Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to Learn Any Language by Barry Farber

I'm trying to teach myself Irish Gaelic from language CDs, so I'm after any help I can get. I don't know if How to Learn Any Language will actually end up helping me, but it made me feel better about not retaining much of the languages I studied in high school and college.

The book is a quick read, breezy and upbeat. My edition is a bit dated (1991) and talks about language cassettes and Walkmans, the surge in people needing to learn Russian, and things like that. But the basic information is still current.

While much of the book is a cheerful insistence that anyone can learn another language, there's a lot of solid advice. While Farber says grammar is important to learn, he also stresses that having fun is even more important. Grammar shouldn't overshadow the fun. He gives lots of suggestions of methods that will increase both comprehension and enjoyment, like getting a newspaper or magazine in the language you're learning--meant for native speakers, not students--and learning the vocabulary and grammar to read the first article as a major goal. He also suggests a multi-prong approach to learning: not just listening to tapes or doing paper/pencil lessons, but making your own flashcards to study during down times, using travelers' pocket guides of phrases for quick mastery of useful phrases, and making your own language tapes (not as practical these days--one thing about cassettes, they were really easy to make recordings on without special software or equipment).

There's also a section on various major languages of the world and how difficult they are to learn and how they help you learn other languages that are similar. Farber definitely wants everyone to learn a lot of languages. Just not Celtic languages, because although there's a huge long list of the Principle Languages of the World in the back that goes on for eight pages, it doesn't list any Celtic languages. Not even Welsh. So I guess I'm on my own.

B&N link (nook book)


Kelly Robinson said...

I saw this guy on TV once --PBS maybe-- doing a talk on learning any language. I thought he was pretty inspiring.

K.C. Shaw said...

Cool. He seems cheerfully zealous. I've started putting some of his ideas into practice today and I really think they're going to help.