In third grade, my teacher explained the concept of foreign languages to my class. She asked us to imagine that we were going on a field trip to Holland, where everyone used different words than we do for common things like bread. I was so captivated that I didn’t understand it was only an imaginary trip. I asked her what we should pack and when we got our plane tickets. A year later, I was wandering around the public library when I discovered the foreign language dictionaries. An obsession was born. I studied French in junior high; Japanese in high school; Spanish, Greek, and Latin at university; and now I’m working on German and Italian. I feel about Fluent Forever like I do about the Harry Potter series: Where were you 30 years ago?!
Fluent Forever has a more academic approach to language learning than Fluent in 3 Months. An interesting tidbit is that Gabriel Wyner and Benny Lewis, the respective authors, are both engineers who became polyglots. My husband is an engineer who does not believe he has a strong natural ability with languages, and I’m trying to convince him otherwise. Fluent Forever has a solid foundation in linguistics, and some discussion of how the physical mechanics of correct pronunciation can be learned and transmitted using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). I fell in love with the IPA in college, where I stumbled into a senior-level neurolinguistics class as a freshman. It is impressive that this book makes advanced linguistic concepts practical and accessible for a lay audience.
Anyone who has studied a foreign language in the classroom has probably walked away frustrated and unable to conduct a basic conversation. There are so many resources available now for language learning that almost anyone could get further in a few weeks with self-study and Internet access than in a year of schoolwork. Gabriel Wyner has a terrific companion website loaded with resources. Despite my years of language study, I had never heard of several of the tools he discusses, including pronunciation trainers and frequency dictionaries. He also brings in concepts from mnemonics research.
Learning a language is a bucket list item for a lot of people. What I hear from them is that they feel they have to wait until they have the time to go back to school or the money for Rosetta Stone. The message of Fluent Forever is that we don’t have to wait. We can start today and we can take a lot of research-based shortcuts.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.