Helps for Language Learners

Copyright © 2013 Karl M. Bunday, all rights reserved.

Learning a foreign language comes "naturally" for some people, with great difficulty for others. Is it possible for language learning to come more easily for people if they learn language-learning techniques? Yes, say the authors listed below. Books about how to learn languages have been around a long time. I found some of them inspirational or practical for me as I studied more than a dozen languages and eventually got to the level in Chinese that I could make my living for several years as a contract interpreter for the United States Information Agency. Maybe you'll find these books useful too; try them and see for yourself.

Raising Children Bilingually: The Preschool Years
Lenore Arnberg (Clevedon, Avon: Bilingual Matters, 1987) (ISBN 0-905028-70-8 [pbk.]). xv and 168 pages; forward by Joshua Fishman, appendix, references, further reading, index. KMBseen_SPP

The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents
Edith Harding and Philip Riley (Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 1986) (ISBN 0-521-31194-2 [pbk.]). x and 155 pages; recommended reading, references, index. KMBseen_SPP

Help Your Child With a Foreign Language: A Parent's Handbook
Opal Dunn (London: Headway, 1994) (ISBN 0-340-60766-1). (Positive Parenting series). UK£6.99; 203 pages, list of useful address (in Europe), index. KMBseen_HCO

Language Learning: Some Reflections from Teaching Experience
Peter Hagboldt (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1935) ix and 165 pages; index. Fascinating book I discovered only recently while compiling this bibliography. Full of clearer thinking on most issues than has been found among many authors decades later. A good exploration of why sound is fundamental in language learning, even if one is learning a language only for reading. KMBseen_MNU

New Ways to Learn a Foreign Language
Robert A. Hall, Jr. (Ithaca, NY: Spoken Language Services, c. 1973) (ISBN 0-87950-293-2). 180 pages; appendices, bibliography. New way to learn a foreign language, by applying modern linguistic principles to the analysis of unfamiliar languages. Good discussion of the role of "interference" from a learner's native language in the language-learning process. Examples are given from "eight major languages": Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Russian. Good beginner's discussion of articulatory phonetics and phonetic transcription. KMBseen_MPI

How to Learn Languages and What Languages to Learn
Mario Pei (New York: Harper and Row, enlarged ed. 1973). Pei's book was the first book of its kind I ever found, back when I was a high school student. It gave some reasonable general advice, and also some interesting opinions on what languages are worth studying. (I think Pei would recommend Chinese even more fervently if he were still alive today.) How to Learn Languages and What Languages to Learn is a very readable, pleasant book. KMBseen_HCO

Becoming Bilingual: A Guide to Language Learning
Donald N. Larson and William A. Smalley (South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1976 [c1972]) (ISBN 0-87808-718-4). xv and 426 pages; bibliography, index. Tour de force--the best single book available on how to acquire and use a second language. It has ingenious practical tips, thoroughly examines the theory behind the practice of language learning, and is filled with fascinating examples of multilingualism in action in the lives of the authors and their overseas acquaintances. Becoming Bilingual is the book I give the most credit for taking me over the top in becoming bilingual. KMBseen_MNU

Language Learner's Field Guide
Alan Healey, editor (Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1975) (ISBN 0-7263-0356-9). Language Learner's Field Guide tells how to handle the most difficult language learning situation of all: learning a language from a completely different, and little-known language family with no writing system, spoken in a community where NO ONE knows your native language. It can be done, and there are some interesting tricks in this book that can apply to more conventional language learning situations as well. KMBowns

[updated] Language Acquisition Made Practical: Field Methods for Language Learners
E. Thomas Brewster and Elizabeth Brewster (Pasadena, CA: Lingua House [link to a different Web site], 1976) (ISBN 0-916636-00-3). My biggest regret of my first stay in Taiwan is not applying the methods in this book even more rigorously--I could have left Taiwan with a fine command of Taiwanese as well as of Mandarin if I had. Even with casual application, Language Acquisition Made Practical makes a big difference in outlook and helps substantially in learning a language as people actually use it. I find now that I'm living in Taiwan again my Taiwanese is coming back rapidly, and I expect this book to be very helpful in my learning more Taiwanese while I live near many Taiwanese speakers. KMBowns

Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition
Stephen D. Krashen (Oxford: Pergamon, 1982). A somewhat more scholarly book on this subject that I haven't read cover-to-cover yet. Another homeschooling parent says that this book is particularly useful, different in its theoretical approach from other books on this subject. KMBseen_MNU

How to Be a More Successful Language Learner
Joan Rubin and Irene Thompson (Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1982) (ISBN 0-8384-1124-X). viii and 109 pages. A handbook of techniques for nontechnical audiences, one I'm still reviewing. KMBseen_SPP

The Whole World Guide to Language Learning
Terry Marshall (Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1989) (ISBN 0-933662-75-0). xii and 161 pages; bibliographies, index. KMBseen_SPP

Breaking the Language Barrier: Creating Your Own Pathway to Success
H. Douglas Brown (Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1991) (ISBN 0-933662-91-2). xviii and 184 pages; foreword by Senator Paul Simon, appendix, endnotes, index, illustrations (cartoons). Self-analyzing psychological approach to improving as a language learner. KMBseen_MNU

How to Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably, and On Your Own
Barry Farber (New York, NY: Citadel Press, 1991) (ISBN 0-8065-1271-7). US$9.95; ix and 172 pages; appendixes. Favorite quotation: "Almost all foreign-language instruction available to the average American has been until now (one hates to be cruel) worthless." KMBseen_HCO

Secrets of Learning a Foreign Language
Graham E. Fuller (1992). Has dumb back cover blurb, "It's astonishing no one ever thought of this before" --lots of people have thought of this before. As this bibliography makes clear, the person who wrote that blurb evidently never read a book about language learning before Graham cobbled together his book. There are books older than those mentioned above on this subject, so Graham's book is hardly the first of its kind. Nor is it the best, as one on-line friend of mine said he thought Graham's book was rushed into print over a weekend. KMBseen_HCO

How to Learn a Foreign Language
Arthur H. Charles (New York: Franklin Watts, 1994) (ISBN 0-531-11098-2). (Speak Out, Write On! series). 112 pages; glossary, bibliography, index. Discussion of the how and why of learning languages from an author who knows only English and Romance languages. KMBseen_MPI

Learning how to learn languages takes away the mystery, and lets you tackle useful languages with confidence. Learning another language is a great way to gain the best sort of multicultural perspective, and is a good way to show hospitality to visitors to your part of the world.

For parents who want to bring up their children bilingually, as I am doing, there is also an interesting book by an Australian author,

Bilingual Children: From Birth to Teens
George Saunders (Clevedon, Avon and Philadelphia, PA: Bilingual Matters, 1988) (ISBN 1-85359-009-6). xiii and 274 pages; glossary, bibliography (which has a GREAT list of titles of similar interest), indexes. Saunders is from English-speaking monolingual ancestors, going back at least six generations on all sides of his family. He studied German in college, got to study abroad for a while, and then decided to bring up his children bilingually. The book describes his remarkable successful experiment in bringing up three children as German speakers in Australia. KMBseen_SPP

An interesting book I have recently consulted is

Second Language Reading and Vocabulary Learning
(Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1993) (ISBN 0-89391-850-4; 0-89391-906-3 [pbk.]). There is interesting information about problems with much foreign language instruction in schools in this book. KMBseen_MNU

[Last revision 9 March 2013]

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