Benny Lewis Has a New Language Hacking Series: Here's My Review

In today's review, I'm excited to bring you guys my first impressions of Language Hacking German - A Conversation Course, the new book by Benny Lewis.

In this series, you can also get books for learning Spanish, French and Italian.

TL;DR: I'm impressed with the design, structure and method used by these books.

They're awesome, if you're anywhere between A1 and A2 pick up a copy and use it to practice. Also looks like a good potential Christmas present.

Benny.. Who Dat?

If you read language articles on the internet, you've probably come across Benny Lewis. He runs the website Fluent in 3 Months and has been blogging and learning languages for over 10 years. Benny has previously published a book with a real publisher, which is an inspiring thing for all of us language bloggers.

More importantly, he brings a more modern approach to language learning into book shops. I'm very much on board with that!

This particular series, "Language Hacking", is a collaboration with Teach Yourself, whose materials have always been language learner favourites. I've checked these courses out and used them, and they're definitely one of the best brands for self-teaching materials on anything.

"Language Hacking is a state of mind. It's about positivity and an approach that puts everything you're learning into practice immediately." - Benny Lewis

Advantages of The Language Hacking Book

My first impression was that this book is really good-looking! It's got a nice size to it, the design throughout is engaging and interesting, and it just feels very nice to hold in your hands. You can see straight away that they're trying to make #languagehacking into a thing, so the message is clear: This book is for 21st century learners.

The Structure

The structure of the book follows that of a traditional self-teaching language book, so it's not trying to overthrow everything good in the system. The design is lively and engaging, with vocab delivered in sentence structures, culture tips, conversation examples and exercises. It's a great "complete package".

What's different here is that this focuses very much on conversation as the goals and "learning outcomes". The book avoids mentioning grammar concepts in favour of setting the learner a mission with every unit. What I really liked is that each unit clearly sets out the mission as a use case, describing what kind of situation you would find yourself in when you will use what you are learning.

In each mission you learn some new stuff, and there are exercises so you can test that you learnt it correctly. The #languagehacking system adds in Benny's "Conversation Countdown" methods of building a script and sharing it immediately with a dedicated web area sponsored by italki.

The design is all about making language learning less intimidating. I hardly saw any grammar terms mentioned, with focus on descriptions like "slingshot words" instead of "subordinating conjunctions". In fact, this style combined with the mission and scripts system feels perfect for new learners, but also for experienced learners as they'll be able to breeze through this and create sentences quicker.

You're In Good Hands

£11.89

The brand "Benny Lewis" is present throughout the book, and that worked really well for me. As you work your way through it, you get to feel as if someone is on the journey with you and guiding you through this course. The quotes and images of Benny were a fun addition - I'm not a fan girl, but as a structure this worked very well for me.

Each mission mentions a small #Languagehacking tip in the introduction - a great concept. As you're learning your new language, I can imagine how much these little tips will help you build more confidence and feel ready to speak quickly.

Anything Else You Need To Know?

The book doesn't solve a key problem of language learning, which is the idea of being too busy. It's written with "conversations with natives" in mind, so if you're learning languages without immediate travel plans you may feel cut off from many of the examples. The scripts system is also nice, although I would prefer to make my own -- this is because I'm experienced and relatively "fearless" as a language learner, not because the idea itself is bad.

If you're a very long-standing Fluent reader, you'll have read my thoughts on the use of the word "hacking" in the context of language learning. I'm not a fan of the name of this series, but the "language hacking" brand is what Benny Lewis has used for years.

The tiny things are exactly what makes this so good for more inexperienced language learners. They were nitpicks, really - overall this is an impressive product.

Audio Access

At first I grumbled that there is no CD with this book, but I quickly remembered that we live in the 21st century and all the audio is downloadable. So it does come with audio, and the example sentences I heard were very good and match the book scripts excellently. You can get the audio from www.teachyourself.com/languagehacking.

Conclusion

Overall, this is one of the most impressive versions of a language course I've seen in a while. The way that it incorporates "hacking" ideas (I'll just call them shortcuts) into a traditional self-teaching book design was fantastic.

These Language Hacking courses are an incredible addition to the bookshelves of any language learner, but particularly for those that are new to the language.

Overall, a clear 5/5 - kudos to Benny Lewis and Teach Yourself. This is not a grade I give readily at all, so you can trust that this course is well worth your investment if you want to learn a new language. I hope they publish more versions soon.

How To Get This Book For Yourself

£12.28

The links below are affiliate links, so you'll be supporting Fluent at no extra cost to yourself. Go ahead and click to take a look!

On Amazon

Click here to go directly to Language Hacking on Amazon.com

And click here if you're buying in the UK

Having seen the printed copy of this book (but not the kindle version), my feeling is that you are best served by investing in the print. The prices are currently very similar, and you'll be able to take notes and write in your book, take it everywhere and share it easily.

Yes, I'm analogue girl. (You can write me a postcard to tell me what you think of that!)

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).

You're Invited: Language Book Club on 30 January 2015

Today I get to share with you what I have been hinting at for a few months now (you may have noticed on my Twitter account. You are invited to a one-day language book party!

Chris Broholm and I are organising the first ever online Language Book Club. The event is going to be a one-day celebration of languages and language learning, with experts and authors from around the globe being there for you to answer questions.

And that's not enough. It's a book club after all, and so each and every one of those authors is going to be discounting their books for you. I hope you'll join us. Just to give you an idea, I'll be featuring a very special deal on The Vocab Cookbook all day long.

Language Book Day

Throughout the day, we'll be featuring a schedule of experts who will pop in to answer questions, host discussions, give away prizes and run little competitions. I'll be posting the schedule here on the blog, and also over on the event page. Yes, it is a Facebook event and you will need a Facebook account, but if you don't want to join the mighty FB you can also join us on Twitter using #langbookclub.

