Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

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Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby USF_Fan » Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:56 am

I am currently about 1/3 through the FSI Spanish Programmatic course as well as the Berlitz Self Teacher. I have heard that the FSI Spanish basic course is arguably the most in depth language course and is very intense. After I finish the FSI Programmatic course and the Berlitz Self Teacher I want to complete the entirety of the FSI Spanish Basic. Most posts that I have seen on this forum suggest that FSI Basic would be better suited to those who already have a good foundation already rather than for a complete raw beginner. I was wondering if upon completion of the FSI programmatic course, would that be sufficient preparation to take on the FSI basic? I do not really want to go course heavy with a ton of different courses, but to those who are familiar with the FSI program, would you recommend diving into FSI basic right after the programmatic or would you recommend some more preparation such as a Cortina, Living Language Ultimate, or Assimil before taking on FSI Basic?


For anyone that is familiar with both the programmatic course and the basic course, how much ground would you say the programmatic course covers into the FSI basic?
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Re: Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:46 am

This is a very valid question! Although James29 has gone much further than I have in his study of Spanish, I will try to respond to your questions. I have completed both FSI Spanish courses.

The FSI Spanish Basic course employs the audio-lingual method of instruction and, while the course was conceived for presentation by a qualified instructor in classroom, in my opinion, the course manuals and accompanying audio recordings can be used in an self-instruction context by adults who have had no previous contact with the language. That is, the only prerequisites are a strong desire to learn Spanish and a hefty measure of perseverance. The level upon completion of this course in a self-instruction setting would depend largely on the individual’s ability to assimilate the massive amounts of material contained therein. While I estimate that the materials themselves have the potential for bringing a student within the CEFR B2 area, I suspect that the average person would have difficulty assimilating all of the materials and would likely hit a plateau somewhere around the CEFR B1 area.

The FSI Spanish Programmatic course was developed for self-instruction subject to regular reviews with a qualified instructor. As you have most likely concluded, the course manuals and accompanying audio recordings can easily be used in an self-instruction context by adults who have had no previous contact with the language. While the “target” level upon completion of these materials might be somewhere in the CEFR A2 area from the standpoint of the structural aspects of the language, my impression is that the relatively-limited amount of vocabulary would place this two-volume course somewhere in the CEFR A1 area. See Addendum*

So then, in my opinion, the FSI Spanish Programmatic course would “roughly equivalent” to the First Level of the FSI Spanish Basic course; however, it was not designed as, and should not be viewed as, a “prerequisite” of the latter for which none is necessary.

Having said all of the above, should you complete both levels of the FSI Spanish Programmatic course, I would recommend that you begin with Unit One of the FSI Spanish Basic course. In completing the First Level, you will notice the different approaches to teaching (a matter which you will have to adjust to), you will probably be surprised by your continued need to correct your pronunciation (for which ample exercises are provided in the 1st level), you will likely have to adapt to the speed of delivery of the dialogues, you will notice that there exist different manners of expressing what you thought were elementary ideas in the FSI Spanish Programmatic course, you will strengthen your grasp of the language’s structure, you will expand your vocabulary beyond the latter, and you will reinforce both what you have already learned and what you "believe" that you have learned.

Addendum*
For about three decades, the now-defunct authorized publisher and seller of FSI language courses, Audio-Forum (Jeffery Norton Publishers), used to sell a combined set of the FSI Spanish courses as: (a) FSI Spanish Programmatic, Vol. 1 & 2, plus (b) FSI Spanish Basic, Vol. 3 & 4. They did not offer FSI Spanish Basic, Vol. 1 & 2, for sale, maintaining that the two volumes of the FSI Spanish Programmatic course had "replaced" the two volumes of the former course. It was through Audio-Forum that I acquired my first set of FSI Spanish materials. Some years later, I purchased the first two volumes of the FSI Spanish Basic course. It was upon completion of these two lower levels, in conjunction with a review of the higher levels, that I came to consider Audio-Forum's assessment of the courses, not to mention their curious sales policy, as being partly responsible for my having to struggle during the transition from the Programmatic to the Basic course. That is, I did not find that the two levels of the Programmatic course were sufficient preparation for the higher levels of the Basic course. It is quite possible that other members' experiences differ from my own. James29, where art thou?

EDITED:
Typos, tinkering.
Addendum
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Re: Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby USF_Fan » Mon Jul 01, 2019 9:03 pm

Thank you, Speakeasy. I have a couple of additional questions regarding the basic course.


