Assimil Question

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siouxchief
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Assimil Question

Postby siouxchief » Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:44 am

Hi all,

This may be a silly question but after seeing all the various instructions of how to use Assimil including different phases I am still wondering what's the fundamental thing they want you to achieve. Is it the ability to go back over the lessons and understand the audio without the text so it's testing your listening comphrension as well as gaining you vocab?

The reason I ask is that I have been listening to audio with text using Yabla/Beelinguapp recently. I'm up to about an hour of audio (1,900 words but run, ran counted separately) and it is quite enjoyable.

Would Assimil give me something different or just give structure compared to me randomly picking videos/stories from those apps mentioned?

Thanks

p.s. Screenshot of text I have worked on in Beelinguapp. You can click each sentence and hear it back or play the whole page. I continue until I understand the whole thing without text.
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iguanamon
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby iguanamon » Tue Aug 13, 2019 1:32 pm

Assimil is a language course. It is designed to teach you a language. While people can learn with random language exposure as a monolingual beginner, it is in a disjointed, non-logical and non-structured progression. The resultant second language acquisition is likely to be as disjointed and random as the input is.

Monolingual beginners have yet to hone the ability to discern language patterns. The ability to discern patterns in languages helps those who have learned a language to a high level be able to learn in this way- especially with closely related languages.

Any language course with text and audio, or even just audio, is a huge help to people in your situation. Courses provide a gradual introduction to the language and lead learners in a progression from no ability to being able to decipher and construct sentences with proper grammar.

Working with a course will help a monolingual beginner such as yourself to gain more benefit from other beginner appropriate resources. Assimil is a course that is designed to lead a beginner in that "logical" (I put in quotes because it is the course author's logic) progression. Assimil gradually exposes the learner to more complexity in language as the lessons advance- more vocabulary and grammar. Assimil is highly recommended here but it is not the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Assimil is what I would call a "grammar-lite" course. It is sometimes described as a graded reader with audio. It does have grammar explanations but they are most often quite brief and with only a few examples available for a learner to work with in order to get a good grasp on the concepts being taught. For me, I very much dislike the unnaturally slow audio of the Assimil courses. Still, some learners prefer learning in this way.

Completing an Assimil course in itself will not mean that you will be able to do things easily in a language. In order to gain real language proficiency, one must work with a language outside of a course- read, listen, speak, write. Courses can still be used for big, popular languages like French after a good foundation in the language is acquired. Advanced courses will still be helpful for intermediate learners to hone their production skills and understand advanced grammar concepts.

There are other courses besides Assimil. French In Action (FIA) is a video series (with accompanying textbooks and audio optional) available online. Pimsleur is an all audio (with supplemental reading) course that teaches basic (heavily tilted toward business travel needs) conversation. There are indeed a blue million courses for a language like French available for English-speakers. My advice is summed up in my signature link at the bottom of this post. Bonne chance and welcome to the forum !
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Speakeasy
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Aug 13, 2019 1:52 pm

I see that Iguanamon replied while I was preparing my own comments. As he has, as always, provided a comprehensive answer, I have paired my own comments down a little. Here are the highlights:

I do not wish to seem overly critical; however, I am under the impression that you are over-analyzing the question…
siouxchief wrote: … I am still wondering what's the fundamental thing they want you to achieve.
Put simply, the vast majority of introductory-level self-study language courses are designed to assist the student acquire a measure of ability in the four areas of language skill (speaking, listening, reading writing). While the Assimil courses are no different from those of their competitors in that sense, they do seem to place more emphasis on speaking and listening. It is through the thoughtful (massive) repetition of the dialogues that one will progress using these materials.
siouxchief wrote: … Is it the ability to go back over the lessons and understand the audio without the text so it's testing your listening comphrension as well as gaining you vocab?
No, the goal is to develop one’s speaking and listening skills … un point, c’est tout!*
siouxchief wrote: … I have been listening to audio with text using Yabla/Beelinguapp recently … Would Assimil give me something different or just give structure compared to me randomly picking videos/stories from those apps mentioned?
Every course of study has the potential for giving you “something different”; however, there is no guarantee that Assimil will provide you with more structure than any other method. Ultimately, by merely practicing the language, you will develop a better feel for its structure. You could, if you wanted to, incorporate audio-lingual sentence-pattern drills which are specifically designed to reinforce specific aspects of the L2's structure, study the language's grammar, et cetera (but that would be widening the discussion).

Finally, as to Assimil’s “active phase”, first, I would point out that A. Chérel was not an innovator, this type of practice is quite natural and it has existed since the dawn of time. Second, I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on this aspect of the Assimil method per se. I am not convinced that it is a necessary part of the learning process. That is, it can be replaced by many other techniques such as simply engaging in conversation in the target language.

*un point, c’est tout! = it’s as simple as that! (rough translation by Speakeasy)
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siouxchief
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby siouxchief » Tue Aug 13, 2019 2:21 pm

Thanks both that explained a lot and is very much appreciated. I will give it a go then.

I'm nearly finished Pimsleur 1 but have 2 to 5 available to me so not sure when to transition from Pimsleur to Assimil Using French. Alternatively I could do Assimil for an hour in the morning and 30 mins of Pimsleur in the evening which might be a good combination?

I've quite a lot of free time currently.

Thanks again
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David1917
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby David1917 » Tue Aug 13, 2019 2:33 pm

In theory, they want you to be able to go back through the lessons and translate them from base language to target language. I think some manuals have more detailed instructions and those say things to the effect that, you probably won't get it exactly right and at that point you ought to review the lesson. I've always been suspicious of this, since the lessons themselves do not employ any sort of spaced repetition of some of the more "obscure" vocabulary terms - for example the Chinese course introduces 裤子 (pants) in an early lesson, and at the point you are supposed to go back, you have never seen or heard that word again. Unless...

Another oft-overlooked portion of the decidedly vague Assimil directions is to constantly review the previous material. It does not give any sort of indication as to how they suggest doing so, but I have cobbled together a method where you move through the course in 7-lesson waves (aka, a full "week") and review at the same intervals. So by the time I get back to Lesson 1, I've seen it 14 times, the latter 6 being at around 1-week intervals. Each review I look less and less at the base language, and so the following week, when it comes time to translate, it's significantly easier. I do end up memorizing parts of the lessons, which also helps in the translation, but never whole lessons. I tend to more internalize the structures in general and the dialogues in particular, and so in that case when I test out a translation in my mind, I can almost hear it clash or agree with the original.

Some courses this will be impossible, because the base language is so idiomatic (and the parenthetical "literal" translations are also not exactly literal) and so I've learned to skip these but at least try my hand at the exercises. Ahem, German Without Toil.

If you didn't want to deal with the translation aspect, you could instead embark on a deeper grammatical study of the early lessons with a secondary grammar book, and then complete the relevant exercises in that book which might be a bit more straight forward. You could also then put all the still obscure vocabulary into Anki (e.g. 裤子 above).

The moral of the story is that Assimil comes with a lot of great dialogues, with good quality recordings, and a generally easy learning curve to take you from 0 - 100 in as many days. However, unlike say Linguaphone, which comes with a sheet explaining an endlessly arduous process for use, they seem to assume the user can adapt the material to their own learning style.
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Speakeasy
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Aug 13, 2019 3:59 pm

siouxchief wrote: ... I'm nearly finished Pimsleur 1 but have 2 to 5 available to me so not sure when to transition from Pimsleur to Assimil Using French. Alternatively I could do Assimil for an hour in the morning and 30 mins of Pimsleur in the evening which might be a good combination? ...
Both approaches will yield good results. Personally, I found that putting Pimsleur aside following Level III, and returning to Levels IV and V following exposure to other methods such as Assimil, Linguaphone, and FSI/DLI gave me a better appreciation for the higher levels of the Pimsleur programme*. Finally, as you have been working with materials other than Pimsleur (which is the finest Wading Pool Level language programme out there), then you are likely aware that Assimil, by comparison, will not be a hand-holding exercise (I began my German studies with Pimsleur and was absolutely horrified by the absence of mommy and daddy in the wading pool ... life can be so darned cruel at times!)

