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Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World

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Benny Lewis, who speaks over ten languages—all self-taught—runs the largest language-learning blog in the world, Fluent In 3 Months . Lewis is a full-time "language hacker," someone who devotes all of his time to finding better, faster, and more efficient ways to learn languages. Fluent in 3 How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World is a new blueprint for fast language learning. Lewis argues that you don't need a great memory or "the language gene" to learn a language quickly, and debunks a number of long-held beliefs, such as adults not being as good of language learners as children.

249 pages, Paperback

First published March 6, 2014

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About the author

Benny Lewis

18 books337 followers
Benny Lewis is a digital nomad and founder of the largest language learning blog in the world, www.fluentin3months.com. He is a world traveler and after travelling non-stop for 18 years, now lives in Austin, Texas.

His internationally best-selling book Fluent in 3 Months, published by HarperCollins, discusses how adults can learn any language from anywhere at any age. He is a polyglot who speaks over a dozen languages (7 of which are at a fluent level or higher), though he could only speak English when he started his travels at age 21.

He has also published multiple language courses with John Murray learning.

As a result of his travels and his focus on integrating himself into local cultures through language, Benny was named National Geographic’s Traveler of the Year in 2013.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 607 reviews
Profile Image for Stamatios Mantzouranis.
185 reviews28 followers
May 11, 2014
I speak six languages myself, which I painstakingly learned over many years of studies, and I was very curious to learn more about Benny Lewis's method. After reading this book the best way to describe it is "language-learning for couch-surfers". You're more likely to reach a basic conversational level only by speaking the language using a phrasebook for three months than really become fluent in it.

The keyword here is "fluent". Lewis spends an entire chapter near the beginning of the book to give his own definition of fluency, and let's just say that it's not what most people think of when they use the word. While the book sounds written from his heart, and he does sound honestly passionate about languages, I simply cannot forgive him this marketing sleigh of hand.

That is not to say that his tips are all useless. Focusing on the spoken language first is very good advise. But his insistence that language is primarily a method for communication leaves out a whole world of knowledge. I understand why he would avoid long pages of grammatical tables at the start of his learning process (nobody likes verb conjugations and noun cases), but I cannot accept that one could reach level B2 (fluency) without ever studying grammar, or even reading a newspaper or watching TV for that matter. I suspect that his secondary languages (those he hasn't taken any written exams in) are in very bad shape.

The other major problem with this book is that it's basically a collection of posts from his website. And since there's no easy way to include everything in a book, it feels incomplete in places and incoherent in others. His editors could have done a better job.

Despite all the flaws, the book is inspirational, mostly thanks to Lewis's enthusiasm and direct style of writing. And it does list some fine points I plan to go back to and follow for my own studies. Overall, Fluent In 3 Months is not a waste of time, but it over-promises and under-delivers.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
October 23, 2014
I simply love languages. It is the very reason why I wanted to read this book. Not that I want to, or can, call myself a global fundi on the subject. Just the opposite. My love for words is more a light hobby than anything else. I can master five languages in a 'jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none way and know a few tidbits of three others. But it's still a huge delight in my life. Thus, you do not deal with a lingua connoisseur here.

Language and the cultural confusion often born from it, guarantees merry moments around a dinner table, or a barbecue fire. It ensures fun and fantasy when politics, religion and money-talk can make or break an evening instead.

For instance, Dutch and Afrikaans has a father-and-son connection. Afrikaans developed from an old form of Dutch when the latter established themselves at the southern foot of Africa. From the initial Dutch another language was born, incorporating many words from many cultures, either Asian, African or European and was called Afrikaans. It was a mix of people living together in Southern Africa. But the core language feeding the new language was Dutch.

The problem is that the confusion often did not vested in the word and spelling, it manifested itself in the meaning. In South Africa there are road signs indicating a "Aftrekplek", which means a picnic spot next to the road where trees are normally planted and refuge bins are placed for the long-distance traveler's convenience. It was baffling to South Africans that huge tour buses stopped at those signs and the entire Dutch group had themselves photographed standing under the sign. Until it was discovered that 'Aftrekplek' in Dutch means a place where you can masturbate! For us, working with tourists from all over the globe, this was a huge source of laughter and fun.

Matsushita Electric was promoting a Japanese PC for internet users. It came with a Japanese Web browser courtesy of Panasonic. Panasonic had licensed the cartoon character "Woody Woodpecker" as the "Internet guide."

The day before a huge marketing campaign was to begin, Panasonic stopped the product launch. The reason: the ads featured the slogan "Touch Woody - The Internet Pecker." An American at the internal product launch explained to the stunned and embarrassed Japanese what "touch woody" and "pecker" meant in American slang.

Port Wallhamn is a Swedish port. The companies that surround it used to give their employees ties with the logo "W" and an anchor. The combination forms a very nice rebus for Wanker, much to the chagrin of the British workers who had to wear it.

Gerber, the name of the famous baby food maker, is also the French word for vomiting. It becomes a bit limiting when you go global... Gerber is therefore not in France, and although Gerber has a French Canadian web page, it says "Les aliments pour bébés Gerber ne sont disponibles pour l'instant qu'aux États-Unis" (French for: The baby food ain't here, try the U.S.) source: i18nguy.com

Another interesting read: Ill-advised Advertising campaings that bombed out hilariously

There are numerous examples of these mishaps in the advertising field. There are generally three types of consumer confusion, labeled types M, B and D ("Misleading", "Bewildering", and "Discriminatory", respectively). If products are marketed globally, it can become a minefield of blunders within the cultural context. For much intertainment you can read this article by Mike Fromowitz, Cultural blunders: Brands gone wrong .

