Book Review: “How to Learn Any Language” by Barry Farber (1991)

“Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably, and On Your Own.”

Has your sleep-schedule ever been so out-of-whack that you lie in bed, too tired to sleep? That’s how I was one afternoon after an excessively long third-shift. The sun was bright, my family was milling about in the next room, and I was so physically drained that my brain would simply not shut down. So I decided to read my brain to sleep. I looked at my new bedroom-bookshelf, fitted tightly with all things “missions” as well as all things “Asia,” and right there between those two major sections sat this little book by Barry Farber on learning languages. I have been “studying” an Asian language for several years now, but have made very little progress. Figuring I needed a major jump-start back into the program, I selected this little gem and never got that nap I was hoping for. This book grabbed me like no other self-help book could do, and I just about finished the whole thing that afternoon.

Farber starts his book by sharing a brief autobiography, focusing mostly on the various places he has lived, the languages he has both wanted and needed to learn, and the many exciting ways he has been able to use them all. This was the portion of the book that really drew me into his process, and so the rest of the book was just the icing. Following his stories, Farber introduces his four-step language-learning system by sharing all the various tools and attitudes that are necessary to learn any language quickly and effectively. I probably cannot write how each of these steps works, but I can name them and let you use your imagination: the multiple-track approach (which includes grammar, immersion, memorization, and listening), finding and using hidden moments during the day, perfecting Harry Lorayne’s Magic Memory Aid, and fianlly taking the plunge into world of that language.

If nothing else, Farber’s little book is one that will motivate you to learn a new language, or to finally kick your weak dabblings in a foreign language into gear. It doesn’t matter why you want to learn a language, by the way. Farber even suggests that if you are interested in blondes, then go learn Dutch! This book has jump-started my language studies, even in the midst of grad school and my career. I highly recommend it, if not for you, then for that stubbornly unmotivated person in your life whose life could seriously change, if only he could broaden his horizons by learning something new.

©2012 E.T.

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2 Responses to Book Review: “How to Learn Any Language” by Barry Farber (1991)

  1. I’m giving this one a shot. I am starting Dutch lessons this week, and I will need French and German eventually. I think this will be a good motivator. Thanks for the review!

    • Dutch, huh? You must be interested in blondes! Good to hear you’re tackling some languages. Just be aware that Farber wants to immerse you into your new language so you can quickly get right into talking with native speakers about things that actually matter, not simply going through rote conversations: “How are you?…I am fine, thank you. Where do you come from?” etc.

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