Fluent In Three Months by Benny Lewis is a title that caught my eye as it was going out at the circulation desk (one of thousands). My first reaction to the title was probably something like the one you’re having: “Fluent In Three Months!? Impossible! Well, maybe not for a savant, but me!? I took French for years and can’t confidently order café au lait!”
It surprised me to learn that Lewis would have had the same reaction once upon a time. He is not a savant. By the time he was 21 he had “failed” to learn both Gaelic and German (Lewis himself is Irish), but now he is fluent or conversational in over seven languages! Fluent In Three Months isn’t going to teach you any particular language, but it will change your approach to learning any language –and I do mean any language.
Lewis puts a great deal of effort into demystifying language learning and reminding us that language is, quite simply, what humans do –so we shouldn’t be intimidated by it. He stresses speaking your new language from day one, emphasizing that languages are, first and foremost, a means of communication not a subject for study. And he reminds us that native speakers aren’t perfect speakers either, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to be a perfect speaker before beginning your first conversation. Ain’t it the truth!
My goal is to learn Swedish before the fall. Okay, so I’m giving myself six months instead of three, but for me that’s still pretty ambitious. And by “learn” I mean achieve B2 level fluency, an internationally recognized scale which Lewis explains. At level B2 one is capable of spoken and written communication with a native speaker without burdensome strain or effort from either party –and it doesn’t matter if you speak with an accent. I also want to read some of my favorite authors in their native language.
Lewis’s book will point out helpful tools as well. Have you ever wanted interactive flash cards that you could sort in a second and never spill coffee over? Guess what, there’s an app for that! Lewis’s website takes the book to another level through online forums, etc. But the book itself was more than enough to both kick start my learning and eject the baggage I’d carried around after years of trying to learn French.
Bottom line: a great primer for anyone looking to learn a new language. 4.5 out of 5 stars!
Of course the GPL has no shortage of other language learning materials. Mango Languages can teach you nearly any language in the world step by step –at no charge! There’s plenty of audio-visual material as well. Colloquial Swedish was the first GPL resource I checked out to begin my journey. By now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Golly! If this guy can learn a language as relatively obscure as Swedish in six months, maybe becoming conversational in French isn’t as out of reach as I thought!” If so, my job is done. Or rather: im så, är mitt jobb gjort.