*You need not complete Assimil before returning to Pimsleur IV and V. You could, for example, complete Pimsleur Level IV after having reached the half-way-point of Assimil, and then return to Assimil. Having reached the three-quarters-point of Assimil, you could return to Pimsleur Level V. To a large degree, you would have already covered much of the Pimsleur materials through Assimil. Nevertheless, your exposure to the structure of the language via Assimil, along with other aspects, would give you a greater appreciation for the manner in which the Pimsleur lessons are composed (including their manner of forcing the student to deduce the L2's structure) and you might find yourself more actively engaged in the learning process. You might even discover yourself actively thinking about such aspects (on your mind's channel 2) while working through the higher level Pimsleur lessons.

EDITED:
*comments.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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siouxchief
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby siouxchief » Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:22 pm

Thanks speakeasy :) . I'll see what others think but maybe I'll follow your lead and do Pimsleur 1-3 then onto Assimil Using French then.
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David1917
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby David1917 » Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:30 pm

siouxchief wrote:Thanks both that explained a lot and is very much appreciated. I will give it a go then.

I'm nearly finished Pimsleur 1 but have 2 to 5 available to me so not sure when to transition from Pimsleur to Assimil Using French. Alternatively I could do Assimil for an hour in the morning and 30 mins of Pimsleur in the evening which might be a good combination?

I've quite a lot of free time currently.

Thanks again


I'm unaware of your current level but, if you're at Pimsleur 1 now, then Using French is not going to be where you need to start with Assimil, but rather one of their first-stage French courses.

There's debate on whether the original French Without Toil or the revised New French With Ease are "better" but both are fantastic, and certainly bound to be better than any current offerings (usually titled simply "French"). Once you complete one of these courses you would then transition into Using French.

If you have an hour and a half to devote to language study per day, then it's more likely that you could split your time up between a few different approaches and cover some different ground.

30 Min - Pimsleur - baby steps, basic conversation
15-30 Min - Assimil - internalizing dialogues, swath of language
30 Min - Hugo/TYS/Colloquial - some type of strict grammar work with exercises that will nicely complement the other activities. As is the general rule, older is better, so look for a Trubner's French, a blue/yellow TYS

15-30 Min - FSI - If your goal is to be speaking anytime soon, then you might as well get going with this free resource. FSI Phonology will be good at the onset to assist with your Pimsleur/Assimil exposure, and once you finish that you'll ideally be at a phase where, after absorbing a fair amount of French from the above, you'll make good use of the drills in the Basic Course

If you're not going to be speaking to any French people any time soon, then in lieu of transitioning to the Basic Course, you might want to get some more reading material, or begin watching some series, listening to podcasts - whatever your #1 goal is with French, start chipping away at it.
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Speakeasy
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:48 pm

David1917 wrote: ... I'm unaware of your current level but, if you're at Pimsleur 1 now, then Using French is not going to be where you need to start with Assimil, but rather one of their first-stage French courses ...
I fully agree! I did not notice siouxshief's intention of moving from Pimsleur to the second stage Assimil course. Even completing Pimsleur Level V would be insufficient preparation for such a challenge.

While we might disagree on the specifics, in my opinion (and very roughly speaking), the entire Pimsleur I-V programme would not even be equivalent to the first-half of the corresponding first stage Assimil course. This is not meant to disparage the Pimsleur programme! The two programmes take very different approaches to assisting beginners acquire a basic skill in speaking a target language. While I acknowledge that Pimsleur is a marvellous place to start learning, I would also say that it would take the completion of a Pimsleur programme terminating at Level LVI to acquire the same amount of vocabulary and to cover the same depth in the L2's structure as are available via Assimil, Linguaphone, DLI/FSI and many other courses. I reiterate, this is not meant to disparage the Pimsleur programme!
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siouxchief
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Re: Assimil Question

Postby siouxchief » Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:21 pm

To be honest I'm not sure of my level either. I just listened to a random Assimil Using French lesson which was lesson 23 about airports and flying and I probably knew 60 to 70% of it if that's anything to gauge things by?

Sorry, best I can do as haven't tested officially.
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