I can verify this based on my own experiences as a sociologist. A big supermarket group in South Africa brought out a collection of basic products under the 'No Brand Name', which targeted the lower income groups. By cutting out the costs of labels on the products, their aim was to offer a cheaper product, even though the content of the tin or bottle was exactly the same. These products did not sell at all in their target market. The lower income groups still bought the more expensive labelled products. In an incidental conversation with a supermarket manager, while shopping for food, he told me about their bafflement. Being busy with community development research within the poorer communities of South Africa at the time, I immediately grasp the problem. So I told him. The poorer people could not read and write, therefore bought the brands which had pictures on the product. It was the only way they knew what they were buying. I was not capitalistic enough at the time to send them a bill for my services which saved them millions in losses. Oy! My loss indeed! :-)

My ramblings in this review is about the WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER LEARNING NEW LANGUAGES. This book, though, is about HOW TO DO IT.

The author encourages people to not only learn new languages, but also make it a fun experiences, instead of battling the beasts in an academic environment. The author provides a plethora of tips and tricks to master new languages and even manage to fuel an enthusiasm for it. He encourages people to not only learn the language, but get more involved in the cultural medium feeding the language, which I agree with one hundred percent.

The book does not make the challenge easier, and is not a manual for hyperpolyglots, but it puts loads of fun into it. By following the basic recommendations in the book, the optimistic conqueror of Babel will learn any language much quicker, but it remains a challenge. So he is not blindsiding the seeker of knowledge. For instance, he makes it clear that it is much more efficient to spend time with a mother-tongue user than trying to decipher ancient scripts of literature in a university library. For the purpose of a holiday, or a social event, you do not need to kill yourself with unnecessary torture, unless you need to work in those environments of course.

One of the most touching videos on language exchange, which demonstrates an easy, free and socially-barrier-breaking way of doing it, is this one: " Brazilian Language exchange . It will make your day - my guarantee!

This book is for the traveler who wishes to not only visit a country, but to get immersed in the local cultures. It is a 'how-to' - exercise.

Another way of getting a language quicker, for me at least, is to learn as many songs as possible in it. Learn the lyrics as well as the meaning of the words. It not only makes it fun, it also enable the singer to conquer the pronouncements of words much easier. This way of cognitive implanting in the brain (my description) was used in much earlier centuries when nobody knew how to read or write and large portions of the Khoran, for instance, had to be memorized. This simple highly effective method of sing-song is still in use of course. A fun way for me to learn a language was not only to sing along, but to learn the cultural dances as well. That tied me over forever.

The book does not include all my enthusiastic pirouettes on the keyboard. The author sticks to the HOW TO, and does not include my thoughts on the WHY you have to do it. He provides a vast resource of internet opportunities to practice and speak for free. Fun! Fun! Fun!

If you ever consider visiting South Africa, you can start out by learning the national anthem. The song comprises of a section of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (with verses sung in Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho), followed by two verses from the former anthem, Die Stem, with one each being sung in Afrikaans and English. Five languages in one go! How's that for a bargain! :-)

The hymn 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' ('God Bless Africa') is a gorgeous piece of music, and with the beautiful harmonies that African choirs impart to its performance, it is often regarded as a typical piece of African music. It therefore comes as something of a shock to realise that the melody was written by a Welshman, Joseph Parry, in 1887 and was originally titled' 'Aberystwyth'!

Just for interest's sake: South Africa has 11 official languages, excluding the multitude of regional, ethnic and other forms of communication. The miners, which comes from all over Africa have their own potpourri, called 'Fanagalo' and Swahili serves the rest of Africa as a common communicating pot of languages.

Another very good reason to consider applying some brainfloss to your life is the immense benefits it holds for improving brain functionality, not only in older age groups, but for any person. This article, WHY LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE , might convince you.
"Speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of your brain by challenging it to recognise, negotiate meaning, and communicate in different language systems. This skill boosts your ability to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks as well.
There are numerous other websites which discussed the benefits. Learning a new language has been successfully used in stutter-therapy, for instance. Something brainy and beautiful is happening if you do it! Learning a new language can even: stall the onslaught and beginning of Alzheimers as well as Dementia

Another very good proven reason: Keep your brain young

So, although this book assists in making the experiences free and fun, providing all the resources for ingenious ways of going forward, I thought of providing you the reasons why you can venture off to the Tower of Babel and open up the rest of the world as we know it for your own enjoyment.

This book will fuel and turn your linguistic fires into blazes of joy!

Profile Image for Owlseyes .
1,650 reviews267 followers
Want to read
March 5, 2022

One of my friends here in GR has recently made manifest being “extremely skeptical” about this book, and, very specifically, about the possibility of learning any language in 3 months.

I really don’t agree. Benny Lewis may prove right in some cases, for some languages. He’s a living proof, that, though not a talented (endowed with the “gene”, one could say), natural-born Polyglot, he became a self-made one. That’s why I’m offering the content (main lines) of his presentation in Ted X under the title ” Hacking language learning”.

Benny Lewis found himself at the age of 21 with a degree in Electronics Engineering and no other language learnt, apart from his English. Then he moved to Spain, in the hope of learning Spanish. But it really didn’t work out.

Anyway, there, he met with a polyglot; and that fact made him change his whole attitude towards the languages learning issue. He concluded also that one of the reasons he wasn’t learning any language at all (beyond his native English) was that he wasn’t (deeply) motivated (passionate about). He thought of himself as already “too old” and fearing “embarrassing” the native speakers.

His analysis of several polyglots (some, you can easily find them on YouTube) made him think that all these people are “passionate about the literature…and movies” of the languages at stake.

His own experience [ “now” learning his 12th language--Egyptian Arabic--] made him consider several obstacles most people have regarding learning another (new) language. They are:

(1) The idea that you’re not talented; or have the gene.

(2) You’re too old; but there are cases of learners at the age of 60 (plus) who made it.

(3) You cannot travel; yet we’re living in a global space, travelling is a lot easier nowadays.

(4) You have bad memory; yet there are helpful techniques to circumvent the limitations on this field; like spaced-repetition or mental imagery/association.

(5) You’re going to frustrate the native speakers, when in fact “mistakes” should be welcome; it’s part of the process: as Lewis said: “you should embrace the beginning stage”.

Lewis worked as a professional of translation… and now travels the world around to learn new languages. The Ted X recording shows some of his dialogues with friends he’s gotten in such places such as the Sahara desert or... the Ohio, USA…or in the inner/middle Brazil .In the latter spot: to meet someone, to have the chance to learn Egyptian Arabic.[!]

Once you overcome (at least some of) those obstacles you can start/try a new language. Logic says so.

Once I’ve watched the case of a 16 year old American polyglot (Tim*) being interviewed by one reporter from the British magazine The Economist. At a certain point, the interviewer asked Tim something like: adding new languages, wouldn’t that turn the process more difficult. Tim was quite peremptory: the more languages he knew, the easier was becoming, learning new ones.

Yet….some languages… for some people, make me wonder.


Adventures of a Teenage Polyglot
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,376 reviews1,433 followers
March 4, 2021
Fluent in 3 Months is a self help guide for anyone who aspires to speak more than one language.

Though it's mainly filled with common sense ideas, I liked how the author, Benny Lewis, put it all together.

Lewis begins by sharing his own life experience with readers- that he felt he failed in his early attempts to learn another language through the traditional method of high school class. He also details how he spent six months in Spain with the idea that he'd absorb language like a sponge but then didn't learn any Spanish.

The reasons why he feels like he was unsuccessful, because he was lacking the passion to learn and also didn't speak the language to native speakers, are his main suggestions for language learning in this book.

"When it comes to language learning, there is no room for doubt: you decide your own success." pg 24

Beyond those two main tips, Lewis shares shortcuts for learning tons of vocabulary quickly (visualization methods) and practicing immersion without going to the actual country. The latter, as he points out, has been made much easier since technology has brought distant countries into the comfort of your own home.

Through Skype calls or internet programs or even Netflix, language learners can interact with and immerse themselves in their target language.

"You must speak the language with other human beings." pg 87

The task facing language learners has now become putting in the work to do so rather than traveling the distance for the opportunity.

I think Lewis is on to something with his insistence on speaking your target language from the start.

"As a result of speaking the language right away, students start to acquire the language rather than learn it as they would other academic subjects." pg 6

I have a friend who's niece majored in Spanish. But when they visited Spain together, she lacked the confidence to speak it when ordering dinner.

If, from the first stages, learners were able to clear that initial hurdle, day-to-day use, and the successive ones of perfectionism or uncertainty, I agree that the whole language learning process would flow more easily.

Because, as Lewis points out, language is meant for communication with others. We're rather missing the point if we acquire skills on paper that can't be put to real life use.

Highly recommended for language learners of any age.
Profile Image for Magdalena Golden.
196 reviews12 followers
June 26, 2014
I don't think I had ever called a non-fiction book perfect but this one deserves it. While it's primarily aimed at a slightly different demographic to mine (namely, monolingual adults who had either not been successful so far in learning a second language or had not even tried to do so), I think this made me appreciate the advice that Benny Lewis gives even more.

A little bit about my background - my mother tongue is Polish and it had been my primary language for the first 19 years of my life. I started learning English as a second language around the age of 4 or 5 and ultimately became bilingual at 20 when I moved abroad to study at an English speaking university. Since then, for the past 8 years, English has been my primary language. I've been also learning French and German and I'm at about B2/C1 and B1/B2 level in those respectively. I picked up Fi3M after falling into a bit of a slump in my language learning as I wanted to rekindle my passion for it and luckily the publication of the book coincided with my starting a 90-day (so 3 months, hah! ;) ) "Add 1 Challenge" to learn Italian.

One thing that struck me immediately is that Benny's approach to language learning is something that I had spontaneously accidentally tried for the first time just a few weeks before I picked up the book. Until that time I had always followed the "default" structured approach of taking language classes either in school or privately and to be honest it suited me just fine. But due to a series of events I was suddenly put in a situation where I had to talk in Italian at a Language Exchange event with pretty much no prior knowledge of the language (I had had 4 or 5 informal classes in it some 15 years ago and had played a few rounds of an Italian course on Memrise for fun). Relying hugely on body language and my French vocabulary I was greatly surprised how far it got me. So when Benny talked in his book about how people often give the "I'm not ready to start speaking the language" excuse but really should just go ahead and try, I was vigorously nodding in approval.

