Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Review: 13 Secrets for Speaking Fluent Japanese - Introduction

13 Secret Techniques to Put You on the Fast Track to Fluency in Japanese

Back in January of 2009 I explored how Japanese Loanwords were an integral part of the Japanese language and then again in May after reading this Amazon review criticising an excessive reliance on them in Giles Murray's book of techniques for improving fluency in Japanese. I'm not about to revisit that debate, but I do think it is worthwhile exploring some of the concepts that are presented in the book 13 Secrets to Speaking Fluent Japanese. Why? Everyone needs some good advice about how to learn a language and I've found this particular book very helpful. It has some very good ideas that may just help you breakthrough to greater fluency in Japanese.

THE GEISHA GUYS (Or So They Thought) OF OLD JAPAN -- or, How the Boys from Podunk "Went Native"
How the Boys from Podunk "Went Native" by Okinawa Soba, on Flickr

When I first showed "13 Secrets" to a Japanese colleague she quipped, "it's in English!" implying that you can't learn Japanese by reading books in English. In a sense she's right, no amount of talking about Japanese in English is going to help you speak Japanese. However, there are many things you can pick up about learning a second language from those that have gone there before you. Like how to describe things without knowing the names for them, thinking like a reverse dictionary. Or by expanding your vocabulary through the use of a mental "synonym generator". There are plenty of worthwhile language hacks here to put into practice.

The techniques described encourage you to think outside the box, and although they can be put into practice at any stage of learning, the book is probably best suited to students that have reached a few sticking points in their language learning. Putting a few of these "mental filters" in place, and learning to see language learning as more of a game can help you break through those plateaus.

The secrets are less secrets and more tactics that any experienced language learner might employ during their learning effort. I know, I've done the road testing! Giles Murray has taken hints from his observations of successful non-native learners and Japanese kids, two groups who use their creativity to overcome hurdles in their language acquisition. Are you the kind of learner who "judges everything by one criterion, 'will this improve my Japanese or not?'". If so then this book might have something to offer.

Over the next 12 weeks or so we are going to explore each chapter in detail and hopefully uncover some language learning techniques you hadn't thought of before. If you want more practice of some of these techniques, join us on the Fast Track to Fluency, a live online video class on eduFire. Wether you are a beginner or an advanced student of Japanese, there'll be something you can use right away.

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