The Book That Will Change How You See Language Learning (+ Clever Notes & Action Plan FREE)

One of the most common things I hear from language learners is

becoming fluent book

"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).

My Birthday Swim and 50 Language Calls

This week, I have spent a lot more time in bed than I usually would. I'm ill with a virus that's making it pretty uncomfortable to speak, hear or breathe right. Now I know that getting sick is just one of those things that happens. In fact, yesterday I got so bad and anxious ("What do you mean, I can't work?!") that I decided to go and see a doctor. The lovely lady and quick appointment really made me appreciate the healthcare that we Europeans can usually take advantage of. But like many of you, I'm also super driven and I like to keep going with things and being poorly is frustrating.

So while I'm having to take this little enforced break, I thought I'd share with you what the last week has been like on the Fluent front:

  • I've had a birthday! Now 31 years of age, and still pretty silly. Look at the beautiful English lake I launched myself into for the occasion.
  • I'm currently working on the 2nd edition of Fluency Made Achievable. I felt like writing this was my sort of manifesto, saying that this is how I believe language learning should work: as a holistic process taking into account all four core language skills. With the new edition, I'll be adding new sections, demo videos and a couple of great new interviews. in other words, this is going to be not just good but awesome! If you're interested in the book and want me to send you updates on how it's going, simply join my mailing list here.
  • This book project has another big motivation: I want this to be your resource, and for that I'm currently conducting research in 50 calls. If you have any problem or question about language learning, get in touch and I will talk to for 20 minutes and try to help you out. After 6 languages and 2 years of tutoring, I know about lots of things in this area and I am happy to help. If you want to be one of my 50 calls, make sure you join the mailing list so you don't miss the details of how to sign up.

And that's it for today, I'm going to have to take a health break now and make sure I'm fit to stick with my 500 words a day commitment for the book.

Please do get involved in the 50 Calls Project, I can't wait to help you out!

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!

Vlog: My Progress in Russian and My Book In Print

Hello everybody, Kerstin here -

there's been so much going on in my life and online that I actually have some stuff to show you! See what I've been up to in this short video blog, featuring:

  • A bit of Russian that I know, complete with the transcripts in Cyrillic
  • How I like to learn languages
  • The first EVER copy of Fluency Made Achievable in print

Can I just point out that

a) Russian in 10 Minutes a Day is not a grammar book - it's mostly useful for getting a foundation, and great for practising Cyrillic writing. For that it's been great though and after attending the first Russian class I noticed how much it'd actually done for me. My teacher's impressed!

b) The Russian I spoke in the video is not all the Russian I know, but my vocabulary is a lot better than my grammar at the moment. As a result, making sentences doesn't quite come as easily yet, but rest assured I can say all the usual pleasantries.

Newsflash: Published author Kerstin's work is free on Amazon for 3 days

A few months ago, I received an invitation from André, a fellow independent language teacher who writes lots of cool books for German, English and Hebrew learners. André's experience in self-publishing is very impressive and his new idea was to write a collaborative book, so he invited lots of colleague teachers along for the journey.

Why Fiction?

The idea is this: If you are learning a new language and you only ever focus on your vocabulary and grammar, you are likely to get pretty bored. Instead, try and get yourself immersed in a few stories. You'll quickly get distracted from any language deficiencies and become a better learner as you follow the plot. Only trouble is - the stories have to be good!

André is a remarkable project manager and did a great job rallying online teachers from all over the world. What we are offering you as a result is a collection of 8 stories covering a range of different dialects and topics. Some might not be your cup of tea, others might keep you turning pages. In any case, all of the stories are supported by a little glossary and some questions for readers.

Grab it for free before 2nd August

Starting today, the book is available for free on Amazon as a digital download for your smartphones, e-readers, tablets and desktop computers. There is also a paperback version, for those of you who love scribbling all over their books.

 Click here or on the country code of your local Amazon: 

US | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | CA | IN | JP

I would love it if you downloaded it and gave us some feedback on the variety, and of course I wonder what you think of my own contribution entitled "How the shiny fall". Here's the image I drew, to set the mood.  Not exactly Picasso..

how the shiny fall.jpg

Book Tip and Book Club Reminder

Delving into the literature of your target country can be a fantastic way to fire up the language learning motivation, getting to know the country much better and understanding backgrounds. With this in mind, Waterstones King Street Lancaster and Fluent Language Tuition have created the Translated Fiction Book Club.

First meeting: 14 May (tomorrow night) at the Robert Gillow pub, so do come along if you're local.

This meeting will be all about discussing "The Reader" by Bernhard Schlink. A fantastic novel to discuss! The title alone becoming "reader" (someone who reads?), as opposed to the "Vorleser" (someone who reads out loud to others) shows the riches of language and power of translation.


Book Tip: The Reader

I first came across the book "The Reader" (originally "Der Vorleser") in my Grundkurs Deutsch - that's the course you take when you don't really want to take German in the Abitur, but you've got to. I was a teenager, much more interested in dancing around at village discos.

Its story develops slowly from a teenager (Spoiler alert!) sleeping with an older woman into an ever more important and life-affecting one, asking questions that are hard to answer and poke at the surfaces of our conscience. Bernhard Schlink is a great author, he writes so gently and his narrator is so relatable, that the story came through for me. Out of all the German literature school threw at me (Faust, Death in Venice and Heinrich Heine), this is the story I remember best.

The Reader doesn't start out like a story about Germany or German history. It's just a boy confused by his first love. But slowly, and for me as surprisingly as for the narrator himself, bigger things happen. It becomes a story of things that happened in the past haunting us, and ultimately about guilt and character and keeping secrets. I re-read it recently for the book club and found that it hasn't lost any of its power, and in fact really delivers new perspectives to readers along with the life experience you pick up in the meantime.

You can order a copy in English from Amazon or Book Depository, and a copy in German from Book Depository or Amazon.