The creator of the popular language-learning website Fluent-Forever.com debuts by putting between covers the essentials of the program that he and myriad others have found helpful.
The author is indeed a buoyant, ebullient Harold Hill of a salesman (no dour Willy Loman here!). Throughout his text—which includes many self-help design features, including text boxes, bullet points, illustrations, chapter-end reminders and “key points”—Wyner reminds us repeatedly about how enjoyable his program is. About the vocabulary cards he recommends, he writes, “You’ll discover that they’re a lot of fun to create and a lot of fun to review.” That’s certainly debatable. The author’s program does make use of many sensible and even revolutionary methods for learning a language—principally, the use of visual and auditory reminders of the vocabulary and grammar a novice needs to learn. The more senses involved, the more certain the learning and retention. Wyner also slays a few hoary dragons that continue to dominate lots of classroom instruction: learning vocabulary in clusters of related words (he proposes that learners begin with the 625 most common words), studying grammar in isolation, translation exercises (he advises using only the new language). His arguments and justifications take a little over half of his text; the remainder he calls “The Toolbox,” and here he gives very specific advice about—and illustrations of—his flashcard techniques. He also recommends the heavy use of Google Images and other online visual and auditory aids for beginners—especially sound clips of native speakers. He urges that learners would benefit from mastering the International Phonetic Alphabet early in the process, and he provides a host of appendices, including the “International Phonetic Alphabet Decoder.”
A sensible approach that nonetheless requires a substantial commitment of time and energy; as the author well knows, there are no shortcuts to learning anything worthwhile.