Here’s an interesting talk on YouTube, by Michael Erard, author of Babel No More. He’s basically covering some of the high points of the book, which is about hyper polyglots, how they learn, what drives them, and what role they may serve in the future. The book is on my list of things to read, and the talk certainly made me want to get to it soon. Really interesting stuff.
I came across a freely available book some time ago, but forgot to post about it here. The book is titled “Success with Foreign Languages: Seven who achieved it and what worked for them,” and is available for free from this page. You can get the PDF of it directly here. Here’s a summary:
This book contains Earl Stevick’s analysis of the strategies used by seven successful language learners and the implications for becoming a more successful language learner yourself. There are extensive excerpts from taped interviews with the seven learners, with Stevick’s comments on the strategies and beliefs of the various learners. The book ends with Stevick’s summary of what we can learn from the experiences of these learners. This book shows the diversity of approaches and beliefs that can be held by successful language learners and can provide suggestions for strategies that may work for you.
While we all have our own ideas about language learning, and we often feel strongly about them, I think a book like this is wonderful in highlighting the fact that many methods work. Even if a particular method doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean it’s a useless method. If serious language learners could keep this in mind when talking with one another, I think there would be much more productive discussion and far less bickering. While I still like them, the forums at how-to-learn-any-language.com are sadly a fine example of this; there’s almost always at least one thread going on that is mostly two or three people arguing the same points over and over. “No, my way is better!” “No, mine is.” “No, yours doesn’t work at all!” Perhaps all of your methods work, but just not for each other?
Indeed, it sometimes seems like some people make a fetish of not learning or teaching grammar, as though how you learn a language is more important than whether you learn it.
Exactly. Keep the goal in mind; as long as you’re learning and not hating the process, you’re doing something right.