Fluent Forever, Book Review
Derek Braun, TESOL/OFLA Liaison
Columbus City Schools, ELL Science Teacher
Wyner, G. (2014). Fluent forever: How to learn any language fast and never forget it.
The book entitled Fluent Forever is a great resource for anyone involved in the field of teaching and learning languages. This book describes a system of language learning that was developed by author Gabriel Wyner. Not only is this a great read for someone wanting to develop a self-guided language learning plan; moreover, it is rich with learning and memorization insights and applications. The author, Gabriel Wyner, is an opera singer and polyglot based in Chicago, IL. Throughout the book he describes the history of how his love of language learning grew from his first immersion experience of learning German through a 14-week program at Middlebury Language School to becoming a polyglot, and now having learned over six additional languages. Through his immersion experiences he developed a system to quickly build fluency by studying for short daily sessions. By implementing his learning program, he was able to learn French to fluency in five months, and Russian in 9 months. He since has dedicated more time to writing and began a Kickstarter Project to develop a language learning app that simplifies the language learning program. The app, Indiegogo, is set to release August 2018 and has become the number one most funded Kickstarter project ever. The app will focus on users combining the target language with visual images that can be customized to fit your specific needs. Users will make choices in creating personal content and flashcards in the target language and not be forced to memorize translations. Many of the current Computer Assisted Language Learning(no need for uppercase – ot a proper noun) programs and language learning apps are based on grammar translation which is not as effective at producing longer lasting memory for vocabulary acquisition.
The language learning program presented in the book is based on a system of creating and studying flashcards. There are many different websites and apps that can be utilized to design and study flashcards; however, the recommended flash card system described in Fluent Forever is called Anki, which means memorize in Japanese. This electronic flashcard study tool is based on spaced repetition, which is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review. Memory is built when the mind is forced to recall. Stronger memory is created when the mind is forced to recall just before it is lost from memory. When each flash card is presented the user rates the flash card with what level of difficulty the study point was recalled (again, easy, medium, hard). This (rating system)makes flash card studying as efficient as possible and one can accomplish much with a 15 minutes/day studying program. To the user it becomes much like a game, trying to see how much time can pass while still retaining the flash card in one’s memory.
The crucial element in this study system lays within flash card creation. Fluent Forever provides many tips and suggestions to creating flash cards that are personalized and memorable. New information and input are processed and remembered by creating connections in the mind to past experiences and current memory. It is stressed that flash cards are created with connections to personal experiences when possible (i.e. when creating a flash card to learn the Spanish word gato use a picture of your friend’s cat). It is recommended that flash cards use only the target language combined with visual and auditory cues (rather than using the English translation). The language learner should begin by focusing on producing and distinguishing all phonemes in the target language. While studying and learning as many new vocabulary words as possible. The author has created word lists of the 625 most common vocabulary words that can be used to create flash cards. After building a base of working vocabulary, learners can begin to create cards that include grammar lessons with fill in the blank sentences.
In this book the author’s true love of languages is apparent as he shares what he’s learned from his own language learning journey. The process of learning to use Anki and design flash cards can be a bit overwhelming at first; however, once a routine is established studying the flash cards can be quite enjoyable. I highly recommend Fluent Forever for anyone involved with the teaching and learning of languages. This book is a must-read for anyone desiring to learn a new language.