Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis
Benny Lewis is kind of online famous – he runs the biggest language learning blog in the world and is a well known polyglot.
What the hell is a polyglot. Well, monolingual = you speak one language. Bilingual = two languages. Trilingual = Three languages. I’ve never heard anyone refer to themselves as quadlingual so I believe it stops there, after three you are a polyglot. Poly = many / glot = language. There are also people who talk about being Omniglots but this is more of a concept than an actual thing – you want to learn ALL of the languages.
Benny Lewis Speaks seven languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, and Esperanto – and thinks you can too. I first came across him on a youtube interview and thought “three months yeah whatever” but I’ve been a pretty dedicated fan since, I like his attitude as well as the possibility of becoming better than completely useless in a language reasonably quickly. In pursuit of this I have undertaken my own Spanish in Two Weeks challenge, which you can read about and follow my progress.
What is it about?
Exactly what it says on the tin. Rather than being a prescriptive book of “day one learn these verbs, day two do 75 flashcards” it is a true “how to” book.
What I mean by that is that Fluent in 3 Months is about how you learn a language to conversational fluency. First we look at what actually constitutes fluency – and lemme tell you most people are wrong about what’s fluent. (Wrong or just pretentious? Who knows). A friend of mine wanted to write her dissertation on a topic that is heavily published on in French – she grew up in France and spoke French fluently but her supervisor advised against the whole topic because she hadn’t spoken it in a few years. Now of course there is a difference between technical fluency and conversational fluency especially in something like Arabic where you have Modern Standard Arabic (Classical Arabic) for formal and academic setting and the dialects change pretty significantly between regions – though I’ve seen arguments on whether or not its “worth” learning classical Arabic if you’re not going to write formally or read the newspaper etc but that is a blog for a different time.
There are some sections at the back for specific language learning and I have read the Spanish section several times, the tips are useful and honestly it makes me want to invest in his hacking Spanish book (which may be the point of them – excellent marketing Benny).
I almost see this book as a motivational pick me up, to kick your arse into gear and start (or keep) doing the learning and the talking and all the good things you know deep down you should be doing but keep putting off.
Who will this book annoy?
Anyone who doesn’t actually want to learn a language and uses excuses like “I’m just not designed to learn languages, I’m just bad at them and nothing will ever change that”.
Benny acknowledges that different people require different things – especially when those people have different needs. He tells a story of a woman with severe hearing impediment and her learning experience. As that is his story I will tell you mine – I met a woman on a course I took who is French, living in Belgium, working in Venezuala, studying in England and Italy. She speaks French, Belgique, Dutch, German, English, Spanish, and is learning Italian in order to undertake a master’s degree there. She is also completely deaf. Now, I am insanely privileged in that I have fully functional hearing and corrected sight. So no, I have no idea the types of struggles and challenges this lady faces nor am I qualified to comment on them – but she is proof, living and visceral proof, that it can be done. All I know is that is f*****g impressive and I am in total awe of her, and that I have nothing to complain about when it comes to learning languages.
The book, Fluent in 3 Months, might come across as a little “I know better than you and your teachers” If you go into it with that mind-set. However, you wouldn’t be reading this review if you weren’t at least curious about the claim. If you open your mind up a little bit and watch some of his videos on youtube you will see that he’s not bluffing – he actually does speak well!
Value for money 4/ 5
Does this book impart enough knowledge, enjoyment, or stimulating thought to warrant the price. 1/5 = I want my money back. 5./5 = I would buy it AGAIN if I lost my copy
Does this book lose its value once read completely, or could you see yourself reading it several times and enjoying it again. 1/5 = I could barely finish it ONCE please don’t make me read it again. 5/5 = I would start reading this again within the week if I had the time.
If you want to grab a copy for yourself I suggest jumping on Book Depository – free shipping worldwide and on sale at the time of publication!