Fluent in 3 Months... by Benny Lewis

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by kikenyoy, Mar 20, 2014.

  1. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    Big_Dog Review Part 3 – Cons (chapter 9)

    In this chapter he defines polyglot, discusses how one goes about learning several languages, limitations to the number and knowledge levels of languages a polyglot can learn, how to keep from mixing up languages, Richard Simcott and learning grammatical terms.

    1) Not to be confused with a linguist, a polyglot is someone who speaks multiple languages well. One definition of a linguist is someone who speaks multiple languages well. I wonder if this was thrown in there for the benefit of Steve Kaufmann.

    2) Trying to become a polyglot is a terrible goal. Not at all. It’s my goal, and it seems to be working just fine. Again, long term goals aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

    3) You need to pick your languages carefully. My languages pick me. By that I mean circumstances in my life determine what languages I should learn. I think this is the case for most people. Letting a language choose you supports motivation.

    4) You should study a language to at least B2, because at that level, if you drop it, it doesn't take much time to get back to where you used to be. I prefer C1, because I feel this is the level where maintenance is no longer required.

    5) A true polyglot avoids giving quick answers about his level. I don’t. And people who ask usually aren’t looking for long answers. Polyglots can give quick, honest answers about their level if they want; there is no “polyglot code” that says they can’t.

    6) There are downfalls to learning many languages short term. This is true, so why does Benny do it? Most of his advice is geared towards people who want to eventually take a language to a high level. I’m wondering why there wasn’t material about the advantages of flirting, or whatever he calls all these mini missions where his involvement in the language ends when they end.

    7) A hyperglot is someone who speaks 6 or more languages. I wonder where this definition came from. I’ve always heard it was more than 10.

    8) Benny respects Professor Arguelles, who writes book reviews in foreign languages. Benny would find that exercise demotivating. First, his name is Alexander Arguelles. Second, considering how big of an influence he has had on the language learning community, I’m surprised that the only mention he gets is about him writing book reviews in foreign languages, and it’s mentioned in a negative context. For those reasons, Benny doesn’t sound very respectful to me.

    9) Benny and Richard Simcott agree on many things. I get the uneasy feeling that Benny is trying to put himself in the same category as Simcott. There is really no comparison imo.

    10) Simcott doesn’t see why someone would want to learn more than 8 languages. But Simcott, Benny and Arguelles have all done this, so I’m confused by this comment.

    11) The number of languages becomes less important than the sheer ability to communicate. I don’t know what he’s trying to say here. Don’t learn a lot of languages? Don’t learn them unless you intend to learn them to a high level? Communicate a lot? Very unclear.

    12) He picks just one language and sticks to it until he’s very confident in it. But he doesn’t always do this. Why not say something like “based on my language learning experience, although I haven’t always done this, this is what I advise aspiring polyglots to do”? Because it’s well documented that he quit many languages at low levels.

    Benny has several ways of not confusing languages in his mind. When you learn languages to a high level, they separate themselves. There is no need to do anything special here.
  2. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    Big_Dog Review Part 3 – Cons (chapter 10)

    In this chapter he mentions free and cheap resources, language logs, social networking and a free resource on his site called “conversation connectors”.

    1) Any time spent researching the best materials would be better spent practicing the language. I disagree. A little research can help the learner find good, available materials within his budget.

    2) You should keep a language log. This isn’t for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with keeping one, but also nothing wrong with not keeping one.

    FINISHED!
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2014
  3. biTsar

    biTsar Active Member VIP member

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    All this stuff seems like a high schooler padding his assignment thinking the teacher won't notice. Benny needs an editor. I nominate Cainntear.
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  4. Bob

    Bob Active Member VIP member

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    About the singing, I once had a Chinese student who was pronouncing "jaded" wrong because of that Arrowsmith song.
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  5. Cainntear

    Cainntear Active Member VIP member

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    Unfortunately, I'd do the job too well. If I edited out all the crap, all you'd be left with is "Anyone can learn a language, so believe in yourself. Don't worry too much about errors. Try not to make any if possible, but when you do, remember: it's not the end of the world."

