Saturday, February 6, 2016

Book review: Learning another language, by Tiago B. de M. Dinez

Regardless how many languages you know already, learning a new language is always an intellectual challenge. Some languages are easy and come along faster than the others. For some - like German in my case - it seems that 10 centuries will still not be enough to manage it at a reasonable level. Given my personal history with languages that started long before I was able to read and write, I am always interested in reading stories of linguistic experiences. 
This book is a short confession sharing the experience of the Brazil-born author with English. He started to learn it after 30 and succeeded in a relatively short amount of time to manage it good enough in order to get successfully the TOEFL test and further apply for college in the US. 
'The key to learning a specific language is to listen, read, write and speak in that particular language', he says and I completely agree with. Creating a linguistic environment of books, TV and people speaking the language always helps with improving the learning process. This is the reason why probably many expats in Berlin fail to improve their German, because they keep being islands of Englishness and they do not have any barrier against this. 
However, I disagree with the author that learning grammar should occur relatively after acquiring the verbal and understading fluency. My personal experience is that the best is to try to learn everything together. 
The modern technologies available nowadays can significantly improve the quality of the learning process. One can order e-Books in the language of choice and use different language apps to advance. The author does not mention apps and explained that did not feel interested in using music to learn English. In my case, both did an excellent work for improving my language. The suggestion to use Whispersync option for the audio versions of the ebooks is excellent, but somehow, it is a pitty that as for now, there are so many languages not covered by the current e-options. YouTube may offer more tips and opportunities though, with more languages covered.
Another tip that I actually used during my experience of teaching French to adults is: 'If you want to learn another language, why don't you find a good subject to study in the language that you are learning?'. It makes the conversation interesting and also help to acquire specialized vocabulary. 
Writing is always the most challenging part, especially if you are playing with words as I do. The author recommends to try finding someone, preferably a teacher or a native speaker, that can check the grammar and make the necessary corrections. As in the case of speaking, the first time is hard, it can be the same the second or the third time, but it is important to be perseverent and keep working. The hard work always pays off. 
Other tip that I used long long time ago when I was improving my French skills in college and that I recently used with German is to read loud. It helps to get familiar with the language but also to get familiar with words.
There are many things that are not covered by this book, for instance, that sometimes it is better to just go into the language and avoid using a dictionary all the time or the importance of visual slides for speeding up the learning process. Everyone has his or her own experience with languages, and the more you learn the more you improve.
The book is well written, simple and clear, with good tips and inspiration for everyone about to start learning a language. A recommended lecture.

Disclaimer: I downloaded a free copy from Freebooksy, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

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