Obsolete sections of old language courses?

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Le Baron
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby Le Baron » Tue Feb 02, 2021 10:43 pm

But I'm already actively conversational in three other languages, one of which I use all day every day. Another several times a week among native speakers. I already know how becoming conversational works, as everyone else here does.

I'm not promoting bare-bones phrasebook learning, I'm talking about parts of courses that have next to no relation to experiences you will likely find yourself having to navigate or learn about. Also how to possibly intelligently adapt them or ignore them.
At day one when starting a language, with the view that (at least for that course) you'll come out of it in three-to-four months with a foundation upon which you can keep building, how much stuff you'll never use does a person want to spend time covering? Compare this to e.g. uselessly drilling yourself in the use of feet and inches in order to pass a Maths GCSE (or whatever it's called these days) in the UK.

And the reason I brought it up is because I know people actually use quite a lot of old courses. And I know from flitting around the internet that a lot of not-so-experienced learners see FREE! on things like the FSI courses and similar, and then start going through and encounter a situation where they've gone to an 'employment bureau' to find a maid! Although some of the sentence structure, vocabulary etc, will be normally useful and applicable, a lot won't. You really don't want to imprint on your brain things related to working for the 'colonial service' or taking up head space seeing out of date social information (like rules about holidays, work etc that no longer apply, which could be taught more efficiently alongside the language learning in a modern course as you go through).

I think the thread has failed really.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Tue Feb 02, 2021 11:40 pm

Despite my comments on page 1, I really don't care if courses use certain vocabulary, grammar, sentences and who knows what else. The reasons are manyfold. I use multiple resources if I can. For the most part I learn languages without any immediate plan to communicate. I rarely travel to countries where they are spoken. So, how do I use them? Passively (that dreaded word again...). Audio-visual media such as radio, TV, books... If I only used contemporary resources I'd probably have gaps anyway. Even those who plan to communicate may have gaps. No course can prepare you for everything.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby Le Baron » Tue Feb 02, 2021 11:45 pm

jeff_lindqvist wrote:Despite my comments on page 1, I really don't care if courses use certain vocabulary, grammar, sentences and who knows what else. The reasons are manyfold. I use multiple resources if I can. For the most part I learn languages without any immediate plan to communicate. I rarely travel to countries where they are spoken. So, how do I use them? Passively (that dreaded word again...). Audio-visual media such as radio, TV, books... If I only used contemporary resources I'd probably have gaps anyway. Even those who plan to communicate may have gaps. No course can prepare you for everything.


I can broadly agree. I probably ought to have just said that I snip some bits out of old courses because I find they are a waste of my time. I just wanted to elicit a bit more discussion than just that statement.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby kanewai » Tue Feb 02, 2021 11:46 pm

Le Baron wrote:
David27 wrote:Whilst I'm willing to acknowledge learning differences between people, I'm willing to wager that spending time learning how Harry Potter defeated his nemesis will not get you functional in a language initially. I am after all talking about starting a language with initial courses, not the long road of improvement afterwards which we all know requires varied input.
Wager accepted! Harry Potter has become my go-to series for transitioning from course-work to real-world reading, and I only started using it after seeing so many others on the old HTLAL discuss how the series worked for them. I'm not even the series' greatest fan, just that it works well for this.

The vast majority of dialogues in any course book I've used have not been relevant to my life. They don't need to be; I don't see that it's really an issue. I won't bother trying to memorize dated or irrelevant vocabulary, but I've never felt that it hurt using it in practice sessions.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby Le Baron » Tue Feb 02, 2021 11:57 pm

Well if it works for you (and others) who am I to argue? In normal times though, as opposed to these Covid times, I don't live behind a computer and I want to learn how to communicate with people in the shortest time possible. This is what self-teaching courses have always sought to teach people. In a school they know how to skip things and adapt when using older texts.

I also have a personal issue in that I find Harry Potter completely unreadable drivel. That's my problem.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby David1917 » Wed Feb 03, 2021 12:27 am

I don't know what people want from language courses when I read topics like this. For example,

- Student A wants to read modern Chinese literature
- Student B wants to read Mao's Little Red Book
- Student C wants to go to bars in Shanghai and get laid

If you are making a mass-produced, general-purpose language course like Assimil, etc. how do you get all 3 of these people to buy your course?

You reduce the scenarios to overly simple situations that everyone can understand and extract sentence patterns from. Anything else becomes a specialized course - which exist and are great - but they also presuppose a base knowledge that you would get from a course where you have to ask if the hotel has both hot and cold water.