    I think a motivational business card entitled "Fluent in 3 Months" wouldn't sell anywhere near as well as an umpteen page paperback.
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  6. Cainntear

    Cainntear Active Member VIP member

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    Indeed. My German flatmate and a friend of hers (also German) both misheard something I said last night. They'd confused a word ending in T with a word ending in D. I explained to them that it was because of the final devoicing in their own language. They told me there was no such thing, so maybe it's just accent. I then got on the internet, and gave them examples from Wikipedia.

    They'd both been speaking German their entire lives, and they were not consciously aware of the existence of the phenomenon... but they were subconsciously aware of it. My flatmate said she thought she was dyslexic because she has problems with the final letters of words, and she has to put words into the plural to work out whether it's T or D.

    I've only heard of the "bad tongue" belief in the Far East, where there was (is?) a persistent myth that the tongue was responsible for the difficulty in pronouncing certain sounds (particularly R) and that surgery on the frenulum (the tissue connecting the bottom of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is the best cure. Lingual frenulectomy is only recommended for people with diagnosed tongue ties, but unscrupulous plastic surgeons were profiting off the myth.

    It's far more complex than that. This "colloquial" stuff is really a reduced form. Can you learn a reduced form without first learning the full form? Maybe, but it's tricky. "Dunno" isn't actually a very accurate transcription of the sound, and neither is "gonna". I've met lots of foreigners who've consciously learned/been taught these allegedly-colloquial forms, and they don't say "gonna" like a native, they say it like it's written, with a strong AU and a strong AH, and it sounds far, far less natural (and therefore less colloquial) than a clear "going to".

    Besides, this reduction happens everywhere in practically every word of the English language, so treating it as a vocabulary thing actually goes against the learning of a language as a system.
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  7. Wise owl chick

    Wise owl chick Active Member

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    What are his ways? I have this problem Dutch-German and sometimes Dutch-English-German.

    My Dutch is C2 i think, or maybe C1 I don't know. It's my best foriegn language, but my brain muddle up this with German, sometimes English. Maybe I must find a technique for this, but until now I don't know how. I mean that my German and English are affected by Dutch's interference, sometimes vice versa but mostly one direction from Dutch.
  8. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    Actually he has a point, at least as to one's initial language(s). Learning a language that is easier based on one's L1 is a good idea since learning how to learn is important, and it should be easier. For example, I would never recommend an English speaker start with Mandarin. Also Dr. Arguelles recommends starting with French, simply so that one can use the full range of Assimil's offerings.

    Right on. B2 maintenance still requires effort to find graded materials, whereas with C levels one should be able to use almost any native materials.

    He said "true", i.e. those who both know their languages to a high level and also know how much they don't know. And the A2 and B1-glots (the levels reached by Benny's followers for the most part), don't want to have to qualify their levels.

    Of course Benny would find reviewing books in many/most of his foreign languages "demotivating". Because he couldn't do it well with the B1 langs.

    From research I have read, it takes a while for your brain to build a language center/net for a given language. So when one hasn't reached a high level, those nets are not fully formed and might be more subject to mixing with other langs which also haven't been learned to a high level. Research also shows that those raised as bilinguals have just one net to which other languages are added, though I don't think the study I have in mind measured interference.

    BOTTOM LINE: Skip Benny's book, and buy Barry Farber's. Then find some resources and start learning and ask advice here or on other forums as one goes. And if you have difficulties, don't look for reasons why, just work harder an realize it takes a while. But also know you can reach a level on your own higher than that offered by almost all multi-year school programs whether high school or university.
  9. Wise owl chick

    Wise owl chick Active Member

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    You refer the article in German which BAnna linked yesterday, but is it true that the bilinguals have just one net? I don't udnerstand this because the brain has several areas which are the language ones.

    Also, what is a fully formed net? or what level is a high level?

    Therefore you mean that the people who were raised bilingual, will not have interference by a 3rd on 4th language? I don't udnerstand this, and I doubt that there is proof. I was in a study about the brain and language, with the fMRI, but not this bilingual issue because I wasn't raised bilingual. I don't think that the doctors would say about the raised bilinguals have only one net in one place for all their language, different areas in the brain do different things also with the language, and language is not only speak or write, it's multiple things.

    I agree that to ask on a forum is great because the others have this interest and expereince.

