Wednesday, December 28, 2016

LEARN ANY LANGUAGE, by Janina L. Klimas

As an active learner of foreign languages, I truly appreciated the invitation by author, Janina L. Klimas, to read her book Learn Any Language.

The book has a conversational tone to it and while that is a good thing, I can't help but also feel that it should have been less blog-ish and more organized. Despite the minor annoyances, the book does have useful information. I tried to focus on its important message.

One passage that strikes a chord with me about learning a foreign language is this (emphasis mine):
Understand that this is not going to be like reading and listening in your own language. There is going to be a learning curve. If you’re immersed in talking to people, your responses are probably not going to be like the ones that you can produce in your native language. You’re going to have to develop those skills. Your responses are probably going to be rudimentary. They’re going to be full of errors. You also need to understand that errors are natural and necessary. If you have something that you’re reading or listening to and you’re able to repeat it over and over again, you need to do so. You will learn more vocabulary each time, to the point where you deeply understand. In the process, you’re going to learn a lot of grammar, vocabulary and culture, entirely in context. It is then going to become your own language.

It is completely OK to make mistakes! This is something that I'm still trying to overcome although I speak six languages: English, Malay, Chinese, Cantonese, Italian, and a dialect in Hokkien. Italian is my first foreign language endeavor in 2013 and it is now in maintenance mode. The fear of making mistakes is real. I'm currently learning Swedish and Burmese, and the passage above is a great reminder.

Another tip from the book that I really liked is using notebooks to test your gaps. The author says, "Test yourself by writing down what you know you will need to be able to say in any given situation. [...] As you make these notes, you’re going to find your gaps. Your gaps are going to lead you to fill them. As you fill those gaps, your skills will continue to grow." Again, the emphasis is mine. I'm going to use my new Midori notebook as a Task Notebook.

Another key message is engage with the language to ensure stickiness:
You don’t learn all of the words for fruits perfectly, then all of your numbers, then all vocabulary for vegetables and suddenly have the ability to create perfect sentences. You are constantly building your skills through engagement in the target language.
The author gives the assurance that it is not a communication deal breaker if we forget the exact words when we are learning. Embrace the fact that it will happen. Use another word or gesture. So in short, we remember what we find meaningful and the goal here is making it relevant to us. This is pretty much what Benny Lewis is talking about in his Language Hacking (LH) books. I participated in the Spanish LH and it was awesome.

There are many useful illustrations in the book and at the end of each chapter, there is a section called "Action Step" that summarizes what needs to be done. It is packed with resources and tips (for example, how realia such as menu, train tickets, etc. can help us learn our target language). It explains why the traditional classroom approach is flawed which is less focus on communication and more focus on accuracy, grammar-based.

I think this is a great book for people who are total beginners to learning a foreign language. Having said that, as an experienced learner, I also found the book to be of good value and there are plenty of new things to learn!

Book Blurb
Anyone can learn any language with the right tools and information. In this book, the reader will get the keys to learn ANY language. Learn how languages are learned and the specifics on different levels of fluency, as well as how long it takes to achieve fluency. Ways to measure progress at every point along the way are shared as well a series of actionable steps and exercises to get started. Learn to speak any language to any level of fluency you desire.

Connect with Janina: Website  ~ Twitter

Where to Buy the Book: Amazon

Many thanks to the author, Janina L. Klimas from Real Life Language for sending me a complimentary copy of this book.