How long should a language course take to complete?

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USF_Fan
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How long should a language course take to complete?

Postby USF_Fan » Sun Jul 28, 2019 4:22 pm

For those of you who have been following my Spanish journey, I am about a month into learning. I am using FSI basic mainly, and about a month into it I have gone through the first 3 units. I feel like this is almost too slow of a pace. If it takes me this long to assimilate each lesson, FSI would take me about 1 1/2- 2 years to complete. On the other hand, before I started FSI I was using the Berlitz Self Teacher and made much faster progress. I also recently took a look at the Cortina method and it seems to have good material for the A2 level that could be completed in around 5-6 months. I really want to activate and use the language, but I really do need a base before I do so, and was wondering for some advice on what to do. Courses are good for building a base, but I think FSI, at the pace I am going at, is not worth the amount of time to study before actually putting the language to use, given that at the pace I am going at could take upwards of 2 years and I really don't want to overwhelm myself with course study. This is not to say I am done with FSI, but perhaps I can use it after I build up a base.

I would eventually like to work with a tutor on italki, use language exchange partners, use the language daily, use native materials, etc. And I think 2 years to work on the FSI to get an A2-B1 level is far too long before activating the language. I do not want to get course crazy, and really just need a base to build upon.

Do you think it is reasonable to do 1 lesson of Cortina a week, and 2 lessons of the Berlitz self teacher a week, for a total of 20 weeks/ 5-6 months, and realistically get within the A2 level by the end of 2019? From there, working with people on Italki, using native materials, and then perhaps doing FSI would be a better approach?

I know the language is dated in the older materials, but do you think upon completion of the Berlitz Self Teacher and the Cortina method after 5-6 months, would be sufficient for a good A2 base in the language from which further progress can be made with native materials? Do you think getting to A2 by the end of 2019 is a reasonable goal If I study 2 hours a day with these courses?
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David1917
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Re: How long should a language course take to complete?

Postby David1917 » Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:01 pm

I agree with your conclusion, and also think trying to soak up all of the FSI materials in a non-FSI context (that is, not spending all day every day on it, with requisite feedback and interaction) would take an inordinate amount of time. For me, I think the drills would best be reserved for a pre-trip or overall consolidating refresher practice in automaticity. I think that would work best, as you suggest, on the backdrop of a solid grounding in the language from other sources.

I think you could get through at least a couple lessons of Cortina in less than a week each, but even then I'm more of a constant review/waves kind of person. The other thing to consider is that the first 16 lessons of Cortina are the groundwork learning, and the final four are mammoths unto themselves. Looking at the track times I have of the course, if I were to begin Spanish from scratch with Cortina as my only source, I would do something like:

Shadowing:
Day 1 - Lesson 1x3-5
Day 2 - Lesson 2x3-5, Lesson 1x2
Day 3 - Lesson 3x2, Lesson 2x2, Lesson 1x1

And so on up until Day 6, where I would do Lessons 6 through 2, Day 7 Lessons 7 through 3, etc. up until Lesson 16 through 12. Continuing, you'd still do 16 through 13, 16 through 14, 16 & 15, and finally, 16. That's 21 days or about a month (unless you can truly remain diligent.)

Upon reaching Lesson 8, I would return to Lesson 1 with a mind to thoroughly analyze the grammar points annotated and check with the reference grammar in the back. Since there are no accompanying exercises, I would have to defer to some other source and do their exercises for that corresponding grammar point, but all the while I'd be trying to understand exactly how they work in the context of the lesson's passage. After this, I'd maybe copy the whole lesson out by hand (it's hard to say objectively what I would do - I think Spanish orthography is pretty straight-forward, but I did copy out the first 12 or so French lessons and did a lot more writing of the Assimil course than I usually do, because of the unique problems there.) This would add 8 days to the above timeline.

Simultaneously, in a 2nd study session I'd read out loud 2 Berlitz lessons/day back and forth until 15-20 minutes was reached. There are 40 lessons, right? Well, I assume you might be able to breeze through the first handful right now and begin the real studying a few lessons in. Ideally, you'll finish this up around the same time as your Cortina study.

