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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 20 March 2014
I was really interested to read this as I already speak one foreign language and am learning another. To be honest, the content in this book could be summed up in a couple of chapters and I suspect most of it is on Benny's website (the end of every chapter has a link to his website for further information). It gets quite repetitive at times and the main message is about immersion. While I agree with his points about using the internet and finding native speakers, not a lot of people have the time to dedicate to his style of learning.
All in all, I found some of the information helpful and did go to his site to look at more, but I'm not sure that this is particularly groundbreaking.
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on 17 April 2014
Someone recommended this book to me, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I can't say that I would have tried it if I hadn't had the recommendation, so I am glad they did.

The reason I would have been reluctant to have a look at this book is that the title suggests that the author has found an easy way to learn a language fast, and that if you pay your money then you can too. If you pay your money.

I was brought up on the Jungle book, and "feed them silence when they say, come with me the easy way", so I was sceptical about feeding them money.

So when I started reading it, I already had one eyebrow raised, with the other at the ready, and was ready to sneer my way through the book.

So I was very pleasantly surprised when I found that the author is not offering an easy way to learn a language, quite the opposite.

This book offers a counter-intuitive way of learning languages, which involves:

1. Lots of time commitment.
2. Sheer bloodyminded determination to get past any social inhibitions that you might have.
3. Plenty of booklearning, but at a later stage than you would normally expect to do it.

Basically, the method is to find people who speak the language, either in your area or line. And start talking to them. A Lot. When you've built up a reasonable level of confidence, THEN you start on the bookwork, to set what you are doing in to a real life context.

So you need to jump in at the deep end and sink not swim. All the better to immerse yourself. And as this is just a metaphor, you can't actually drown. Just hideously humiliate yourself with a bunch of total strangers from another culture :)

So why do I like this book? It offers a counter intuitive method of learning languages, that is not easier than others, and in fact looks harder, but which gives a well argued case for why if you put the effort in that you'll see results within a good time frame. I also like the way that he defines what fluent is. The cover might make you think that the author is offering an easy way, but there don't seem to be any false promises in the book itself.

Another thing that he says is that you should make a public commitment to your learning, to really ramp up the pressure. Well here goes. I'll edit this in a few weeks time to tell you how it went.
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on 29 March 2014
I just finished reading the book. The book is great for motivating you to learn a language and Benny Lewis is quite an inspiration!

The media hype helped a lot in convincing me to buy the book. However, I wish this book had more practical examples of how I can approach learning a (only one) specific language. Perhaps I was hoping for a day by day to do list on how to learn a language in 3 months. Towards the end of the book the author gives some guidance on some languages, but the book is trying to cover too many languages and is too high level. The author uses the approach of immediately talking and doing skype calls etc which is fantastic, but I don't think the book has fully answered the question how I can memorise some of the words and genders. To be fair the author does give you examples of how he memorised words, but those approaches will never work for me. I am still uncertain on how to progress between learning words, doing fun things with the language and learning some grammar. I fully agree with the author's approach to learn the language before he travels to the country, this author is clearly realistic and has shared great experiences.

Highly motivating book (I almost gave it 4 stars), but I walk away from this book not knowing what approach to follow going forward. I think it helps to sign up to the author's website version, because Benny Lewis gives some really good advice on there.
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on 31 December 2014
Just finished to read the book and I think it's a great inspiration by a skilled polyglot. I've been learning Norwegian for a while and I still can apply some of the methods he recommends.
First of all, speak the language from day one and build your knowledge through communication. To do that just have videocalls with language partners. There are plenty of websites to find people that are eager to learn your mother tongue or whatever language you know.
Second: live the language. Think in that language, read newspapers, hear the radio, write a blog, immerse in that language, use apps in your target language, etc.
In this way, you will be able to reach a B1 level in 3 months with a minimum use of text books. Of course you also need persistence and passion.
It was nice to read his point of view about Spanish (my mother tongue Spanish) and some tricks to learn it (and other latin languages).
The book is full of great tips that can boost your learning curve or can motivate you to learn faster.
For me the book and Benny Lewis are absolutely inspiring references to learn Norwegian (in my case) and any other language that I might try in the future.
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on 14 December 2014
I am trying to learn Spanish and was really struggling with memorising much at all. Started looking for something that could help me with the learning and memorising process.

