Language Resources: FSI

I have decided to accept the challenge of Nablopomo, since Nanowrimo is most definitely beyond me. I don’t have a novel’s worth of story to tell, but perhaps, every day for a month, I might have a blog-entry’s worth of SOMETHING to say. And here is today’s:

There are many resources on the internet for learning languages for free. In fact, there are many resources on the internet for learning a lot of things for free if only one takes the time to look. This is the most amazing aspect of the internet, for me, and I would love to contribute. I do not feel I have the knowledge to teach anything yet, but I can share with you my experiences of the resources I’ve found.

My number one free resource is the Foreign Services Institute. Many of their language courses are out of copywrite and available for download at The courses take the form of PDF files of the course books and MP3 files of the accompanying tapes. There are varying amounts of resources for the various languages. You just have to browse.

There are different kinds of courses that they offer, and the best for self-study would probably be the Basic Course. You can find a review of the FSI Basic Course on youtube provided by Professor Alexander Arguelles (his website).

The Programmatic Courses look like they would not be much help outside of a classroom situation. They appear to be more for practising pronunciation, and do not provide translations for anything.

Another two types of courses are FAST (Familiarization and Short-Term Training) and Headstart.  I have not yet downloaded any Headstart courses, so cannot give comment on them. I have had a brief look through some of the FAST courses, which seem to be useful but brief, tso I do not think you could learn the language properly from them.
I started an Italian course with a teacher, and I found the audio tapes from the Italian fast course useful for listening practice. They also break down each sentence verbally and give the english translations for the words, so I even learned a word or two just from listening.

I’ve tried learning languages by reading, but I find after hearing words or sentences a few times, they seem to stick better, as if my memory were ‘audially stimulated’, (if that is even a real term).
On the other hand, the above-mentioned professor’s review of the courses seems to suggest that the pronunciation on the tapes may not always be trusted. And of course, some of the terms used may be out of date and possibly even offensive to the modern speaker.

So, take it or leave it. And let me know if you have tried out any of the FSI courses. I’d love to hear your experiences.


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