Tristano wrote:No, how FSI classifies German and Romanian from the point of view of the monolingual English native speaker is much more interesting.
Tristano wrote:I still don't see the reason of the placement as level II languages from FSI - but is maybe the reason that I'm just getting a boost from other 6 languages I already know and the FSI chart is based on native English monolingual speakers?
FSI is about something else.
"Almost all FSI language courses would be characterized as foreign-language training (FLT), rather than second-language training (SLT)...
Our programs are not given a lengthy period in which to prepare learners to do their work. For example, students in the Russian program are expected to progress in ten months of intensive training from no functional ability in the language to the ability to read almost any professionally relevant text and discuss in detail with a Russian-speaker any and all implications of that text for Russian-American relations. Ten months of intensive language study may seem like a long time, but, in fact, it is very short when the scope of the goal is considered. There is no time to waste with nonproductive activities...
The goal of language training for FSI students is typically general professional proficiency (S-3/R-3) in reading and speaking the language, including interactive listening comprehension. This level is approximately equivalent to “superior” on the scale used by the American Council for the Teach-
ing of Foreign Languages. The mean age of language students at FSI is forty-one.
Although many of our students know more than one foreign language—in recent years, the average FSI student begins class knowing 2.3 non-English languages
— most of them enroll as absolute beginners in the language they are assigned to study. Despite this obstacle, approximately two-thirds of FSI’s full-time students achieve or exceed their proficiency goals, and almost all of the others nearly meet the goals. This is due both to the characteristics of the programs and to the abilities of the learners.
Research on aging has shown us repeatedly that short-term memory declines with age, but in FSI’s students this is compensated for by increased experience, which actually helps in the language learning process...
Table 2. Approximate learning expectations at the Foreign Service Institute
Note: All estimates in this figure assume that the student is a native speaker of English
with no prior knowledge of the language to be learned. It is also assumed that the student
has very good or better aptitude for classroom learning of foreign languages. Less skilled
language learners typically take longer.
Although languages are grouped into general
“categories” of difficulty for native English speakers, within each category some lan-
guages are more difficult than others....
The length of time it takes to learn a language well also depends to a great extent on similarities between that language and any other languages that the learner knows well. The more dissimilar a new language is—in structure, sounds, orthography, implicit world view, and so on—the longer learning takes.
For knowledge of one language to be a real advantage in learning another, however, it needs to be at a significant level. Thain and Jackson (n.d.) and an interagency group determined recently that this kind of advantage takes effect at a three-level proficiency or better. Below that level, knowledge of a second language does not appear to make any useful difference in acquisition of a related
Lessons learned from fifty years of theory and practice in government language teaching.