Living it! Rhiannon Garth Jones reviews Fluent in 3 Months

Rhiannon Garth Jones is author of the blog What I read today, a compilation of what she thinks might be worth other people reading, and why (with digressions into music and cooking, naturally). She has just finished reading Fluent in 3 Months, by Benny Lewis, as part of the 31 Days campaign from HarperCollins. Fluent in 3 Months, is available on collins.co.uk*.

The dog ate my homework – honest, miss.

Marginally less convincing (if funnier) than ‘I’ve been sick, miss’. I really have, though, and that’s the only excuse I can offer for having done no French homework for the past two weeks. i was doing really well, up to level 8 on the Duolingo app but then my brain went all floofy and I could not for the life of me remember how to say ‘I am a whale’ in French (I’m not joking, that is one of the first things the app teaches you).

However, despite this lack of commitment to my professed target, I have finished Benny’s book. And I have to say, despite my difference in attitudes towards language learning, i really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, and gratifyingly, he even accommodates people like me, who really do just to want to look at some verb tables and conjugate them (I can’t help myself, I can’t feel confident in a language without being able to reel off verbs, amo, amas, amat-style).

Basically, Benny seems to say that you can learn a language pretty much whatever way you want, as long as your approach doesn’t make you lose your passion for the task in hand. Which is great. because it allows me to justify my little break (as long as I pick it back up again. Which I will. Honest, miss).

On a practical level, it is a book full of handy tips. In addition to the foundation stuff of his approach (talking, as much as possible, even if you’re wrong, to a native), there is some great advice on apps, courses, phrasebooks, laddering, and cognates (an area I particularly annoyed, being a word nerd).

Most interestingly, his advice on using apps, and setting targets to motivate yourself have – perhaps accidentally – pushed me into a little gentle competition with a friend who is also learning French via Duolingo, from the same level. I’m not normally competitive at all, but having company as you progress is quite nice, and dangles the prospect of practising together at some (hopefully not alarmingly soon) stage.

All in all, it’s been a pretty positive experience, despite my inability to focus over the last fortnight. I’ve kickstarted my desire to re-learn French, forced myself into a position where it would be embarrassing to quietly drop it, and picked up a lot of useful suggestions.

Merci beaucoup pour l’aide, Benny Lewis, et au revoir. (See, I did learn something slightly more useful than ‘je suis une baleine’!) A fairly successful #31days2015 for me, I think.

Rhiannon Garth Jones

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