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5 books a word-lover can’t go without

Learning languages involves a certain love for words, don’t you think? Scripts, and grammar may be like crockery and cutlery, but words are the essence of the language meal.

Many language learners are also drawn to poetry and produce verses like:

“A slight accent sets you apart,
but it would mark you on that peddlers’-cart
street now.
Which language, after all, is yours?”

— From Desesperanto, by Marilyn Hacker

That’s a slightly melancholic fragment perhaps, so let’s move on to happier topics. Love of words. Words are power, words are weapons, just type “words are” into your Google search bar and see what suggestions you get—probably infinite wisdom.

You can’t avoid words in your life. I mean, I tried, but even if I wasn’t speaking the words of others kept coming from all corners. A better idea is to learn how to tame them, investigate their mysterious ways, and understand what they say about us… when we say them.

The books below will make you reflect on your daily verbiage and help you use it more efficiently. Also, all the links lead to handy book summaries on Blinkist, because I know busy learners like you don’t have time to read so many words 😉


The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

James W. Pennebaker

Pronouns are a group of people who constantly fight for equal rights for the nouns. Ok, fine they aren’t. They do seem to have a secret life though, a life that they spend monitoring and reflecting our psyches! 😮

Researchers have been studying the usage of words since the first computer was built, and some of their findings will probably not surprise you. For instance, people who use more positive words like happy and care have a better mental well-being. Doh!

Apart from these obvious findings, it also turns out that the amount of pronouns we use says a lot about our inner life. What and how? Read the book summary to get the key points.

My top highlight: “(…) 77 percent of the couples with the high LSM (language style matching) scores were still dating three months after the initial speed-date, compared to only 52 percent of the couples with low scores.”

So, for a long-lasting romantic relationship, make sure your pronoun usage converges!


Magic Words: The Science and Secrets Behind 7 Words That Motivate, Engage, and Influence

By Tim David

You couldn’t have more buzz words in a book title, could you? That should serve as a proof the author knows what he is talking about! After reading this book, you might just end up motivated, engaged and influential. The words Leith lists aren’t in themselves that revolutionary (no abracadabras or flamingos there), but it’s the way in which they get employed that makes all the difference.

My top highlight: “You’re more likely to be successful if you can get the other person to say yes two or three times before you get to the actual request.”

Well that’s a good tip on how to go about convincing someone to sponsor your LinguaLift subscription.


Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear

Dr. Frank Luntz

This book comes straight from the world of marketing, and will explain to you the principles of persuasion. Convincing others of your points and influencing them to act requires a huge dose of empathy. As the title indicates, rather than focusing on yourself, you need to first understand how people process what they hear. Dr. Luntz will explain to you all the tricks how to effectively communicate your message, and make it stick in the minds of your audience.

My top highlight: “Alongside its visual components, the sonic quality of language also plays a central role. (…) Returning to the M&M’s famous slogan, the repetition of the letter M in “Melts in your Mouth” makes it stick (…)”

Well this has just explained why all packets of M&M’s disappear so quickly when I’m near. I’ve been tricked!


Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama

By Sam Leith

Rhetoric. To me it always sounded like a term only applying to ancient times. But, while it originated there it’s still well alive and thriving. Although it did get a bit of a dirty association with the world of politics and advertising… What rhetoric means is to speak well and to have a good rhetorical skills is to be able to achieve your desires through words. Sounds pretty compelling, right?

My top highlight: “It’s a better bet that you’ll be persuasive using plain, straightforward language that’s earnest, honest and not showy.”

I guess I will have to cease exploiting circuitous verbiage, alas!

5 language TED talks you shouldn’t watch


Talk Like TED: The Nine Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds

By Carmine Gallo

Are you a TED addict like me? Well, even if you’re not I’m sure you have, perhaps even unknowingly, watched at least one TED talk in your life. These talks are highly-condensed messages of expert wisdom, on topics from neuroscience, through creative arts, to social change given by experts in their fields.

If you worked on something for 20 years, how do you summarise it in a 15-minute talk, making it clear and compelling enough to inspire your lay audience to act? Well, this book tells you how. Carmine Gallo interviewed authors of top TED talks and distilled their lessons in what is essentially a guide to public speaking.

My top highlight: “One in 100 regular people is a psychopath. So there’s 1,500 people in this room. Fifteen of you are psychopaths. (Jon Ronson)

I’m sure the above will make you look at your work and uni-mates differently… 😛

Do you know any word-lovers, book-worms or other types of knowledge explorers? Share this post with them, I’m sure they will appreciate (I would if I was them).

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