DLI Courses vs FSI

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jmar257
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby jmar257 » Fri Dec 04, 2020 6:44 pm

exa4u wrote:
iguanamon wrote:
Cainntear wrote:... DLI courses are full of military terminology and situations, FSI courses are far more generally useful.

I personally like DLI courses, I'm halfway through DLI French Basic and I've improved a lot

Could you talk about some of the stuff you've liked in that course? I don't really have specific questions I guess, but I'm almost done with FSI French Phonology and have done Spanish Basic before but haven't touched the DLI courses. I was planning on starting FSI French Basic next. I'm under the impression they're pretty similar and drill-heavy (which is what I want out of them).
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby iguanamon » Fri Dec 04, 2020 10:02 pm

jmar257 wrote:....Could you talk about some of the stuff you've liked in that course? I don't really have specific questions I guess, but I'm almost done with FSI French Phonology and have done Spanish Basic before but haven't touched the DLI courses. I was planning on starting FSI French Basic next. I'm under the impression they're pretty similar and drill-heavy (which is what I want out of them).

I pretty much said it all in my first post in this thread. I worked through two of these DLI Basic Courses. The only one I started from the beginning was Haitian Creole. I skipped to Volume 4 of DLI Portuguese, because Id' been listening to Brazilian music for years, had done Pimsleur, and spoke Spanish at C1 level already. So, I jumped in where I felt comfortable.

What I liked about them is first their thoroughness in giving a good background in the language. Courses like Assimil, while definitely popular on the forum, simply do not have enough built-in repetition for me. The drills make sure of that in DLI. I liked the minimal English in the course- just barely enough to be useful. I liked how the drills, dialogs, readings are all tied together in a lesson in a coherent way to teach what the lesson covers. I like that the readings have comprehension questions to work through. Even without an answer key, I got use out of them because they force you to think in the language.

The dialogs have built in pauses for the student to "participate" in the dialog. I tried to speak it as well as I could. In this way the dialogs are almost like a two sided conversation. Then the drills build off the dialog. There is a lot of reinforcement- which is lacking in many courses, including Assimil.

I liked the no-nonsense approach the courses took. I had served in the US military and I was very well acquainted with this type of no-nonsense and thorough instruction.

Obviously the course was intended to be used alongside classroom instruction. My multi-track approach, certainly helped to provide me with enough supplemental reading and listening so that the instructor being missing wasn't such a big deal. It also helps to provide exposure to the more modern language and for synergy- you see/hear a word/usage in the course and see/hear it again in comprehensible input.

Obviously, these are serious courses. There's no "Assimil type humor" built in. The lessons are thorough so 15 minutes isn't enough. I'd try to go through a lesson every 3-4 days spending 40 minutes to an hour each day. I'm not saying that these courses are for everybody. Some people just flat out don't want to put up with drills and I get that. What I can say is that if a learner goes through the course to the end and does a multi-track approach alongside it, then they will certainly have a very good foundation in the language... at least that's my experience.
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby s_allard » Sat Dec 05, 2020 2:25 am

I'll first say that I recall using the FSI German materials some years ago and liked it very much for the things that iguanamon pointed out: the thoroughness and all the drills. But the age of the materials was showing and I found so much more appealing stuff on the internet that I didn't persevere with the FSI material.

Having said that, I want to add that when you look at the incredible amount of glossy language learning material being peddled on the internet by the major publishing houses and many of our favourite polyglots, all claiming to make you fluent in less than 15 minutes a day, it's pretty amazing that these FSI manuals of 50 or more years ago and available for free remain very effective learning tools today.
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby iguanamon » Sat Dec 05, 2020 12:14 pm

We refer to these courses by acronyms because the names are too long. DLI stands for Defense Language Institute. FSI stands for Foreign Service Institute. Both organizations are part of the US government. The US government's purpose for these organizations is to teach foreign languages to the military and diplomatic corps to serve the nation's interests. They are not designed for travelers' needs, or dilettantes. The courses are designed for professionals who need to work with the language to serve their country.

The courses were never intended for self-instruction. Neither the DLI nor the FSI said: "OK people, here's your book and tapes. Go home. Read the lessons. Listen to the tapes. There'll be a test later. Good luck!". There was a 6-8 hour Monday through Friday class going over the material with native-speaker instructors. The course book and tapes were for the student to use in class and at home to prepare for class and review. The instructor would reinforce the lessons, provide supplemental activities and give explanations where needed.

The self-learner has access to the instruction materials but not the instructor nor the supplemental activities. Self-learners must find their own way to make up for this outside of the course. In addition, the courses we have today dating from the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's are based on the audio-lingual method of learning. The audio-lingual method fell into disfavor in the latter part of the 20th Century:
Wikipedia wrote:In the late 1950s, the theoretical underpinnings of the method were questioned by linguists such as Noam Chomsky, who pointed out the limitations of structural linguistics. The relevance of behaviorist psychology to language learning was also questioned, most famously by Chomsky's review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior in 1959. The audio-lingual method was thus deprived of its scientific credibility and it was only a matter of time before the effectiveness of the method itself was questioned.
In 1964, Wilga Rivers released a critique of the method in her book, The Psychologist and the Foreign Language Teacher. Subsequent research by others, inspired by her book, produced results which showed explicit grammatical instruction in the mother language to be more productive. These developments, coupled with the emergence of humanist pedagogy led to a rapid decline in the popularity of audiolingualism.
Philip Smith's study from 1965-1969, termed the Pennsylvania Project, provided significant proof that audio-lingual methods were less effective than a more traditional cognitive approach involving the learner's first language

To me this seems like a setup of an "either/or" dichotomy which need not be made by self-learners. Successful self-learners all end up "cobbling together" the resources and methods they need to learn a language to a high level. Often, they use very different methods in combination to learn. No course, on its own, for self-learners is sufficient to gain a high level in the language. Even for classroom instruction, students must do a significant amount of work on their own outside of courses/classes to consolidate and advance their language skills beyond their instruction.

Using the FSI and DLI courses for self instruction doesn't mean that other resources must be excluded. It is not an either/or dichotomy. Why not use, say FSI Spanish Programatic Course alongside the "Destinos" video course; or Pimsleur?! Why not do Assimil Spanish and then follow it up with FSI Basic Spanish to consolidate what was learned and drill it home?! Part of the reluctance to use complimentary materials is impatience among self-learners. Using two complimentary courses takes more time and effort. A monolingual beginner is battling not only the particular language they're learning but also learning a second language in general. FSI and DLI are not hand-holding courses. If a self-learner gets "bored" with the instruction method, then there's nothing in the courses to bring that learner back around to enthusiastically doing the lessons- no hand-holding; no short lessons; no humor.

This "boredom" can be a difficult obstacle to overcome for some learners. The boredom actually has more to do with motivation than with the method of instruction. To learn any language as a self-learner, motivation must be internal. They have to want to learn. If they do want to learn, they will persevere, they will be consistent. They will be consistent. They won't let the roadblocks and challenges stop them.

Every single course has faults, strengths and weaknesses. Every method of learning has advantages and disadvantages. Successful learners recognize this concept. They accept it and adapt to it. After having recently done an Assimil course- "Le Catalan Sans Peine", I can attest to this. I found the course, while effective thanks to my previous related language background, to be lacking in sufficient repetition, exercises and drills that I would've liked to have. If there had been a DLI Catalan Basic Course... I certainly would've jumped on it.

The main difference between FSI and the old DLI Basic courses is that, to me, DLI tends to tie concepts together better between the drills, dialogs and readings. Used in some combination with a more modern course like Assimil or Teach Yourself, I believe helps to fill in the gaps and weaknesses of both approaches.

As to modern language, yeah, a 50 year old course is not modern. The core language, verbs and their tenses/conjugations; basic vocabulary; basic grammar, these don't change. Modern vocabulary and usage are out their and easily available for learners to learn and model. I wouldn't let this stop me from using a highly effective and thorough method to learn a language- either as a main course or a supplement.

We are woefully lacking in knowledge of the current methods of instruction for the Defense Language Institute and the Foreign Service Institute today. Do they still use a "take home" course book and audio or are the courses more web based, and as such, can't really be released to the public as the older courses were? I'd love to hear from those who have taken courses at DLI and/or FSI since the year 2005 to describe what language instruction is like there now.
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby jmar257 » Sat Dec 05, 2020 2:21 pm

iguanamon wrote:What I liked about them is first their thoroughness in giving a good background in the language. Courses like Assimil, while definitely popular on the forum, simply do not have enough built-in repetition for me. The drills make sure of that in DLI. I liked the minimal English in the course- just barely enough to be useful. I liked how the drills, dialogs, readings are all tied together in a lesson in a coherent way to teach what the lesson covers. I like that the readings have comprehension questions to work through. Even without an answer key, I got use out of them because they force you to think in the language.

The dialogs have built in pauses for the student to "participate" in the dialog. I tried to speak it as well as I could. In this way the dialogs are almost like a two sided conversation. Then the drills build off the dialog. There is a lot of reinforcement- which is lacking in many courses, including Assimil.
Appreciate the thorough reply! I'm gonna take a peak at DLI French when I finish up phonology, which should be in the next few days. Sounds very similar to FSI (unsurprisingly), in Spanish there were reading comprehension lessons at the end. I typically read the passage but skipped the questions as I was already reading novels in Spanish.

iguanamon wrote:Obviously the course was intended to be used alongside classroom instruction. My multi-track approach, certainly helped to provide me with enough supplemental reading and listening so that the instructor being missing wasn't such a big deal. It also helps to provide exposure to the more modern language and for synergy- you see/hear a word/usage in the course and see/hear it again in comprehensible input.

