FSI German: Too Old?

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
User avatar
Xenops
Green Belt
Posts: 487
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2015 10:33 pm
Location: U.S.A.
Languages: English (N), French (A2), Japanese (rusty A2)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?p=48718#p48718
x 695
Contact:

FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Xenops » Mon Sep 12, 2016 3:33 am

After starting FSI French Phonology, I am liking the idea of using FSI for studying basic French and German; my concern is I had heard rumors that the German course in particular uses language that is either old-fashioned or uses terms that are now considered derogatory.

Thoughts? Insights? Thanks in advance!
0 x
: 32 / 113 Assimil New French with Ease
: 7 / 52 French in Action


Check out my comic at: http://rosamondgrey.smackjeeves.com/

James
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2016 9:42 am
Languages: English
Greek (Beginner)
x 10

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby James » Mon Sep 12, 2016 9:57 am

For a language has popular as German there are probably better resources out there than the old FSI courses.
To be fair though, the language will not have changed too drastically since it was written so if you like using FSI I'd say go for it.

You can easily learn more modern phrases etc after you get more proficient at it.
2 x

User avatar
tiia
Orange Belt
Posts: 216
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:52 pm
Languages: German (N), English (?), Finnish (~B2), Spanish (B1)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?t=2374
x 235

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby tiia » Mon Sep 12, 2016 12:52 pm

I've taken a short look at the FSI Basic Course and to be honest: This is old fashioned German. I would say this is maybe how my grandparents spoke. Could be worse, but you really should be ok with sounding odd.
Furthermore culture is not a static thing, so some of the facts about Germany are nowadays wrong.

But what you may not know: German had an orthography reform in 1996 and several reforms of the reform, so a noticable amount of words will now be written differently. The new rules are supposed to be easier and simpler, so I'd absolutely recommend a source with a valid orthography. (Due to the reforms of the reform some words can now be written in more than one way.)
10 x
Reading books in Finnish 2016: 6 / 6
Project 30before30: 21 / 30

User avatar
WalkingAlone13
Orange Belt
Posts: 215
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 3:03 pm
Languages: English (N) German (A1?) Finnish (beginner) Swedish (beginner) Polish (beginner)
x 223

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby WalkingAlone13 » Mon Sep 12, 2016 1:32 pm

I am not sure what year FSI German was produced, however I am reasonably sure it was sometime before Michel Thomas German, and I have already been picked out for using some old fashioned German from Michel Thomas. In one case, I believe I used "Lass uns gehen!" or something similar, not 100% sure now. My professor could not help but laugh and explained that I sounded as if I were speaking some sort of equivalent to Shakespearian English in German.
This was at the very start of my journey and it immediately knocked my confidence as although I knew about the reform having produced a presentation on it for a different class, I had no idea of every phrase, word, etc. that had changed or was considered old-fashioned. It made me doubt all of my resources, and I then only purchased materials after 1996. The reform was slightly confusing anyway as some aspects of it involved certain words that had been changed, being changed back again. Except for Switzerland, I think, but they later accepted the reform anyway just a few years later.

In short, if newer courses and resources still contain outdated information, and particularly information that you would get called out for; I imagine the chances of FSI doing the same would be very high and probably not worth it. The drills may still be of some use if you were to check beforehand, but that would probably take too long.
1 x

Chung
Orange Belt
Posts: 208
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:39 pm
Languages: SPEAKS: English*, French
STUDIES: Finnish, Korean
MAINTAINS: Polish, Slovak
RESURRECTS: German, Hungarian
STUDIED: Azeri, BCMS/SC, Czech, Estonian, Latin, Northern Saami, Russian, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian
DABBLED: Bashkir, Chuvash, Crimean Tatar, Inari Saami, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Meadow Mari, Mongolian, Romanian, Tatar, Turkmen, Tuvan, Uzbek
x 603

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Chung » Mon Sep 12, 2016 2:59 pm

Xenops wrote:After starting FSI French Phonology, I am liking the idea of using FSI for studying basic French and German; my concern is I had heard rumors that the German course in particular uses language that is either old-fashioned or uses terms that are now considered derogatory.

Thoughts? Insights? Thanks in advance!


