Fluency Made Achievable: The Fluent Guide to Core Language Skills
The book in review this month is Fluency Made Achievable: The Fluent Guide to Core Language Skills by Kerstin Hammes. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats, as well as part of a wonderful bundle package featuring this book, an audio copy of the book, another book of hers called The Vocab Cookbook, and action sheets to help put what she talks about to work for you.
Kerstin is a native German speaker who is well experienced in working with and teaching languages. Not only does she tutor in German, but she runs a very successful blog and podcast, all about achieving fluency in languages.
Fluency Made Achievable is a short book, with only around 70 pages in the printed format, but don't let the size fool you. This book is a powerhouse of great information for people learning a language for the first time or experienced learners who want to pick up some new ideas as well as refine their current study methods.
So let us begin right there, at the kind of content. Fluency Made Achievable is not going to waste your time by of spoon feeding you concepts and using cute attempts at trying to be your friend, which is what so many modern self-help books seem to do when they have no real message. Kerstin presents her material in a straight forward manner which is easy to understand while also being very useful.
This book is also not going to try to give you "secret methods" or learning shortcuts which too often form the basis of many language learning aides. She isn't promising you fluency within a fixed time as long as you adhere to a magical formula she has developed. She does provide a three-week structure, however, which you can tailor to meet your learning needs.
People learn in all different ways, and no single method is the best for everyone. The book recognizes that and presents the learner with several suggestions for each study area.
The first part of the book focuses on outlining the four core language skills of listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Kerstin explains that while many teaching systems emphasize one of these skills over the other, you really need to be challenged and grow equally in all areas to truly master the language.
Kerstin gives the learner the basic questions he or she needs to be asking themselves to assess their current learning practices while laying out the tasks they should do to become experienced in each skill. She then sets up a great mechanism to allow you to determine your weakest and strongest areas, so you can move on to tailoring your study routines.
The real meat of the book is in section two, where the learner can take what they learned about their skills in the first part and explore many ways of improving and fine-tuning them.
This part really showed me how well Kerstin's understands the learner and the teaching process. She goes into specific detail on the reasons, gives examples, and discusses various ways a learner can improve their listening, reading, speaking, and writing.
You are probably thinking that you already know how to study all those things, and I am sure you know some good ways. I also know that you are going to find many of the tips Kerstin to be highly insightful and helpful. She doesn't just list things you can do; she addresses the mindset behind them and informs you of things to look for while you are studying.
For example, in the writing section, it might seem fairly obvious that we can practise putting down our thoughts in text in the new language then having another person, preferably a native speaker, read it over and make corrections. But something I hadn't thought about was the power of taking the corrected version and writing it all out again. Why? As Kerstin explains, seeing your written work coming together correctly is a huge psychological boost. You aren't just taking the correction and thinking "I'll do better next time". You need to really work through it again, for both your morale and your memory.
In fact, almost the entire writing section could be taken out and used as a great guide to writing in general, like for a blog or other publication. Here you can understand how she has come to be such a good author - she has done as she preaches and is passing it on to you.
One of the most valuable tips that hit home for me is "Forget about what you 'should' know". It addresses the mindset of how we can get wrongly caught up in all the small things, like perfect pronunciation or huge vocabulary, because the person to whom we are talking isn't trying to judge us on that. They are interested in what you are trying to say. Focus on the broader aspect of communicating; the smaller details will come after.
The last section of the book contains several short interviews with experienced learners. Each of them describes what a difference learning another language has made to them. They also each give a unique tip or exercise to help in the study process.
My favourite of these, shared by Mickey Mangan, is to randomly select a word from the dictionary - without looking at the meaning - then seek out a native speaker to help you pronounce it properly. Keep at it until you can repeat it perfectly, then go back and look up the meaning. Because you spent so much time on the word itself and then wanted to find out the meaning, it will stick much more firmly in your mind and you will be able to recall it easily.
Overall, I think the biggest theme I took away from the book is that you really need to apply yourself to learning a language, and you need to tackle all four skills together, so you have a balanced learning experience. That might seem obvious, but too many people nowadays seem to want a quick trick to learn everything, when there really isn't one.
If you are serious about learning a new language, or about improving your current learning methods, then you definitely should have this book on your shelf. You need to read it through completely. Then read it again. Then read it a third time. Seriously. There is so much intelligent thought and practical ideas in it that you will need to revisit it a few times to make sure you absorb every ounce of it.
Then, if you haven't already, you need to visit Kerstin's blog Fluent Language (fluentlanguage.co.uk) and keep up on her newest thoughts and tips. You should also find her podcast on iTunes, in which she often interviews other language teachers, innovators, and polyglots, discovering their methods for learning, teaching, or both. I guarantee you will have fun as you learn!
