FSI German: Too Old?

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reineke
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby reineke » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:28 pm

Hrhenry wrote:nsight into a culture's past is a good thing, and "obsolete" language plays an important part in that.

Taking the argument further, can you imagine someone telling you "Don't read (insert famous old literature)! The vocabulary and sentence structure is old and we don't talk like that any more!"


Unfortunately, I don't have to imagine it.
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby WalkingAlone13 » Mon Sep 12, 2016 10:36 pm

Thunter wrote:
reineke wrote:
WalkingAlone13 wrote: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


That tells us more about your teacher than it does about FSI.


The sentence you quoted is actually used by the youth and is in no way old fashioned.

Please note that some other vocabulary that is said to be outdated is actually still part of the language spoken in eastern Germany. There you would also find a "Röster" instead of "Toaster", "Plaste" instead of "Pastik". In eastern Germany people may also eat a "Röstwurst" instead of a "Bratwurst".

Other words changed in their connotation. You would use "Fräulein" or in sentences as "Komm mal her Fräulein." if your daughter did something wrong and needs to be corrected.


Thanks for the clarification, Thunter. I think that, as a learner, it just goes to show the difficulties in finding appropriate sources in which to learn from. It would seem that in some cases you can never be considered to be speaking correctly, as what may well be outdated in one part of a country, could be perfectly acceptable in another, and that which some - possibly a generation gap element - deem to be incorrect is actually correct. I am still often confused by the spelling of "Tschüs" which I believe to be the correct spelling since the reform, yet even in some sources outside of the reform is often written as "Tschüss" or even "Tschüß" although these are apparently considered as more informal these days and still acceptable.
Thanks for the other examples as well, it's always handy knowing this sort of information.
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby aokoye » Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:47 pm

Speakeasy wrote: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.
That seems really quite rash but ok. You can have your own views and we can both hope people will spell things correctly.
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.

I mean I won't refuse to learn gothic but I have no desire to. Given the genre of books that I read there isn't much use for me to do so. Also remember my issue isn't that I think people won't be able to read well, it's that they will potentially have trouble with spelling.

edited for formating
Last edited by aokoye on Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby aokoye » Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:55 pm

Speakeasy wrote:I prefer the King James version of the Bible and Shakespeare in the original. I find the archaic forms of Middle (Plus) English of these texts an absolute pleasure to read.

And because everyone seems to think that Shakespeare is in Middle English I would just like to point out that it's Early Modern English that you're talking about and enjoy reading. There are quite a few differences between the two (and I'm sure you'll delight in the fact that most of them aren't lexical). The King James Bible also was written in EME.
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:59 am

aokoye wrote: ... Middle English ... Early Modern English ...
I thought that you might like to know that many scholars differ as to the dates represented by these two periods and as to the period of transition between them. Given the continuing academic debate, I deliberately chose to refer to the period when these works were written as "Middle (Plus) English" as an indication that I am aware of when they written, but that I would not be so rash as to act as the final arbiter as to which period they belong. I chose the "muddled middle" but could have just as easily coined a term such as Proto-Early Modern English. I am pleased that the distinction is meaningful for you; I am not so strongly attached to it. As you are doubtlessly aware, similar, unresolvable debates exist as to the classification-by-period of European literature, music, sculpture, painting, history, language and numerous other grand manifestations of societal and culture continuity or of revolutionary change. To wit, just as there are examples of "classical" composers who had the temerity to live during the agreed-upon (but still disputed) "baroque" period, within the English language, different "pockets" of Middle English and Early Modern English had the effrontery to co-exist for at least a century ... but then, you were already aware this, nicht wahr?
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby aokoye » Tue Sep 13, 2016 1:42 am

When you compare the writing of Shakespeare to the writings in Middle English it's pretty easy to see the differences. While I am well aware that there are countless debates and disagreements in the field of linguistics the boundaries of ME isn't something that is a major source of contention (or so I've been told in person by various professional linguists).

As a nearly lifelong classical musician I am also aware of the gray areas in classical periods. I wouldn't say that Shakespeare fits into something like Hummel straddling the classical and romantic periods. Nor is it a situation where he's writing something "the Middle English style", a term I've never heard in linguistics but that you hear a lot in classical music.

That said, unless I somehow swoop around and related this to German this is very off topic so I'll try to let it go.
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Random Review » Tue Sep 13, 2016 4:39 pm

I think there was a list of old-fashioned items in the course on the forum of the original FSI website that died. I wonder if it would be possible to find it.
FWIW I used FSI German, found it very useful and certainly never had any problem seeing that some of the vocabulary was appropriate to an extremely formal register in 1950 and not colloquial German on the street in 2016. :lol:

It's not rocket science. As long as you supplement it with a more modern course, you'll be fine. Even if you don't, I highly doubt you'll have any problem adjusting once you move on to bun-fun (to steal AJATT's terminology) materials and/or start interacting with natives.

Besides, even if you do learn the odd inappropriate thing (and I'm thinking of Fräulein here), it's no big deal. I once said "está húmedo" for "it is humid", which is correct Latin American Spanish (as I got confirmed by an Argentinian lady) when I was in Spain and got the funniest look. Turns out it has developed a bit of a sexual meaning in Spain and so they use the noun instead. So what? They knew that I was a non-native speaker and were able to figure out what I meant and it was funny. I'm sure the Germans are the same.
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:07 pm

While digging around in the HTLAL archives, I came across the following sequence of comments, ending with an explication of German grammar by member Betjeman, who is a native-speaker of German, and his own appreciation of the FSI Basic German course:

From Elexi to ExRN
"What makes the FSI German course 'technically useless' in your opinion?"