In fact, the whole chapter dedicated to language learning myths was one of the highlights of the book for me. I remember how as an eager teenager I was learning 3 foreign languages and was making good progress in all of them but around me I had people who barely knew a second language but would offer a ton of pseudoadvice based on those myths. In retrospect I can see that it was not even advice at all but quite a malicious way to bring others down and excuse themselves for not trying to learn. One of my "favourites" had been a mix of Benny's 11 - Perfect Mastery Is Impossible and 14 - I'll Always Have an Accent. It was almost cathartic to read these two passages (emphasis mine):

When people think that speaking a language means nothing less than being able to debate Kantian philosophy, with no accent or hesitations, then it can indeed feel like it would take decades to be able to say that you can actually speak a language. (...) I don't now about you, but my English isn't perfect. I hesitate when I'm nervous, I forget precisely the right word every now and again, and there are plenty of topics I'm uncomfortable talking about. Applying higher standards to your target language than you would to your native language is overkill

Way too much emphasis is put on speaking with no accent, as if being a spy is the ultimate point of your language project rather than communicating with other human beings

I don't think I ever believed in either of those "arguments" myself but I had had them thrown at me so many times by others that I wish I had had the clarity of mind to respond in the way Benny does. As much as I wish I had the language skills of a writer or an orator, I do not. And, frankly, I don't even want it enough to be willing to put in work to acquire them in any language, including Polish, although I do always strive to improve, even when reaching mastery level.

Regarding the accent, two things should be mentioned. One is exactly what Benny says - becoming a spy is rarely the reason people learn the language so there's no need to be discouraged by an imperfect accent; but also - it's not impossible. One other profession where accent could be detrimental is acting and as an amateur actress myself I have put considerable effort into reducing my accent in English with very good results. Not quite perfect yet but I actually know people who had started learning a language as an adult and do not have an accent so I'm not discouraged by this and keep on working as it is an important skill for me to achieve. Also, just think about the diversity of English accents and all the actors who can convincingly play a different nationality (an example that immediately jumps to my mind is Hugh Laurie - a British actor who played Dr House) - learning a completely different accent is definitely within human capabilities.

Also, although at one point Benny quotes Richard Simcott saying that he has "never met someone who has learned a language as an adult who could pass as a native speaker all of the time, even though the person definitely could some of the time." I'd like to say that I'm not entirely sure I'd be able to pass for a native Polish speaker all the time (and if you think I'm exaggerating or saying it just for a laugh - ask my husband who is Polish and keeps correcting my language all the time) - and we're back to the argument about applying higher standards for the target language.

I have elaborated on this one point but the book is full of little observations and pieces of advice that are true gems and I could write a similar essay on each of them. For the sake of brevity I won't (yeah, don't laugh, I do realise how long this review is already) but to give you a little bit more of the taste of the book I'll just quickly mention a few other highlights:
- Benny's spot-on response to the ubiquitous "Aren’t Adult Language Learners at a Disadvantage?" which is another of my pet peeves (no, you actually get better at learning languages with experience and "[a]lso, keep in mind that babies and young children effectively have full-time teachers—their parents—who laugh at their mistakes (thinking they are cute), have almost infinite patience, and are overjoyed at every success. Imagine if an adult could find a native speaker so motivated to help!")
- the question of fluency vs mastery - it's been covered in many other reviews so I won't dwell on it but there are some very interesting points made there
- hyperpolyglotism and how to achieve it, complete with a discussion on why you shouldn't aim for it
- plus a ton of advice on the actual learning process.

All in all, I cannot recommend this book enough!
Profile Image for Bastian Greshake Tzovaras.
155 reviews75 followers
July 14, 2014
I'm probably just not the target audience for this work, but then this is probably because the title is overselling the content so much. A better fitting title would be "How any couchsurfer at any age can learn to speak any language from anywhere in the world by doing couchsurfing".

Lewis focusses a good deal on how important it is to start practicing to speak right away and that reading and writing aren't that important. Which might work well if you have lots of spare time to do couchsurfing all over the globe. He also mentions that you can do it in your home country by finding other speakers or setting up Skype calls.

But that also requires you to be able to plan your spare time for those sorts of things in more detail than I'm able to. I often find myself spontaneously having 30 minutes or so unoccupied, but that won't help me in setting up trips or even dates with speakers of the language. And as I'm not watching TV at all and don't go out partying I also can't cut time there, thanks for the tip though… So reading at my own pace is definitely more the way to go for me. And for this he offers very little.

I also think it kind of shows that the book is more or less a collection of blog posts which I felt are only somewhat stringed together. I guess the main message "everyone at any age can learn a language" is a great one and he repeats it often enough that people will hopefully believe him, but the methods he presents will probably only work if you at least have somewhat similar circumstances then Lewis.
Profile Image for Stefan Kanev.
125 reviews211 followers
June 28, 2014
Disclaimer: The book title is not a promise – it's a challenge. And I really enjoy that.

