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How to Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, and on Your Own!
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How to Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, and on Your Own!

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  765 ratings  ·  101 reviews
Barry Farber has been a true adventurer in languages for forty-six years and can speak in twenty-five tongues. The techniques he presents in "How to Learn Any Language" will have you speaking, reading, writing and enjoying any foreign language you want to learn - or have to learn - in a surprisingly short time.Without beating your head against verb conjugations or noun dec ...more
Hardcover, 172 pages
Published 1991 by MJF Books
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Jan 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
This is a really wonderful book. A few years ago I tried to learn Italian, but gave up as it was taking over my life and I didn’t really feel I was getting anywhere with it. This book would have been a great help and now it has even inspired me to have another go.

If you are going to learn a language you have to expect that it is going to require effort on your part. There are lots of ‘courses’ out there that tell you that you can speak Chinese in three months – but you are an intelligent person
Trevor gives a good summary of what you'll find in the book, and I don't have much to add. Instead, I'll talk about how it relates to work that we're doing at Geneva University, developing speech-enabled software to help people learn a new language. If there's one thing that comes across in Farber's advice, it's the importance of regular practice. As he says, you get better at a language by using it, and you should use it in as interactive a way as possible.

There's a sliding scale here. The ver
For anybody looking for resources, you may find it useful to take a look at my blog on learning French. Whether or not I succeed in doing that, what I am managing is a large collection of super-useful resources for learning and practising. A lot of them are quite obscure, so you might find stuff there that you really like but won't see mentioned on your average '10 places to learn French before you die' list, all such lists being pretty much generic.

And yes, thi
Darya Conmigo
In many aspects, this book is quite outdated: with internet access, you don't have to chase Mexican waiters in your local taco joint to practice your Spanish, or try to find a newspaper in Tagil at a newsstand. Instead, you can make use of YouTube videos, Wikipedia articles in your target language, or one of many websites for language learners - all useful additions to more standard language-learning tools. And yes, as some other reviewers noted, at times Farber's jokes and explanations can be i ...more
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language
"The promise here is not gain without pain. It's the most gain for the least pain."

Great inspiration for language learners. Farber's method is the perfect choice for those with chaotic lives.

His discussion of time enlightening. As a mom to rambunctious boys, I have learned how to be efficient with the random blocks of 5 or 10 minutes they give me. But Farber encourages the harnessing of 5 or 10 seconds. If you can learn just one new vocabulary word while waiting on the person you are calling to
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review will be short and simple. I finished reading the entire book in...... about 5-6 hours. And I took a few short breaks doing it.

If you like learning languages, this is a good book to read. I got it on recommendation from a site as I was exploring ways to learn Japanese (already started that, really, but anyway).

This book is not going to give you instructions on learning any particular language. You're not going to be able to start learning any language just from this one book - you're
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book must have been a game-changer for any language enthusiast back in 1991, but now the majority of advice looks really obvious. Like, guys, how about flashcards? And this mnemonics thingie and a major breakthrough called "immersion"!

Yet, the general system of learning presented in this book looks very solid and thorough, and I will surely use it in my future linguistic endeavours.

But the best thing about this book (apart from its depth and conciseness) is that it is amazingly motivating.
Sergei Moska
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a tiny book, and one of the most explosively written books I've ever read. Nothing about the author is subtle, and his manic enthusiasm for language learning jumps off the page. Despite its size, it offers concrete advice on self-learning languages, lots of fun anecdotes, and a ton of motivation. If you're learning a foreign language, it's impossible not to find yourself re-enthused after going through this book. Love it! ...more
S.Baqer Al-Meshqab
This book was one of the first books added to my to-read list of 2016. As a student of Japanese, and who is aspiring to learn even many more, I thought it to be a good meal. I wasn't wrong, It was DELICIOUS.