Jimmy Mello retains all copyright control over his images. They are used in Parrot Time with his expressed permission.
Maureen Millward retains all copyright control over her images. They are used in Parrot Time with her expressed permission.
All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.
|Letter From The Editor - Studying in Summer|
|Polyglot Events All Around The World - You Are Not Alone|
|Playing Games with Language|
|Spanish E-training – The 'Big Bang' Investment|
|Can a Language Die?|
|At the Cinema - La Casa del Fin de los Tiempos|
|Languages in Peril - Scottish Gaelic|
|Words in Your Mouth - Apple|
|Celebrations - Nag Panchami|
|Where Are You?|
|Book Look - Fluency Made Achievable: The Fluent Guide to Core Language Skills|
|At A Glance|
Find previous issues in the archives.
Letter From The Editor - No Politics • Make Your Own Language Group • A History of Research in Study Abroad • Parrot Time on Patreon • Languages in Peril - Sayonara, Ainu • At the Cinema - La Coppia dei Campioni • Where Are You? • Book Look - The Bible of the Language Learners and Polyglots • Basic Guide to Romanian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Hope and Failing • Six Ways To Choose Which Languages To Learn • Learning Spanish - The trials, the tribulations and one triumphant learning hack • At the Cinema - The Last King (Birkebeinerne) • Celebrations - Birkebeinerrennet • Where Are You? • Book Look - Langenscheidt Dictionaries • Basic Guide to Swedish • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Culture and Language, Again • Learning A Language Is Learning Its Culture • Revisited - Early Bardic Literature in Ireland • Languages in Peril - Save Medan Hokkien! • In Others' Words - Ulrike and Peter Rettig • At the Cinema - Monster Hunt • Where Are You? • Book Look - Language Alter Ego • Basic Guide to Italian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - A Kind Word • Language and Power: The Hidden Struggle • 4 Ways To Learn Through Reading • Language Learning is for everyone! • Languages in Peril - The Decline of Sicilian • At the Cinema - The Host • Where Are You? • Book Look - Italian Short Stories for Beginners • Basic Guide to Hungarian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Making it Happen • Motivation - Expressing oneself and the expression of oneself in language learning • Motivation Killers in Learning a Language • Mixing Languages and Relationships • In Others' Words - Brian Powers • At the Cinema - Cutting Room Floor • Languages in Peril - Cyprus' Language Revival Approach Problem • Where Are You? • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - The Importance of Travel • Broadening The Mind Travels The World • The Secret Life of Diacritics • There Are No Wrong And Right Gestures, Only Cultural Differences • Google Translate Exposed: - The Truth Behind Everyone's Favorite Translator • At the Cinema - Queen • Book Look - The A to Z of Learning German • Where Are You? • Basic Guide to Papiamentu • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Free Things • The Cost of Free Language Resources • Review of Polyglot Workshops: Brazil • Easier Way to Learn Languages Fast • Dream, decide, do - tips from a polyglot • At the Cinema - Cambio de Ruta • Languages in Peril - Talysh • Where Are You? • App Rev - Tandem • Book Look - Language Master Key • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Studying in Summer • Polyglot Events All Around The World - You Are Not Alone • Playing Games with Language • Spanish E-training – The 'Big Bang' Investment • Can a Language Die? • At the Cinema - La Casa del Fin de los Tiempos • Languages in Peril - Scottish Gaelic • Words in Your Mouth - Apple • Celebrations - Nag Panchami • Where Are You? • Book Look - Fluency Made Achievable: The Fluent Guide to Core Language Skills • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Sounds Like • How Do You Say It? - A look at sound notation systems • Of Pidgins and Creoles - A look at how some languages are born • Who Are You To Learn A Language? • At the Cinema - Dil Chahta Hai • Languages in Peril - Yumans on the Edge • Words in Your Mouth - Egg • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Breaking with Tradition • Are You Wasting Your Money on Language Classes? • Chatting in Languages Online - Part 2: Voice Chats • Why English Is Different Than Any Other Language • The Digital Language Collective • At the Cinema - Viva La Libertà • Languages in Peril - The Tribes of the Tamil-Kannada • Words in Your Mouth - Rice • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Thirteen • Chatting in Languages Online - Part 1: Text Chats • Why Do People Learn Languages? • The Question Of Practice - An International Language Is Possible • At the Cinema - Chinese Puzzle • Celebrations - Fastelavn • Words in Your Mouth - Cheese • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Over Time • Which Language Is...? • The Ultimate Fate of Language Learning • 5 Funny Words In Afrikaans From My Perspective • At the Cinema - Everybody's Famous! • Word on the Streets - Why Writers are Important • Words in Your Mouth - Milk • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - World Ambassadors • Coming Home to Faroese - The Why and How of Learning a Small Language • Danish and Faroese: A Biography • At the Cinema - Ludo • Basic Guide to Faroese • Celebrations - The Faroese Festival Summer • Revisted - The Faroe Islands • Word on the Streets - Famous Faroe Islanders • Where Are You? • The Grind: Why the Faroese Hunt Whales • The Legend of the Scottish Princess • Faroese Ballads - Nornagest Ríma and Ormurin Langi
Letter From The Editor - Expansion • Religion in Culture • Languages in Peril - Decline of the Gallo-Italics • Language Learning and Translation • Word on the Streets - Italian Greats • Book Look • At the Cinema - Xingu • Celebrations - Hangul Day • Where Are You? • Words in Your Mouth - Bread
Letter From The Editor - Tracing Words • Constructed Languages - Making It All Up • Language Conflicts - Flemish vs. Walloon • Rohonc Codex - Hungarian Enigma • At the Cinema - Il Comandante e la Cicogna - Garibaldi's Lovers • Where Are You? • Words in Your Mouth - Sausage • Book Look • GlobTech - Using Locale
Letter From The Editor - Globalization • Speaking with Aliens • Celebrations - Esala Perahera - The Festival of the Tooth • Language Conflicts - Bokmål vs. Nynorsk • At the Cinema - Pane e Tulipani - Bread and Tulips • Revisited - Words Which Have Changed Their Meaning • Languages in Peril - Keeping Up With The Kartvelians • Where Are You? • Sections - Reviews • Word on the Streets - Indonesian Innovators • GlobTech - Google Translate Section
Letter From The Editor - The Highlander Condition • When Languages Meet • At the Cinema - Mal Día Para Pescar - Bad Day to Go Fishing • Celebrations - Tanabata - The Star Festival • Languages in Peril - The Romanian Relatives • Revisited - Words Made By Great Writers • Where Are You? • Language Learning Methods - Immersion • Sections - Links
Letter From The Editor - Price of Fame • Liber Linteus - Mummified Language • Pencak Silat • At the Cinema - Bombay • Celebrations - Inti Raymi - Festival of the Sun • Cracking the Code • Languages in Peril - The Chibchan Family • Revisited - Words From The Names Of Animals • Word on the Streets - Great German Authors • Where Are You? • Language Learning Methods - Internet • Sections - Neighborhood
Letter From The Editor - Why Polynesian? • Rongorongo - Island Chants • Otto Dempwolff - Islands of Language • At the Cinema - Whale Rider • Celebrations - Pasifika Festival • Special Feature - Avoiuli • Languages in Peril - The Island Invasion • Revisited - Legends of Maui - Maui's Home • Word on the Streets - Malay Masters • Where Are You? • Revisited - Legends of Maui - Maui Snaring the Sun
Letter From The Editor - Linguist or Polyglot • The Phaistos Disc - Puzzle of Crete • Otto Jespersen - Progress of Language • At the Cinema - Kukushka - The Cuckoo • Celebrations - Carnival • Languages in Peril - The Salish Tragedy • Word on the Streets - Kannada Writers • Where Are You? • Revisited - Stories In The Names Of Places • New Souls • Language Learning Methods - Software • Sections - Parleremo YouTube
Letter From The Editor - Freaking Out • The Voynich Script - Cryptic Codex • Benjamin Whorf - Relativity of Language • At the Cinema - Lost in Translation • Languages in Peril - The Polish Connection • Word on the Streets - Romanian Poets • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Holi • A Language Dream • Revisited - Words From National Character • Language Learning Methods - Classes • Sections - Language Exchange
Letter From The Editor - Truth in Advertising • Linear A & Linear B - Lost Minoan • Edward Sapir - Patterns of Language • At the Cinema - Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner • Word on the Streets - Norwegian Notables • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Valentine's Day • Languages in Peril - The Rhaeto-Romance Trio • Revisited - Proverbs • Linguistics Love Song • Language Learning Methods - Books • Sections - Recordings
Letter From The Editor - A New Parrot Time • The Rosetta Stone - Triple Cypher • Ferdinand de Saussure - Signs of Language • At the Cinema - L'auberge Espagnole • Languages in Peril - The Finno-Ugrics • Word on the Streets - The Russian Zone • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Day of the Dead • Revisited - Slang • We Are The Linguists • Language Learning Methods - Audio • Sections - Journals
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