Full disclosure:I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is that review.
Guides to how to acquire languages seem to be quite in vogue at the moment, and I daresay if you’ve read one you’ll probably not want to spend time reading another. I must admit to only having filleted this one for tips rather than read it cover to cover. It’s short and dense with information so that wasn’t hard. Like most books of its type it starts by reassuring you that learning a language – while it takes time and effort – is not out of the reach of the average mortal; that nobody is “bad” at languages (although we all have days where we bloody well feel like it!) and that acquiring one doesn’t necessarily mean going back to reciting verb tables by rote. All standard stuff.
So why pick it over – say – Benny Lewis’s book, or Gabriel Wyner’s or… (insert polyglot guru of choice)? I think a large part of your reason for choosing a text is likely to be governed by the personality of the writer and whether you feel like you can spend a few hours in their company. Some are blokish, some self-absorbed, some cerebral. This one seems to be very practical in its focus and aimed at conveying tips rather than bigging up the author. Obviously she tells her own story at the start (a vital part of the formula of a polyglot book: I’m an ordinary person like you) but I didn’t get the sense of this being a vanity project or anything – she just gets on with it.
OK, so to come back to those practical examples I mentioned: there are a lot of pictures in the book showing lists and diagrams. This is really useful if you want to be able to bootstrap your way into a language without having to make it all up yourself or jumping in at the deep end with a language exchange on day 1. Many polyglot guides will be careful to avoid references to specific languages as a way of showing how universally-applicable the ideas are, but I think most newbies will appreciate something more concrete. This book has that in spades. I guess the only drawback is that the examples, of necessity, are of a specific language. If you happen to be studying one of the languages chosen (Korean, Spanish and French all feature heavily) that’ll be a blessing but I can imagine if not you might feel they weren’t speaking to you in quite the same way. At the end, there are tons of links and books mentioned but again only for specific languages. One of those languages is “Brazilian Portuguese”. Boo hiss.
So, getting right down to it, this is a good, practical guide for the new learner, more user-friendly than most, not flashy, and maybe not as “windswept and interesting” as some of the more fashionable ones either but well worth a look if you just want to get started quickly and with as little fuss as possible.