One of the most common things I hear from language learners is
"what is the best way to do this?" You want to know how to learn a language, in as much detail as possible.
And it's hard to answer that question once and for all, for everyone. People are different, and no one's going to teach you good habits overnight. I know there are plenty of players out there telling you that their way of doing flash cards or listening to native content is the real answer.
But seriously, guys. What it really takes is that you learn to understand your own smart and capable self. That's where a book like Becoming Fluent comes in.
By the way, I've gone ahead and done a little bit of hard work for you guys. You can now click the button below and download my book notes for Becoming Fluent along with a fab little action plan template so you know what to do next.
What Is Becoming Fluent?
Becoming Fluent is an impressive book in the field of language acquisition. It's written with the scientific background expected from academics. But that doesn't mean that language learners cannot apply it to their lives: Throughout the book, the authors mix explanations and practical tips. The book is written for adult learners who want to conquer another language, and goes into the following topics:
- What do you have to do to make sure you become a successful language learner?
- How can you choose the right target language to study?
- What are the best
- How important is it to know the culture and norms of people who speak your target language every day?
- How can you get better at memorising and remembering more?
Why It's Awesome
There are many language learning books out in the market that tell you all about how wonderful the author's methods are. Most successful polyglot-style books follow this system. The logic is that if following certain steps made the author fluent in another language, then you can do the same by copying the steps.
In Becoming Fluent, I detected none of this. The authors do work from their own experience in languages but never claim to know all the answers. Each chapter is based on a new aspect of language learning and gives a neutral summary of what the science says, followed by practical advice.
I've never used or endorsed the "copy a winner" approach, and I don't think it's quite how things work for language learners. Success in language learning is about more than just playing the game right. The more you learn and discover about yourself, your habits, your preferences and strengths in language learning, the more you will approach a real ability to learn any language quickly.
So for me, Becoming Fluent was an outstanding book about language learning because it doesn't tell you what exactly to do. This one is about empowering yourself to find your own perfect method.
What Wasn't So Great
Becoming Fluent is smart and thorough and scientific, which is a big rarity in language learning. It's great to read such a sensible voice in our field. The book comes at language learning from so many different angles that some great aspects get a little lost.
I would have liked the book's action-focused tips to be highlighted or separated from the main text, making it easier to find exactly how to put new insights into action. As it is, Becoming Fluent does require you to put in a few hours for reading, but this is time well spent.
My Favourite Parts
- All of chapter 2, which addresses the many lies and misleading beliefs that we hold in our heads before we even start learning. If you can only listen to/read one part of the book, this chapter is going to make a massive difference. It's a small window into how your brain trips you up.
- This sentence in Chapter 3:
"The REAL test of how well you speak a language is how easily you communicate when you are using that language, and the pleasure you derive from speaking it."
- The ideas behind common ground and the zone of proximal development, which are all about how you think of how good you are, how good other people are in comparison, and how you can get better step-by-step.
- The focus on learning and speaking a language like an adult, not a kid or teenager. This focus builds great insights, for example the understanding that it's more important to be yourself in another language than to sound "exactly like all the native speakers".
- The image of tutors and helpers as a Sherpa, i.e. Someone who's climbing the mountain with you, showing you the way, teaching you about the process as you're doing it.
- The concept of cognitive overload, which explains exactly why and how and when you get tired.
Overall, I am very happy that I read Becoming Fluent and recommend you check it out too. I ordered my copy from the local library and am very glad that it's in their catalogue now. You can get your own printed copy in the same way, or order it from Amazon (here's the US link and the UK link).
Don’t forget, you can grab my full book notes (9 pages!) by clicking the button below. They include your own action plan template and a checklist of books to check out, so next you can be prepared on your next visit to the library or to Amazon.
If you want to try a faster read gives instructions on what to do, try Fluency Made Achievable (which is written by me, so you will definitely enjoy it if you like this blog).