for. Knowing where you want to go with the new language will help you to get there a lot faster.
I actually found this part to be one of the most beneficial in the book as it really helps you spend your study time efficiently, which allows you to reach your goals faster.
Benny wasn’t able to learn languages the way that schools and universities teach them. If you’ve ever took a language class in high school or university, then I’m sure you know it well.
Instead of the normal techniques, Benny uses two primary learning methods for new words:
1) The Keyword Method – This is a unique way to remember a word’s meaning and pronunciation by using the power of stories. People have been sharing and learning information through stories for thousands of years because it works.
As it turns out, I used this one to help remember Japanese kanji and it works really well. Benny applies it to all new vocabulary, so he doesn’t talk about kanji specifically but I can attest to its efficacy.
2) Spaced Repetition – Used in combination with The Keyword Method, Spaced Repetition will help you to take the new words you are learning and lock them in by reviewing words right before your long term memory forgets them.
This is something that a lot of language learning companies are incorporating into their systems, and if you’ve ever heard of the flashcard program Anki, then you’re probably already familiar with how it works.
This book also shows how you can learn a language naturally without having to study the grammar until a much later time.
As a final note, Benny has a philosophy that you should be able to speak the new language from Day-1.
Don’t learn tons of vocabulary and then later on try to make sentences out of them. Just learn the phrases right from the start and get into the habit of talking to people in the other language (even if it’s just to yourself).
My Personal Thoughts On It
I really like this book because it focuses on learning a language quickly by being efficient.
Things like having a specific goal in mind, working on the elements that matter most for that goal, using memory techniques to remember things, and then having a Spaced Repetition System for review really help speed up the process in the long run.
There were really only two things that I didn’t like about it.
The first was how he applies The Keyword Method to learning vocabulary. I won’t get into all of the details, but one of the main aspects is to use words from your native language that sound like the word in the foreign language.
So this similar sounding part is supposed to trigger the memory of the new word, which it does (I agree that it works) but my issue with it is that I personally feel that it promotes incorrect pronunciation.
Languages have different sounds, and if you rely on the English sounds to help you remember Japanese words you are probably going to speak them with a really thick accent.
But like I mentioned before, this method is actually pretty amazing for remembering kanji. So, I feel that it still has a role to play in learning Japanese.
The other thing is that there was a section in the book where he gave specific tips on several languages, but the Japanese section was really small compared to the others.
Since Japanese is really the only foreign language I’m interested in, I was bummed out.
There’s a lot more in this book to help you learn a new language. Here are some of the things you will find:
- How to immerse yourself – anywhere!
- How to speak from day 1
- Learning tips for specific languages
- How to go from non-speaker to fluency, and from fluency to mastery
- Great language learning resources (some free / some paid)
Because of Benny’s experience learning and teaches languages, I found the book to have a lot of good information. I highly recommend checking it out for anyone who wants to get some advice on how to learn more efficiently.
Let me know your thoughts on the book, Benny himself, or even just the website in general.
I feel like a lot of people are very opinionated when it comes to Benny Lewis and his “Fluent in 3 Months” claim, so I’d like to hear what you think of it. Thanks!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: