FSI German: Too Old?

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
Speakeasy
Blue Belt
Posts: 567
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
x 1161

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Sep 12, 2016 6:37 pm

tiia wrote: ... You say it's rhetorical, but I'd like to point out one thing: When adressing women they use Fräulein and gnädige Frau, when talking about someones wife it might be Ihre Frau Gemahlin. They do mention to use Ihre Frau if you're very familiar, but in my opinion this is (nearly) always the only correct way.

Ihre Frau Gemahlin sounds odd. But it is still polite, but extremly stilted. But of course since it says Ihre, no one would directly adress me like that.
If someone would call me gnädige Frau, however, I would think "WTF", or assume the person is joking. If meant seriously it sounds a bit like the person is begging. It may be ok to use in some role-play setting.
Even worse is using the word Fräulein. It is the direct translation of "Miss" and it was probably used the same way back then. It's most likely the term of those three that was out-dated last. Nowadays I can think of three ways using this:
1. As an insult.
2. A person who still didn't get that the word is out-dated. But even eldery people should have realised now that this is an insult. (And sometimes they do this on purpose.)
3. Booking flight tickets and choosing between Herr/Frau/Fräulein (Mr./Mrs./Ms.). The boarding pass will be in English, so I choose this to get the correct term of adress in English.

I won't comment on the methology. Everyone has their own preferences and I'm not here to judge them.


Thank you for your observations. I would counter them by saying that most serious students of the German language will become aware of the minor vocabulary changes that you have cited above. Their presence in the FSI German Basic course has been mentioned by others during the endless debates as to the useful of these materials. I reiterate that (1) it accounts for an infinitesimally small portion of the vocabulary deployed in this course and (2) an intelligent adult has the capacity to discern what is useful in these materials and what should be discarded.

As to the forms of address in German, I am quite aware of the cultural changes; similar ones have been wrought in other societies, including in the Francophone World in which I reside. In my experience people will, or will not, adopt these changes according to their own tastes. Nevertheless, I find that your presentation of the "accepted use" of "Fräulein" to be a classic example of the tyranny of those who wish to appear to be "politically correct" in all matters linguistic, cultural, societal ... and the list is truly without end. If a young German woman were to react at my addressing her "Fräulein" with a "hissy fit", I would conclude that she is the product of a cruel and oppressive cultural regime of which she is not herself fully aware. In any event, as someone who has completed the FSI German Basic course, I can assure that the use of this form of address appears rather infrequently in the dialogues and that there are no drills on its use. I assume that an intelligent, sensitive adult can adapt quickly to the current "accepted use" of this form of address and I refuse to condemn an entire instructional programme for its inclusion. You are free to choose otherwise.
2 x

User avatar
reineke
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1650
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:34 pm
Languages: English
x 2381

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby reineke » Mon Sep 12, 2016 6:51 pm

WalkingAlone13 wrote:I am not sure what year FSI German was produced, however I am reasonably sure it was sometime before Michel Thomas German, and I have already been picked out for using some old fashioned German from Michel Thomas. In one case, I believe I used "Lass uns gehen!" or something similar, not 100% sure now. My professor could not help but laugh and explained that I sounded as if I were speaking some sort of equivalent to Shakespearian English in German.
This was at the very start of my journey and it immediately knocked my confidence


That tells us more about your teacher than it does about FSI.
1 x

Online
User avatar
iguanamon
Blue Belt
Posts: 900
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:14 am
Location: Virgin Islands
Languages: Speaks: English (Native); Spanish (C2); Portuguese (C2); Haitian Creole (C1); Ladino (C1); Lesser Antilles French Creole (B2)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?t=797
x 3450

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby iguanamon » Mon Sep 12, 2016 7:15 pm

I can't talk specifically about the German course, but as one who has used two DLI courses for language-learning in Portuguese aqnd Haitian Creole, I find them to be highly useful despite their age. The DLI Portuguese Basic Course dates from the 1960's and even has a unit with a conversation about passenger ships and a lot of "out of date" vocabulary. I agree with speakeasy. Underlying this debate is the concept of how a learner uses a course. To me, when I use these old resources, it's about overall usefulness. I go into it fully aware of the age of the material. Because my learning philosophy incorporates other resources and modern, native material early on, I become aware of what is common and typical in current language. If a learner solely, or very heavily, depends on courses, then that's where outdated language and patterns become more of an issue. because they are relying on courses for almost everything.

