Run-on Sentence Summary
A popular recent book explaining a strategy for learning a new language quickly and easily.
Learning a language is one of those ultimate bragging tasks for self-motivation. I’ve never had the initiative to try, but now that I plan to travel central and south america, I figure it will be enriching to try to pick up some Spanish. This book has been showing up in airports everywhere, so I figured I’d give it a try.
It is a simple, well structured book full of straightforward advice. None of the information was particularly surprising, but in a way that reassured me that it wasn’t peddling some manipulative secret formula. Boiling it down, it is essentially about how to learn a language using flash cards. Specifically, using a "Spaced Repetition System” like Anki.
It has various other helpful ideas, such as where to focus your energy and in what order (pronunciation, then basic vocab, then basic grammar, etc). One novel concept was how to use mnemonics to help with learning genders of words. It advises to visualize every feminine noun catching on fire, and every male none exploding.
Nearly all of the content in this book can be found in online resources, like the language subreddit, but it was worth the money for a simple, portable condensed version.
“The world’s languages contain roughly 800 phonemes (six hundred consonants and two hundred vowels). Most languages choose around 40 of these to form their words, although the range is quite broad—there’s a neat language called Rotokas in Papua New Guinea with only 11 phonemes, and Taa, spoken in Botswana, uses up to 112 (plus four tones!).”