It's a book on learning languages. It's a relatively short one and an easy one to read. It does not make any outlandish claims. Here are my main takeaways:

* Your age does not affect learning a language that much. You may not be able to nail the accent, but you can still learn a new language fluently above 20.
* There is no language gene – everybody can learn a language if they want to.
* You need to be passionate about learning a language. It won't work any other way.
* Speak from day one. Reading and listening is all fine, but you should not feel embarrassed to try using what you've learned – native speakers will not mind; even better – they will really enjoy you trying and they will go out of their way to help you.
* Hard work is required. There are no shortcuts and no "spend 15 minutes every day".

The book is full of practical advice how to pick up a new language. It has many tricks that might or might not work for you, but that are useful to learn. I had the opportunity to try a few of those while I was abroad for a couple of days and I was really pleased.

If nothing else, the writing is very enthusiastic and it's a great book to get you excited about picking up a new language.
Profile Image for Thomas Frank.
Author 1 book8,589 followers
May 2, 2014
Absolutely fantastic introductory book for learning a new language. While Benny won't actually *teach* you a language in this book (though ch. 6 has some good tips for some popular ones), he will give you a solid method for learning and help you squash any excuses you might have.

Coming from someone who tried to learn Spanish in the past using traditional methods (and failed), I can say confidently that Fluent in 3 Months is an excellent starting point for any language learning project.

A more in-depth version of this review can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Linda.
Author 2 books34 followers
September 24, 2015
I got this at the library because I wondered if it contained any suggestions that I haven't already picked up in years of learning languages. The answer is, unfortunately, no. It wasn't horrible, but I'm glad I didn't pay for it. I don't think there's much new information here, and it all boils down to this: speak the language as much as possible as early as possible. I didn't need this book to tell me that.
Profile Image for Donna Craig.
910 reviews40 followers
September 19, 2022
3.5 stars, rounded up.
Fluent in Three Months begins with a disclaimer, which states that one can only achieve the titular promise under certain very specific circumstances. Well, that’s a bummer.
Other than that, the author explains very well the importance of an incentive which makes the learning more satisfying, such as a friend who uses your target language. The importance of being able to speak the language with another person cannot be overstated. Personal motivation is closely related and also hugely impacts your rate of learning.
The book is a short, easy read with some really useful information. The main negative is his chapter on the basics of different languages. It was tiresome and unhelpful. The author does a good job, however, of giving suggestions for accomplishing the seemingly difficult goal of finding a way to practice your target language.
Profile Image for Grumpus.
498 reviews244 followers
September 8, 2015
The key word is “fluent”. In this case good enough to be understood in conversation with forgiveness from the native speakers for your errors. The key to all of this is probably the most terrifying aspect among those learning new languages---speak the language from Day 1. Most language learners typically feel that they must know a lot of vocabulary before they have the confidence to start speaking. As a result, that day never arrives.

My next attempt at a language will incorporate this idea of language learning. I have to admit; I’m old school and did not realize the abundance of resources available on the internet to connect with native speakers and teachers. In addition to German, I know some Italian vocabulary as I have been teaching myself. So, I would like to try this technique with either Italian or if I want to be truly adventurous and start from square one, Swedish.
July 23, 2016
Are you reading this review while checking this book out at the store? Good. Put it down and get "Fluent Forever" instead.
Profile Image for Willow Anne.
413 reviews82 followers
March 6, 2023
This is the first book I've finished since January! Yay! I've been really in the mood for nonfiction lately, which is strange because I never used to read much of it. I think it's the Korean. I started learning Korean in February, and I've been reading up on all these books on the culture, the language, and just speech/learning in general, and this was really helpful! I'm super determined to learn the language, as this book would put it, I'm really passionate about it, and this helped me to think of little ways I can improve.

Also, the title of this book is deceptive until you read it, it's not saying you can learn a language in 3 months, although it's certainly possible for some, but rather that you have to have set missions for where you want to be within a certain amount of time instead of vague goals or resolutions. And I like the idea of having mini missions, things that you want to focus on so that you improve in specific areas as needed. Here's an example, "rather than assigning myself a vague weeklong mission to learn Mandarin vocabulary, I made sure I processed sixty flash cards a day with the specific intention of learning how to order food"

"Ultimately, it's not about the number of months or years, but the number of minutes every day you devote to this challenge. These minutes are what truly count."
This also gave me the idea of making flashcards on my phone, so that any time I'm waiting around it doesn't have to be wasted time.

"You don't know a language, you live it. You don't learn a language, you get used to it."
This guy really highlighted the fact that immersion is important, and I like how he says that you don't have to move there to immerse yourself. I can do it right at home with the help of internet chatting, which is something that I definitely want to look into.

"When I asked him about how on earth he keeps focused with all of these things going on, he told me that it's very simple: focus on one major project at a time."
Yeah, that's my problem. I absolutely love starting projects, but I don't always go through with them. This time I really want to though. No, I really will.

"Successful language learners continue on despite the challenges. That's the difference."
Yup, I am GOING to continue on.

"passion will get you through every problem if you are serious about learning a language"
I literally have so much passion right now! And every time I read a book on language, on Korean culture, or listen to a kpop song, my passion increases again. I don't see that being a problem anytime soon.

"Remember that language is a means to communicate. The only way you can fail is if you don't try to communicate at all."
This is a good reminder for me, because I can tend to hold back from communicating because I don't feel like I know enough yet, but that's exactly what he said not to do. He brought out that talking from day 1 is really important, so I'm going to do just that, even if I only have myself to talk to.

"Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most."
I like that a lot. I just have to ask myself what I want most, and the answer is to be able to understand Korean.

