[ARC] Book Review: Zilch to Conversational – Daniel Vroman Rusteen (and my own thoughts on language-learning)


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Dear reader, 

It’s been quite a long time since I published a book-related post so here we are! As you guys may now, I have been working with the platform Booksirens.com for a few months now and through this platform, I get to read books for free. In exchange, I give an honest feedback. This month, I decided to go for a book about language-learning as it goes totally well with my studies (for those of you who just joined, I study foreign literature!) and that I am always eager to learn new methods. At the end of that post, I will aim to show you that no matter what you have been told before, you (yes, you who think you are more talented with maths than with languages!) are able to learn a new language. You simply need to change the way, not the goal.

But first, I leave you with my general Goodreads review. Let’s get started!

As a French native speaker myself who studies English and learnt German and Spanish, I am always eager to discover new methods of language-learning. When I saw that the author had learnt Russian, I automatically clicked as it is my next target-language.

I always thought the language-learning method taught at school to be inefficient. I mean, you’d rather learn the most common vocabulary words of your target language than all the « colors » and « family members », right?

This is totally the author’s point of view as well. I must say it reassured me and made me feel less “crazy” in the way I approach language-learning.

The author explains in this book that learning a language should not mean “aiming to perfection” but aiming to “conversation fluency”. That means you should want to learn a language in order to speak and understand it, not in order to have an “A” at school or study for a BA in grammar.

I really loved the approach, but I regret a little too many “outside resources”. It is a good thing to provide the reader with resources, don’t get me wrong, but it can be overwhelming at times for those of us who do not want to buy anything more than this book. That being said, I still enjoyed reading the books and got new tips out of it.

The thing I enjoyed the most is the presence of “Chapter summaries” at the end of each chapter. Usually, when I read that type of “self-help » book, I like to turn to the « notes » on my phone and write a summary but here, it was already done!

I also appreciated the presence of a more “scientific” approach to language-learning through the presence of phonetics and grammar. Usually, this is what lacks in that type of books but there, I rediscovered by college phonetics classes! You can’t learn. Language by only learning vocabulary, it is mere fantasy as the fact that the author addressed this topic was very much appreciated.

To conclude, I want to say a special « thank you » for the most commonly used words given in the end of the book as I agree, it is a great starting point for anyone who wants to learn a new language. Once again, asking where the toilets are is more useful than learning how you say « maroon » in French!

(I received an advance copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.)

Now that you have had access to my general feedback, I would like to go a little more in-depth with you about language-learning. As you know now, I study foreign literature and thus, I have had access through the years to many (I mean, MANY) teachers and methods when it comes to learning a language.

To be completely honest, I never really resonated with these methods. I simply do not understand how learning all the vocabulary of the “kitchen items” could help me understand a language. I personally think learning the structure of a language, learning its sonority and learning what interests YOU as an individual is the way to go.

I am now in the last year of my BA, thus I think I can say that I spent quite a long time in school already. I just want to tell you that no matter your grades in language-class, you are better than you think. You may not be the “problem”, maybe the method is the “problem”. If you want, I can come back to you soon with a post on my own tips to learn a new language (which will, for some of them, resemble the tips you can find in the book mentioned before) and you will see that there are almost endless possibilities. 

You are “made” for learning a foreign language, never think it is simply “not for you”. The method is not for you, that is totally possible, but the language you dream of speaking IS for you, and this book can help you see that there is another way to your dream of language-learning.

Hoping I have (re)motivated you little angels, 

Lots of love, 

TABOULOT Camille

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