Mini-announcement: The day the book comes out, there will be a public Google On Air Hangout that you are all welcome to join. It will take place at 6pm Central time (since I'll be in Austin, Texas during SxSW to launch my book as an official part of the event).
I'll announce other Hangouts with time, for those of you in timezones outside the US. Otherwise sign-up to the free public hangout next month!
[Sorry for the limited updates recently, while I dealt with travel issues. Some fascinating guest posts, and then my own non-book updates coming soon. I'm still in travel mode in Japan for the moment though, and about to jump on a train for the next week!]
Ever since I announced the book, one of the most frequent questions people have asked me is what the difference is between Fluent in 3 months and the Language Hacking Guide.
So, for those of you wondering, here are the answers!
Language Hacking Guide: Idea to reality in just SIX WEEKS
The great thing about self-publishing is the speed with which it can take place. I had an idea to write an e-book, I got on it immediately and took a few weeks off my work as a translator, wrote out about 30,000 words, had a friend or two read it for me to edit it, and BAM, released it to the world.
Six weeks – that's all it took! It was six weeks working mostly full-time, but it's still a pretty short time span. That was also in 2010, when I had four years less experience learning languages (and no experience at all in non-European languages).
Even so, it was the result of seven years of language learning experience, and the one place (at the time) where you could get my language learning advice explained in a concise way, since the blog turns into a narrative too often to be read from start to finish. It was something I was very proud of, and thought the message was explained very well.
And that message was simply How to get started.
People need encouragement and a way to get speaking, and getting those first steps right is half the battle and what I wanted to focus on, so the book doesn't go beyond reaching that basic conversational level, and to remain concise it focuses on my best tips to do so.
Since I was happy with the way the message was laid out, the main updates I made over the years involved adding extra content to the digital package, like interviews with other polyglots, worksheets to carry out language related tasks, and some quick videos. I was also so pleased to add dozens of translations of the book by native speakers!
Fluent in 3 months – published by HarperCollins
What about my upcoming book Fluent in 3 months though? Someone suggested by email that it's a copy-and-paste of my e-book in print form and I nearly fell off my chair! The differences are HUGE.
It's been almost two entire years of work since I decided to go down the path of having Fluent in 3 months published. Unlike e-books, which literally anyone can publish in an instant, having a book published, especially by a major respected publishing house is a very different kettle of fish.
First, I had to find an agent, who could communicate with the publishers on my behalf, since doing it myself I would have crashed and burned from the get-go. Luckily, I know one I already wanted to work with.
Months of emailing to-and-fro and we finally got the proposal right. I thought “I'm Benny, I have a big blog, I speak multiple languages, I want to write a book, sign with me!” would be fine, but the proposal was incredibly long and detailed to fit particular professional standards I never would have thought of. My agent made sure everything was perfect.
Next, we had to get into discussions with 26 publishers!! We talked about the approach they would take to promote it, how interested they were in the concept, the advance, and many other factors, until finally HarperCollins came out on top as the most interested and got the contract. Getting to this stage alone took about 8 months!
I wrote the first draft of the book over three months while in Berlin. Focusing on the book 100%, actually seven days a week. As much as I love Berlin, I unfortunately didn't have much of a social life on this visit, since I had to focus so hard on keeping progress up with the book, as I had insisted on a self-imposed delivery deadline of June 1st in my own contract.
Differences: Size, content, depth, variation of opinions, and quality!
Since I had more time to write that first draft, the published book itself is at least twice as big as the e-book. I also had more time to research facts, interview more people, and explain things better.
But the content is completely different. The only overlap would be that chapters 3 and 5 in Fluent in 3 months discuss similar topics to the Language Hacking Guide, but with years more experience to expand on them.
Rather than going into just how to start with learning a language though, Fluent in 3 months shares absolutely everything I could put into a book about language learning. A better explanation of how to get started, heaps of encouragement for anyone doubting their language learning potential, how to go on from basic conversational to fluency and mastery, a chapter just about cultural integration (something I feel is missing from every other language learning book, and incredibly important), how to reduce your accent and even get confused for a native speaker, and of course how to speak multiple languages.