From ExRN to Elexi
"Now I have never studied German but I was under the impression that German spelling and grammar was standardised in the 70s? Now even if the audio segments are correct, parts of text are going to be wrong are they not? And if it's for a learning learning from scratch, there is no way of telling what is still relevant a d what isn't. Sorry if I am wrong."

From Betjeman to all
"Actually, the German language was already standardized in the late 1800s. For educated people not too much has changed since then. Honestly. You can read a novel from the 1920s and it still sounds fresh and original - Erich Kästner, Hans Fallada and Klaus Mann come to mind.

As for the latest spelling reform (about ten years ago), most of the changes are optional and thus neglectable. Basically, exchange the letter "ß" for "ss" if it is followed by a short vowel ("Haß" becomes "Hass" - it is still the same sound though). The letter remains the same if it is followed by a long vowel ("Ruß" is still "Ruß").

The reform was supposed to make things easier for pupils but studies show that the opposite is true. This is because there are so many optional variants now that no one knows what's right and what's wrong anymore. Stick closely to the old spelling and for all practical purposes you will be fine.

As for FSI German, I once had a look at it, and while the language sounded formal (you would expect that from a course aimed at diplomats, wouldn't you?), it did so in an impressive way. I suspect you will come across as a very educated person if you master the material. Personally, I much prefer a foreigner to speak in a somewhat formal fashion rather than hear him use all the latest slang words, which often sound out of place."

The above comment was extracted from the following HTLAL Discussion Thread:
The overall usefulness of FSI
http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=40800&PN=1&TPN=1

EDITED:
1. Formatting.
2. Inclusion of the preceding comments by Elexi and ExRN.
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby Atinkoriko » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:44 pm

I really don't support the idea that incorrect spelling is ingrained. I also used the FSI German course at the beginning of my German studies and I noticed that 'daß' was different from the 'dass' in my graded reader. A Google search later and I knew that 'dass' was the correct spelling.

If you were to focus on FSI German to the exclusion of all other German resources, then it's possible that bad spelling could be 'ingrained'. However, that is nearly impossible to do since even a little exposure to more contemporary resources will highlight the differences quite sharply in your mind ie a Youtube video, a film, a graded reader, an article etc I don't think anyone here ever learnt a language by focusing solely on one resource.

As for outdated vocab, as said before, the only way that becomes a risk is if you do not also engage with more contemporary resources. Read a novel, watch a tv show etc. Even a simple text chat on a language exchange site would expose you to the current form of the language. If an ESL student, who has for some reason gotten all his vocab from an Austen novel, engages in conversation with young native speakers like me and gets a ton of 'What's up's and 'How's it going?'s, he'll quickly realise that those are the modern equivalents of 'How do you do on this fine and sunny day, my good sir?' and he'll adapt accordingly.

Furthermore, language is ever changing and a lot of the language employed in what we consider to be contemporary sources will get dated over time. Also keep in mind the oft made observation that most of the best courses are behind us, so to speak, as there's been a trend of 'watering down' when it comes to new generations of courses ie Assimil, Linguaphone, Living Language etc. This could mean that in two decades from now, new language learners may be faced with a crop of decidedly substandard language courses compared to the ones we have now or the ones a few decades back. Will they then reject these fine sets of courses because of spelling reforms and outdated vocab? Certainly illogical.

Personally, I'd say to use whatever course you feel suits you but get loads of native input. In the end the goal is to progress beyond courses anyway.
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Re: FSI German: Too Old?

Postby zenmonkey » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:24 pm

reineke wrote:
Speakeasy wrote:
reineke wrote: ... For example, I've read somewhere that "gnädige Frau" is not used today ...
It seems that we have managed to register yet another round of the ritual -- and trivial -- disparaging of the FSI German Basic course.


For the record, I was quoting someone else's question. "Gnädige Frau" is a useful expression. The critics have a point in that in everyday conversation this expression will probably be heard in some passive-aggressive situation. Does the presence of a handful of odd expressions invalidate an entire course? I don' t think so. FSI is primarily about drilling key language structures. Basic grammar changes slowly. In that sense FSI is a very modern course.


I'd classify it as a "barely useful" expression. I've used for the comedic effect because FSI was one of my early tools. I learned. Dear sir, could you sell me some matches. Where is the embassy? The airport is over there. And all sorts of phrases about passports.

I usually pull these early memories of my German learning out when I want to make my daughters laugh.

The FSI German material is dated but very useful and I would certainly recommend it. Because despite the odd phrases in the material, it id memorable and very well structured. ASSIMIL also has quite a few odd words that may not be that useful, but the comic effect drives learning and enjoyment. If you are aware of the limitations certainly use it.

My concerns with FSI where more about the quality of the recordings (some that I had were not useable) and the mimeographed quality of the pdf that I got. It made the learning experience ... interesting.

So, I'm in the camp - no, not too old, it's good material that I found useful but it does have its limits. Caveat emptor.
Would I use it again? Absolutely. And then move on quickly to other material.
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