Barry Farber, the author of this book, is an enthusiast in the language-learning world, who managed to learn 25 languages and decided to share his experience, his methods and his ideas. The book as I understood, originally targeted for his fellow Americans, with whom he starts with a joke sta
Jan 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually read this in hardcover. This is one of those titles that explains why I don't go into the bookstore very often. Putting me in a bookstore is like putting an alcoholic in a bar -- we're both going to get something! I found this little tome in hardcover in the bargain rack, and as I was contemplating ways in which I could improve my Spanish skills, I found it serendipitous that I and this book had crossed paths. It was a very quick read -- and also very enjoyable. Farber's personal stor ...more
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title largely describes the book's contents.

The bad, first.

Published over 20 years ago, it has rather fallen behind the times. In this era of iClouds and iPads, extolling the virtues of "portable cassette players" seems charmingly daft. Naturally, there's not a hint of online chat, DVD-ROMs, iTunes U, etc.

Also, the allegedly-useful system for improving vocabulary memorisation is as old as the hills and, truth be told, utterly useless. Yes, you can find weak English rhymes for Spanish, Itali
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: languages
- Note: 3/5
- Re-readability: no

The book really has only a handful of techniques to teach, which are pretty much read off from the TOC:

- The Multiple-Track Attack. Approach your language from all angles: grammar, audio courses, audiobooks, real magazines and newspapers, … Get/buy all these resources from the very beginning and go in chunks.
- Hidden Moments. Use any idle moment as a change to learn your target language. In particular. have always flash cards in hand. Easy with SRS in your mobile.
Sam Alarcon
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though only about one third of this book involves actual advice on learning languages, the information provided could potentially be invaluable. The author's story of how he became a language learner is amusing to say the least. Farber's advice for language learning applies to reading books, as well as learning a new language. I was able to finish reading this book within about three days while reading only during spare moments (mostly on hold while calling someone at work). Invaluable! ...more
Duane Schmidt
Oct 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Language Learners
The best book on learning a language that I've ever found ( I teach college Spanish). Barry has a sense of humor and a lot of practical experience on the subject. I'm considering making it a required book for my classes. ...more
Alexander Svanevik
First of all, there are plenty of great, non-obvious tips for language learners in here. Second, Barry Farber's writing, which is packed with analogies and anecdotes, makes this a really enjoyable read. ...more
Aurélien Thomas
Here's a very accessible type of book where Barry Farber, amateur polyglot then fluent in twenty-five languages, outlines his methods to learn a foreign language efficiently. All based upon his personal experience, his advices might strike as being unconventional to whose used to a more traditional approach to learning. However, developed through trial and error over more than four decades, his tips are highly valuable and still relevant. In fact, over time this book became an absolute classic d ...more
Ursula Kallio
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
My favorite quotes are as follows:
Pg. 13: "... grammar was just another of those barriers designed by grown-ups to keep kids from having too much fun."
Pg. 23: "Expertise is a narcotic. As knowledge grows, it throws off pleasure to its possessor."
Pg. 23: "Too bad. If you can't distinguish the harder languages from the easier ones, you miss the higher joys of confronting your first samples of written Finnish."
Pg. 24: "I covered the Olympic games in Helsinki but wisely decided not to try to learn F
Jul 29, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, languages
This book is more anecdotal than educational. It spends most of the time on stories telling how the author learned different languages and on quirks of all kinds of languages. It inspires you to learn another language though (or two or three).
I very much agree with most of the language learning system that is described, but it also makes a few assumptions that won't work for everyone.
For once, the claim that the system is "inexpensive" - it really depends what you consider inexpensive. The aut
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, _I_ liked it.
But some out there in Reviewerland have said that they found Mr. Farber a bit full of himself. The man can talk to people in several languages, and likes to tell people about it in his book. He's been all over the world, and mentions it. He has a method that works for him, and is not shy about telling us about it's virtues.
And I'm OK with that about him.
I borrowed his book to improve learning _one_ language, and it gave me a method. It may not be a method for everyone, but I a
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Farbers offers an easy to read "How-To" to tackling the one item on everybody's bucket list. Multiple track attack, hidden moments, and the magic memory lane are but a few chapters to mastering the skill of learning another language. Not as detailed as Berlitz or Pimsleur, it does not seek to the reader one specific language. He instinctively knows the bulk of the Herculean task is left with learner. He breaks it down to the simple, bite size chunks needed to tackle this adventure. This book tel ...more
I loved the first half, therefore I give it 4 stars. The second part is a little less interesting. It pursues the learning of foreign languages from an American point of view and I, being Italian, cannot relate.
I'll try to follow some of the tips and tricks because I know they work. I speak a very good English and I tried to add some other language to my skills. But I started late and, as Farber explains in his book, European grown-ups are not comfortable with speaking when their knowledge of th
Joe Gabriel
I liked the sit back and enjoy his stories aspect of this book. The author really has a fun history and a great story to tell about how he learned a bunch of different languages. He gives sound advice proven to be true by his own experience. The one thing I was waiting for was a concrete plan. He includes a plan, but for me it felt incomplete and fuzzy. As a language learner, the more specific details of a plan the better. A good read that will give good ideas to your language study.
Kevin Dunning
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, it's outdated... but the basics still apply, and it's a wonderful book about learning languages. At the minimum, the author's passion for learning is inspiring. Look - it's in the bargain section of bookstores or online, and it's worth the $6 or $7 if you want to gain insight on how to overcome past obstacles of language acquisition and move forward quickly. The vocabulary section (mnemonics) alone is worth a good read. Thx ...more
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a good narrative manual on how to start on a new language but it is outdated and needs a new edition. It will help a little in organizing ones thoughts but that about it.
Clint Joseph
Book 2 in the Whatever Title I Thought Up For This That I Thought Was Funny At The Time.

