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Book Review

Why You Need a Foreign Language
& How to Learn One

2nd revised and expanded edition
By Edward Trimnell


As the title suggests, Why You Need a Foreign Language & How to Learn One is really two books in one. In Part I, author Edward Trimnell quite effectively demonstrates why a knowledge of English alone is not enough to survive in today's global business environment. Native speakers of English often fail to see the need for foreign language skills due to a variety of mistaken assumptions. Citing real situations from the business world, international news stories, authoritative studies, and some little-known facts and surprising statistics, Trimnell convincingly dismantles all of the arguments commonly put forward by those who hold fast to the idea that a knowledge of English is sufficient to succeed in international business.

Starting with the basic premise that native speakers of English discount the importance and utility of foreign languages, the author approaches his topic from a variety of angles. He shows, for example, how "Global English" is a language of limited scope that will allow the accomplishment of only the most routine of tasks. He illustrates with examples how knowing some English is far different from being able to negotiate and understand the language in intricate business dealings. He also clearly demonstrates why reliance on an interpreter is problematic at best. He presents real business situations where knowing a foreign language would be advantageous or even critical to success. Conversely, he provides scenarios where a lack of language ability can cause a breakdown in communication, lead to misunderstanding, or cause a carefully orchestrated business deal to collapse. The author's arguments take on breadth when he places the current primacy of English in a historical context, and thereby shows that it is just the latest in a long line of lingua francas. His examination of language use with respect to wider historical, cultural, and political contexts exposes English-speakers' general disinterest in acquiring other languages as uninformed, naïve, and ultimately self-defeating. The lessons presented here in the context of international business are also easily extended to the fields of international relations and foreign diplomacy.

After digesting the cogent arguments presented in Part I of the book, readers will no doubt be motivated to jump right into learning a language. Trimnell facilitates the process in Part II, which is a treasure trove of practical advice on acquiring a language. From guidance on choosing a language to mastering grammar and vocabulary to developing proficiency in multiple language skills, the author presents numerous tips and strategies based on his own extensive language learning experiences.

The second edition of Why You Need a Foreign Language & How to Learn One is a must-read for those interested in promoting and learning languages. It is also useful for anyone who would like to learn a language but is not sure where or how to begin. However, at the same time, owning this book is even more imperative for those who have no interest in learning a language or who think they don't need one. The message Trimnell communicates has urgent implications for individuals who downplay the importance of foreign languages but even more so for the largely monolingual English-speaking societies in which they live. This book is a wake-up call for lawmakers, business and community leaders, educators and administrators -- in short, the policy makers of English-speaking nations, whose relative monolingualism leave them at risk of being left behind in an increasingly globalized world. Trimnell provides beginners with a road map for learning languages and society's leaders with compelling arguments for promoting foreign language learning.

Buy Why You Need a Foreign Language and How to Learn One at amazon.com.

~ Review by Dr. Christine M. Goulding, Professor of German, California State University, Chico




Related links:
• More reasons why you should learn a foreign language
Language learning trends in the United States
Careers in foreign languages
Tips for learning foreign languages
• Foreign language learning books, CDs, and software.


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