Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner [Book Summary – Review]


What is the reason why learning a language is such a difficulty? It can feel like a battle, between remembering new words, slaving through grammar rules, and tongue-twisting through pronunciation.

Fluent Forever intends to change those entire hindrances upside down. By combining neuroscience with tricks on pronunciation and memory, the author, Gabriel Wyner makes learning a language less of a battle than a game. It gets fun to make use of his hints, the exact hints that made him learn the German language within 14 weeks.

After going through this book chapters, you’ll be able to attack new languages as well– or any memory difficulty– with a very better opportunity of attaining your aims.


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Chapter 1 – Pictures and personal connections allow remembering to be very easy for the brain.


Say you’ve ever attempted to learn a new language, then you are most likely conversant with the annoying feeling of learning a new word, just to forget it minutes after! Fortunately, there are some methods to makes these new words stick, creating connections in the brain is one of those methods.

Creating connections is vital to not forgetting; however, some connections are more effective than the others.

The most effective one is connecting a word to personal experience because it triggers various parts of your entire brain.

Our brain processes words on four various levels which are Structure, Sound, Concept, and Personal Connection.



In a psychology experiment that was conducted in the 1970s, the asked the students questions based on these levels, like, “What is the number of capital letters that are there in the word ‘bear’?” (Structure); “Does ‘apple’ rhyme with ‘Snapple’?” (Sound); and “Is the word tool a synonym for ‘instrument’?” (Concept). Afterward, they conducted an unforeseen memory test to know which of the words they could remember. As a matter of fact, the students were six times more likely to recall the word if the question needed a personal connection,  such as “Do you love pizza?” than if the question related to the structure of the word.

Assuming you wish to learn the Spanish word for cat (gato).  You’ll be 50% more likely to recall the word if you can connect the word to a memory you have of a cat. Also, this is due to the fact that our visual memory is an effective tool for recalling language.

In 1960, during a memory experiment that was conducted among college students; the students were shown 612 magazine advertisements and afterward they were presented with a new collection of 612 pictures and were told to choose the original pictures. These students selected the original pictures with 98.5 percent accuracy.

Obviously, connecting a picture to a word, even if it’s not a related picture, makes it very easy to remember the word.

Hence, when next you come across a person called named Edward, use a visual tip from the popular Johnny Depp movie and recall his name by visualizing him with scissors for hands.


Chapter 2 – When we talk of memory, recalling is far better than reviewing.


All of us are aware of that bad feeling of cramming for an exam. We go through the book until our heads feel set to blow up and then hopefully, we pass. However, how many things of what we learned do we recall a week after? A month? A year?

The reality is your memory is worse than you believe and increasing repetition isn’t the best approach.

For instance, consider Hermann Ebbinghaus, the German psychologist. During the nineteenth century, he committed various years to memorize lists of senseless syllables such as Nish, Mip, and Zhik. He compared the time he used to learn a list of the time he used to relearn the exact list after and found the “forgetting curve.” He discovered that we can remember nearly 30% after 24 hours; however, just about 10% a year after.



However, what about only repeating over and over again what we studied? This is overlearning, and various experiments have revealed that it’s very pointless for long term memory.

Hence, what can be done? We can make use of the act of recalling. When you recall or retrieve former information, this informs your brain that something is significant to recall.

In a study that was conducted, participants were offered $20 for each Spanish word from a list that they could recall a week after. They could either study the list for like ten minutes, or change the list five minutes later for a piece of paper and a pencil and write down anything they still recalled, and then give the paperback five minutes later

The participants who chose writing recalled nearly 35% more words a week after than the other participants. Since they needed to remember the Spanish words, they did very better at recalling them.

More good news is that neuroscience has revealed that every time you remember a memory, your brain is compensated with a little production of the hormone dopamine, and this hormone makes you feel good and inspires more memory storage.


Chapter 3 – Memorization is more effective with Spaced repetition systems (SRS).


All of us are aware that our long term memory doesn’t really work at the level we wish for; hence, what can be done about that? We can make use of good timing. Anytime we are learning a new language, timing is everything.

Astonishingly, the harder a word is to recall, the more it will stick to your long term memory.

Consider the following cases: you go through a list of words until you know them all. The next week, you attempt to remember as much of them as you can.

Various studies have revealed that, a week later, you have a 20% more chance of recalling the words that needed a little longer to remember and a 75% more chance of remembering words that were truly difficult to remember. However, there is a third group of words as well: the words that were at the tip of your tongue just before you recalled them. These are the words you’re about twice as likely to remember a week after.

So, the trick is to remember a word at the point when you are close to forgetting it.



The spaced repetition system makes use of this understanding to enhance your long term memory. The spaced repetition system makes use of flashcards at various intervals and informs you which words to learn, and when.

Memory researchers found out that one month is the perfect interval to remember a word in order for you to recall it in the long term. The majority of the spaced repetition systems make use of this interval; therefore, you can learn the word now and be reminded of it in one month, only before you’re about to forget it.

This system functions well and can be used for words and grammatical concepts. For instance, in just four months, you could learn 3600 flashcards with nearly 90-95% accuracy.


Chapter 4 – Learning the pronunciation as well as the sounds of the language is vital.


As grown-ups, it feels like a task to recall new words in a different language, still, children appear to learn them with ease. Why?

Kids learn languages by listening and not by studying. If you truly pay attention to a language, you will not just learn words alone but grammar as well. This approach is also more fun than poring over grammar books.

Begin with sound. It is very easy to remember when you learn the sounds of new words.

In an experiment that was conducted by researchers at Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon, adults from Japanese sat with headphones, in front of screens and were told to press a button written ”lock” when they heard the word “lock” and a button written ”rock” when they heard the word ”rock”. Because the Japanese language doesn’t have an ”L” sound, the majority of the Japanese speakers cannot notice the difference between L and R. Hence, as predicted, the participants did really badly in this task.

How could they learn English if they couldn’t notice the difference in sounds? To the Japanese speakers, “rock” and “lock” would be written in the exact same manner.

However, the experiment showed something fascinating. If the students were shown whether they were correct or wrong by a sign on the screen each time they pressed a button, they learned to perceive the difference just after three twenty-minute sessions.



A different benefit of you learning a language’s sounds first is that it will assist you to learn grammar faster.

The famous “Wug” test proved these outcomes. During the test, children are shown with a diagram of a bird-like figure and are told it’s known as a ”Wug.” Afterward, they were shown with two of them and the researchers mention ”Now there are two. There are two . . . ?” By the time children are about the age of five, they’ll understand that English forms plurals by including “s” to the end of nouns and hence will reply ”Wugs.”

If the kind hadn’t known the “s” sound already, they wouldn’t have been able to learn this grammatical pattern.


Chapter 5 – Word games assist form vocabulary.


Learning sounds make is very easy to remember. However, there’s still an issue. As soon as you understand the sounds, how do you make use of those words effectively while ensuring they stick in your head? Easy. By playing word games.

Spot the Difference is a perfect game and the only thing you require is Google Images.

Type in any word of your choice and you’ll get various pages of pictures. However, the pictures don’t only show you one or two illustrations of what the word signifies. They reveal to you the entire subtleties and nuances of it. For example, if you type in the German word Schrank, you’ll see that it has several meanings (for instance., cupboard, cabinet or closet). By noting its several meanings, the word gets very easy to learn.

The goal is to notice the difference between what you anticipated to see and what picture is really on the screen.

Also, all pictures on Google with captions in 130 languages (make sure you use Google Images Basic Version) and hence is a great tool for language learners. Because these pictures are gotten from websites in the language you’re attempting to learn, you can as well see how these words are used in various contexts.



Memory game is another good activity, which makes new words more significant. This is how you play:

Take a word you’re attempting to learn and customize it. Say, for instance, you’re attempting to learn the French word for grandmother (grandmère), you could remember the summers you used at your grandmother’s house while you were still a kid

Even though you can’t get a connection, the action of looking for a connection will still assist you to recall the word, even if the connection is just “that stupid word I can never recall!”


Chapter 6 – Languages have to be learned in the way children learn them.


Assuming there is a device in your head that could take sounds and other input and change them into what we know as language. We have one, already; it’s known as the Language Machine. However, it’s somewhat specific about the order it does specific things.

All languages possess an exceptional order of development.

You would most likely imagine that English learners from various language backgrounds learn English in a different order. However, that isn’t true. They use the same developmental phases as children who speak it as their native language. Now, Linguists understand that this order is how the human brain learns English.