First things first, this cover does not match the cover of the one I got from the library. I'm telling you this on the off chance that here has been a new edition since the 1991 one that I had. And oddly enough, that would be influential.

Because, here's the thing, Farber is all about telling you how to use your cassettes and flashcards and grammar books and places you may or may not find a person to practice
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Definitely worth a glance if you need some motivation with language practice and a very quick read!

While this book is definitely dated (he mentions how you should use language learning cassettes and record yourself speaking on tapes), the core concepts make a lot of sense as he explains how language instruction in grade school got it wrong.

I’d have to agree! I studied Spanish for 8 years and felt like I knew nothing when I moved to Santiago, Chile where I lived for a year. While I was near fluen
Ketutar Jensen
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book.
I like his advice, I like his anecdotes, I like the tips and hints and ideas. It's a short book and a quick read, which makes it even better.

To address some of the 1-2 star reviews...
1) I didn't find him obnoxious or full of himself, but - hey, chemistry. People like different people.
2) No, he doesn't teach you any one language, he talks about his method of learning languages. It's a good one.
3) Yes, mnemonics. Yes, it works. If you know how to use it. If not - of course it w
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was pleasantly surprised to how much I enjoyed this book. The author’s own story in studying languages was interesting in itself, but his enthusiasm and love for the topic comes off the pages and engulfs the reader. This tips are great and I will never be able to look at a banana again without imagining a lonely pea singing a song equivalent to the “Eva Maria” for pisang (pea-song) meaning banana in Indonesian. I will also say that there is a lot of good humor in the book on a topic that would ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun read for how to approach the love of language in a practical manner. It is a little dated at times with regards to cultural references, but presents many tried and true strategies for language acquisition. It balances humor, practical exercises, and a rationale for the practice in a motivational and upbeat manner.
Emily Catherine
This was a great book for introducing one to foreign language! I finished it, and was ready for more! I need more! Please! I guess I'll just go put more books on hold...
Although some of Barry's advice is a little dated. (A whole chapter on audio cassette players. I mean really) The rest was very clear, and helpful! This book made me so excited to begin my journey in learning Italian!
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