“Polyglot, how I learn languages?” – Book of Kato’ Lomb

Frankly, I don’t really know what a book’s review seems to be. I simply want to share my own point of view also my feeling about the book “Polyglot, how I learn languages” of Kato’ Lomb.

Generally, I like her way of acquiring languages. Her point of view is practical, reasonable. She shares with the lectures her experiences, her methods to learn languages. In her point of view, knowing a language, or even a lot of them and teaching language are different. “Every language is a conventional code system. (…)  a language resembles the traffic code, which is permanent and easy to understand.” (p.41)

I can feel her joy of learning and playing with words, rules, and sounds between different languages. She said: “As far as being phonetic is concerned, English gets the worst grade among languages.” (p.43) ” German grammar is difficult. (…) The world of its verbs is made more colourful by its numerous prefixes. The
same is true for Hungarian. However, both languages are
of a fraudulent nature.” (p.46).

She affirms: “The goal of this book is not to substitute but to complement
this most common way of language learning, considered classic. (… ) I would simply like to tell how I, over 25 years, got to the point of being able to speak 10 languages, translate technical documents and
enjoy fiction in six more, and understand written journalism
in 11 more or so.” (p.49).

For her, learning and working with languages is always an inexhaustible
source of joy.” (p.50). “Whenever I am asked how I was able to succeed in many
languages in a relatively short period of time, I always make
a bow in spirit to the source of all knowledge: books. My
advice to learners can thus be expressed in one word: read!” (p.64).

She gave some advice from his own experiences in a list called “Ten Commandments” or “Ten requests”:
Spend time tinkering with the language every day—if
there is no more time available, then at least to the extent of
a 10-minute monologue. Morning hours are especially valuable
in this respect: the early bird catches the word!
If your enthusiasm for studying flags too quickly, don’t
force the issue but don’t stop altogether either. Move to
some other form of studying, e.g., instead of reading, listen
to the radio; instead of assignment writing, poke about in
the dictionary, etc.

Never learn isolated units of speech, but rather learn
words and grammatical elements in context.
Write phrases in the margins of your text and use them
as “prefabricated elements” in your conversations.
Even a tired brain finds rest and relaxation in quick,
impromptu translations of billboard advertisements flashing
by, of numbers over doorways, of snippets of overheard
conversations, etc., just for its own amusement.
Memories only that which has been corrected by a
teacher. Do not keep reading texts you have written that
have not been proofread and corrected so as to keep mistakes
from taking root in your mind. If you study on your
own, each segment to be memorised should be kept to a size
that precludes the possibility of errors.
Always memorise idiomatic expressions in the first person
singular. For example, “I am only pulling your leg.” Or
else: Il m’a posé un lapin—He stood me up.
A foreign language is a castle. It is advisable to besiege
it from all directions: newspapers, radio, movies that are not
dubbed, technical or scientific papers, textbooks, and the visitor at your neighbour’s.
Do not let the fear of making mistakes keep you from
speaking, but do ask your conversation partner to correct you. Most importantly, don’t get peeved if he or she actually oblige you—a remote possibility, anyway.
Be firmly convinced that you are a linguistic genius. If
the facts demonstrate otherwise, heap blame on the pesky language you aim to master, on the dictionaries, or on this book, not on yourself.”


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