For instance, consider the tenses of the English verb. Children learn the -ing form of the main verb before they learn to include the verb to be. Therefore, they will utter “He running” before they say “He is running.” Also, kids learn the irregular past before the regular (sang before jumped). Also, only as soon as they’ve understood this do they then begin making use of the present third person (He likes ice cream).

But, remember that, when we fill our brains with a lot of information, our “language machine” collapses. The issue is, a lot of learners begin with things that are really complicated.



For you to learn grammar in the best manner, we have to feed our brain with what linguists call comprehensible input, namely, input that it can know. For instance, if you put a cookie in front of a baby and question “Do you want a cookie?” they understand the meaning of what you said, even though they haven’t heard of the word “cookie” before.

Hence, a good means to start is to learn the easiest sentences from your grammar book. By doing this, you’ll deliberately learn a grammar rule all at once as giving your brain some comprehensible input.


Chapter 7 – Simple stories allow grammar patterns to be very easy.


One extremely annoying aspect of learning a language is that nouns, verbs, adjectives, as well as other words appear in various forms.

Many languages possess difficult patterns of word endings, with rules that are hard to read and exemptions to those rules! However, don’t scared: there’s a good and more fun approach to learn them than by continually wading through long lists of endings.

What you need to do is form a simple story for each form of a word you wish to learn. Assuming you’re attempting to learn the forms for the English verb to be. Traditional grammar books will usually provide illustrations like I am a student, He is a student, and so on. Definitely, these are beneficial to some point; however, making your own examples is better, particularly when you’re handling irregular verbs. Hence, how do you form your own examples?

By making use of the Person-Action-Object (PAO) story method. This method is really effective that memory champions usually enlist it so as to recall patterns.



Let’s consider German as an illustration. All German noun has a masculine, feminine or neuter form (der, die or das respectively) and various means of forming the plural. However, rather than attempting to recall the gender and plural for every noun by repetition, you can allocate an action to every gender and an object to every manner of forming a plural.

For instance, you could allocate the verb “throw” to the masculine form (der) and the object “chair” to the manner of forming a plural by putting an “e” to the end of the noun. Therefore, if you’re attempting to learn “der Hund” (the dog) in German, which is masculine and has this manner of forming a plural, the story or picture in your head would probably be “Dog throws a chair,” which is very more likely going to remain in your brain than the tenses or words independent of one another!


Chapter 8 – Learn languages quicker by evading translations.


When we’re trying to learn a new language, our automatic response is to translate every word into our native language to know precisely the meaning. Although that’s tempting and looks reasonable, if you wish to fasten your process, dropping the need to translate is vital.

First of all, attempt making use of monolingual dictionaries, because doing that builds vocabulary faster.

Monolingual dictionaries are dictionaries whereby every word is defined using the exact language as the word you checked. Target to make use of these once you can when you’re learning a new language. While reading the definition in the target language, you’ll not just learn the word you’re looking up; however, you’ll be revealed to the new words that explain it. Say, you don’t know these words, check out those as well! By doing that, whenever you read a new definition, you’ll absorb more grammar and more words.



Refraining from regular translation will make you fluent faster as well.

When talking a new language, you’ll usually see yourself in circumstances in which a native speaker will say to you: What you mentioned is not incorrect; however, we just don’t say that. The reason is that grammar, as well as vocabulary, are just part of the puzzle. You might utter a statement that is grammatically correct that just isn’t naturally mentioned in that language!

If you wish to get fluent, you need to improve your listening skills. The only means you can do that is to avoid translations.

For instance, if you’re watching a movie in the language you’re attempting to learn, switch the subtitles. Even though you don’t know all the things being said, your understanding of the language will slowly broaden. You won’t only broaden your vocabulary; however, you’ll know how the words are used in context as well.

Also, you can attempt to read a book together with the audiobook. This is excellent at teaching you the rhythm of your new language.


Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It by Gabriel Wyner Book Review


You can get fluent in a new language sooner than you believed possible by enlisting the following approaches: making use of a spaced repetition system, connecting words to pictures, personalizing new words and sentences, and paying careful attention to rhythm and sounds.


Backchain those long, complicated words!

Attempting to learn the German term Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften; however, can’t really get your tongue around it? Backchain it! This is the time you mention the last phoneme first, then the last two phonemes, the last three, and so forth. Learning pronunciation from back-to-front makes even long, frightening, words very easy to pronounce.


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