So now you've spent a month and soaked up a couple different Spanish courses. Now it's time to put it to the test. Read long to the audio for Cortina Lesson 17, which clocks in at 9 minutes. Don't stop! Just try to get to the end. How did it go? This should inform what your next step is. Was it hard to follow the speech? Was the grammar still weird? Were there too many non-cognates?

I think 6 months with these 2 simple courses for an English speaker who already has even a little background in Spanish would be overkill/boring. I think you could very easily blast through the two of them in a month and then assess where you need to go from there.
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Re: How long should a language course take to complete?

Postby cjareck » Sun Jul 28, 2019 9:35 pm

I struggle with the FSI Hebrew Basic course. Longer lessons took about a month, shorter ones one or two weeks. But my work tempo is not impressive and I put each drill into Anki. I need to finish it but I started working with native materials that I need and that interest me a lot, so I didn't finish the course until now. I need about two-three weeks to get it done.
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Re: How long should a language course take to complete?

Postby iguanamon » Sun Jul 28, 2019 10:14 pm

USF_Fan wrote:For those of you who have been following my Spanish journey, I am about a month into learning. I am using FSI basic mainly, and about a month into it I have gone through the first 3 units. I feel like this is almost too slow of a pace. If it takes me this long to assimilate each lesson, FSI would take me about 1 1/2- 2 years to complete. On the other hand, before I started FSI I was using the Berlitz Self Teacher and made much faster progress. I also recently took a look at the Cortina method and it seems to have good material for the A2 level that could be completed in around 5-6 months. I really want to activate and use the language, but I really do need a base before I do so, and was wondering for some advice on what to do. Courses are good for building a base, but I think FSI, at the pace I am going at, is not worth the amount of time to study before actually putting the language to use, given that at the pace I am going at could take upwards of 2 years and I really don't want to overwhelm myself with course study. This is not to say I am done with FSI, but perhaps I can use it after I build up a base. ...

A course like FSI is dense with no "nonsense". It wasn't designed to get through quickly, but to be thorough. I've never seen a true, adult monolingual, beginner use it here on the forum from A0. It's density and thoroughness work against a learner's desire for quick, measurable progress... and that's understandable.

When I was learning Portuguese, I used the DLI Portuguese Basic Course and all three volumes of Pimsleur (disclosure: I already spoke Spanish at a high level). I jumped in at Volume 4 (lesson 40 out of 90) and progressed at the rate of one and a half lessons per week. I loved the course and later used the similar DLI Haitian Creole Basic Course too. I wish DLI had designed their Spanish Course along the same lines. They didn't, unfortunately. The DLI Spanish course is not like the DLI Portuguese and Haitian courses I did. FSI Basic is not designed like them either.

What I'm trying to say is that there is no harm in putting FSI aside for now and continuing with Berlitz and/or Cortina. You can always come back to FSI after you finish it/them and you don't have to start at ground zero again. You can jump in wherever you feel it's appropriate for you to jump in and proceed methodically from that point. You will probably actually gain more from the course at that point with a decent base of Spanish, progress faster and appreciate more what the course is intended to do at that point. A lot of Spanish-learners here do something along those lines.

I think the difference between FSI and other beginner courses is that the FSI Basic Course was never really designed for self-learner use (though motivated self-learners can and do use it effectively). So, as a consequence for self-learners, there is the absence of a teacher and a full day classroom setting which provide more of a sense of progress. Imagine if you were in class for six hours a day. Learning Spanish would be your job and you would be being paid to learn it. You'd be knocking out those early lessons much more quickly. Your six hour day would probably be the equivalent of what you can do in a week on your own. You would also be doing homework on your own. Your classmates would be there for support and encouragement. Your teacher would be providing you with interaction, help and positive feedback along the way. As a result, it would probably be way much less frustrating and provide you with motivation. As self-learners with jobs, families and a life, learning a language is not our paid job and we can't really substitute for the FIS environment when we don't yet know quite how to learn a language on our own.

