Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fluent Forever, by Gabriel Wyner

Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget ItFluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It by Gabriel Wyner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As someone who has been trickling some Spanish into most days for the past few years, this book was an interesting take on a different approach that might move things along a little faster. Based on the neuroscientific principle that we learn better when we can attach an idea to an image, Wyner's technique has the learner making hundreds of flash cards, each with a unique image to tie the word or idea to that picture, in order to firmly plant it in the memory.

This book is more of a companion to his website, fluent-forever.com, which offers free and paid resources for learning any language. Because he's successfully learned six languages in order to work in opera, I have no doubt that his techniques work well to move from beginner to fluency-- the speed depends on the learner and the amount of time one is willing to devote to language acquisition.

The drawbacks: it will take hours of work for someone to create the number of flashcards with the amount of detail to make each one a real memory tool. He describes a way to do this on the computer and export the cards to your smartphone; the key is to use unique images that trigger your own memories: for example, the word "mother" would have a picture of your own mother, "car" your own car, etc. This eliminates the need for English, because his idea is teaching the brain to think in the target language rather than translate. There is also a heavy reliance on technology for learning. If someone reading the book is not comfortable with technology, this will not be a helpful resource. He promotes his technique as the very best way, but people have been learning other languages for millenia-- there are other ways that work; this one may for some people and not for others.

It's worth reading if you're a tech savant willing to put in the time to set up the system for yourself. There is much more on the website than the book, which makes the book more of a marketing tool for the website than a stand-alone resource. I haven't quite gotten used to that 21st century aspect of the printed word, but there it is. Have a look if you're struggling with foreign languages, but you might be happier looking at the website first and deciding for yourself if the system is right for you.

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