Use it for some drills and read the notes when you need to remind yourself of something in the grammar. The old-fashioned/non-PC vocabulary, pre-1996 spelling, and formal register notwithstanding, you still can get a lot of benefit in building your vocabulary stock (as much as people rip it for its old vocabulary, that's still outweighed by the stock of words in it that is still current) and improving your grasp of inflectional endings and word order when using the course as a supplement. You'll put up with more muffled audio than you'd like, though, since the digitalization used crummy source audio. It's a little iffy if you could use the dialogues for practice that much. As for the drills, the substitution drills up to Unit 20 are often suitable for self study since the cue words are often in the text also. Afterwards the cue words are no longer printed (but are on the audio as always) and would probably be better for passive studying rather than as starting points for active practicing. The conversion drills are usable to varying degrees on their own.

I wouldn't spend a lot of time on the variation and translation drills in either volume. The former comes as sets of English sentences with each set presented in a similar structure so that you can work on providing corresponding German sentences whose structure will resemble each other. This is easier as translation-type exercises go than the designated translation drills which effectively make you translate a summary of the chapter's dialogue from English to German with the summary divided into small groups of a sentence or three. The open-ended nature of translation can be frustrating for an independent learner, and without the help of a native speaker of German, these would be better for passive studying (think of them as crude and cut-up versions of dual-language texts). Too often you may wonder if your translation is just as acceptable or idiomatic as that printed in the book. The vocabulary drills are likewise better for passive studying and are set up as translation exercises of German sentences containing the assigned keywords to English ones.

The FSI courses for FIGS have been a fertile topic of discussion on these forums not just because of the free distribution of old FSI courses, but FIGS are just (too damned) popular. See also the following:

- FSI German -- Taking me backwards?
- FSI German or German without Toil?
- Question about FSI German course
- FSI German Basic Course
- A question about the FSI German Basic Course (this thread is interesting since it also includes comments on accents used by the speakers and the currency of some of the vocabulary)
4 x

Speakeasy
Blue Belt
Posts: 630
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
x 1292

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Sep 12, 2016 3:18 pm

Déjà Vu (we’ve been through this before)
The question posed by the OP has been addressed numerous times on the HTLAL. To be brief, the argument advanced by some forum members is that the FSI courses include far too much out-dated vocabulary to be useful, so much so that they would do damage to one’s attempts at learning a foreign language, and that they should be avoided. The counter argument is that that a serious, adult independent learner of languages possesses sufficient sophistication to ascertain what is appropriate and useful in these courses and can be depended upon to use these materials wisely.

Hyphothesis (Too Old, or Old But Still Useful?)
With all due respect to the OP and those who have responded, I believe that the hypothesis is poorly phrased (the language is old-fashioned, some of the terms would now be considered derogatory) and would be better postulated in terms of on-going usefulness.

Vocabulary (Old-fashioned, Derogatory?)
It is important to recall that the FSI courses were developed in the late 1960’s for the language instruction of American diplomatic personnel so as to meet their basic communication needs with the inhabitants of the regions to which they were to be deployed. Thus, these courses include a fair amount of purely “functional vocabulary” that is as valid today as it was at the time that these courses were developed. To wit, in the absence of verifiable proof that the German peoples have replaced the verbs "gehen" and "fahren" with new terms, I submit that these and all similar vocabulary items are not old-fashioned any more than they are derogatory. Do the FSI courses contains some vocabulary items that no longer have the purchase that they once had? To answer this question, I suggest that the reviewers consult the Glossary at the end of Volume 2 of the FSI Basic German course and that they compare its contents to that of any recent course, such as Langenscheidt’s highly-respected series Berliner Platz Neu. Reviewers will notice that the vast majority of the vocabulary terms are the exactly same. Are there differences? Yes, of course there are! Although advances in technology have resulted in the replacement of "Schreibmaschine" by "Computer", despite the omnipresence of the word "Handy" in German, "Telefon" continues to be valid.

Formality of Language (Register, Context, Stylistic Variation)
As I noted above, the FSI German Basic course was developed for the language instruction of American diplomatic personnel. It should be expected then, that in the interest of promoting and maintaining good relations between American diplomatic personnel and their German homologues, this course teaches a discernable formality of language which, for some users, can represent an irritant and it is perhaps this element, more than the vocabulary itself, that some people question. But would it not serve a nation’s interests better if its diplomats were capable of deploying polite, refined, and at times even subtle, speech? I freely admit that the independent language-learner relying solely on the FSI courses incurs the risk adopting a somewhat “stilted” register, but at what penalty?. In contrast, as a visitor to Germany, do you truly want to come across as a boorish Reality-TV Star in desperate want of attention? Obviously, this is a rhetorical question to which you may wish not to respond.