Learn a new language, soak up a wealth of expert knowledge on language learning and grab a big bunch of books for huge discounts.

To join, click yes on the event page, because we will be sharing information every day in the run-up to 30 January 2015.

Please share this event with all your language learner friends, because we want to make it available to as many people as possible.

Some of the Books Included on the Day:

All of the following links go to Amazon, but there will be even more promotions on the day on our experts' own websites. Why not bookmark your favourites today so you can get them first thing on 30 January?

I'd love to hear whether you're excited about joining the event, and what kinds of questions you want to ask. No matter if they're about publishing a book, learning a language or mastering a tricky vocab point: We're here for you!

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.

Best of the Week in Language Learning

Some weeks deserve a snapshot that lives on forever in the photo album of your life, and for me this week has been one of those. On Monday I was proud to share my audio bonus for "How the Shiny fall" with you lovely blog readers. Did you like it? There was also a good amount of productivity in the work on the new language learning book and some fun online and offline lessons. With all of this, I thought today I would share a slightly different post with you, a look at the Best Of this week.

If you want to see more posts like this, leave a comment and let me know!

Shout out to "Menschen" by Hueber

I use the Menschen books regularly for teaching German at A1-A2 level. Hueber is a publisher that already has a bunch of popular books (Themen and Schritte for example) under their belt, and the Menschen series is designed to be a little fresher and more modern and work for those that aren't intending to immigrate, but still want to develop a solid knowledge of the German language. Their coursebooks come with lots of audio examples (free to download) and the exercises are well structured, varied and build up logically. So far I've used the full A1 and the A2.1 editions and found them both great, so I recommend you get a copy for yourself and your tutor if you are learning German.

NOTE: If you would like to order a Menschen book and find the Amazon listings confusing (lots of editions and levels), please comment or email. I can help you find the right book for your needs. The books themselves are for immersion so do not feature instructions in English.

Language Learning Game: Who am I?

This game is an excellent practice method for practicing introductions and question making, requires no more than 2 players but works with big groups and even on Facebook. It's very much a variation on 20 questions. One player selects any famous person and researches basic info about them, such as age, date of birth, residence, place of birth and job. The other players now ask any question about the mystery person - all is allowed except for the name.

Example, in German/French: Wer ist die Person?/Qui est la personne? - Alter/Âge: 66 (sechsundsechzig/soixante-six) - Beruf/Métier: Politiker - Herkunft/Origine: Graz, Österreich/Autriche - Wohnort/Place de résidence: Kalifornien/la Californie

If you know, post your answer in the comments :)

German Grammar Cheat Sheet

One of my students brought this to a class a few weeks ago - an extremely handy grammar summary featuring conjugation, prepositions and other goodies from germanacademy.com. It's a ready made reference paper to print out and file at the front of your language learning folder.

grammatik poster

News Article of the week: Are Children really better at foreign language learning?

Experienced writer Anne Merritt sums it all up about "my brain's too old" myths and discouragement in this informative article for the Telegraph. Must read - just don't get too caught up in the comment section!

And that is it for today, I hope you enjoyed this little round-up of links and resources and I look forward to your guesses at my mystery person!

"Deutsche Grammatik" wins German Grammar book title award

So I was kidding in that headline, but then you guys don't know how close I got to writing "this is my gram-ma(r)nifesto".

Today I want to introduce a grammar book that has made explaining German a lot easier for me. It's called, rather creatively, Deutsche Grammatik and written by Heike Pahlow.

If you are

  • serious about your German learning,
  • someone who enjoys getting the hang of theory before experimenting with serious things like talking,
  • or studying for a standardised exam like GCSE or A-Level,

then this one's for you.

German grammar. Really?

Okay, so just in case you are thinking "Isn't this supposed to be the fun language blog?", give me a chance to win you over.

Grammar is one of those things - never noticed when it's done right, but always when it's not. As a language learner, this thought is likely to make you feel you're playing a game of Mikado with shaky fingers, and your impulse might be to stay away. But fear not, first of all remember that the rules in your grammar book are not invented by people as the law of language.

Rules are repeat descriptions

Imagine watching a bunch of men in shorts running around a green field. In the middle, there's a guy dressed in black, he has a whistle and does a lot of pointing. The guys seem to be sharing one ball, for some reason half of them run this way, half run the other way. Now six of them have fallen over, the ball has gone to the edge and everyone is screaming. It's chaos!

If you recognised what I just described as football (soccer, Americans), you know what rules can do for you. They make a messy bulk of people into a world cup winning team. And they will make a completely messy bunch of letters, words and sounds into working sentences. Remember this: It's the other way round. Grammar describes what language is doing so that you can get involved. The chaos would exist anyway.

Easy, compact, well structured

But let's return to why Deutsche Grammatik is my pick for best printed resource.

I like this particular grammar book because it's got all the things you want from a good handbook: Easy structure, detailed index and tables that make a lot of sense. The book is written in German so early learners may need a dictionary or a native speaker at hand. Pahlow uses straightforward examples and provides quite an extensive glossary in the back. You may need it when words like Konzessivsatz come into play.

Add to that an encouraging colour scheme (that means lots of green, not much else) light weight and compact size, and I think we have a winner.

If you want to stay on screen, two great online grammar resources for German learners are the German is easy blog and about.com 's language section (both aimed at English speakers).

App Version

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Good news! Randy Glover pointed out recently that you can also access this book in the form of an iPad app, complete with explanations in English and also some exercises. It's the tables that really make this a great resource, so I'm very happy to see that they kept this feature for the app.

There's an ebook too so you can use it on the kindle and nook and those things, all on the Lingolía website.

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

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.

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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.