FOREWORD

This is a book of blog posts that I have made over a period of five years. These are personal thoughts on the subject of language learning. At times I may be wrong and at times I may contradict myself. I am not an expert in the traditional sense. I do not offer footnotes no r quote colleagues. I have not conducted research projects to support my views. These are just my views.

I am a bit of simplifier. I believe that formal language education is stifling learning because it attempts to be too precise, too organized and too formal. I believe that this is counterproductive. In this book you wil find a cal to something different, something vaguer, more natural, more ambiguous, yet richer, more satisfying and more effective.

The ability to speak, read, and write your own language well is an invaluable asset in today’s information age. It is a source of confidence, and is essential to effective communication, network building and persuasiveness. Language skil s are usual y the best indicator of professional success in a modern society.

The ability to speak one or more foreign languages is, perhaps, more important for the vast majority of people whose native language is not English, at least for now. English stil enjoys the position of being the most used international language. However, this may be changing.

Foreign language skil s are becoming more important, even for English speakers. The world is becoming smal er. People are traveling more. The internet is bringing language content to our finger-tips, in text, audio and video formats, in an avalanche of information. We are more interconnected than ever.

Political y the world has become multi-polar, as Europe, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Spanish-speaking Latin America (and North America), and the Arab world, as wel as other regions, are increasingly challenging the 150-year-old dominance of the English-speaking world.

In many countries of the world it is common for people to speak more than one language.

This is true in such different places as Ethiopia, Singapore and Sweden, to name but a few examples. However, in many other countries, in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia, enormous time and effort, public and private, are invested in language teaching with relatively poor results. People do not learn wel in language classrooms and, in fact, are often discouraged by traditional language teaching methods.

Language learning should be fun, and can be. It almost has to be, if a person is going to succeed to learn another language. In fact, my reading and experience tel s me that the overwhelming goal of language teaching has to be to make the learning of the language meaningful and enjoyable. Nothing else real y matters.

I have had an on-again, off-again, fascination with language learning throughout my professional career. This was true when I was a diplomat, and then an executive in the forest industry with dealings in Asia and Europe, and more recently when I have been able to devote more time to language learning. I have enjoyed language learning and usual y found the time to spend on it.

In 2002, while stil running my own company in the international trade of wood products, I created The Linguist Institute, to come up with a more enjoyable and effective way to learn languages, one which takes advantage of the Internet and related technological and social change. During this period I have also been spending more time on language learning, attacking Cantonese, Korean, Russian and Portuguese as wel as a number of old friends like German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese. I am not young. I was born in 1945.

Since 2004 I have maintained a blog on language learning, where I discuss the subject from the perspective of a learner. If I am at times critical of the language teaching establishment, it is because I feel that it is responsible for considerable waste and poor results. I believe that language schools, and schools that teach teachers, have tried to convert what is a natural process into an academic maze of hoops and obstacles. I believe the Internet is an unlimited source of language learning resources and opportunities that wil bring us back to basics in language learning.

I have removed the dates from most of the posts so that I could reorganize them into chapters, each with a common theme.

This book, then, is a col ection of observations and comments on how to learn languages. I hope it can help people take on the rewarding task of getting to know another language or two.

Contents

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