Each point gets its own chapter (see table of contents here), and I wrap the book up with a chapter dedicated to tools and resources.
Another major difference between my old e-book and this new published book, is that I share the story of as many language learners as I could. This book is not about promoting “the Benny way” to learn a language, but to get new and struggling language learners off to the best head-start that I feel is possible.
I offer my advice of course, but insist that there are many ways to succeed, and refer to many other polyglots throughout the book so that you can get inspiration from all of us, and investigate them further to see if perhaps their approach suits you more. I am actually thrilled to use this book and the exposure it gets to provide a platform to promote other polyglots, who don't have the same marketing skills that I have, but still have very relevant and helpful advice the world should know about.
Finally, the book itself just reads way better because after that first draft, pretty much every single sentence was scrutinized and ultimately improved by dozens of editors, academic linguists, other polyglots, a rhetorician, and even some beginner language learners, to make sure everything was clear. To fit the standards that Collins insists on in its language learning books, the quality of this book is the best you could possibly hope to find!
This rewriting part alone has actually taken more time to go through than originally writing the book, so I'd say it's at least six months of full-time work, if not much more. This time ate into my Japanese learning project, which was a pity, but this book had to be the best it could possibly be, which is an important thing to prioritize.
You'll see when you read it, that it's still my voice and encouraging message, but given in a very concise straight-to-the-point and helpful way with the best possible examples and explanations.
A way to instantly update a printed book?
The one catch about a print book is that it stays the way it is for years. I thought long and hard about this problem, since I'll likely learn a few more tricks and will definitely find more good resources, or find new interesting language learners I'd want to share with book readers and realized that I can actually link the book to online free updates.
As such, the book has tonnes of links inside of it to refer to free updates that every reader can access, and I can keep adding to this with time. I tried to keep the contents of the book itself as “evergreen” as possible, and make most if not all of the advice timeless.
These online updates are free of course, but only accessible to those who have the book, through using special codes available only to book owners 😉
The final print updates were sent in a month ago, so for now it's definitely 2014 relevant, and if cool resources get added, they'll be on the free updates page for the book!
Those update pages also allow me to expand the book to be more versatile and multimedia, so video clips of interviews with polyglots, and other media resources can be played by following the links!
“Speak from day one” package getting an upgrade
Building around that core of how to get started through my online additions to the Language Hacking Guide was limiting though, since there are many other questions to handle in language learning.
That's why I'm actually retiring the Speak From Day 1 package in its current form. It can no longer be bought online, but people who want access to that in-depth How to get started package, can still get it as part of the new package: Fluent in 3 Months PREMIUM.
[March 21st Update: My new package Fluent in 3 Months PREMIUM is now available! This is an upgrade from the original Language Hacking Guide and Speak from Day One package. Check out the new fi3m PREMIUM page to sign up!]
Since I'd have to sell about 400+ print books a day to make what I make from just a couple of online ebook sales (authors typically get 5-10% of the actual price of the book; most people don't know this), this effectively means that for the next month while running the giveaway, I'm not going to earn more than a couple of dollars a day. If it helps boost the overall status of the book, it'll be worth it though. 😉
What I'll do in March is offer a new package (that will be a completely free upgrade for everyone who bought the Speak from day 1 package or Language Hacking Guide up to January) that will expand on each chapter of the book, with hours of videos, mini-ebooks including tens of thousands of words of content that had to be edited out of the main book for space constraint purposes, and other premium additions.
This way the blog will continue to be supported through online sales (it actually costs me at least $1000/month to keep this blog and its forum and other free extras alive through server and programmer costs, so I have to pay for that somehow… your support is definitely appreciated!), but many of you can get my best advice for just a few dollars with the print book too.
The Language Hacking Guide and all of its translations etc., will continue to be available as part of the bigger newer package though.
For now, previous Speak From Day 1 purchasers can look forward to those free updates on March 11th, and anyone who owns the book can look forward to plenty of other free updates to the book when they get their copy!
I hope this post answers people's questions about if the new published book was just my old e-book with a pretty cover 🙂 It's actually the result of years of work and preparation, and something that I just can't wait to get out into the world and hear your thoughts on.
Any other questions about the book or updates etc., feel free to ask them in the comments below!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.