Cortina and Belitz Self Teacher were specifically designed for independent learners. They are not as thorough or comprehensive as FSI but they do provide more of a sense of progress for a self-learner. You can certainly use them to your benefit and probably should put FSI aside for now and come back to it later. I wouldn't worry about dated language. You are learning the basics of Spanish. You will gain more of a sense of how to use Spanish when you interact with it outside of course world.

Self-learners need to be consistent and persistent in their learning. Consistency and persistence are key. Also, I don't think beginners should be overwhelmed. The learning materials may be the best available on the planet, but if a learner is not motivated to use them or is overwhelmed by them, then obviously, no matter how good they may be, they are not the best materials for them (at least at that point). So, yes, whatever course you can do that you will actually complete and will motivate you to finish is what you should do. Later, after you've finished whatever course, you can come back to FSI and it will help broaden and deepen your knowledge of the basics of Spanish. Along the way, you can puzzle out some short native text- again, not taking on too much (work on a song or a short Aesop's fable- a paragraph or two, for example), maybe you could watch Destinos along with your doing Berlitz/Cortina as part of a multi-track approach. ¡Suerte!
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Re: How long should a language course take to complete?

Postby AnthonyLauder » Mon Jul 29, 2019 9:20 am

Unfortunately, how long a course should take is entirely individual. Courses are often marketed with very optimistic timeframes, but rushing through them only works for a small number of people. The difference between the fastest and the slowest students can be vast. Recently, I was reading comments on a Spanish course that has 150 lessons. One student boasted that he had completed 10 lessons per day, finishing the course in a little over two weeks. In reply, another student stated that he had done only one lesson per week, studying each lesson for two days, and then reviewing it for five more days. Consequently, he completed that same course in three years, without breaks.

Having said that, the vast majority of students NEVER finish a language course. I often joke that I always buy used copies of language courses, because they tend to be brand new after page 10. The biggest mistake in language learning is giving up. So long as you don't give up, I would say "it takes as long as it takes".
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Re: How long should a language course take to complete?

Postby ASEAN » Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:00 am

USF_Fan wrote:Do you think it is reasonable to do 1 lesson of Cortina a week, and 2 lessons of the Berlitz self teacher a week, for a total of 20 weeks/ 5-6 months, and realistically get within the A2 level by the end of 2019? From there, working with people on Italki, using native materials, and then perhaps doing FSI wouldbe a better approach?

deka glossai has a step-by-step plan to learn German that can easily be used for Spanish. His method will take 250 to 350 hours to complete and will result in at least B1 on the CEFR scale. (According to FSI, it takes less time for native English-speakers to learn Spanish compared to German.) Once completed, deka glossai says that, "... you can profit from conversation practice, bilingual texts, native materials, and advanced textbooks.".

CEFR description of B1:
Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
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Re: How long should a language course take to complete?

Postby Sgt Schultz » Wed Jul 31, 2019 5:01 pm

For a beginner, I'd recommend not starting with FSI. I'd ease myself in gently with either:

- Paul Noble courses, there are 3 beginner levels plus a next steps. They are all very reasonably priced. Part 1 is here https://www.audible.com/pd/Collins-Spanish-with-Paul-Noble-Learn-Spanish-the-Natural-Way-Part-1-Audiobook/B004TNEEX8

or

- Michel Thomas courses, both foundation and advanced, found here: https://www.michelthomas.com/

Paul Noble will give you the most gentle introduction into the language. In my opinion, his courses are the best way to start a language.

Michel Thomas courses are brilliant. I credit him and his courses for straightening out Spanish verb tenses for me and setting me up for advanced levels.

This is just my personal opinion, and speaking from experience, I'd ditch FSI completely. The recordings don't sound good and the content/language was outdated. There are better options.

Years ago when I was starting I did MT -> Paul Noble -> Pimsleur as my Spanish foundation. I found that it set me up well for advancing my Spanish. I'd also look into Assimil Spanish, after you've done some foundation courses, as it's highly recommended here.

Hope it helps.
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