I have read that FSI suggests 10 hours to complete each unit. Would doing 1 lesson a week be appropriate if I work with the unit daily 1-2 times a day? That would be the equivalent of finishing the entire course in roughly a year. Would that be an appropriate pace to finish the course?


As Speakeasy mentions, the materials themselves are equivalent to B2. Since there are 4 volumes, would volume 1 be similar to A1 upon completion, Volume 2 A2 upon completion etc. I ask this because I would like to have a foundation of sorts before I work with a tutor on Italki and begin working with language exchange partners. I was thinking of completing the first two volumes before working with a tutor and exchange partner but I am not sure what each volume contains as far as material is concerned.
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Re: Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:55 pm

@USF_Fan, hopefully, your question concerning the time that one should allot to each unit of the FSI Spanish Basic course will generate a variety of answers. Now then, for a little more pontificating …

Assuming that you will have completed the FSI Spanish Programmatic course, you should be able to progress fairly quickly through the first volume of the FSI Spanish Basic course and the first few units of the second volume. Thereafter, things will start to slow down a little. Assuming that you want to feel comfortable with the materials, but not master them, the 10 Hours Per Unit guideline seems reasonable to me. By way of comparison, I would imagine that, were FSI Spanish Basic course to be used as the core materials of a university language programme, they would likely be presented one volume per semester over a two-year period. As far as I understand, the FSI students would typically put in about 30 contact hours per unit in the classroom, in an context where they were required to use the L2 in their communications with the teacher and with one another, along with an additional 15 hours of after-class study. As it is virtually impossible to emulate this level of concentrated study in a self-instruction programme, the 10-hour guideline should yield a degree of “familiarity” with the materials, but not mastery of them. While the units are fairly well balanced as to content, some will inevitably seem more difficult than others and these will require a greater investment of your time. Persistence and a flexible approach are your allies. Finally, it is useful to remember that while the FSI Basic courses provide an opportunity for developing a very solid foundation in a language, you need not master them, they are but a step in a long process. The subsequent stage, which involves working with native materials, is where you will really learn the language.

Coming to your other question, the CEFR categories did not exist at the time that the FSI Basic courses were published and, even if they had, it is highly unlikely that the Foreign Service Institute, or the language specialists to whom these projects may have been out-sourced, would take the CEFR evaluation system into consideration when designing their instruction materials. Should a correspondence happen to exist between the CEFR levels and the four volumes of the FSI Spanish Basic, this would be coincidental. Nevertheless, as an informal means of measuring one’s progress, we might agree that an “approximate” correspondence exists.
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Re: Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby Yaya100000 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 11:28 pm

Do you think combining Assimil with FSI Programmatic would be enough preparation for the last 2 volumes of FSI Basic Spanish?
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Re: Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Jul 02, 2019 12:13 am

Yaya100000 wrote:Do you think combining Assimil with FSI Programmatic would be enough preparation for the last 2 volumes of FSI Basic Spanish?
Probably, but my saying so would be tantamount to promoting heresy. James29, where art thou?

EDITED:
Darned typos.
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Re: Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby James29 » Thu Aug 01, 2019 6:04 pm

Speakeasy wrote:
Yaya100000 wrote:Do you think combining Assimil with FSI Programmatic would be enough preparation for the last 2 volumes of FSI Basic Spanish?
Probably, but my saying so would be tantamount to promoting heresy. James29, where art thou?

EDITED:
Darned typos.


I'm here! I have been slacking off lately. I can definitely offer some input here. I never did Programmatic but I went through the entire FSI Basic Spanish course thoroughly twice. I did it the first time after having a decent base. I had done Pimsleur 1-3, Michel Thomas Foundations and Advanced, Assimil and I believe I also had done Living Language Beyond the Basics. With this base I managed to get through FSI doing each lesson three-ish times. This was quite manageable and I would recommend doing it this way. I think doing FSI would be fine on less base in the language but the tediousness factor would be higher. It would have been harder for me if I had to do each lesson 4-5 times. That is just a ton of grinding.

I then took probably about a year and did other things like Assimil's Using Spanish and some other advanced courses. Then, I went back to FSI and did the whole thing again. This second time I was obviously much more advanced and did the majority of the lessons only two times. This makes is so much more manageable.

