Customer Reviews: How to Learn Any Language
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on December 6, 2002
then this book will be your best source of inspiration, guidance, and encouragement. Farber's masterpiece will clue you in on the best techniques to learn any language, and, unlike other books of this kind, it actually promotes self-study. In truth, no one needs to take a class to learn a language. Just follow the simple, straightforward instructions, put in a little elbow grease, and you'll be well on your way to learning any language.
The book is divided into three parts: Part I is a lengthy (but very enjoyable) presentation of Farber's own story (and how he came to speak over 18 languages); Part II is the meat of the book, the actual system. This section contains the raw information needed to be successful at learning any language, which Farber himself concedes is the end result of years of poor decision-making, coupled with some very insightful (and at times accidental) choices, in the end distilled into the most helpful techniques. While some would claim that nothing here is revolutionary, I would like to add that nothing here hurts either! It's often important to find reinforcement of one's own arrived-upon ideas, and also to receive a new perspective on why something is the way it is. Part III is a small group of appendixes that mention the now unheard of (I can't find it!) Language Club in New York City, a list of the world's major languages, and also Farber's own notes (reviews, really) on the major languages (European and Asian).
If you've read this far, please do yourself a favor and get this book. The only reason I've cared to write so much about this book is because it really meant a lot to me to find this book when I was debating whether or not to spend the time, energy, and money to learn another language. I hope this book will help guide you to your destination, just as it's helped guide me to mine. Good luck!
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on October 17, 2003
This book changed my thinking. I was one of those people who would have loved to learn another language.....BUT....after two years of high school spanish (I retained very little), I began to go around muttering, "Well, Id like to learn a language, but I just aint very good at it (my high school language grades proved that)....and dont have the discipline to do all that memorization". Barry points out in the book a variety of language learning techniques other than just drilling into your memory a new vocabulary. These techniques are why other nations have greater success in language training compared to the U.S.'s educational methods! I now enjoy learning languages (in part because of this books and others) and actually think Im pretty good at it!
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on June 7, 2007
There are so many reasons to start learning a foreign language that's just not possible to list them all. Some wish to secure a solid job in an ever shrinking world. Many hope to learn the language of their heritage or ancestry, getting back to their roots. And even some would hope to meet their future wife as someone of a different language.

With this handy little guide, you are one step closer to becoming multilingual. The key to Farber's great success is his approach. He does not allow for the boring grammar lessons that so many are plagued with in high school, but instead encourages The System, an approach full of different ways of learning. This structure includes audio recordings, flash cards, grammar books, lesson books, dictionaries, newspapers in the native language, and even unrehearsed interaction with someone in your target language. With the system Barry presents, the reader is easily able to forget about what others think and set their own goals for language learning as Barry has. Sure he isn't fluent in all 25 languages, but he's getting there and can carry on conversation with native speakers. Isn't that what most people want?

The greatest idea to come from this book is the utilization of "hidden moments." Although it seems so obvious, almost no one does it. He encourages taking flash cards or a phrase book with you at all times so that when you're stuck in line somewhere, at the post office for example, you have something to do with that time. The time won't be wasted and you'll be one step closer to learning your target language. I've incorporated this idea myself and have seen significant results in my sentence structure and understanding of phrases alone. All Barry wishes is for you to learn one word.

My two favorite parts of this book are his life story and the language reviews. These come nicely at the beginning and at the end of the book respectfully. This allows for a personalized experience of something real to relate to. His life story tells of his troubles in the boring Latin classes of high school, meeting Chinese soldiers in WWII, his sheer teenage fun with Norwegian, to smuggling Hungarians into Austria, and everything in between. He brings about average moments of meeting foreigners where instead of ignoring them or being to shy to converse, he leaped right in and capitalized on the experience gaining knowledge. If you don't know whether a certain language that you wish to learn will be too difficult, refer to the language reviews toward the end of the book. These give a perfect synopsis of what you'll be up against and whether or not the language is right for you.

Overall this is a solid book. It's extremely easy to read and follow. It's actually even good to have to refer back to, whether it's the entertaining stories or just The System. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to learn a language, especially those who're learning in the classroom.
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on October 9, 2005
To sum up Barry's methods, his multi track approach has merits, especially if you have no idea or game plan to follow in an orderly fashion. I give his methods a five, but the overall book gets a three, at best. A two wouldn't be off the mark.

The first sixty pages are complete with Barry gushing about the number of languages he says he knows. My only question - does Barry know just enough of each language to introduce himself, ask simple directions, and attempt to order a meal in an authentic restaurant, or is Barry fluent enough in over twenty languages to sit as First Chair Translator in the United Nations? At one point, Barry states his Chinese was so good, he flabbergasted a Chinese waitress so badly she screwed up the order for the entire table. I believe a more approximate assessment would be Barry's choice of vocabulary, diction and accent was so bad, she couldn't help but make major errors in their meal orders.

