Posted in Random

Using Textbooks to Learn a Language: A Waste of Time?

According to this article by Benny Lewis, the founder of Fluent in 3 Months, using textbooks to learn a language is a waste of time.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Before I get into why I disagree with him, I do want to point out the things that he says that I do agree with:

  • Communication in a language is based on Speaking, Listening, and Understanding
  • Using only a textbook for learning will not make you fluent.

But I happen to disagree strongly with his main argument, which is that textbooks are basically a waste of time and that you should focus on learning conversational basics before you study grammar at all.textbooks

I love textbooks.  Textbooks provide new vocabulary and grammar patterns in an
organized layout, and are usually organized into chapters/lessons/sections.  This makes it really easy to set learning goals (“Today I want to finish this section” or “Today I want to learn this grammar point”, etc).  Personally, I find that physically seeing myself getting farther and farther along in a textbook is really motivating, because I can actually tell that I’m making progress.

But I agree with Benny that only studying a textbook isn’t a great idea.  Where’s the “conversational” component?  The speaking and listening?

That’s why I think you need to incorporate other studying methods.  Listen to podcasts about/in that language.  Watch TV shows/movies in that language with subtitles.  This will help you get accustomed to the cadence and style of the spoken element of the language, instead of just seeing the written version in the textbook.

There’s definitely no need to completely eliminate the textbook.  Just make sure to incorporate some conversational resources into your study to round out your studies.  As I build my grammar and vocabulary base from my textbook, I usually immediately start noticing those patterns and words popping up everywhere in the music that I listen to and the shows that I watch, which helps me to solidify my understanding of how those patterns are used in conversations.

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3 thoughts on “Using Textbooks to Learn a Language: A Waste of Time?

  1. I agree with you! I’ve read his opinions before and I don’t think discarding textbooks is a great idea- they’ve been around for so long for a reason! Everyone just has a different method of studying, and not everyone is a polyglot 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you on this one. Even if books shouldn’t stand completely on their own, they shouldn’t be ignored for that reason. They provide a certain structure that can be really helpful since you know you get exposed to certain grammar points. And then I just happen to like that it makes learning a lot more… tangible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. He just doesn’t like reading and prefer hanging out with people. Maybe he asks people around to teach him about conjugation, meaning of words, and stuff. I would hate doing that. It would take so much more time than looking up in textbooks and figuring things out by myself. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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