Like no, you're not literally going to fly to Beijing and walk down the street asking people for the time. But, you probably will at some point in your life ask someone in your TL what time it is. Stop taking the lessons so literally.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby Le Baron » Wed Feb 03, 2021 12:40 am

That doesn't address anything I mentioned. What you sketched out is a completely different discussion.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby leosmith » Wed Feb 03, 2021 12:54 am

Le Baron wrote:Do you think it's useful to spend all the time on these parts of old language courses, or that skipping through them/missing them out won't make much of a difference and actually leave more time for more relevant content? I consider older courses because e.g. the older Assimil courses tend to contain more information.

I would switch resources if possible. But if for some reason said course is the only one I had available, I'd do the whole thing, including the obsolete parts. Otherwise I might miss out on some grammar point that is only in the section in question.

jeffers wrote:Just this past week I was watching Engrenages and somebody asked somebody else to play tennis.
Are you saying tennis is obsolete? It's pretty popular where I live.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby einzelne » Wed Feb 03, 2021 1:31 am

Le Baron wrote:I think the thread has failed really.


It's not clear who you were addressing. Because your OP seems to address experienced learners and then further you mention beginners. Forgive me if I misrepresent your ideas again but beginners do all sorts of weird stuff in the early stages of learning (I guess, pretty much all self-learners went through that in their first attempt to master a foreign language).
Adopting old materials? A beginner doesn't have enough expertise to do that while an advanced student will hardly find anything useful in introductory textbooks. So why bother? I guess, you simply go though the book skimming through non-relevant parts. I honesty don't see any other alternative here, unless you have a patient native at your disposal who will be willing to go through the textbook with you indicating outdated idioms and giving contemporary analogues, but that's like meeting a unicorn:) Or you hire a tutor for this task but in that case we're no longer talking about self-study.
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Re: Obsolete sections of old language courses?

Postby iguanamon » Wed Feb 03, 2021 2:35 am

Le Baron wrote:...I'm not promoting bare-bones phrasebook learning, I'm talking about parts of courses that have next to no relation to experiences you will likely find yourself having to navigate or learn about. Also how to possibly intelligently adapt them or ignore them.
At day one when starting a language, with the view that (at least for that course) you'll come out of it in three-to-four months with a foundation upon which you can keep building, how much stuff you'll never use does a person want to spend time covering? Compare this to e.g. uselessly drilling yourself in the use of feet and inches in order to pass a Maths GCSE (or whatever it's called these days) in the UK. ...I think the thread has failed really.

I am replying here because this thread may be useful to beginners researching using old courses. As, I said earlier, other than the creation of new courses with more material relevant to modern life, I don't think I can satisfactorily address the OP's concerns except in a general way. Obviously, a course is geared toward a mass market as of its publication time, using common situations of the time. When, I, as an advanced learner come across situations that are not relevant to my modern life, I don't just skip over them. I look at them as a further opportunity to learn to use grammar correctly and pickup vocabulary... even if I am not going to use it right away.

My choice to use an older course is not predicated upon it teaching me about modern needs. Using a multi-track approach, I'm going to find that information from other sources. We are in a much better position to learn today than we were 50-60, even 20-30 years ago. We have access to high quality TL audio and video, electronic books with free popup dictionaries, native-speakers through social media, online tutors. It's not really an "either/or" choice scenario- an older course should most definitely be supplemented by other resources.

I wish the language-learning industry would be more up to date. Sadly, it isn't these days. Many of the modern courses are, unfortunately, not as thorough or detailed as some of the older courses. This and the language-learning industry seems to be changing to an app based approach- Babbel; Duolinguo; and RS, to name a few. Even Assimil feels the pressure to compete with an app based presence. Traditional beginner textbook with audio courses seem to be on the wane. At some point, probably after people who were born in the era of older courses' development start passing away, the older courses from the 1950's; 60's; 70's will probably pass from the scene too. They already are, as evidenced from this thread. Duolinguo is becoming more and more the go to resource for beginners. The future of language-learning is increasingly becoming app based.

For those of us who are experienced or advanced learners, we don't need a course to prepare us for immediate conversation. We need said course to teach us basic vocabulary and grammar in context... how the language works. For this purpose, any situation will do. Even if I'm not going to the dry cleaner's or butcher's shop, what I care about is being taught the use of common verbs, adverbs and adjectives in context. That context can be relevant or not relevant to my life or likely situations I may encounter. I have used the Old Testament of the Bible for language-learning (and I'm not likely to take up sheep herding, raise an army, thresh wheat or build a tabernacle/ark any time soon) but it does help me learn the language in context.

Still, I would love it if we could have more up to date courses come along. Who wouldn't want to see a newer version of "FSI"; "DLI Basic"; "Destinos" or "French In Action". We would certainly see them... if there were a mass market for them. The reason why we don't is obvious. Publishers seem to think there isn't a viable, profitable market. Of course, some of these older courses are in the public domain now and could be updated, but it's an expensive and time consuming process for, perhaps, little return on investment.
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