Book Review: Language Hacking: French

Language Hacking:  French, by Benny Lewis

I must admit that I find learning about languages to be a deeply interesting thing [1]. and as I am going to some Caribbean islands, a few of which speak French rather than English, I thought it would be practical to at least work on my French enough to be able to read it a little even if my speaking of it is likely to be very poor and very limited.  Be that as it may, this is a book that is both practical to me in the sense of wanting to understand and recognize French easier when dealing with it and also interesting on the more general level of my interest in foreign languages and how to learn them from the point of view of a cultured American.  This book seems to be aimed at a somewhat young audience of people who want to learn languages rapidly and are more interested in having conversations than they are with deeply understanding a language and its form, which is a sensible approach in an age that largely lacks a formal appreciation of languages to the extent that was the case in the past, at least.

This short book is divided into ten units that take up a bit more than 200 pages.  The author begins with an introduction that includes a note from the author as well as a general summary of the contents that will be found inside the book as well as online companion material.  The first unit of the book provides some conversations and various tips for talking about oneself (1), and then the author moves on to introducing how someone can ask questions about others (2).  After that is a discussion on how to deal with communication problems (3) and also discuss future plans (4) as well as family and friends (5).  This leads into a discussion about food, drink, and conversation (6), a discussion of yesterday, last week, and long ago (7) to bring up past tense, and also provides ways that someone can catch up with others they have not talked to in a while (8).  The author then concludes with a discussion on description of surroundings, personalities, and what something looks like (9) as well as some tips on how one can carry on one’s first conversation in French (10), after which the book ends with an answer key to its questions as well as acknowledgements and some notes on recent French spelling reforms that make the language more phonetic.

This book has a specific approach, and that is to get someone up-to-speed on being able to have conversations in person and online in French with a minimum of formal study and a great deal of tips and hacks.  This is by no means a bad thing, and it is useful to outgoing and sociable people who are willing to make mistakes and immerse themselves enough in French to be able to acquire a working knowledge of the language without having a deep understanding of the history or grammatical structure of the French language.  For most people, this sort of book presents a winning approach to learning enough French to struggle more or less successfully in having basic conversations that can lead one to build new friendships with people who are tolerant with language learners, which are hopefully the sort of people a reader of this book will find themselves around.  While there are certainly cases where someone learning French would need a more formal and more detailed education in the language, this book would seem to suit the purposes of most tourists or exchange students and that is exactly for whom this entertaining book was written.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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