Methodology and Usefulness
The FSI Basic courses of the 1960’s adopted the “audio-lingual” method of instruction that, at the time, enjoyed the wide-spread support of American scholars. I am not at all ashamed to say that I respond well to the massive repetition of the various sentence-pattern drills that form the basis of instruction in these materials. The vast majority of the vocabulary items and the grammar structures presented in the FSI German Basic course are treated in the drills and from my perspective, despite the occasional obsolete word, the true value of these materials resides in the opportunity to practice the drills. As an experienced language-learner, I do not expect the FSI course materials to be my sole resource for learning a language. I use them as I believe they were designed to be used and then move on to other resources with a view to advancing my learning. You can too!

EDITED: Typos ... wie immer!
Last edited by Speakeasy on Mon Sep 12, 2016 4:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
10 x

User avatar
aokoye
Brown Belt
Posts: 1079
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 6:14 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Languages: English (N), German (B2), Swedish (beginner), Dutch (beginner), French (beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=2935
x 1587
Contact:

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby aokoye » Mon Sep 12, 2016 3:51 pm

tiia wrote:I've taken a short look at the FSI Basic Course and to be honest: This is old fashioned German. I would say this is maybe how my grandparents spoke. Could be worse, but you really should be ok with sounding odd.
Furthermore culture is not a static thing, so some of the facts about Germany are nowadays wrong.

But what you may not know: German had an orthography reform in 1996 and several reforms of the reform, so a noticable amount of words will now be written differently. The new rules are supposed to be easier and simpler, so I'd absolutely recommend a source with a valid orthography. (Due to the reforms of the reform some words can now be written in more than one way.)

I'm really glad that a native speaker of German responded to this. It was always my hunch that the FIS course wasn't at least a bit old fashioned but I wasn't really willing to take much of a stance as a. I haven't used the course (there are so many other courses for German that are good some of which are free) and b. because I don't feel qualified to say what is or isn't old fashioned (though there are some obvious things).

I think your point about the spelling reform(s) is also a good one and is what I normally bring up. The counter argument is normally, "well you can always look up the words that are spelled differently" (or a theme on that answer) but why ingrain an incorrect spelling when you have the opportunity not to. Yes millions of people have learned German as a foreign language prior but why put yourself in that position when you don't have to. There's also the problem of not knowing whether or not a word in FSI has or hasn't undergone the reform. Yes there are rules and you could probably teach yourself said rules, but really - why take the time to do that when you could be learning more German (I could see learning those rules being very useful if you were taking a linguistics class on historical German linguistics or were doing something where you needed to work with original works of literature).
3 x
Prefered gender pronouns: Masculine

Speakeasy
Blue Belt
Posts: 630
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
x 1292

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Sep 12, 2016 4:56 pm

aokoye wrote: I think your point about the spelling reform(s) is also a good one and is what I normally bring up. The counter argument is normally, "well you can always look up the words that are spelled differently" (or a theme on that answer) but why ingrain an incorrect spelling when you have the opportunity not to...

With respect, I believe that this point is over-stated. First, I believe that an intelligent adult is quite capable of adapting to the minor orthographical differences that exist between materials published before, and subsequent to, the Spelling Reforms. In my view, anyone incapable of doing so has truly no hope of learning the written form of a foreign language. Second, limiting oneself to using only those printed materials that were published subsequent to the reforms deprives oneself of accessing a veritable treasure of German literature than has not yet been, and may never be, edited and reprinted ... ditto for the refusal to learn the German Gothic script.

EDITED: insertion of "the written form of"
Last edited by Speakeasy on Mon Sep 12, 2016 6:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
3 x

User avatar
tiia
Orange Belt
Posts: 216
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:52 pm
Languages: German (N), English (?), Finnish (~B2), Spanish (B1)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?t=2374
x 235

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby tiia » Mon Sep 12, 2016 5:49 pm

Speakeasy wrote:Formality of Language (Register, Context, Stylistic Variation)
As I noted above, the FSI German Basic course was developed for the language instruction of American diplomatic personnel. It should be expected then, that in the interest of promoting and maintaining good relations between American diplomatic personnel and their German homologues, this course teaches a discernable formality of language which, for some users, can represent an irritant and it is perhaps this element, more than the vocabulary itself, that some people question. But would it not serve a nation’s interests better if its diplomats were capable of deploying polite, refined, and at times even subtle, speech? I freely admit that the independent language-learner relying solely on the FSI courses incurs the risk adopting a somewhat “stilted” register, but at what penalty?. In contrast, as a visitor to Germany, do you truly want to come across as a boorish Reality-TV Star in desperate want of attention? Obviously, this is a rhetorical question to which you may wish not to respond.


