25 Things I Wish They Told Me

Language is the gateway to culture and the riches of humanity thereof. It affords access to people, history, ideas, art, religion, aesthetics, and economic opportunities. Language also exerts a transformative effect on the vessel through whom it is expressed. Charlemagne is reported to have said that “To speak another language is to possess another soul.”

The Art of Learning a Foreign Language consists of all the things I wish I knew at various stages of my language learning journey during the last 15 years—as a hobbyist, student, academic, and professional linguist. This book is designed to help the learner avoid many pitfalls and seize opportunities, with lessons on choosing a target language, travel, accent, immersion, technology, learning approaches, and the lifestyle habits of professional linguists.

Some of the chapters address topics of general interest to the language learner (“nice to know”). Other headings address more crucial issues with potentially vast implications for the language learner (“must know”). Had I known then what I know now, I would have made some different choices, but the beauty of life is that it can be lived in only one direction.

In sum, with unprecedented language learning resources at our disposal and abundant opportunities for cross-cultural connection, today is the most exciting time in history to acquire proficiency in a foreign language. Whatever your motivations for learning a foreign language—or current foreign language level—this digestible read will bring you closer to achieving your goals.

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