(Disclosure: review copy/affiliate links)
I have always been one of those people who assumed that I am “just not good” at learning foreign languages. I’ve dabbled in a wide range since high school, trying to find something that would “click” for me: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Arabic, and even American Sign Language. I’ve tried text books, language tapes, online programs, flashcards—you name it. And every time, I’ve inevitably been frustrated by my inability to hang on to what I was learning. After a while I kind of put the attempts at language learning on the back burner, because it was too frustrating.
Recently, I decided that I wanted to get back into language study. I still have my instructional CDs in Spanish, German, French, and Italian. There are tons of resources available at the local library and online. And it’s winter now—if I’m going to be stuck inside because of the cold weather, why not take up a learning hobby to pass the time?
Once again, though, there’s that general feeling that I’m “bad” at learning a language. So my interest was definitely piqued when I got an email asking if I’d like to review a copy of Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency. Any language? Any at all? Even if I’m “bad” at languages? I definitely wanted to see what tips and tricks I could glean from this book before tackling a language program again.
In Learn ANY Language, Klimas breaks down in detail the process of learning a new language and how to approach the learning process to best suit your own needs. She offers a lot of tidbits that I’d never really considered before, but that made a lot of sense. For example, she talks about some of the reasons a traditional high school language course won’t necessarily leave you with a good conversational grasp of a language, and why studying abroad is not necessarily the magic bullet to becoming proficient. As someone who’s never taken a formal language class or been immersed abroad, I always wondered if this left me a few steps behind other language learners, so getting that out of the way made me feel a lot better!
Another point she makes that I think is not made often enough to language learners is that “fluent” is a sliding scale. Instead of working toward a rigid end goal of one-size-fits-all fluency, she encourages learners to customize their learning program and goals to the level of fluency they need for their specific lives. One person’s idea of “fluent” might be conversational phrases and ordering in a restaurant, so lots of emphasis on grammar would be unhelpful. For another person who wanted to learn to read a newspaper in another language, a different level of fluency would be required, and a different path of study would be required.
I do want to say that Learn ANY Language is definitely geared toward beginners, or those with little experience in language study, like myself. If you’re already benefiting from a formal study course or have lots of language experience and are looking to master a higher comprehension of a specific language, then you probably won’t learn anything new from this book. But for someone like myself who’s tried and failed to get past Spanish 1, I think this book could be very helpful in reenergizing your self-study course.
I don’t want to cover all of the points from the book in this review because, obviously, I don’t want to spoil it for you–you should read it for yourselves! But it definitely changed how I thought about the learning process, and gave me lots of helpful tips and tasks for tackling my language learning in a different manner. After reading this, I’m actually excited to jump back into learning a language again! And I definitely feel like I have a better shot at it this time around, now that I have these little tweaks to smooth out the process.