The language examples he provides in a language he speaks about sounds like something that can be found in any basic starter language book or audio course. The Appendix material starting at page 140 to the end are useless.

Between page 60 to the Appendix are Barry's methods. While I didn't really learn anything new that I am not already doing (learning Japanese) I applaud Barry's methods. A solid grammar course booklet, a good dictionary containing the target language and your own native language, the use of audio (tapes, CD's, MP3 players in today's lifestyle) flashcards, and other various printed materials and sources. Yes, the book needs to be updated, but anyone serious about their target language can fill in the updated blanks.

Barry makes a few good points. Set a game plan and stick with it. Don't give up. Be consistent in your studies. Use different sources. His use of memory aids. While some of Barry's ideas of using wasted time to study are a little off the mark (while brushing your teeth, or the one that made me laugh - while you are grunting inaudible 'yes, no, uh-uh, really?' responses to your friend blathering on the phone, pretending you are hanging on their every word) there are better down times that can be used, and will retain what you are learning. Commmuting to and from work. Lunch time. Mindless TV viewing. (How many times can you watch the same hour of ESPN reruns before you decide you had enough?)

If you have no clue as how to self teach yourself a language, then purchase the book. Otherwise, if it can be found in a bookstore, read pages 60 to 140, take notes and save your money. Or read the other posted reviews that pretty much explain his methods in a few sentences and save yourself the time and expense.
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on August 5, 2007
While I'd like a system that implants a new language into my brain without any study, that's unrealistic. Instead, before I started my crash course in French, I searched for tips on how to proceed. Farber, who has impressive experience, neatly ties together the activities that he believes are necessary for language self-study.

Prior to buying this book, I purchased what I thought was the best start - Interactive French Grammar Made Easy. Well! According to Farber, this was the absolute worse way to start (and I have to agree). He makes the point that children learn language without reference to grammar and that's the best way for adults to do it, too. Grammar comes last. Anyway, I am now following Farber's guidance and am enjoying the experience (although I can't do it in my sleep).

I was also impressed with Farber's enthusiasm for language-learning, something I never, ever considered. I'm not quite delighted by the process as he explains it yet, but I'm sure the best is yet to come. Once I finish my blitz in French, I'm going on to learn Spanish, which is a more appropriate in New Jersey just outside of New York City. Spanish is the first language in several huge cities along the Hudson and as an English-only speaking American, I feel left out (especially when ordering in one of the many delightful South American restaurants here).
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on January 5, 2004
I think this book is awesome! It really gives me help. While I had a great French teacher for four years in high school, I didn't retain that much, simply because I had bad study habits and I didn't apply myself. When I found out I was going to France for an extended stay, I decided I might want to learn. I followed Mr. Farber's advice and within a few months I spoke an incredible amount of French, and did great for the month I stayed near Antibes and Grasse.
I've heard a lot of other reviewers say that this books needs to be updated, but anyone with a brain can figure out how to add in electronics, etc. to the program.
There was only part I didn't like and that was that Farber's use of mnemonics, simply for the fact that they don't work for ME. Mnemonics work for thousands of people, but I am blessed with the ability to just look at a word and remember, and the stories that mnemonics provide tend to just get in my way. However, I understand how much this method will help some people and that's why I say you should use this method if it is effective for you.
Overall, this book is something you should definitely get if you want to learn any language. It's worth the relatively small amount of money, and you will learn a wealth of information from this book.
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on October 10, 2004
This book is a good place to start on your quest to learn a new language. It offers some tips and suggestions from the author's experiences with language learning. The book is a fairly brief. I think the paperback version is a bit too expensive, but the hard cover version is half the price. You can find the hard cover version fairly easily if you search at other book stores. Amazon does not seem to have the hard cover version in stock right now.

This book is entirely one person's perspective. I would have greatly preferred additional insights from college professors or from people who teach language for a living. I would also like to know any scientific research that has been done in how to learn a language efficiently.

This book is essentially a pep talk and a common memory trick, but it is still worth a read.
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on February 11, 2010
This is James from James Spanish (the learning Spanish blog).
No matter which language you want to tackle, when it comes to learning, there are many rules, techniques and tricks that apply to the overall process. This interesting book highlights four effective methods in language learning, calling them the "Multiple Track Attack", "Hidden Moments", "The Harry Lorayne Magic Memory System" and "Plunge In". By studying these techniques, you will learn not only to speak Spanish more quickly, but can apply them to learning any new language.

The first section of the book provides a general overview of linguistics, and discusses the guiding principles of language. The discussions about how languages evolve, which languages are most common and why, and a review of which languages are easy (or difficult) to learn. The author, Barry M. Farber, offers his own story about how he became interested in languages as both evidence of his authority to write the book, and a real life example of how the techniques helped him to master over 18 languages during his lifetime. The personal account is encouraging to anyone embarking on the challenge of mastering a new language, and helps to put into perspective how each element of learning can affect how well we succeed.