Personally, I wish I could get hold of modern courses with even half of the thoroughness of the DLI courses I have used. I haven't found any so far that come close. The DLI courses have a lot of drills and repetition within the dialog and the reading, plus a grammar summary at the end of each lesson. That is what I find so useful and I would like to find more of in more modern courses. Since I can't, I will use them and supplement them with exposure to the language how it is spoken today. I soon get a "sense" for what is modern and current usage outside of courses. Obviously, if someone only relies on courses, then they are in trouble. Sadly, that is the case with a lot of learners who expect their courses to do all the heavy lifting for them.

Natural languages are in constant motion. Over time they may change greatly. Many, if not most, native English-speakers find Shakespeare challenging today after 400 years of time has passed. Some of Mark Twain's 19th century writing may be difficult for some English-speakers today. I find the 19th century Portuguese of Machado de Asiss challenging to me, but his books are still read today in the Lusophone world, not that anyone would speak like he wrote back then, today. The FSI and DLI courses that we have available today were mostly designed in the 1960's and 1970's. There are still people alive today who were designed back then too, some of whom are still under 50 :). Hopefully, in the not too distant future, better free resources for language-learning will be developed. I'd love that to happen, but it probably won't. Until, if and then, I'll put up with some "useless and outdated" stuff (maybe 10%) to get the benefit of the thoroughness of the instruction of the other 90% that is still useful. It's not that big a deal to unlearn or ignore stilted, outdated language. For me, it's a personal choice that has served me well.
4 x

Speakeasy
Blue Belt
Posts: 567
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
x 1161

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Sep 12, 2016 7:16 pm

reineke wrote: ... For example, I've read somewhere that "gnädige Frau" is not used today ...
It seems that we have managed to register yet another round of the ritual -- and trivial -- disparaging of the FSI German Basic course. Forgive me, but there is nothing original in the list of out-of-date items that you have provided; please refer to the numerous discussions on the HTLAL. With a view to giving yourself the opportunity of preparing a more balanced review, I suggest that to compare the entire contents of the Glossary of the FSI German Basic course with that of Langenscheidt's Berliner Platz Neu course. Most of the vocabulary items are common to both courses. The excessive concern with, or critique of, inconsequential details is unworthy of us all.

I prefer the King James version of the Bible and Shakespeare in the original. I find the archaic forms of Middle (Plus) English of these texts an absolute pleasure to read. I trust that a German student of the English language would find value in these works but that, as an intelligent adult, he would be able to determine which items of vocabulary, which forms of address, and which grammatical constructions continue to be relevant for Modern English.
1 x

User avatar
reineke
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1650
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:34 pm
Languages: English
x 2381

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby reineke » Mon Sep 12, 2016 7:44 pm

Speakeasy wrote:
reineke wrote: ... For example, I've read somewhere that "gnädige Frau" is not used today ...
It seems that we have managed to register yet another round of the ritual -- and trivial -- disparaging of the FSI German Basic course.


For the record, I was quoting someone else's question. "Gnädige Frau" is a useful expression. The critics have a point in that in everyday conversation this expression will probably be heard in some passive-aggressive situation. Does the presence of a handful of odd expressions invalidate an entire course? I don' t think so. FSI is primarily about drilling key language structures. Basic grammar changes slowly. In that sense FSI is a very modern course.
2 x

Speakeasy
Blue Belt
Posts: 567
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
x 1161

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:05 pm

As some of us have expressed our "sensitivity" at what-we-believe-to-be "insulting" forms of personal address, I thought that I would share the following anecdote with you ...

About a year ago, upon entering a "big box" electronics store, I was accosted by -- accosted by, not greeted by -- a young salesperson who, in his less-than-charming imitation of fellowship, said to me "che m'appel Steeve ... pis toé, c'é quoi ton p'tit nom?" (I'm Steve ... and you, what's your name/nickname). I replied that I preferred to "have a look around" and that, once I had satisfied my curiosity, I would be certain to seek his assistance. He persisted (they're trained to do so) and he continued "che peu t'aider? che m'appel Steeve ... c'é quoi ton nom?" We went through this little charade a couple of times and, finally, giving the young man a very severe look, whilst pursing my lips, I replied "Monsieur."