"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now."
Wow! How great a quote is that?! Oh I just love that, and it's such a good closing line too!
Profile Image for Becky.
1,234 reviews59 followers
July 12, 2014
I was in two minds about reading this one. I have an acceptable knowledge of a smattering of languages most of which certainly seem to come back to me once I am forced to use them on holiday or whatever. I certainly find that I can hold decent conversations in German, French, Spanish and Italian as well as make myself understood in a handful of other languages. However with a holiday coming up I was keen to brush up some language skills and thought I'd give this a quick read first to see if I could pick up any tips. I am glad that I did. Quite a large proportion of this book covers the need to put oneself into situations where language skills can be used, the author argues that even the most basic skills can be improved if you are forced to make yourself understood from an early stage. He also makes the case that learning endless verb tables and the minutae of sentance structure will actually hinder the ability to use language in real situations. There are plenty of tips her for ways to imerse yourself in the language of choice, everything from listening to the radio to watching films dubbed into the chosen language. I found this to be a very interesting book, with a fair few tips that seem sensible. I hope that some of these will help to get languages to stick in my mind a little more firmly, but only time will tell on that score. The point is made that it is the attitude of the person learning the language that plays the biggest role in ability here, so fingers crossed!
Profile Image for Anne.
445 reviews5 followers
September 23, 2019
I wouldn't really recommend this book to anyone. Lewis basically took his personal experiences and turned it into a book. And while his thesis is a valid one (1. have conversations with native speakers from the very beginning 2. you'll only learn as quickly as you put time into learning) he doesn't really support it well. He pulls in anecdotes to show how other people overcame obstacles (including, of course, someone with a disability - if they can do it with a disability, you normal person should be able to!!) and gives advice like, go to the mall and chat up strangers to see if they happen to speak your target language (?!).

Ultimately, Lewis seems like he's probably kind of a dick, and his book doesn't offer a ton of useful guidance or tangible advice for learning a language.
Profile Image for High Plains Library District.
629 reviews73 followers
May 7, 2021
As a lover of languages, this caught my eye one day while in the library. IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE?

Well, yes and no. Lewis spends a bit of time trying to define “fluent,” which can be a fuzzy definition. He points out that specialized language in your native tongue is something you wouldn’t understand if you weren’t a specialist in that field.

He also talks about his past language learning experiences, and admits that he can learn languages so quickly because of his past experience learning other languages. My hopes were dashed.
Nonetheless, it was an informative guide for learning languages. There were great tips on tools to use, from apps, websites, and language exchanges with native speakers.

The biggest point is that you have to be passionately committed to learning, doing whatever it takes to immerse yourself. It also left me feeling inspired to learn with a new can-do attitude.

Profile Image for Max Tolstokorov.
10 reviews4 followers
April 4, 2015
The "Fluent in 3 months" title seems like a marketing hook, not a real goal. But the book itself is full of technics and approaches enough to highly recommend it to anyone who's going to learn foreign languages. The main approach is "Speak first!", also I found very useful special tricks about talking to strangers in another country and the list of conversational connectors in the end of this book.
Profile Image for Dichotomy Girl.
2,008 reviews128 followers
July 6, 2015
A few helpful tips, but most wouldn't really work for me. (An introvert who mainly wants to be literate in a second language (French), but who will most likely never travel to Quebec or France, and will have little use for spoken french in Rural Georgia.)
16 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2014
A short disclaimer: This review is based on the UK edition, which has a different cover and the title "Fluent in 3 Months: The simplest way to learn any language". Only the US edition was available on this site though at the time of reviewing. That said, there shouldn't be many differences if any between the two.

Benny Lewis has been blogging about his life as a Polyglot (someone who can speak multiple languages to various degrees) for several years now. His site Fluentin3months started out as a way for him to document his travels and his progress in learning different languages as he went. Eventually it evolved to include guides, tips and tricks, videos from guest speakers and forums for anyone interested in learning and speaking languages.

This book takes all of Lewis' experience and the best bits of his site and condenses it in to a relatively small and easy to read book. His enthusiasm for "living a language" is obvious and infectious, and it definitely renewed my interest in starting up learning Czech again. For this alone I recommend this book to anyone interested but perhaps a bit wary of learning a new language. Many people (myself included) convince ourselves with various reasons that we are simply unable to learn a new language - we're too old, we're not smart enough, we don't have the "language gene". An entire chapter of this book is dedicated to looking at 20 of the most common excuses Lewis has come across, and why they're all completely unfounded (or at least, not as bad as we make out)! Every chapter is inspirational in some way, and ultimately one of the biggest reasons people fail at learning a language is they hit a barrier and get discouraged. This book is a good remedy for combating this and pushes you to work harder!

Regarding the tips and advice he gives, Lewis suggests a very active way of learning where we speak the language from day one. He spends some time discussing how the traditional school method of learning a language is actually highly ineffective for most people, and argues that you need to have the right motivations for wanting to learn a language. With the right motivation, with clear objectives, and most of all with a passion for a language, he claims that learning a language within 3 months is quite achievable for even the busiest of people.