Having an awareness of how you learn can be a real asset to help with studies, and while the techniques outlined in the book are not new or innovative, the book crystallizes the many facets of learning into clear methodology that can be applied to learning any new language. You may find that you identify strongly with one type of learning, while shun another. This can help to guide you towards courses, books and other learning materials that best suit your learning style.

There are also plenty of helpful tips on how to stay on course and avoid frustration while learning. The author's light tone, and use of personal experiences, help to give the book a friendly feel, as if you are receiving advice from someone who has walked in your shoes and reached their destination. This kind of encouragement is often missing from self-study and can be the difference between giving up and continuing when you find yourself disappointed with your progress.

If you are daunted by the prospect of learning a new language, frustrated by the experience you have had with a single learning system that didn't work for you, or simply need some extra motivation to help you improve your grasp of a new language then this is an excellent book.

In closing my review of this product, I'd like to share with you the three Amazon products that I have found most helpful in my pursuit to learn Spanish. If you are truly serious about achieving fluency, I'd recommend getting all 3 of them if you can afford it.

1. Lights, Camera, Spanish (Book + DVD): Learn Conversational Spanish by Watching a Romantic Adventure This is actually a 90 minute movie for Spanish-language learners. It gives the option to watch the movie with subtitles but I'd recommend not using them to improve your Spanish. This "movie" also includes a workbook so that you can reinforce the Spanish vocabulary words and phrases from the film. The workbook also has lots of exercises to keep you engaged in the film. But be prepared to hear Chilean accents. Although pleasant to the ear, the accents from Chile are very different from most Latin American accents.

2. Verbarrator Version 1.1 (Windows Version) This software replaces the traditional verb conjugation books and makes learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs an interactive and fun activity. This should be a required resource for anyone who wants to improve their ability to conjugate Spanish verbs. Especially anyone who is challenged by the drudgery of learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs and who is looking for a new way to make learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs an easy and fun activity

3. Diccionario esencial de la lengua espanola de la Real Academia Espanola (Spanish Edition) If you are really serious about speaking the language fluently, then at some point you will need to replace your Spanish-English dictionary and get a pure Spanish dictionary with both the vocabulary words and the definitions entirely in Spanish. I use this one mainly because it was highly-recommended by a friend from Spain who teaches Spanish. According to him, this is the "standard" among university level Spanish professors.
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on July 21, 2014
You'll get better results from doing Duolingo than wasting two hours reading this book. There are a few morsels of good advice here, but they're buried in military analogies and endless humble-bragging. Despite the bragging, the reader isn't left with a positive impression of the author's mastery of various languages.

Thankfully his method can be summarized in these steps: flashcards, audio tapes, newspaper scraping and practicing with foreigners. There are some pleas to "man up" along with a little bit of misogyny to motivate you (e.g. "If you like Brunettes, learn Italian--Blondes, swedish") . Since this book was written last century, modern tools Like Duolingo can help you do nearly all of these things instead (except for the misogyny--sorry).

Long story short, skip the book and start using Duolingo.
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on February 22, 2015
Many of us learned a first foreign language by learning grammar first. My first foreign language was Latin and we used a book written by Robert Henle S.J. I later took courses in Latin from Robert Henle S.J. in college. Those courses were fun and very instructive. My high school taught Latin as did most at the time. Grammar first. Barry Barber proposes that is not the way we learn our first foreign language. In the USA that is usually English. Conversation first and when a basic fluency is reached then grammar. He proposes that once you reach basic fluency you will want to learn grammar. I have found him to be right. I am now teaching (mentoring might be a better word) 6-8th graders in Latin. The kids spend 15->30 minutes a day You-Tube watch/listening to conversational Latin one video an evening. They watch grammar videos as they need them. They are using The Cambridge Latin Series as their text book. No homework just suggestions for next class. No tests except the final which is a pass/fail. They are allowed to use medieval Latin or Roman Latin pronunciation. No correction in class except a reciting on the correct way. So far they are doing very well. The kids are all volunteers for a new program and can drop the class whenever. So far they all want in. If they pass the test I will write a letter indicating their fluency in Latin and asking they allowed to skip 1st year Latin. They will be urged to go through Henle 1st Year Latin in the summer before high school. Grammar and vocabulary are important but fluency is more important.
Read this book before purchasing any expensive language course. Obtain basic fluency and then perfect your language skill with that DVD/CD/Academic course. If taking academic courses become fluent first and then ask to test out of the boring part. Once I got pass 1st year Latin and began reading Caesar's Gallic Wars that was fun. And so it is with any language. Learning to conjugate Spanish verbs by pure memorization is boring. But reading Los Cipreses Creon en Dios is not.
I adapted much of what I am doing from this book.
I suggest that you read this book before buying any language course.
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