Book Review: Fluent In 3 Months

Fluent In 3 Months: How Anyone At Any Age Can Learn To Speak Any Language From Anywhere In The World, by Beny Lewis

This book has at least a little bit of the gimmicky nature of it, and it participates in one of the more fascinating debates about the question of the linguistic abilities of children as opposed to adults. In the author’s view, adults learn differently than children and have some advantages that can be used consciously to improve linguistic abilities in a great many language so long as the languages are learned intentionally in a way that plays to the passions and to the contextual understanding that adults have that children do not. The author also makes use of the motivations that lead people to want to understand languages and has a fairly modest standard for fluency that is B2, or higher intermediate level, which is something that can be attained with a few months of focused education that includes reading and a lot of speaking and immersive treatment that is within the grasp of the linguistically interested audience of the book. Given the author’s modest aims and general sound knowledge of psychology and practical language learning, this book is one that can live up to its promises, so long as one has a strong enough motivation to learn the language and enough courage to attempt to speak and listen while one is far from perfect.

This book is about 250 pages long and is divided into ten chapters. After acknowledgements, the author begins with an introduction about his story and the passion of the reader. This leads into a discussion about twenty language learning myths that the author wishes to demolish (1). The author then encourages the reader to put away vague dreams (2) and gives some advice on how one can learn thousands of words quickly through a knowledge of cognates as well as the creation of stories and the understanding of the building blocks of one’s target language (3). After that the author talks about how one can gain immersion without travel through the use of internet chatting (4). This leads to some advice on learning basic phrases so that one can speak from day one in the target language (5), after which the author gives some tips for particular languages based on his own learning experiences (6). After that there is a chapter on the transition between fluency to mastery (7), some tips on how to be mistaken for a native speaker through a sound awareness of idioms and slang (8), a discussion of what it means to be a hyperpolyglot (9), and some suggestions on resources for cheap and free language learning (10), after which the book closes with a conclusion and some information about the author.

Besides the practical interest in languages that the author brings to this material, the author also discusses the polyglot dilemma. There is a trade-off in terms of being able to learn anything but not being able to learn everything. There are only so many languages that we can know well and the circumstances of our life and our own interests and decisions will determine which those are. It is not surprising that this book would be written by a non-English European as, for reasons that are fascinating but also somewhat complicated the English have always been notorious for being monolingual and the Americans certainly have that reputation as well, especially once people have acculturated to the dominant American culture. The author, though, is an Irishman who belatedly learned his native tongue and a lot of other languages through the course of travel and an enjoyment of online discussion, and the author’s experience is not something that is terribly unusual for those of us who are polyglots or at least somewhat close to that status. The author’s achievement of knowing a few languages very well and a few more to various levels of moderate achievement that can be ramped up for a trip is about the sort of expertise that a lover of language can attain.

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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