To be clear, when Lewis uses the term "learn a language fluently within 3 months", he actually has a very specific definition of fluent that he describes in detail. In fact, he spends much of one chapter discussing the term 'fluent' and how most of us put unrealistic expectations on the word. Before I read this book, I thought the word "fluent" synonymous with "mastery of the language", the ability to speak about anything comfortably in your target language. I can't even do that in English though - there are plenty of topics and words that I don't know about, and this is my first/primary language! Fluent really only means being able to speak clearly about what you want to talk about - and the amount of words required for that (depending on what it is you want to talk about) is actually quite small.

Every chapter ends with a small conclusion and a web address leading to pages on his website that are of relevance to the topics discussed and contain further information. It is this which has allowed the book to remain so short despite the wide variety of topics discussed. Rather than making the book feel "half baked" or somehow a con to get more traffic to his website however, I personally felt I got enough information about each topic I was interested in within the book. The option to learn more, at least for me, felt like a nice addition, and even if it does bring more traffic to his site I do not think that is a bad thing, as his site is very good!

For readers wanting a generalized and condensed book, with the option of learning more if they choose to, I'd highly recommend this book. It's short and enjoyable to read, gives a lot of good advice, tips, and suggestions on how best to improve at each stage of your journey. I would even recommend the book for more determined language learners, as there are a LOT of posts on his website and this book does a good job of summarizing the most important ones. Overall I had a good time reading this and feel a lot more enthusiastic and optimistic about renewing my Czech - and for a language book, that should be exactly the kind of outcome you want!
Profile Image for Jerzy.
475 reviews107 followers
April 1, 2017
Large dose of inspiration with some solid tips. Of course, the real advice is "Work your butt off in those 3 months"---it's not "how to learn a language without effort," but rather how to focus that effort on things that'll pay off best in a short dedicated time.

My favorite tip: Only have one side project. If you want to learn a language quickly, then that should be your *only* project, outside of work & family commitments. Don't also start projects to learn the banjo, lose weight, and read the encyclopedia all at the same time. (Same tip applies to any other side project, really: best done one at a time.)

The other major tip is specific to language-learning: Work on your spoken language first, not reading / writing or listening. Along with that, set sensible goals (an appropriate "fluency" level goal for your overall timeframe; weekly mini-missions to focus on improving your weak spots). Aim for adequate conversational skills, not perfect grammar and no accent. If you can make yourself understood, even with the help of gestures and rewording (and patience from the other speaker), that's (1) a seriously practical success and (2) a great feeling that'll motivate you better than passing a grammar test. Pick a language because you want to speak to people in it, and then speak to them from day 1, even before you "feel ready."

Other tips I found interesting:
* p.94: Look into InterNations.org ? He describes it like a Meetup for international folks, but I can't quite tell what they are from their website.
* p.114: Nice to see he advises something I tried to do when I taught Polish: Instead of conjugating future tense verbs (like "I will travel"), you can get by with things like "I want" + infinitives like "to travel". Then you can memorize just the infinitive for most verbs, plus full conjugation of just a few specific verbs like want, can, need, go.
* p.180: Traditional courses do have a place, but it's *after* you've reached at least a basic conversational level. At that point, you'll have built up enough vocab and other scaffolding that the grammar rules etc. will actually make sense instead of putting you to sleep.
* p.190: Don't fool yourself by thinking that multitasking (listening while you drive or jog) is study time. It can be prep time, hearing something in the background once before you go back through it more slowly with focus later. But it's not the same as actually focusing in the moment.
* p.195: As much as you can, think and even speak out loud to yourself in the language. The kinds of things you think as you go about your day are mostly the kinds of vocab and phrases you'll probably need to chat with friends & family anyway. So you may as well practice in your head, and it'll help you discover your gaps before they come up in conversations.
* p.242: Really nice list of "conversational connectors"---phrases that are handy to memorize, to keep the conversation going while you think of what to actually say. "To tell you the truth..." "Thanks for asking..." "Let me ask you..." They are fillers, but they make it feel more like a real conversation (which is the whole point, right?) even before you can contribute very much real content.
* p.248: "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now."
Profile Image for Gary.
294 reviews2 followers
September 6, 2014
Having tried to study a few languages with mixed success over my life, I'm always open to new possibilities for mastering a language. This book, for the most part, offers strategies that one can find in other language study courses. There are SOME innovative ideas that I look forward to trying. I got kind of tired of the author concluding most of his chapters and sections by directing the reader to his website-but that's probably because of the disappointment I experienced upon going there. No reflection on his book, however.
I recommend giving this book a try before spending your money on a language course that will result in nothing productive.
Profile Image for AL.
63 reviews21 followers
July 30, 2015
Being that the author isn't actually fluent in anything apparently, this book is a sham, like his claims. There's one definition of "fluent" but I guess it's very convenient to define anything any way you want in order to dupe people and make some cash. In fact, he spends quite a bit of time defining "fluent" to fit his purposes and to cover his behind of course.

But using the author's method I, for example, just became a concert pianist: I can play two little songs to my cats!
Profile Image for Mae Clair.
Author 18 books554 followers
March 8, 2016
I found this book extremely easy to read. The author has a great style that makes insight to language learning flow effortlessly. Packed with great advice and resources, and written in a casual friendly style, this is a great read for anyone looking for useful advice on learning a second language (or multiple languages if that is your preference). In my efforts to learn Spanish, I've picked up several resource/advice books. In my opinion, this has been the best one I've discovered so far.
Profile Image for Jessica Gillies.
197 reviews34 followers
December 8, 2017
Two things sparked my interest in this book : My own love for language learning, and all the controversy surrounding this book that I have encountered online.

