Language Is Music: 0ver 100 Fun & Easy Tips to Learn Foreign Languages
By Susanna Zaraysky
I bought this book recently as I was interested in tips in how to learn languages – German specifically.
The book is short and very easy to read. I read it in a day. It is thin with just 118 pages including the index.
The book has twelve sections including chapters called Why I Should Learn A Foreign Language, Myths and Foreign Language Education, and the Introduction. The properly called sections are:
- Conductor’s Notes
- Listen, listen, listen
- Concert Time
- Radio Time
- Television for Homework
- Films to fluency
- Be Part of the Symphony
- Day to Day Exercises to Ingrain the Language Into Your Brain and Daily Rhythms
- Create Your World Contest Tips and Stories
The design of the book starts from getting your ears and mouth used to the sound of a language to slowly speaking it and then practising it and become more and more fluent.
Short and snappy tips plus some personal stories
The tips on language learning are usually half a page long so they are short and snappy. I like as well when Susanna throws in some personal stories from her life or work. Some are very honest such as her story on page 34 admitting that she did not really bother learning Serbo-Croatian as she did not like the aggressive way Bosnians spoke to each other so therefore she had no love for the language 🙂 It is refreshing and humorous.
Useful links and information
The book is replete with grey boxes with links and information about useful websites and applications that can be used e.g. Tunein.com or Yabla.com. These links are crucial information to guide you to very helpful websites and services that help learn and practice a language.
A little disappointed – but not too much
I quickly read the book and absorbed the tips. Even though it is a very easy and enjoyable book to read and I agree with everything that she advises, I was a little disappointed by it (but not too much). I was hoping for more information about using music and songs to learn a language. I thought the book would be more focussed on this method of language learning. The first four sections of the book focus on using music and songs to learn a language but then the rest of the book outlines ways to practice and use the language you are learning. These tips are important so they are a natural fit for a book like this.
That said, I was hoping that the book would share information about songs or language lessons that specifically use music to teach a language. I am thinking of the Earworms Musical Brain Trainer lessons. I bought three volumes of the German lessons from this particular company and they certainly make language learning more fun and enjoyable. I have not listened to all the tracks yet so I cannot say that my recall of certain phrases in German has improved. I think they need to be listened to repeatedly.
Susanna does add some things that I never thought of before such as writing down the lyrics as you listen (Tip 23), making a vocabulary list with words from the songs (Tip 25), pretending to be on MTV by making a dance or a skit for songs (Tip 33), or finding grammatical mistakes in songs (Tip 36). Jesus! I am not sure if I would be able to do that in German – yet!
She also encourages the reader to let themselves go – or at least let their imagination run wild. In Tip 46, she advocates pretending to speak the language so that you get used to making the sounds of the language and therefore build up confidence speaking it. Tip 47 suggests pretending to be a foreigner speaking your language. For me zat vud mean zat I vud have to speak like zis az dough I vas a Geu-mann. Hmmm! I think I sound dreadful when I do that.
Many tip and useful links to practice
The rest of the book from Section 4 onwards is a list of tips of different, easy ways to learn more of the language that you are focussed on and to practice it. Many of these I already know and do such as listening to radio stations or podcasts in German. In fact all of Section 4 is dedicated to that.
The next chapter, Section 5, is of a similar thread but the focus in this chapter is on television and videos. One of the more interesting and radical ideas that I never saw anywhere before is to record TV shows, write down words and phrases and then search them in the dictionary (Tip 53). It seems like a lot of work. Tip 55 is also out of left field but quite fun. It is to mimic and copy television presenters in your desired language to get used to the way to speak in the new language.
Section 6 is similar to the two preceding chapter but the focus in this chapter is on films. Susanna advises in uppercase letters NEVER TO WATCH DUBBED FILM! So there, you heard her. She says to watch the films in their original language. It is true.
The rest of the book has many other tips such as doing language exchanges, attending cultural events, blogging in your language (Mental Note: stick that on my to-do list), listen to language lessons on the go, listen to language CDs at home, read newspapers in your target language, change the language on your telephone, computer etc. I do many of these things anyway so there is nothing new in them for me. This is why I was a tad disappointed by the book. There is one tip that I did do which is Tip 88 – Label items in your home. I bought German vocabulary stickers from Vocabulary Stickers. They make a nice and amusing addition to the apartment but they do not make you fluent in a language.
It is a good little book to have if you want lots of tips and useful guidance on how to learn a language. The information is short and snappy so it is easy to read. One should have it read in a day or so. The writing style is very enjoyable. The reader can feel the enthusiasm and love for languages that Susanna has. The links and other information is particularly helpful. That said, it does not focus exclusively on using music and songs to learn a language. This is the worse thing ever as there is much else in the book that makes it useful. You won’t learn any language using this book but you will learn how to learn a language.