FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

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neil_k
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FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby neil_k » 2011-03-24, 1:50

I checked out the FSI language website yesterday http://www.fsi-language-courses.org and I wondered if anyone has actually tried their courses. Their courses are a lot of hours in length, and I wonder if it's worth the time to go through them when there are more modern language learning methods out there.

Do these courses teach grammar and vocabulary extensively?

What standard will I be at after going through their course in a language?
English - native,
Spanish, Italian, German, Polish - intermediate
Welsh - Dw i'n dysgu siarad/ysgrifennu/darllen/clywed Cymraeg
Japanese - I can hold basic conversations
Mandarin Chinese - needs a lot of work

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby johntm » 2011-03-24, 2:39

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Spch3XAQhh8
^watch that
I've used a little of the Spanish one, and it seems good, and I've heard tons of good things about them, as well as DLI (which is similar). They are pretty boring, but if you can just stick it out you should end up pretty good. I like to use it if there's something I'm having trouble with, because Assimil doesn't drill like FSI does at all, so I'll find whatever I'm having problems with in FSI and drill the hell out of it.

They teach pretty good vocabulary, although it was originally created for US diplomats so that'll be reflected by the vocabulary. And if you do the course all the way through, as your supposed to, you should be pretty close to fluent, as they were made to get people fluent as quick as possible.
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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby Yeshua.C » 2011-03-24, 3:10

The FSI courses are very, very comprehensive. I find, however, that they bore me to death and the age of them shows, especially in the recordings. Perhaps one day I will be able to get used to their rigorous approach but it hasn't worked for me yet. Surely, I still have some way to go with my own ability to intensely study language with a focus on grammar. Thus far, I've been big on immersion, so it's just likely that I clash with the FSI method.

Give it a try. Make sure you read the instructions well.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2011-03-24, 3:24

I've tried a few of their practice tests and find they are quite good preparation (and quite challenging too). Worth looking into if it's free. After all, language study is imperative for diplomats and other tools of the foreign policy establishment.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby モモンガ » 2011-03-28, 19:06

They are OK.
I have used it for fun - just reading.
And I have remembered something here and there.
However I don't reccommend it for beginners
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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby johntm » 2011-03-28, 19:59

モモンガ wrote:They are OK.
I have used it for fun - just reading.
And I have remembered something here and there.
However I don't reccommend it for beginners

Why? I haven't looked at it in a while, but IIRC it starts out with a pretty good (for most courses) intro to the alphabet (if it's different) and sounds of the new language. It's designed for people who know 0 of a language.
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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby モモンガ » 2011-04-07, 18:32

johntm wrote:
モモンガ wrote:They are OK.
I have used it for fun - just reading.
And I have remembered something here and there.
However I don't reccommend it for beginners

Why? I haven't looked at it in a while, but IIRC it starts out with a pretty good (for most courses) intro to the alphabet (if it's different) and sounds of the new language. It's designed for people who know 0 of a language.

Well, they are a little too heavy.
On first lesson you have to remember so much stuff.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby johntm » 2011-04-07, 19:33

モモンガ wrote:
johntm wrote:
モモンガ wrote:They are OK.
I have used it for fun - just reading.
And I have remembered something here and there.
However I don't reccommend it for beginners

Why? I haven't looked at it in a while, but IIRC it starts out with a pretty good (for most courses) intro to the alphabet (if it's different) and sounds of the new language. It's designed for people who know 0 of a language.

Well, they are a little too heavy.
On first lesson you have to remember so much stuff.

It never says you have to only go over the lessons once. You can go over it until you get it.
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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby モモンガ » 2011-04-07, 20:07

I know, but it's a litte not friendly.
And the Thai version uses Romanization.
Well, Thai is hard to learn, but they write it the way I confuse the tones (Mandarin pinyin has more logical system).
Well, as for a beginner, I would liek to learn stuff like basic grammar a bunch of new words etc.
Not learning whole dialogue in a language totally unrelated to anything I have learned before.
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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby ynmaz » 2011-04-09, 15:59

They aren't bad on the whole, especially since they are free, but as others have mentioned they are quite boring and I would not use them as the main source for learning my target language, but as supplementary material it certainly can do no wrong.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby Lenguas » 2011-04-09, 16:33

The more things you read/listen to about your language the better. You can also go to the bookstore and pick up a random book about your language and pick up quite a few things just by reading a chapter out of it.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby NomicFlux » 2011-04-10, 22:19

I've started using the French and Spanish ones. I already know the basics for those languages, so I'm probably not the best test case, but they seem ideal if you want to learn how to speak and how to speak well. They are slow and don't offer a whole lot of candy to keep you going, but I personally would rather put the grunt work in at the beginning of learning a language so that I can use it easily later. However, they definitely should be supplemented if you want more reading practice.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby Elaine » 2015-07-22, 21:50

I have questions regarding the FSI courses.

1. Were the FSI courses in copyright when they were first published?
2. Why are they not included in the Copyright Act now?
3. Are all the courses published by the Foreign Service Institute in public domain or not?
4. When did they become public domain (or are they even public domain?)

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby Just Passing Through » 2016-01-24, 13:49

I am not an expert in copyright law; however, my understanding is that the FSI Language Courses fall under the section “items written by U.S. government employees as part of their official duties cannot be copyrighted in the U.S.” and, consequently, were never copyrighted and have always been in the public domain.

It seems that, at some time in the 1970’s, a number of publishers began selling their own editions of the FSI Language Courses (Audio-Forum, Barron’s, Multilingual Books, etcetera) as “derivatives” for which they may have filed for copyright protection or that they claimed to be under copyright.

It is my understanding that the materials available on the FSI-Language-Courses website are copies of the originals and that they are in the public domain.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby Just Passing Through » 2016-01-24, 15:12

This is only my second post and I am already pontificating!

Why are the FSI Language courses good?
Begging the question of whether or not the FSI courses are, in fact, good...

Intensive Classroom Instruction
It would be useful to remember that the "FSI Basic" course materials that are available on the FSI-Language-Courses website and elsewhere, while quite impressive, represent only a portion of the total materials that were available to the U.S. Government employees who benefited from classroom instruction in groups of 4 to 6 students and who were required to interact with the teacher and with each other in the target language. Theirs was a "total immersion" environment, which helps explain the effectiveness of the overall teaching approach.

Audio-Lingual Method
At the time the "FSI Basic" courses were used, the teaching approach employed was the "audio-lingual method". It was quite popular in the 1960's, even in academic circles. There is an interesting summary of the method on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio-lingual_method. In some of the FSI course manuals, this is described as "over learning." For independent learners who adapt well to this teaching method (drill-drill-drill), it is the presence of the thousands of sentence pattern dills that renders these "legacy" courses effective, which in turns explains their continued popularity. Obviously, if an individual does not adapt well to this type of intensive practice, he will most likely find the materials boring, will not persevere and will abandon this method in favour of something that he finds more appealing.

Programmed Learning
In addition to the audio-lingual method used in their "Basic" courses, the FSI published a few courses that employed the "Programmed Learning" method of instruction. There is an interesting summary of the method on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmed_learning. I completed all four of the FSI courses. It is possible that, at the time the FSI published their "Portuguese Programmatic" course, a basic course for this language did not exist and that they decided to integrate the programmed learning method into their course structures. While the method differs from the audio-lingual approach, the FSI adaption includes thousand of "Practice Drills" that resemble the sentence-pattern drills of the audio-lingual method. In my opinion, the Portuguese course is truly excellent! Subsequently, the FSI published their "Spanish Programmatic" course even though there existed a basic course for this language. Although it is very similar in form to the Portuguese course, in my opinion, it is marred somewhat by the inexplicable use of a non-standard phonetic spelling for the Spanish text for about the first half of Volume 1. The FSI also published an extremely basic "German Programmatic" course that was conceived to assist students prepare themselves for the rigours of the German Basic course. Ah, but the "cherry on the sundae" was without doubt the FSI Italian Programmatic course! If ever there was a case where a reasonably sound idea was totally misunderstood and so thoroughly misapplied as to discredit the original idea, it was the FSI Italian Programmatic course.

Fashions Change
Fashions change, even in academic circles, and the audio-lingual method is no longer in vogue. In fact, many champions of other language-teaching methods take a malicious pleasure in discrediting the audio-lingual method (I suspect that this is part of human nature). One approach that seems to have displaced it is the "student-centered" approach to teaching, for which this is an interesting article in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student-centred_learning. The FSI seems to have abandoned the audio-lingual method completely and, for a number reasons, perhaps budgetary, perhaps a change in teaching philosophy, began introducing the rather cursory and rushed-in-appearance FAST (Familiarization and Short Term Training) courses that, with the notable exception of the FSI Italian FAST course, are not worth much interest, assuming that reasonable commercially-prepared alternatives exist.

It Works For Me, However ...
As I adapt well to "drills", I greatly appreciated using the FSI Basic courses for German and Spanish. In addition, I have used the Glossika Mass Sentence practice sets, despite their weaknesses, in my attempts to improve my fluency. Having said that, I would add that is extremely important to engage with native-speakers of the target language and to expose oneself to native materials as much as possible.
Last edited by Just Passing Through on 2016-01-24, 23:59, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby Just Passing Through » 2016-01-24, 19:42

In response to the original post in this discussion thread,
neil_k wrote: Do these courses teach grammar and vocabulary extensively?
What standard will I be at after going through their course in a language?
...

FSI Notes on Grammar
I have noticed that some of the FSI Basic course manuals "Instructions to the Teacher" recommend that very little emphasis be placed on grammar and that, in lieu of detailed discussions of grammatical issues, the focus be placed on the equivalent manner of saying something in the target language. In this way, through rigorous practice of the numerous sentence-pattern drills, the student will develop a more-or-less automatic "feel" for the underlying structure of the language. In my experience with the FSI Basic courses, the accompanying "notes" are rather skeletal and I often recommend that independent learners keep a simple Grammar at hand to be consulted as needed.

CEFR Level on Completion
While the matter of "what level of language proficiency can be achieved" with the FSI Basic courses is a matter of debate, I would hazard a guess that CEFR B1 is reasonable in an independent-learning situation. I would not be surprised if students who attended the intensive, months-long, classroom sessions at the FSI achieved B2. However, moving beyond the B2 level without intensive contact with native speakers represents a serious challenge that, in my opinion, cannot be achieved through self-study of the FSI Basic materials alone ... meiner Meinung nach!

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby gangies » 2016-03-04, 11:00

I live in Poland and I'm going to learn Spanish in this country. I heard that there are some schools where I don't have to know Polish language to learn other foreign languages. The example could be english school gdańsk http://www.berlitz.pl/en/gdansk but I know very little about it. Do somebody know if this choice will be ok, or maybe I should look for another method of learning?

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby Meera » 2016-03-29, 15:06

I started using FSI a little for a Egyptian Arabic because my teacher is making us listen to Egyptian audios and I have been studying Levantine so I wanted to try to get a bit more background of Egyptian. I actually like the course so far, it is a little dry but not as bad as some of the other FSI's I've used.
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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby Judderbar » 2016-11-29, 16:22

I have started using this course for Finnish. The Finnish course was produced in 1987 so is not so old. For me anyway Finnish is just hard work and I like, so far, the ability to just keep repeating things using the text and audio and just keep being driven to continue like that as the audio voice requires. Sure my eyes are exploding but what can I do? I have to learn this language.

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Re: FSI Language Courses, are they any good?

Postby LangueFranche » 2017-03-07, 22:36

This looks like the old basic, which is the old curriculum from FSI, which naturally became public domain.
I am glad that these are available for people to use. The wealth of resources at FSI is incredible. A multitude of languages are represented and thought at the Institute. It is truly amazing...

Now:
This material and current materials from FSI are used to teach to Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), the diplomates of the United States of America. This is why the material is sensitive and this material is deemed public domain, because of its date.

From the source website https://www.livelingua.com/fsi-language-courses.php
It seems there is an actual message concerning this:

"Disclaimer: Live Lingua language school is not affiliated with the U.S. Foreign Service Institute in any way. We simply host this material for free so that it is not lost as part of the Live Lingua Project."


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