Something I'd recommend would be getting your Spanish to the level where you know nearly all of the vocabulary you will encounter in the FSI Basic course and all of the basic grammar concepts before you start FSI Basic. The real value in the course is the drills and making the language flow out of your brain and mouth. If you have to learn the vocabulary and basic grammar at the same time you may be giving yourself a higher likelihood of failure.

I really liked doing it twice and think the second time I did it was extremely valuable. I've even considered doing it a third time now years later even though I am quite advanced.

Good luck!
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Re: Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby James29 » Thu Aug 01, 2019 6:09 pm

USF_Fan wrote:I am currently about 1/3 through the FSI Spanish Programmatic course as well as the Berlitz Self Teacher. I have heard that the FSI Spanish basic course is arguably the most in depth language course and is very intense. After I finish the FSI Programmatic course and the Berlitz Self Teacher I want to complete the entirety of the FSI Spanish Basic. Most posts that I have seen on this forum suggest that FSI Basic would be better suited to those who already have a good foundation already rather than for a complete raw beginner. I was wondering if upon completion of the FSI programmatic course, would that be sufficient preparation to take on the FSI basic? I do not really want to go course heavy with a ton of different courses, but to those who are familiar with the FSI program, would you recommend diving into FSI basic right after the programmatic or would you recommend some more preparation such as a Cortina, Living Language Ultimate, or Assimil before taking on FSI Basic?


For anyone that is familiar with both the programmatic course and the basic course, how much ground would you say the programmatic course covers into the FSI basic?


See my above post. But, to answer your question more directly. I would recommend doing a course like Living Language or Assimil in depth before starting FSI Basic. Try FSI lesson 3 and see how many times through you need to master it. If you can master it after two or three runs through it (without stopping the audio) you are ready to to dive in. If it takes you 5+ you are going to be in for a very long tedious haul.

You could also break it up into chunks. Do the first quarter then do a different course then do the second quarter, etc, etc. I did that at times and it was really nice to have a break from the drilling.
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Re: Is the FSI Spanish Programmatic sufficient preparation for FSI Spanish Basic?

Postby thevagrant88 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 1:38 am

James29 wrote:
Speakeasy wrote:
Yaya100000 wrote:Do you think combining Assimil with FSI Programmatic would be enough preparation for the last 2 volumes of FSI Basic Spanish?
Probably, but my saying so would be tantamount to promoting heresy. James29, where art thou?

EDITED:
Darned typos.


I'm here! I have been slacking off lately. I can definitely offer some input here. I never did Programmatic but I went through the entire FSI Basic Spanish course thoroughly twice. I did it the first time after having a decent base. I had done Pimsleur 1-3, Michel Thomas Foundations and Advanced, Assimil and I believe I also had done Living Language Beyond the Basics. With this base I managed to get through FSI doing each lesson three-ish times. This was quite manageable and I would recommend doing it this way. I think doing FSI would be fine on less base in the language but the tediousness factor would be higher. It would have been harder for me if I had to do each lesson 4-5 times. That is just a ton of grinding.

I then took probably about a year and did other things like Assimil's Using Spanish and some other advanced courses. Then, I went back to FSI and did the whole thing again. This second time I was obviously much more advanced and did the majority of the lessons only two times. This makes is so much more manageable.

Something I'd recommend would be getting your Spanish to the level where you know nearly all of the vocabulary you will encounter in the FSI Basic course and all of the basic grammar concepts before you start FSI Basic. The real value in the course is the drills and making the language flow out of your brain and mouth. If you have to learn the vocabulary and basic grammar at the same time you may be giving yourself a higher likelihood of failure.

I really liked doing it twice and think the second time I did it was extremely valuable. I've even considered doing it a third time now years later even though I am quite advanced.

Good luck!


Thank you for this post. I've only got a few lessons left for the Basic Course and realize now that I should have been more stringent with it. I've been really dissatisfied with my speaking abilities lately and I believe that I would be much better by this point if I had gone through the FSI course more like this. As it is, right now I do it when I go to the gym and isn't a part of my 'core' study time. As such, if I'm lazy that day, then no FSI.

I've been learning Spanish for close to four years now and I honestly feel that more then half the battle has been simply learning how to learn a language, even still. On the plus side, whenever I feel comfortable enough to study a second language, I'll already have the road paved for me, so to speak.

I'll definitely be incorporating the FSI course into my regular study time now following this guideline. Thanks again.
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