Robyn Matthew

Word nerd shares foreign language secrets

October 4, 2007

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She calls herself the "word nerd." It’s an apt description for someone who collects new Canadian words and contributes them to HarperCollins’ dictionary team.

But Robyn Matthew’s interest in words and language extends much further. She holds a double major in English and French and is now graduating from SFU with a master of publishing. And while she hasn’t yet crossed the convocation podium to pick up her degree, she has already self-published her first book, in which she shares the secrets of successfully learning any foreign language—even Chinese.

"The idea came when I was living abroad and struggling to learn French," says Matthew (above). "Since then, I have focused both my academic and professional endeavours around writing this book." The idea became further entrenched during the seven years she has spent as a marker for Grade 12 provincial French exams for the Ministry of Education.

"I could hear students struggling as I once did in high school French," she says, "and I thought, if only they knew this, this and this, they’d do so much better."

Matthew entered SFU’s master of publishing program in 2004, intent on learning how to publish such a book. She also saw the program as an opportunity to fulfill her dream of working for publisher HarperCollins, whose dictionaries she treasured while living abroad.

And she did manage to secure a program internship in their London, England office where she wrote news releases for the dictionary department’s marketing team. "Every time I walked into work, I’d pinch myself," she laughs. "I loved it. Everything I learned in the program came in handy."

She wrote her master’s thesis on language textbooks and publishing language resources, all the while working on her book, Language Logic: Practical and Effective Techniques to Learn Any Foreign Language Her first print run of 3,000 sold out and she has since ordered a second run. The book is available at the SFU Bookstore and most other bookstores in Vancouver and across Canada.

 The self-publishing venture is just the beginning of what she hopes will be a vibrant language-publishing company of her own. "I’d really like to help improve language education in Canada," she says. "Contrary to popular belief, research indicates that adults can learn foreign languages more quickly than children—they just don’t know how to do it, which is why I wrote the book."

Meanwhile, she’s ready to put her language-learning skills into practice—this time to learn Arabic.
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