Language Master Key
The book in review this month is Language Master Key by Ron Gullekson. It is available from Amazon as a Kindle ebook.
Ron is a native English speaker who a technical writer and translator in Florida, USA. He has studied Arabic, German, and Spanish and writes about language learning on his popular blog Language Surfer (www.languagesurfer.com).
Language Master Key (or, with its entire title Language Master Key: How to Unlock Your Brain's Ability to Learn Any Language ) is a guide to how to learn languages more efficiently. At just over 100 pages, the book is a fantastic read, with both scientific explanations and anecdotal insights to help you, the reader, get the most out of the time you spend learning.
Ron talks about all four skills required in mastering a language (reading, writing, speaking and listening), but it is the listening aspect that he mainly focuses on. The book opens with a discussion of how language is sound, what is a language, and how we learn a language. Stephen Krashen and Paul Pimsleur's theories of second language acquisition are put forth, along with scientific explanations of the learning process through listening.
The second chapter is where he starts outlining the greater focus of the book. Ron is not merely talking about language learning in an abstract manner; he has laid out a very specific program for the learner to follow. He admits that it won't make you instantly fluent (which is a false claim by any teaching method) and warns you that while his system is simple, it isn't easy.
As an aside here for a moment, I would like to note that most language learning help books or blogs are often advertised with claims that you will become, if not fluent, at least very conversational in a language within a short time, using some "secret" method, known only to the author. As you probably have learned by now, there is no quick, easy "trick". Not in language learning, and not in anything else. Anything worth knowing is going to take time and a lot of work, and that is why so many resources that promise you virtually overnight success will eventually let you down.
I wanted to point that out because Ron's book is not one of those. He isn't trying to sell you on an express track to fluency. Instead, he is laying out a very precise path with specific activities and ideas.
And that is where chapter two starts. Ron says "If you want to make any kind of noticeable progress, you’re going to have to grit your teeth and spend at least 45 minutes a day, nearly every day exposing yourself to the language", then lays out the three basic things you need to be doing: free listening, active listening, and performing a learning activity. He goes on to describe and develop these in detail for the rest of the chapter.
Chapter three looks at what makes a language learner successful. I really liked this chapter because he shares several personal experiences to support each of the qualities: patient, engaged, consistent, balanced, easygoing, confident.
Those last two are perhaps the hardest ideas to implement. When we learn, we become focused on getting everything right, to an extreme. If we become so obsessed with having every attempt be perfect, then we will never dare try interacting with others in a language. We need to relax and let mistakes happen; it is from those that we learn the most.
We also need to build up our confidence so that we can let the language flow. Otherwise, we will always be afraid to use our new knowledge, which defeats the entire purpose of learning another language.
Chapter four covers language proficiency by not only describing a few systems currently used to denote a person's level but also presenting a concise outline of how long it will take you to reach proficiency, depending on the methods and time you use.
Chapter five is all about acquiring vocabulary. Ron talks about how we can better absorb chunks of data, rather than individual pieces. Great ideas for how to learn and practise are given to the learner, including an overview on using spaced repetition systems (SRS), which are the popular trend now.
The next two chapters talk about free and active listening, and chapters eight and nine cover speaking and learning activities. Throughout this, Ron provides scientific ideas, real life experiences, and precise instructions on the best ways to use your time to maximum your results. Chapter nine in particular goes into some details about a few different self-study courses, including Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, Teach Yourself, and Assimil. In chapter ten, the best ways to learn a language through reading are covered.
Chapter eleven is where Ron brings everything he has talked about before together into his "21-Day Language Blast". I said before that Ron was not going to promise you fluency within a certain time period, and that still holds true here. The 21-Day program is based on an experiment he did in Germany and is built upon the template he presented in the second chapter. For me, this is the true strength of the book, because it pulls together the rest of the material into a precise, easy to follow system which anyone can use to make true progress in their learning. It is a cyclic approach, so after you have followed this for three weeks, you start again, thereby changing how and what you are studying, building up your capabilities, layer by layer.
The title image Ron has chosen for his book is that of a ragged notebook, like that of an essential handbook that you read and use many times. Indeed, I feel that I need to read it a few more times so I can fully absorb and implement many, if not all, of what he discusses, and a real book would then become as battered as his image suggests.
If you are interested in the process of learning languages, this book is a fantastic read, for both its professional and personal wisdom. If you are an active learner, then I heartily suggest you pick up a copy of Language Master Key for your electronic bookshelf, read it often, and put it to good use!
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 - 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|
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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