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FX's essential guide to learning a language

My story
Learning a foreign language is possible for most people. All it takes is willingness, work and method. If you do it the right way, you can learn a language fluently in less than a year, studying on your own. You will hear that "some people are gifted for languages", as if they had tongues of fire all over them. That's not true. Some people may have had the luck of speaking 2 or more languages at home and thus learning them without realizing it, but I know that any reasonably intelligent man can learn a foreign language if he works a little and do it the right way.
Studying the right way is the main problem, because in schools they usually do it the wrong way : packing people in big groups, and then force feeding them with grammar rules and making them learn by heart vocabulary lists the same way you'd learn the phonebook. So first they loose time because nobody learns to speak that way, and second they disgust people for their whole life.

My experience with language learning
I already thought that when I was 17, but you see, when you are 17 people smile and go back learning their phonebook-vocabulary list. So I had to prove that I was right, right ? That's what I did. Well, sort of. I began to leave school and work on languages (english and german) my way. English did not require anything because I already learned it while reading, but my accent still hurt people's ears. But for german I just left for one month in Germany, reading and looking for every word I did not know. When I came back for the examination (they were done in Universities, independently from schools), the expert, who happened to be the author of the phonebook vocabulary list, the Vocabulaire de base allemand, asked me if I was german. He really seemed to mean it, although he might have though differently had he known my marks in vocabulary tests taken from his book. (This story is true, as is all the text).

When I meet people to which I had said what I thought of the phonebook approach to vocabulary learning, and the conversation turns around languages, they look down. Of course, they are neither able to read a german newspaper nor to phone someone in Frankfurt, after more than 8 years of school german. Sad story but that's the way it is.
I have always been interested in speaking many languages but when I reached 23 years, I only knew two. That is, english, german, and of course my mother tongue french, but this one I got for free. So I pondered this and said <<FX, you're dumb. You know how to learn languages efficiently, you'd like to do it, you have the time to do it. Do you want to wait until it's too late ?>> Definitely not, so I looked for a spanish method and found the excellent FSI spanish. I had never experimented with tapes before (this one has many) but was opened to it. Neither had I ever followed a "method", that is a book and tapes set which begins at lesson one and ends who knows where. The thing worked, and after six months of self study, I definitely spoke fluent spanish.).

FX, wouldn't it be nice to speak another language ? Well, yes, of course. I chose italian, the most natural choice for me and probably the easiest as well>>. It took me about 3 month to master extended conversation (2 weeks in Rome helped a lot), though I still make some mistakes while speaking. Never mind, the Italians are forgiving.

Now I'm going after russian, quite another story, but I think I can get it.

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