Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 23: 2 Books

82. The Whole World Guide to Language Learning by Terry Marshall

This book is also on my list of Top 5 Favorite Language Learning Books. I hope to read at least one of the other books from that list before the end of the current Challenge.

What I like most about this book is the same thing that I liked most about Nida's "missionary style" language learning field manual reviewed earlier in this blog: This book presents a wonderful method (though completely devoid of the pompous white man's burden ethos of earlier works in the genre, thank goodness!) for working with an "informer" or "mentor" in the field to learn the spoken version of a language from scratch without a textbook and without formal language classes or a dictionary. This method is not for the faint of heart and is most definitely only for dedicated, serious self-starters who really are determined to learn a new language on their own outside of the "traditional" classroom setting.

My copy of this book has so many dogeared pages at this point that I wouldn't know where to begin if I were to summarize the many excellent points in this short review. Perhaps I can simply say that I intend to suggest many of the methods from this book to my Cantonese and Mandarin students this fall, beginning next week, when I start volunteer-teaching beginning classes in each dialect in Manhattan's Chinatown.

83. In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition by Ellen Bialystok and Kenji Hakuta

Ostensibly an academic work on the subject, this book nevertheless maintains enough of a popular approach that it would certainly appeal to the average intermediate-level language learner looking for a broader understanding of the various research in recent years on language learning, and how that research might (or might not) help the language learner to acquire more of a given foreign language.

As with many of the books in my personal collection on linguistics and language learning, there needs to be some sort of distinction between books that aid in general language learning approaches and books that specifically further a knowledge about developments and prevailing theories within the field of linguistics as an academic social science discipline. This book falls into the second category.

This book does an excellent job of presenting multiple prevailing linguistic approaches or philosophies, and because this is a reread for me, my copy has many dogears and much underlining, ensuring that I will return to this book again at a later state when I want to delve deeper into an understanding of one or more concepts of the discipline of linguistics. In the short term, though, it doesn't lend much to an improvement in strategies that might increase my command of any of the languages that I am currently studying and attempting to speak.

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