If you ever studied a foreign language in the classroom and came away without any practical conversational ability, this is the book for you. Janina Klimas explains exactly what is wrong with traditional language teaching methods, based on her own experience in becoming multilingual and teaching languages for decades. Learn ANY Language is a pragmatic, encouraging book written in an engagingly casual style.
The problem with foreign language classrooms is that they focus on grammar, move too quickly through advanced material, and offer very little that would be helpful in basic conversation. I have studied five languages in the classroom, as well as tried to communicate with locals in a foreign country, and I can attest to this. Almost everything you need to learn for your first trip to a new country revolves around travel itself. Explaining where you want to go, buying tickets, making change, spelling your name, reciting numbers, correcting mistakes in taking down your name and number, getting directions, hailing a cab... The amount of vocabulary you need on your first day is almost inversely proportional to what you will need in a casual chat with a friendly local.
Learn ANY Language is absolutely loaded with helpful resources. Not least of these is a section of study cues for different levels of language proficiency. This is how foreign language textbooks should be designed! Much of this book revolves around study strategy. Why are you studying a language? What kinds of things will you want to talk about? Textbooks tend to have model conversations about topics that are irrelevant for most people. When I was in Spain this spring, for example, we needed to be able to ask whether we could pitch a tent at an RV park and whether a store sold a certain type of propane canister. Some conversations are complicated in our native language, much less in a new language in which we don't know any specialized vocabulary. Looking at sample sentence topics really helps to clarify what we most need to learn.
Klimas advocates for appeals to schools and governments to redesign foreign language programs, and I agree. The way language is taught now is akin to dumping calculus on third-graders. Another issue is that classrooms focus on "correcting" speech errors, rather than encouraging confidence and fluency. We make mistakes in our own native tongues every day, yet we are still understood. People are generally pretty nice when this happens, no matter what language. They're just glad that we're making an effort to try to talk to them and reach across the linguistic divide.
Learn ANY Language is a quick, enjoyable read. It is aimed at anyone who has been frustrated and disappointed by previous attempts to learn a language in a standard classroom. The book includes some great graphics and illustrations of various students' study tools, methods that actually worked in developing real-world fluency. I highly recommend it. Learning a foreign language is the most commonly kept New Year's Resolution. Why not try it out and allow yourself to fall in love with foreign languages all over again?
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.
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