Even though there is some useful information in this book, I found in general the information given was what I saw - and I think a lot of others would see, as nothing more than common sense, and information readily at hand on the internet.

I sometimes wonder if some of those that grasp learning languages so easily, really are on the same page as those that struggle with the learning - and just wonder why we 'don't get it' as easily as them.

I know there must be those out there that do - but unfortunately not in this book.

On finishing the book I was not left with a feeling of optimism and any greater confidence, and felt this may be a man who can learn languages easily enough - but really doesn't know how to teach that art.
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on 22 December 2014
I bought this book and read it within about a day of on-off reading, and learned pretty much nothing new, except about the site iTalki. The problem with this book is that, firstly, it follows the same structure as his website, so to me, it's £6 pretty much wasted, as I ended up scanning a lot of it which I either had already read or it was simply irrelevant. Which brings me onto the second point, that often I felt like he was filling the space because he didn't have enough real content to reach a book - like a whole chapter going through the different languages. I mean, this is useful in its own place (I read the German bit, for example), but unless you're learning lots of languages it renders the whole chapter somewhat obsolete. Also, as much as you italicise 'my advice is to speak', it won't drill it home any more.

I enjoy his website, I think his videos are interesting, but I'd give this book a swerve.
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on 28 February 2015
This is good, not only because there's lots of helpful advice and links to useful resources, but because it is also encouraging to those who might think they have no natural talent for foreign languages. The approach to learning a language is quite different from mine, which is academic, because of how I was originally taught Latin, Greek (Ancient) and even French, and essentially how I tackled Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, but is one I might very well try for my next language. It'll be interesting to see if it works for me!
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on 20 January 2015
I admit I wasn't expecting a revolutionary linguistic treatise, but this book disappointed me. The main message, repeated again and again, is talk to people who speak the language that you're learning.

I learnt a couple of useful things, but as other reviewers have mentioned, much of the information is available for free on the internet, and doesn't require you to spend £6 to access it.

A couple of things really bugged me about the book though;

- Mr. Lewis goes around the world collecting languages like they're Pokemon, without any apparent interest in the culture they come from. One of the first things I was told at university was "language doesn't exist in a vacuum." But Mr. Lewis flies to X country, spends 3 months learning the language, then moves on. 3 months isn't really long enough to become 'fluent' in the language,

- Which brings me to my second point; I'm uncomfortable with the definition of 'fluency' in this book. Strictly speaking, if you can speak naturally using the words you know you can be called 'fluent', in that you speak without excessive hesitation. But if someone says to me "I speak fluent German", to me that means they can communicate in German to a similar standard as they can in their native language. When someone says they 'speak X languages' (usually more than 4) it raises red flags.

Personally, I'd rather have mastery of 3 or 4 languages, and a fairly wide ranging and deep knowledge of the cultures they come from, than be a 'jack of all trades' who 'speaks' 12 languages, but can't really do anything more than pleasantries.
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on 14 March 2014
This book contains a large number of very sensible and practical tips, which would be particularly useful for anyone who needs (not merely wants) to learn a language but is apprehensive about doing so. I think I would advise beginning the study of grammar a little earlier in the language-learning process than Benny does, but I agree with 99 per cent of his advice. There were some techniques that I had never heard of that I shall certainly use from now on. One criticism for the publisher (not the author), though: I hate the cheap newsprint paper on which the book has been printed.
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on 10 April 2014
Definitely deserving of a five star ranking, and Benny's blog is also well worth following.

I've tried all sorts of language products looking for some way to make sense of the actual process of learning languages, to find some way to become fluent, but this book delivers the reality- that you need to speak it from the start! Great tips and approaches to becoming fluent. Of course, the title isn't meant to be a promise. The point is to really get into learning regardless of your situation, set goals, beat them, and then keep going. All the while, you will actually be SPEAKING the language just like you want to!

Go buy this book, choose the language you want to learn, and get ready to make achieving fluency a much more effective and enjoyable experience. You can hold up on the grammar book (at least for now) as well.
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