About The Author
My journey with foreign languages began in high school when I was introduced to Latin culture through a friend and purchased a Spanish grammar book from Barnes & Noble. Fast-forward 15 years and I’ve spent a great deal of my life studying foreign languages (10+ years of Arabic and Spanish; 2+ years of Japanese and Latin; and <1 year of French & German). I’ve lived in the Middle East, Tokyo, and D.C., and worked multiple bilingual jobs, including my current one as a linguist in the American Midwest. Aside from being a language nerd, I enjoy blogging, web-making, hiking, and following professional sports. You can find me at https://creatorvilla.com
Language is the gateway to culture and the riches of humanity thereof. It affords access to people, history, ideas, art, religion, aesthetics, and economic opportunities. Language also exerts a transformative effect on the vessel through whom it is expressed. Charlemagne is reported to have said that “To speak another language is to possess another soul.”
The Art of Learning a Foreign Language consists of all the things I wish I knew at various stages of my language learning journey during the last 15 years—as a hobbyist, student, academic, and professional linguist. This book is designed to help the learner avoid many pitfalls and seize opportunities, with lessons on choosing a target language, travel, accent, immersion, technology, learning approaches, and the lifestyle habits of professional linguists.
Some of the chapters address topics of general interest to the language learner (“nice to know”). Other headings address more crucial issues with potentially vast implications for the language learner (“must know”). Had I known then what I know now, I would have made some different choices, but the beauty of life is that it can be lived in only one direction.
In sum, with unprecedented language learning resources at our disposal and abundant opportunities for cross-cultural connection, today is the most exciting time in history to acquire proficiency in a foreign language. Whatever your motivations for learning a foreign language—or current foreign language level—this digestible read will bring you closer to achieving your goals.
Before I get into more of a specific review of the book, I thought I would share some general thoughts and opinions on it. I really enjoyed this book because it was about a topic that was extremely relatable to me since this book, as you can maybe tell is all about learning foreign languages. I speak four languages and I’m currently learning German. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully proficient in German but I do hope to someday be good enough to have at least simple conversations with someone who speaks fluent German.
As I was reading the book, I found myself nodding along in agreement while reading a lot of chapters. And it was not just that I was agreeing with a lot of it, but I was actually learning a number of things too. I think I got quite a few tips from this book that I have written down which will help me with my language learning journey.
One of the chapters that I found really helpful was the chapter called “Thinking in the Target Language.” This was something I had never heard or read before in all the tips I have looked through while learning German. I realise how important thinking is (obviously) but I didn’t really think about the language I think in and how important that is when learning a new language. I’ve literally started to try to think more in German and it’s actually quite fun!
A chapter I found super relatable was “Music, Comedy and Dialogue Test Advanced Listening Proficiency” because it’s something I’ve actually talked about on this blog. I have mentioned before how helpful comedy and music has been with learning German. Listening to music helps you understand pronunciations better and teaches you the “lingo” which helps you sound less stiff and formal. And comedy is often simple but also complicated because every language has a specific style/type of humour. For comedy, I often read through Nichtlustig comics and I also try to listen to German music when I have some free time. It actually even inspired this poem at one point.
One thing I enjoyed about the book was its length and writing. Although it was quite detailed and there were some chapters that were quite in-depth, the writer seems to have made an effort to keep it simple and to the point. If I’m being fully honest, I get a little bored when writers drone on and on, circling the point but never getting to it. I didn’t feel like that with this book. Each chapter was quite precise and well written.
Another thing that made this book enjoyable was that the writer (as you may have noticed from his “About” section) has a lot of experience studying foreign languages. This made the book really interesting since he shared his own experiences with the reader. It allowed me, as the reader, to relate to him on a personal level since I found a number of his experiences relatable.
I wanted to end this review by saying, I really enjoyed this book. It only took me two days to finish it because it was so interesting to me and it wasn’t too long so I never found myself bored. I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about learning a new language or in the process of learning a new language. I wish I had read this when I was just starting out with German because it would have saved me a lot of time but it is what it is. I’m happy to have read it now.
If you are interested in reading the book click here. It’s available both as a paperback and on Kindle.
For more book reviews please click here.
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