    But if you have difficulties why don't look for reasons why?
  10. tastyonions

    tastyonions Member VIP member

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    I think that for many people, 20 to 30 conversations with a sympathetic native speaker will mostly fix their speaking confidence issues, assuming they already have a good base of grammar and vocabulary. That's maybe 20 to 30 hours total. In my view it is highly unlikely you could make a lot of progress toward fixing a "content" problem in the same amount of time.
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  11. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    From Science Daily website (in English):

    Bilingual children have a two-tracked mind
    Think twice, speak once: Bilinguals process both languages simultaneously

    Note that I read somewhere else more detailed reviews but can't find them right now.

    Re difficulties, obviously in recommending to ask on forums I am saying persons should ask about same. But in general, I think most difficulties stem from not sticking to a schedule for a LONG time, and also not being willing to use materials or methods considered boring. Sub-optimal methods and materials can still get the job done. But constantly craving motivation from outside sources, and seeking reasons why one doesn't get fast results, are difficulties, but not of a source or method variety. Most people who buy gym memberships don't end up using them for long. Most people who start learning a language don't persevere over the length of time required to properly learn it (hence looking for 3 month shortcuts coupled with a redefinition of the term "fluent").

    Anyone who has stuck with a course for an hour or two a day for at least six months and seeks advice on a forum, is someone who probably does have some other difficulty that needs to be identified and addressed.

    There is a reason more people are "proficient" in air guitar, than in actual high level guitar playing ability, they just haven't and won't put the time in for mastery. Or they just lack some natural talent/ability necessary.
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  12. Wise owl chick

    Wise owl chick Active Member

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    Your articles discuss the use of the two native languages NOT the 3 rd 4th languages etc.

    I can imagine that the two native languages are in the same network, but why the foreign languages later? This is the point.

    I don't know about the other things you've said. I don't know so many people and I'm 22, finished high school two yeasr ago. But I think that it's always good to ask why.
  13. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    Your're right, sorry. Right source (SD), but wrong article(s). Here it is:

    Bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language

    I have to run and am still not sure those articles properly reference the one vs many language nets. I'll have to root around later for a better reference.
  14. tastyonions

    tastyonions Member VIP member

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    Absolutely agree with you here. After the really obvious things, most natives have next to nothing to say in terms of correcting your pronunciation, because they have never learned or thought about the pronunciation of their own language in a conscious, systematic way.

    I have heard this one before, actually, that you have to develop the right muscles or muscle coordination in your tongue and mouth at an early age, and otherwise they will never work quite right and will always be somewhat awkward when pronouncing the language. It was a French woman who said this.

    I think Benny's advice here can be rather problematic when given to people who are at a low level. The problem is that as a beginner you usually don't have a very precise idea of what exactly is left out or shortened or changed in a "colloquial" pronunciation or how exactly to use a "non-standard" expression or grammatical construction. Also learners should know that it can strike natives as kind of bizarre and maybe offputting to hear people use certain very colloquial expressions or ways of speaking -- almost like they are trying to give the impression that they've lived in the country for a while or something -- while at the same time making pretty basic errors with the grammar or pronunciation of the language. It's a similar sensation to what one would have seeing an amateur soccer player who spends a lot of time perfecting his bicycle kick even though he still has trouble making routine passes.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2014
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  15. Wise owl chick

    Wise owl chick Active Member

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    Yes, I think that they find a 3rd langauge easier, for me also, my 3rd language was easier in some ways, others much more difficult and less natural (many factors) and my 4th etc although I was not raised bilingual. The knowledge of a second langauge then third etc is extremely useful and helpful.

    But this is NOT the same network in the brain, it's a different thing.
  16. Cainntear

    Cainntear Active Member VIP member

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    You're crediting the man with too much. It sounds very much like the True Scotsman Fallacy to me....
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  17. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    I believe it's rare that people choose between 2 or more languages for which they have equal motivation to learn. I prefer to let the higher motivation choose me.
  18. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    I stand corrected. I edited it out.
  19. Cainntear

    Cainntear Active Member VIP member

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    Exactly, and this is another classic Benny contradiction. After all his waffling about not choosing a language for the "wrong reasons", and insisting that practicality is wrong and that "passion" is the only factor, suddenly he's actively advising choosing for the previously-wrong reason of practicality.
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  20. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    In the Benny book thread on HTLAL, Serpent made a sly comment. She said she was interested in the book but wouldn't read it in English.
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