Obviously, these are serious courses. There's no "Assimil type humor" built in. The lessons are thorough so 15 minutes isn't enough. I'd try to go through a lesson every 3-4 days spending 40 minutes to an hour each day. I'm not saying that these courses are for everybody. Some people just flat out don't want to put up with drills and I get that. What I can say is that if a learner goes through the course to the end and does a multi-track approach alongside it, then they will certainly have a very good foundation in the language... at least that's my experience.

I like that kind of instruction after I have some basic working knowledge--I'm finding that I prefer to go through a Michel Thomas/Language Transfer course, then Assimil, then fill in the gaps with FSI (and a bunch of reading). Starting from scratch with something like FSI/DLI would drive me nuts, however I love diving into those drills once I have some framework for the language in my head. I've noticed I'm the same way when writing longer form pieces (which I haven't done in years)--I will write several broad points I want, then go in and fill in the details after I get those out of my head. I guess with language learning I like to get a sloppy idea of how the language works (focusing on input, not output) and then refine it (by drilling output). German will be my first "clean" test of this, by which I mean I hopefully won't be stretching out the beginner phase over years with false starts and off and on learning.
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby IronMike » Sun Feb 21, 2021 8:48 am

I haven't done a Basic course since Russian Basic in 1986-87. And yes, the book modules are exactly the same.

It worked for me. As discussed, we had 7 hours of class a day and anywhere from 2-4 hours of homework. That hours needed to finish the homework. That didn't include time "studying." In the first six months I was lucky I finished the homework by 10pm (starting at 6pm).

We used these modules almost exclusively, but as the year progressed, we'd be given actual Russian articles from newspapers and magazines, something not that easy to get w/o the internet.

We also had the stress of failing: Up until about 1992, you had to score an 85% or higher on each "end of mod[ule]" test or you were recycled (after 1992 it changed to 70%). All services (Air Force, Army, etc) would allow once recycle, and the school would generally recycle you a class (anywhere from one to two weeks back) and then you better get an 85% from there on out. If you were Air Force and you failed twice, you got a new job. If you were Army, you might get a lower Category language. I knew several soldiers fail Russian and get placed in Spanish.

Lately, at least for the Air Force (maybe the other services), you could go through the entire Basic course (6 months to over a year) and if you don't get 2R/2L/1+L, you get a certificate of attendance, and possibly you don't become a linguist.

That's probably more than you guys wanted. I'll find some guys who recently went through DLI and ask them how it's being done now. I know some years ago every student got an iPad with all the course materials loaded, but I don't know if that means these old Basic Course modules or something different.
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby IronMike » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:46 pm

OK, spoke with a soldier who went through Basic Arabic 2015-2016:

Every student still got issued dead-tree course books (modules), but they also got a Macbook on which was loaded pdf's of the modules and all the audio. Modules still dominated the course, but as their proficiency improved, their instructors would add in radio and newspaper, either soft-copy (pdfs, mp3s) or actual newspapers.

And in DLI graduate tradition, at least 5 years ago some students were still going to the beach after grad and having a bonfire with their Basic Course modules, something that was also done back in my day. ;)
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby Le Baron » Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:11 pm

Not so long ago I had a go at one of the tests (using French) on the DLI online diagnostic test site. With regard to it being quite military-based I found this actually was the case. Many audio items had news snippets about villages in Africa being invaded by 'rebels' and the like. It was somewhat interesting until about halfway, then I grew tired of it. They seemed to think it was a great idea to run conversations between one person on the ground and another on a bad telephone line with a noisy helicopter rotor spinning in the background.

So yes, a bit trying at times. However it was a long and thorough test.
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Re: DLI Courses vs FSI

Postby IronMike » Wed Feb 24, 2021 7:08 am

Le Baron wrote:Not so long ago I had a go at one of the tests (using French) on the DLI online diagnostic test site. With regard to it being quite military-based I found this actually was the case. Many audio items had news snippets about villages in Africa being invaded by 'rebels' and the like. It was somewhat interesting until about halfway, then I grew tired of it. They seemed to think it was a great idea to run conversations between one person on the ground and another on a bad telephone line with a noisy helicopter rotor spinning in the background.

So yes, a bit trying at times. However it was a long and thorough test.

That's totally purposeful, as most of what us linguists listen to is NOT clear and audible. Far from it. Which is why many of us have tinnitus and hearing issues later in our career. ;)
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