- You can learn Latin to read a classic piece of literature.
- You can learn Spanish to flirt with a pretty Latina.
- Or you could study Urdu to plead for your life when being hunted down by an angry mob of Pakistani’s.
Whatever the reason you want to learn a language, there’s no doubt you want to become fluent in this language, so that you can seamlessly hold a conversation with any native speaker you come across.
But the word ‘Fluent’ gets thrown around way too much these days. All these gurus out there are promising to ‘Become fluent in 17 minutes with my new language hacking device.’ Fluency is difficult to reach, and not something to be taken lightly. The fact that it adorns the cover of this book should already rouse a bit of skepticism.
But before we make a judgement call, let’s delve a bit more into it.
Language Learning Advice
The bulk of Gabriel’s program relies on the Spaced Repetition System (SRS), basically flashcards. I have to say I fast forwarded though this chapter. The reason being is that although I still fumble with some basic words, I’ve been studying Russian for quite some time now and won’t get much value from flash cards.
And herein lies a larger problem with the book: It’s too focused on learning a language from scratch.
I can’t blame him for this, as you want to appeal to the novice learner, but at the same time it ignores people like myself who are trying to go from intermediate or advance.
There is a lot of other advice he recommends, which I’m really split on. For example, he is quite adamant about not translating. I’m guilty of relying on a dictionary and Google Translate too much, but I think translation definitely does have its place.
What I did like is that he really picks apart traditional language learning methods. For example, he talks about his experiences trying to learn languages when he was younger—I can really sympathize with him here. One of the big problems of language learning in classrooms that to much time is spent talking about a language, rather than in the target language.
He also brings up a really interesting point about language groupings. If you’ve ever taken a language course, then you know that you’re taught words in groups such as ‘Family’. But Gabriel points out, for example, the fact that you are 79 times more likely to talk about your mom than your niece. Therefore you’re just filing your mind with words than aren’t necessary, whereas you should be focusing on the most commonly used words that come up in your conversations.
On that note, he suggests learning the 625 most common words in a language.Here is the list for English which I suggest you print out and fill in with the words from your target language.
Fluency is Hard to Find in a Book
I’ll give Wyner credit for being an engaging writer, in a subject that isn’t filled with excitement. Nor do I think he is trying to rip anyone off, unlike some other ‘Gurus’. That said, I’m just not a fan of the system he outlines. It’s too rigid for me, and that’s saying a lot.
The best part of this book is the numerous resources he provides. However, most of these are available on his website so it’s hard to justify buying, let alone reading the whole book.
What I’d suggest is that you check out his site and the various resources, and if you like what he has to say then grab a copy of his book. Otherwise, just stick to your current language studying regimen.
Click here to get a copy of Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner from Amazon.