Books to start your language journey

Sprout book mark in Fluent in 3 months
Want to start learning a new language or get ideas for the one you are learning? These 4 books will be the perfect inspiration. Check them out!

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The New Year already feels like a long time ago and those resolutions to start your language journey don’t seem so easy now, do they? This year is the first time I actually decided not to set any resolutions. Focusing more on regular goals that will help me to learn, develop myself and be happier. Either way, I still have a lot of work to do to stay on track as we start moving through the year.

I know that a lot of people set the goal to study a new language which is amazing! Congratulations for joining the coolest club in town…even if I do say so myself! But, where do you start? It can feel like there is endless information out there but you don’t know how to get it. Well never fear, that’s why I’m here!

A great way to start your journey and find some inspiration is reading or researching ways and methods of how to learn a language, before you jump right in at the deep end with any vocab or grammar charts. Yes, that’s right! Put down those grammar books and take a look at these first. Let your language learning dream sprout and grow beyond your wildest dreams!

Sprout book mark in Fluent in 3 months. Perfect for starting your language journey.

Here’s a list of books that I wish I had read when I first started learning to help me avoid some of the pitfalls and streamline my approach from day 1. (They are also great for a more experienced learner too… as I found out when my journey had already begun.   It was really reassuring to know that I am already following a lot of their advice from my own experiences.)

Top tip 1 – Try everything

Before we start there is one tip that I want to give you. Try everything! Sometimes you can read about a technique and think that it sounds like madness or think “that won’t work for me”. But how do you know until you try? Sometimes the craziest techniques are the ones that give you the best results.  Aim to stop relying on apps and courses to give you all the material and go out and discover it for yourself then you’ll have all tools you need to learn the language on your own. You are the master of your own language learning destiny after all! 

Top tip 2 – They won’t all work

While I recommend to try everything, and will keep repeating it in case you don’t believe me, they won’t all work for you. Everyone is different and it’s all about finding the right path, course or strategy for you. Your lifestyle, personality and preferences are all very personal and you need to find what works for you.

For example, lots of people swear by Anki flashcards for vocab and others go old school with a notepad. Some polyglots say conversation from Day 1 and others don’t start speaking until months in. The reason you read about their experiences is to give yourself more options. Enhancing the possibilities of what you can do. And who doesn’t love possibilities?

So here we go… my list of must read books to help you on your language learning journey…

Fluent in 3 months – Benny Lewis

First on the list is a book by Benny Lewis, arguably one of the most famous internet polyglots. He has learnt numerous languages, written hundreds of articles on his blog and knows his stuff.

The main focus of his approach is on communication and speaking which is a big problem for most learners. In school we all learn to drill grammar and learn lists of vocab with very little speaking. Then when you come to use the language it doesn’t work and so we think that we are the problem. Benny helps to illustrate that the strategy is the problem and the learner needs to  change approach. Speaking from Day 1 and learning through practice and usage.

The reason I love this book is because it gives great examples of his failures and successes. He isn’t pretending to be a super human language learning machine, just a guy that loves languages and has found a great way of learning them.

If you are reading this before you have started learning the actionable tips for specific languages will be a life saver. Giving you ideas on how to start with different languages (if you’re a native English speaker) to hit the ground running. Some of these will save you a lot of time and get you speaking early. Which I think is a great idea!

How to Speak any language fluently – Alex Rawlings

Voted most multilingual student in 2012, Alex Rawlings has gone on to write a great language learning book. It’s basically like a guide book for a new language learner. As you move through the clearly structured chapters, you will find lots of different approaches for all areas. Time management, taking courses or classes and all the grammar jargon.

It’s a really honest account of the pros and cons of each area. Unlike other authors he isn’t trying to convince you that his way is best. He gives you everything you need to make an informed decision on your own. Finding “the best” for you, rather than “the best”.

I actually borrowed this one from my local library and read it from cover to cover. Now when I return, I flick through to specific sections to refresh some ideas and get some perspective. Great for any language learners bookshelf.

Fluent Forever – Gabe Wyner

This was the first book on the list that I read when I decided to get serious about language learning. It popped up on my Amazon list and I got it as an e-book. I remember pouring through it and trying to understand everything.

In this book, Gabe Wyner explains a very structured approach to learning a new language. Breaking down the process into the key steps and giving scientific or experiential backup for why it works. This more methodical approach is great some anyone who wants to find a “start to finish” idea they can work with.

The main reason I highly recommend this book is because of the focus on listening and sounds at the start of learning a language. Breaking down the sounds at the start to improve understanding and learn new vocabulary quickly. I personally use this approach and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Other great parts are the detailed examples for Anki flashcards using proven memory techniques. And they aren’t simply words and translations, but a whole host of options. Something you can use at any stage of your learning to memorise new information.

Ultralearning – Scott H Young

The final book on the list is about learning in general and not only languages. However, he does use a lot of language examples as one of his projects was a year without English. Learning 4 languages in 12 months while travelling in the countries.

This book is interesting because it doesn’t describe a process. Rather, it shares a series of principles or characteristics which represent a successful Ultralearner; as Scott H Young calls them. Someone who completes a very ambitious, intense learning project that others consider impossible.

The book  breaks down the different aspects of learning with lots of detailed examples. And not just from his own projects but from lots of others in different fields. This varied perspective helps to make the different ideas more approachable and transferable. While I’m not training myself to become a chess champion, I can take some of the ideas from their learning to improve my language studies.

For a more casual language learner or dabbler, this book can feel very intense. The whole approach seems like it is only possible if you quit your job and work 12 hours a day on something new. However, that’s not the case. It can easily be implemented in your current lifestyle and routine to enhance what you already do. I don’t use every idea from the book but have used some that are appropriate for me to learn better. It will definitely be a book I revisit when I am embarking on a new project and want some inspiration!

And there you have it guys! 4 books to get you started on your road to fluency. Remember to take everything with a pinch of salt but give it a real chance. You never know what results you will achieve until you try!

Are there any books that you think I have missed from this starter guide you would recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time!

P.s. Are you already studying a language? Well then, check out my Top Tips for improving study efficiency. Learn more in half the time and kill procrastination!

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