While I think his treatment of grammar is somewhat flawed, I really appreciated the fact that he uses this opportunity to show others how learning a second language IS possible (yes, even for English native speakers!Gasp!) and his passion certainly shines through.

His approach towards language learning seemed to me to reflect in many ways the way in which I have learnt German, which leads me to my main concern about grammar. Certainly, grammar should be a tool and not a hindrance, but I do think it's important in the early stages. One of the main issues in my journey with German is that the infamous cases are introduced around the A1/A2 level of the language, which I didn't have formal instruction for(per se), and this has seriously hindered me in my writing. I wish I hadn't skipped over this at the beginning. I did appreciate his comments about how when we know multiple languages we can use this as a "hack" of sorts- learning other aspects of German grammar was quite easy for me , because of my exposure to "grammar-ese" (as Benny calls it), thanks to my previously having learnt French.

I do agree that "too much" grammar can be off putting in the early stages and that total focus is important when using input such as movies and so forth.

Perhaps the biggest difference between my "preferred approach" (If I am allowed to have one with "only" two foreign languages under my belt and another few in the works)and Benny's is that I prefer to build a grammatical framework up and then fill in vocabulary around that; while his is more of full-throttle immersion, with grammar taking the back seat, then later cropping up again and fixing issues encountered along the way.

While I may not 100% agree with absolutely everything discussed in the book, I would certainly recommend this to people who have never learnt a foreign language before, as issues and beliefs that may prevent people from taking the proverbial bull by the horns and giving it a shot are well addressed. I hope this book can inspire more people to tackle foreign languages, make friends, discover new cultures and countries, and be better for it, while enjoying the benefits.
Profile Image for Ivonne.
249 reviews84 followers
July 23, 2017
El que llegue a este libro y espere que el título sea una promesa que se cumplirá, tiene muchas expectativas y está meando fuera del tiesto. Benny Lewis, un políglota (si le podemos decir así) ue comparte sus experiencias de aprendizaje de idiomas en internet, recopiló las lecciones más valiosas de su vida y las puso en un libro. Debo decir, está lleno de ideas, técnicas y consejos que toda persona que quiera hablar un segundo o tercer idioma puede aplicar. Sus consejos son realmente valiosos, pero inútiles si usted no es de lo que pone el compromiso y sigue las instrucciones al pie de la letra.
Fluent in 3 months no hará de usted un C1 en 3 meses, pero le dará las bases para entender y comunicarse primitivamente, o más, si es de los que se obsesiona con el idioma. Como en toda guía, el 90% del trabajo está en el lector y aprendiz, más que en el maestro.
Recomiendo a los amantes de los idiomas echarle un vistazo, hay referencias y consejos que jamás se me hubiesen ocurrido.
Profile Image for Jeff Birk.
214 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2018
On this last day of the year I finished this book. We were in Germany for three weeks spending Christmas with Brittany‘s family and I was inspired to read this book toward the end of our trip. I have had it for a while and finally powered through it and was very inspired to learn German. I was also encouraged by a lot of his ways and means in learning a language quickly and easily. I’ve already started with some online tools to help me learn and I’ve also been using some memory techniques that I used to memorize the chapter headings of the book of Mormon this year. By far the most important thing he suggests is speaking with a native as much as possible. I have a perfect set up here which virtually guarantees success if I simply talk more German with my wife. I am going to set some goals for 2018 and hopefully be able to speak a lot of German by the time we go to Germany again.
Profile Image for Ben Denison.
482 reviews22 followers
February 9, 2023
So speaking another language is a goal. A bucket list item, etc…. Which is exactly what Benny cautions against (wrong motives) But rather a goal to communicate/connect with others. Seem like my goal is wrong, and/or not conducive to maximum commitment to the effort.

His method makes sense of “total immersion” to saturate and force you to adapt/learn quickly. I love the idea, but it does seem a required commitment to focus on JUST learning the language is required. Which is not possible for me.

My girls are both taking Spanish in the fall and so we may attempt a Spanish only environment around the house as we ALL attempt to learn at the same time.

More of his tips of memorization and practice make sense and would seem to help get you using the language ASAP.

I may re-read this again in the fall and a better situation to commit the time needed.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,007 reviews220 followers
July 19, 2015
I possess a little French and Spanish vocabulary and grammar and I've made 2 or 3 efforts to gain fluency in Spanish since college, but I've repeatedly grown discouraged. Still, I've always been fascinated with second-language acquisition. The title of this book (and Benny Lewis's website) is exaggerated - even he admits it really takes more than three months. But I was inspired by his methods, enthusiasm, and positivity. Lewis emphasizes speaking a new language immediately, with any vocabulary one has. This made me think of how disappointing I found high school French that moved so, so slowly that I grew bored. (I wish I'd just studied on my own, but as a teenager I was pulled in so many directions already ...)
Profile Image for Skye.
210 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2017
As a language teacher and student of language learning pedagogy, I was curious to see what Lewis recommends to others. On the whole, he's pretty on point about what works, but ideally would have backed it up with some research, especially because much of it stands in his favor. Unfortunately the book felt super fluffy, as each of his point was introduced, over-explained, and summarized much more than it needed to be. I could have gotten a lot from a 5 minute ted-talk... But I'm still glad to have heard his insights.
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