Intermediate Level Self-Study Language Courses
Students seeking “intermediate” level courses for the self-study of foreign languages are frequently dismayed by the paucity of materials available. Putting aside the inflated promotional statements of most publishers, such materials simply do not exist. The problem arises from the fact that, despite their initial enthusiasm, most people who purchase beginners’ level self-study courses, abandon their “self-improvement projects” early on. Publishers are quite aware of this and respond by offering mislabelled “intermediate” and “advanced” courses which are nothing more than minor extensions of their beginners’ level courses.
The only “intermediate … ish” courses for the self-study of foreign languages that I have ever encountered are the second stage materials by Assimil, Living Language, and Linguaphone, all of which, in my opinion, operate at the CEFR B1 to B1+ level. In all four cases, the objectives are to increase the one’s grasp of the basics of the L2 grammar and to expand (nominally) one’s vocabulary. Here is the list:
Assimil Using Spanish / Perfectionnement Espagnol
Although the English-based version is no longer in print, used copies are still available. A cautionary note: reviews on the HTLAL and the LLORG have not always been positive. The most recent French-based version has been well-received (Assimil now advertises it as operating at the B1-B2 level, which is refreshing). Even if your French is not up to the task, at your present level, you could still use this course as a collection of scripted dialogues for which transcriptions are available but for which notes are not. Sally forth, dictionary and grammar in hand!
Living Language Spanish Beyond the Basics
The “Beyond the Basics” series was published as a sequel to the previous generation of Living Language’s “Complete: The Basics” series. Short dialogues, plus a review of the basics of Spanish grammar. Although out-of-print, these pocket book sized course manual plus four CDs sets are still available at low prices.
Living Language Spanish Ultimate Advanced
The “Ultimate Advanced” series was published as a sequel to the previous generation of Living Language’s “Ultimate Beginner to Intermediate” series. Short dialogues, plus a nice review of the basics of Spanish grammar. Although out-of-print, these course manual plus eight CDs sets are still available at reasonable prices.
Linguaphone Spanish Advanced to Expert
Although I could be wrong about the dates, I believe that Linguaphone’s second stage series was first published at some time during the 1970’s-1980’s as a sequel to their beginner’s courses. Although the course materials and CDs are entirely in the L2 language and seem imposing, they actually operate at the B1+ to B2 level. Still available directly from the publisher.
Genuine Intermediate Level Materials?
I have a large collection of “genuine” intermediate level materials for the study of German. In every case, these course books were designed for presentation in a classroom setting. I prefer textbooks from the 1960’s and 1970’s because they are filled with … text … rather than multi-coloured photographs of smiling, attractive young adults going about their wonderful lives. These older textbooks tend to present extracts from the language’s literature and newspapers along with annotations and very good reviews of the L2 grammar. They rarely contain dialogues and they do not contain materials for drilling. In most cases, the audio recordings which once accompanied these courses are no longer available. Working through a couple of these textbooks is brutal experience and is very hard on one’s self-esteem (viz., I thought that I was at the B1 level). However, these older textbooks absolutely great for expanding one’s vocabulary and for deepening one’s appreciation for the nuances of the language’s grammar.