Destinations Magazine

Fluent in 3 Months Book Review - Be Prepared to Study!

By Livingthedreamrtw @livingdreamrtw

Fluent in 3 Months Book Review - Be Prepared to Study!As an aspiring language learner who has failed at mastering many second languages in the past (including French, Arabic, Italian, and Spanish), I've been a bit harsh when it comes to new techniques on how to learn a new language.
When Benny the Irish Polyglot sent out word that his new book Fluent in Three Months, titled after his popular blog, was about to launch, I quickly pre-ordered a copy on Kindle.  If anyone could help out with my ability to learn a second language, it would be him.
It wasn't because Benny is fluent in so many languages that impressed me about his learning methods.  To be honest, I could careless about that.  Instead, my intrigue was because he was in a similar situation to where I am today: A trained engineer who hated learning languages in school and was spending a long time in a Spanish speaking country with very little assimilation of the language.
Since he did it I figured there had to be a way I could too, and I jumped into Fluent in Three Months hoping it would give me the insight on how to tackle learning Spanish during our next 6 months in the countries that speak it every day.
There Are So Many Words to Learn!
If I had to give one of the 20 excuses Benny lists at the beginning of his book to explain why I never progressed in Arabic, a language I once tried to learn before I went to Egypt and Jordan in 2009, it would be because I reached a plateau when it came to memorizing a lot of new words to increase my vocabulary. I could read the script just fine, and was even pretty good at pronunciation, but never got past the stage of learning more than a hundred or so basic words.
I can read it, I can say it, but I have no idea what it means!  This was, and still is, my life when dealing with Arabic.
One of the more interesting topics featured in the book is a discussion of memorization techniques to learn the vocabulary you'll be using on a daily basis.  For those who reach plateaus like I did, this is often a good step for adding a new angle to your studies.
Rather than learning purely from repetition, Benny recommends several techniques that are likely to be new to most readers even though they have been used for thousands of years.  Some include simple tasks like putting a word or phrase into song while others use mnemonics to associate new words with hilarious mental images to use as a cue in future dialog.
Having read some memorization books in the past few months, I was encouraged to see that a few techniques I've read a lot about having been used by someone in my situation with great success.
Since they are recommended over and over again by those who know them the best, you would do well to listen as there truly is merit into why they are being used.
Even so, will you see me walking down the street singing a song to myself in German (a language I am actively trying to learn now)?  Probably not.  But imagining a comical situation to remember a word is right up my alley, and I'm going to give it a go as I move forward in my task to learn a new language.
I can read that Arabic, but had no idea what the word
Common Uses and Tricks of Many Languages
One of the features of Fluent in 3 Months that I appreciate the most is the insight into the background of numerous languages as well as the in-depth descriptions of linguistic styles and word groupings.
For the life of me I've never understood what conjugate meant, and Benny dedicates a solid few paragraphs to the very topic in a very clear and concise manner. 
Similarly, he tackles the various nuances of French, Italian, German, and about a dozen or so other languages and highlights his points with various cues to keep in mind to make memorizing them much easier.
But with the above nuances for languages that are highlighted in these sections, the same road blocks come up in learning them. In each case these challenges are not because learning a language is inherently difficult, but purely because it requires a time commitment and drive on your part to learn them! 
If you're not up for the challenge or do not have a focused need and time frame to do so, your struggle at learning that second language will continue well into the future.
As is said time and time again within the book, learning a language is all about the work you put into it, and it does not come easy the first go around.
I'm guessing if I knew how to read that, I'd have a better idea of where to go.
From Conversational to Mastery
As the topics progress, Fluent in 3 Months starts to cover the transition that is necessary to move from basic conversational (even with grammar mistakes) to becoming a master and being mistaken for a fluent speaker.
Coming from the perspective of someone who barely knows 100 words in a few languages, and maybe 200 in the ones I am actively trying to learn, many parts were a bit lost on me for now.
It is very interesting to see the process on what is recommended to increase your levels of comprehension from completely illiterate to local/master and, finally, polyglot if you dare, but at some point it becomes a bit overwhelming for those like me who are just starting out.
When reading the book from the perspective of someone who has had difficulty learning the basics in the past, thinking of mastery does seem quite a ways off.  In this one instance, I think some of the later chapters will be worth reading when the appropriate time comes as most new learners will be sticking to the basics for the time being.
Although the topics toward the end of the book may be too far off for most new language learners, Benny includes one theme over and over again that everyone should take to heart: you must have passion.  This one is so important I am going to repeat it again. YOU MUST HAVE PASSION.
You will never learn a second language, third, fourth, or fifth unless you have the drive to do so.  Even world famous polyglots like Benny admit that unless you are passionate enough to dedicate the time needed to learn your goal language, your path to fluency becomes that much harder.  But if you have the drive to keep going, picking up a new language or two can be within your reach.
Overall, if you are looking for a book that will help you learn a specific language, Fluent in 3 Months is not it.  Instead the book uncovers the basics on how to learn languages, techniques to try when studying, and gives numerous online resources on how to supercharge your learning which are essential for mastery of any language. (Which, in a way, reminds us of how we styled our own The Long-Term Traveler's Guide on the topic of planning for world travel).
For those who are already deep into studying a language and having some success, Fluent in 3 Months may not be for you.  But if you have given up learning a language countless times in the past, are just starting and do not know where to begin, or have any other mental roadblocks that are discouraging you from the process of picking up a second language, I'd definitely recommend giving this one a read.
You may put the book down halfway through as you start working on the basics, but there is always something new for those who want to push themselves to the next level. 
If you can keep yourself focused and maintain that urge by using techniques featured in this book, you'll be well on your way to mastering a new language in no time at all.
Supongo que es hora de que vuelva a trabajar en mi español.
...and it is also time I stop using Google Translate when writing blog posts.
For more resources on the topic of memorization, I thoroughly enjoyed Remember Everything You Want by Helmut Sachs which has the same language learning recommendations as Benny plus many more tips and resources to retain new pieces of information.  Many tactics seem silly, but if you are serious about retaining vast amounts of information quickly, they are incredibly powerful tools when understood. 

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