Elsa Maria wrote:I literally just finished the Dutch course this week, so it is fresh in my mind. One irksome thing to me is that it used the formal you at all times, and introduced the informal you at the very end…
This is a frequently-observed feature of Pimsleur Level I courses.
First, I would note that, here in the Province of Quebec, apparently out of fear of doing irreparable harm to them, school children are no longer introduced to the formal or even the plural forms of address until the third grade. Rather, children address their instructors and anyone else the come across in the singular/informal form irrespective of their number and position in the social hierarchy. Their instructors, when addressing a group of children, rather than using the formal/plural forms, make gestures with their arms as if “enveloping” the little ones as a group and employ the informal/singular verb forms. This practice is mandated by the Ministry of Education. When I studied French in high school in the early 1960’s, the first two months of the programme were devoted entirely to the instruction and daily written practice of the regular and irregular verb forms, in every tense and mood, employing all persons and numbers. I do not believe that I was harmed by the experience. But then again, it is possible that this unrestrained instruction in all of the verb forms accounts for my having developed into a self-acknowledged curmudgeon.
Second, I would note that many introductory self-instruction courses which go no further than CEFR A1 do not introduce the familiar forms of address at all. I would imagine that the main reason is that these courses are primarily designed for would-be short-term visitors to the region where the L2 predominates and that omitting the early introduction these forms is intended to avoid embarrassing “faux pas” on the part of the user. While I admit that social norms are constantly evolving and that some native-speakers whose languages distinguish between formal and informal forms of address prefer using the latter quite freely, not every does! As an example, there exists in French a common retort to be used by someone who feels injured by the presumptive use of the informal forms of address; liberally translated, it would something akin to: “I do not recall our having raised pigs together!
”, the meaning being that, had the two people actually worked together in such a vulgar enterprise, the use of informal forms of address would be taken as a given. Given that the informal forms can be picked up with little effort, as the occasions arise, there is no harm done in omitting them in the early stages.
Third, I would point out that the current edition of the Pimsleur Users’ Guide advises the student: “you will have a practical, everyday vocabulary at your command … you will be able to handle social situations graciously …
” which I believe implies an emphasis on the formal register. Nevertheless, Pimsleur does
, indeed, begin to introduce the informal forms of address somewhere around the middle of the Level II programme and, while it is used throughout the programme, the emphasis continues to be on formal speech. As the Pimsleur Dutch course terminates at Level I and presently goes no further, this element is not yet obvious.
Typos, of course.