Perplexed, my interlocutor inquired: "hein? ch'compren' pas ... c'é quoi ton nom?" (Huh? I don't understand ... what's your name?") which produced in me a sense of extreme injury and, barely containing my inner rage, I uttered the following: "Je m’appelle monsieur … et on me vouvoie!" (I am called "Sir" ... and I expect to be addressed in the "formal you!")

Although French was obviously "Steeve's" native tongue, I am quite sure that he did not understand me ... that is, while he doubtlessly understood my words, their meaning escaped him ... cultural sensitivity, "insults", and "accepted use" cut both ways!
Last edited by Speakeasy on Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
2 x

Speakeasy
Blue Belt
Posts: 567
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
x 1161

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:11 pm

reineke wrote: For the record, ...


Reineke, please accept my heart-felt apologies. I completely misunderstood you!

Speakeasy (falling forward onto my sword)
0 x

Thunter
Yellow Belt
Posts: 80
Joined: Tue Aug 25, 2015 6:21 pm
Languages: German (N), English (C1), Spanish (C1), French(B2), Italian (B2), Portuguese (B2), Hindi(B1), Dutch(B1), Russian(B1) Arabic(B1) , Hebrew(A2), Chinese (A2), -writing skills may differ
x 64

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Thunter » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:15 pm

reineke wrote:
WalkingAlone13 wrote:I am not sure what year FSI German was produced, however I am reasonably sure it was sometime before Michel Thomas German, and I have already been picked out for using some old fashioned German from Michel Thomas. In one case, I believe I used "Lass uns gehen!" or something similar, not 100% sure now. My professor could not help but laugh and explained that I sounded as if I were speaking some sort of equivalent to Shakespearian English in German.
This was at the very start of my journey and it immediately knocked my confidence


That tells us more about your teacher than it does about FSI.


The sentence you quoted is actually used by the youth and is in no way old fashioned.

Please note that some other vocabulary that is said to be outdated is actually still part of the language spoken in eastern Germany. There you would also find a "Röster" instead of "Toaster", "Plaste" instead of "Pastik". In eastern Germany people may also eat a "Röstwurst" instead of a "Bratwurst".

Other words changed in their connotation. You would use "Fräulein" in sentences as "Komm mal her Fräulein." if your daughter did something wrong and needs to be corrected.
Last edited by Thunter on Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
2 x

Elexi
Orange Belt
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2015 9:39 pm
Languages: English (N), French (B1), German (A2), Latin (eternal beginner), Dutch (Aspires to find the time).
x 334

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Elexi » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:20 pm

Gnädige Frau was archaic in normal German speech long before FSI was written. My (long lived) mother in law has told me that she only ever heard it used twice - first by a Nazi officer in 1944 to a female doctor who was treating his child (my mother in law was a child in the same hospital) and then in Austria in the early 1950s to an old countess when she attended a ball. In both cases she thought its use an affectation. Personally, I have only encountered it watching Heidi.

So maybe, given the diplomatic context, that is what FSI was teaching - after all, FSI had a real teaching element and the teacher would have explained these things. To this day English lawyers address female High Court judges as 'My Lady' (and male ones as 'My Lord'), so archaic address can have relevant usage in the right context.
2 x

User avatar
Hrhenry
Yellow Belt
Posts: 91
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:38 pm
Languages: Speaks: English (N), Spanish (C2), Italian (C2), Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, Norwegian

Studies: Turkish (B2), Polish, Ojibwe, Indonesian
x 153

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Hrhenry » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:22 pm

As someone who's used FSI Turkish (which also suffers from outdated vocab), I can say that the course was still very useful to me. As long as it's not your only resource, I don't see any harm in using any older course, be it FSI or something else. Insight into a culture's past is a good thing, and "obsolete" language plays an important part in that.

Taking the argument further, can you imagine someone telling you "Don't read (insert famous old literature)! The vocabulary and sentence structure is old and we don't talk like that any more!"

Just make sure you balance it out with a course that was created in the last decade or two and you should be fine.

R
==
6 x


Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], iguanamon, tommus and 3 guests