You say it's rhetorical, but I'd like to point out one thing: When adressing women they use Fräulein and gnädige Frau, when talking about someones wife it might be Ihre Frau Gemahlin. They do mention to use Ihre Frau if you're very familiar, but in my opinion this is (nearly) always the only correct way.

Ihre Frau Gemahlin sounds odd. But it is still polite, but extremly stilted. But of course since it says Ihre, no one would directly adress me like that.
If someone would call me gnädige Frau, however, I would think "WTF", or assume the person is joking. If meant seriously it sounds a bit like the person is begging. However it's hard to imagine someone using it seriously. It may be ok to use in some role-play setting.
Even worse is using the word Fräulein. It is the direct translation of "Miss" and it was probably used the same way back then. It's most likely the term of those three that was out-dated last. Nowadays I can think of three ways using this:
1. As an insult.
2. A person who still didn't get that the word is out-dated. But even eldery people should have realised now that this is an insult. (And sometimes they do this on purpose.)
3. Booking flight tickets and choosing between Herr/Frau/Fräulein (Mr./Mrs./Ms.). The boarding pass will be in English, so I choose this to get the correct term of address in English.

I won't comment on the methology. Everyone has their own preferences and I'm not here to judge them.
4 x
Reading books in Finnish 2016: 6 / 6
Project 30before30: 21 / 30

User avatar
reineke
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1776
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:34 pm
Languages: Engrish
x 2693

Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby reineke » Mon Sep 12, 2016 6:17 pm

Native speakers are welcome to criticize the course but please provide some concrete arguments and examples.


From alt.usage.german
" A question about the FSI German Basic Course

As you have noted, the text is from the year 1961. This leads me to
another question: how much has the German language changed since then? I
really like this course, but more than half a century has passed since
it was written!


" I would be very grateful if someone could just quickly skim through the
> "Basic Sentences" section of the first four or five units and tell me is
> there anything that would be unusual if spoken today?
>
> The book is the "Student Text" here:
> http://fsi-language-courses.org/Content ... an%20Basic
> The "Basic Sentences" section of each unit starts on pages (in PDF
> document!): 14, 36, 62, 94, 122.
>
> For example, I've read somewhere that "gn�dige Frau" is not used today
> very often...
>


One answer:

" 01.II. "Fr�ulein Schneider".
You can't use "Fr�ulein" today.

01.VIII "Mark", "Pfennig"
Today it's "Euro" and "Cent". And of course the prices are obsolete.

01.XI "drei und f�nf"
That's what they taught me at elementary school, but in todays
elementary schools, it's "plus".

Unit 02, map.
The cities are written with lower-case letters. That looks strange.

Unit 03, map, and dialogue.
You don't write "Strasse" instead of "Stra�e" except if
- you are from Switzerland, or
- you use a typewriter that doesn't support "�", or
- you write in capitals.

03.III "Taxe"
That sounds very old-fashioned, it's "das Taxi".

"Omnibus", "Autobus"
You can say that, but "Bus" is more common.

04.VI "Ihre Frau Gemahlin"
Stilted. Should be just "Ihre Frau".


06.I "Telephon"
Meanwhile it's "Telefon".

07.I "Beckers"
I would say/write "Die Beckers", but there's a regional gradient
regarding articles with proper names. If you go north, you mustn't do
it, if you go south, it's normal, and in Switzerland, you have to.

07.VII "Solch eine K�che"
I think "So eine K�che" sounds better.

"eingebauten Schr�nke"
"Einbauschr�nke".

11.1 "Hat er sich wieder verschlafen?"
I would say "Hat er wieder verschlafen?"


12.2 "Realgymnasium"
Today, it's just "Gymnasium" in Germany, but in �sterreich and S�dtirol,
they still exist. "
1 x


Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest