I love love love love LOVE this book. It is not a book for beginning language learners. Rather, it is a distillation of the author's main points from his much longer work, Developing Professional Level Language Proficiency, which I also read earlier this year. In How To Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately, Shekhtman provides multiple CONVERSATIONAL STRATEGIES to take whatever level the language learner has attained and maximize what he or she is able to show during conversational interactions with native speakers of that language.
The ISLAND STRATEGY is my absolute favorite point of this book, and is the main reason that I will continue to reread this short, crucial work on language learning as well as recommend it to every single intermediate learner of any foreign language that I meet for the rest of my life!!!
77. How To Learn a Foreign Language by Edwin T. Cornelius, Jr.
Published in the 1950s, this book contains a solid method based on finding a native speaker "informer" or "mentor" in your target foreign language and then preparing lessons for yourself that you then have your mentor teach you, based on your specific needs. In this respect, though the book focuses entirely on the author's experiences learning to speak modern Greek, the book follows much the same "missionary linguistic" approach to language acquisition as several of the upcoming entries in this blog.
I have decided to keep this short work as a permanent part of my language learning book collection for two reasons:
- I intend to study classical Greek at some point in the future and when I do, it will be good to have an example of a practical Craigslist-style language trade method for learning modern conversational Greek at the same time; and
- There are some very sound "missionary" style language learning techniques in this book that I want to revisit in the future as I continue to re-evaluate my own language learning efforts in Chinese -- especially going forward as I begin to take my Chinese out "into the field" for personal fieldtrips to Cantonese and Mandarin speaking NYC Chinatowns and develop my own in-situ language "assignments."
I have dogeared many pages in my copy, and my intention a few days ago was to write a bit about some of the more salient points in this book. However, in the interest of time, let me just end this review by saying that if you are interested in going to a foreign country or immersing yourself in a foreign language speaking community in the US, and you are a self-starter who is genuinely interested in becoming fluently conversational in another language via a method focusing on conversations with locals in which you use the language (once you learn it at a basic enough level) to learn about the culture from which the language springs, THIS is a great book to check out. If, on the other hand, you are the sort of learner who insists on sitting in a class and having some teacher or "person of authority" tell you what to do, what to learn, then this is definitely NOT the kind of book for your language learning approach.
79. The Principles of Language Study by H. E. Palmer
Focusing mainly on French language examples, the author does a good job of contrasting the fors and againsts regarding spoken vs. written language study at the outset of the student's efforts to acquire a new language. Most of the book focuses on the author's 9-point action plan for learning a new language:
- Initial preparation
- Building proper habits
- Accuracy, particularly of pronunciation
- Concreteness of examples and language rules as the student acquires them
- THE STUDENT'S INTEREST LEVEL
- Order of progression of study materials and language aspects
- MULTIPLE LINE OF APPROACH
80. Polyglot: How I Learn Languages by Kato Lomb
Written by one of the most accomplished interpreters of the latter half of the 20th Century, a Hungarian woman with a command of 16 languages who, most impressively AND MOST INSPIRING FOR ME, learned most of her spoken and written languages in her 30s and 40s, this book is both informative and specific in its prescription for language learning.
I have been a big believer in EXTENSIVE READING in a foreign language (my own Bombardment Theory of Language Learning, which I have promised to write more about either in this blog or at www.speakmanylanguages.com) for several years now -- before I was ever aware of Stephen Krashen's work on the topic or this book currently being reviewed here and now. It is always nice to be validated through one's reading on a given topic of passion that one's own thoughts and ideas happen to resonate with some of the current thinking in the field. Yay -- go me!
Ms. Lomb's detailed description of how she initially learned to speak Russian via reading a novel over and over again over a period of months during the wartime occupation of her country is both inspired and inspiring. Recently, I have applied the exact same method to my own reading and rereading of Dav Pilkey's seminal work, Capitán Calzoncillos y El Terrorífico Retorno de Cacapipí (the Spanish language edition of Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers), from which I have literally much improved my own conversational Spanish (albeit to a 10 year-old level).
81. A Linguistic Guide to Language Learning by William G. Moulton
This seems to be a common misunderstanding throughout the linguistics literature up until recent years: one does NOT need to study ABOUT how a language works in order to learn how to speak and use that language. Even in order to learn the grammar of that particular language. The only people aided by a book such as this would be linguistics who want to understand more about how language AS A CONCEPT might function at a deeper "social science research" level. Taken with that particular grain of salt, a book like this might be interesting to a linguist doing research into why certain language teaching methods might be more or less effective for certain segments of the population. However, this book does little to help a student learn to speak, read or write any specific language.