Spoken Language Services - Ceased Operations

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ilmari
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Languages: French (N), English, Hebrew, Japanese. Studying (right now): Spanish, Korean, Russian. Studying (by fits and starts): Italian, Finnish, Polish, Yiddish, Classical Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Indonesian, Maori, Latin, Esperanto. Would love to study: Swedish, Turkish, Swahili, Ancient Greek.
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Re: Spoken Language Services

Postby ilmari » Mon Jun 06, 2016 10:12 pm

Wow! What a recommendation. I'm kind of tempted to bump up Urdu on my bucket list just so I can use the course, but it's good to know that there are additional courses and reference book by the same author for the future.


M.A.R. Barker was the creator of the fantasy world of Tékumel http://www.tekumel.com, including its languages:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tékumel#Languages
http://www.omniglot.com/conscripts/tekumel.php.

He put the same amount of care for details and accuracy in his Urdu course. I haven't sticked much with Urdu, life has brought me somewhere else, but I remember fondly this book as one of the best language courses I have ever studied. Seeing this Amazon review, it seems I am not the only one: http://www.amazon.com/Spoken-Urdu-Muhammad-Abd-Al-Rahman-Barker/dp/0879503408

Barker has also written A Course in Baluchi. I just found out it is freely available here!
https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22Barker%2C+Muhammad+Abd-al-Rahman%22
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n_j_f
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Studying: French (B1), Persian (beginner), Irish (beginner), Latin (A2)

Up Next: Watch This Space

Flirting With: Turkish

On the back-burner: Russian, German, Brazilian Portuguese

Bucket List: Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Hindi/Urdu, Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, Modern Greek, Tamil, Singhalese, Malayalam
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Re: Spoken Language Services

Postby n_j_f » Sat Mar 11, 2017 12:54 pm

Not sure if anyone is aware, but the Spoken Language Services website has been down the last couple of weeks. Hopefully they're not another one of these 'old school' publishers of language courses to bite the dust like Cortina, Dunwoody Press, et. al.

Note to self: Better bite the bullet and buy those Urdu and the Hindustani courses I have had my eye on the last couple of years from Amazon before they go out of print.
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Speakeasy
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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 1988

Re: Spoken Language Services

Postby Speakeasy » Sat Mar 11, 2017 2:13 pm

In my few dealings with Spoken Language Services, I came away with the vague sense that their business had declined over the years and that it and become something of a secondary operation...

As an example, last year, I attempted to order the Spoken Russian course manuals but could not complete the transaction owing to difficulties with the website. I sent a couple of Emails, but did not receive a reply. Finally, I called them on the telephone. The person on the other end seemed genuinely surprised that someone was attempting to place an order; however, he made every effort to help me out. This leaves me wondering whether or not the operator of Spoken Language Services is even aware that the website is down.

A couple of internet services provide the information below, for which Google Maps shows a private residence. I recommend that prospective buyers attempt to reach the company by telephone. For what it's worth, I have also appended their old Email address.

Spoken Language Services
805 Silver St
Urbana, IL 61801
United States
Tel: (217) 328-0173
Email (?) Orders <orders@spokenlanguageservices.com>

EDITED: Typos
Last edited by Speakeasy on Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Speakeasy
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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 1988

Re: Spoken Language Services

Postby Speakeasy » Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:13 pm

Curious to know what the current situation of Spoken Language Services is, I have just sent the following Email to which I appended the above post from n_j_f and my response to it:


"Spoken Language Services
Customer Service

Gentlemen:

I am addressing this note to you using the Email addresses from the last time we corresponded, in October, 2015. I have copied/pasted a portion of a discussion thread from the “A Language Learner’s Forum” wherein it has been reported that the website of Spoken Language Services is down. Could you please advise whether or not Spoken Language Services is an on-going business and whether or not you would be interested in processing customer orders? Thank you.

Kind regards,
(NAME REDACTED)"
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Daristani
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Re: Spoken Language Services

Postby Daristani » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:18 pm

Re the comments above on the SLS "Spoken Urdu" materials, I want to add a bit of background.

The books:

The course was originally published as "A Course in Urdu" by McGill University's Institute of Islamic Studies in 1967 in hardcover, large format (8 1/2 x 11 inches). The book is largely in transliteration, and the print is quite small but still readable. When SLS republished the books in 1975, it did so in a smaller format, with the already-small print being very, very small indeed. You can still read it, but I wouldn't recommend it unless your eyes are pretty good. I think that the books are probably the most comprehensive introduction to Urdu available, but they do reflect the technology of the time (type-written).

The audio:

The audio to the first volume of the course has been floating around on the internet for quite a while, but the quality is not very good. I haven't seen any audio online for the rest of the course. I don't know what the quality of the audio as obtained new from SLS might be, but I suspect that it would still exhibit the technology of the 1960s. Whether obtaining it would be worthwhile for a prospective learner of Urdu, I can't say, but note that a more modern textbook with audio has recently been published that, even if not as comprehensive, might offer a more up-to-date introduction to the language:

Beginning Urdu: A Complete Course
Author: Joshua H. Pien
Publisher: Georgetown University Press
ISBN: 9781589017788
Date: 2012
Pages: 665

As for a similar book by the author of the SLS Urdu book, M. A. R. Barker, his "A Course in Baluchi", noted by ilmari above, was also published by McGill University in 1969 in two volumes. In format and approach, it's virtually identical to the Urdu course, so anyone interested in the Urdu course might take a look at it to see how it's organized. The books, which are almost impossible to find for sale anywhere, have been put online by the university itself at:

http://www.library.mcgill.ca/hostedjour ... 01021.html

as well as at the archive.org link provided by ilmari.

This course had audio, but I've never been able to find it. I wrote to Barker himself a number of years ago, and even he didn't have the audio, but he said the University of Minnesota had it. That university was supposedly going to digitize it and put it on line, but it never seems to have happened. I wrote e-mails a couple of times to the person who was listed as being in charge of that project, but never got a response.
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Speakeasy
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x 1988

Re: Spoken Language Services - Ceased Operations

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Mar 14, 2017 10:13 pm

Earlier today, I received the following Email from Spoken Language Services:

"Spoken Language Services ceased business as of January 1, 2017, and the website was taken down shortly after that. We are no longer accepting or processing orders. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this causes. All the best."

I edited my original post so as to include "Ceased Operations" in the title.
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Daristani
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Re: Spoken Language Services - Ceased Operations

Postby Daristani » Wed Mar 15, 2017 12:34 pm

Thanks for looking into this, Speakeasy; it's sad news, especially after the demise of Dunwoody Press and Cortina, but it serves to cast a spotlight on the value of the work that you, along with jpjazz, n_j_f, and ericounet did in saving the Cortina materials from oblivion.

Maybe we can take comfort in the fact that a lot of the Spoken Language materials have been around for many years, meaning that 1) used copies are still fairly easy to come by and 2) the likelihood of at least some of the more valuable materials' being digitized and put up online or otherwise shared by "pirates" is fairly high. They were never as rare as the Dunwoody materials. (Some of them, such as both volumes of the Russian course, along with the audio, are already available in this way.) Furthermore, since some of the materials are quite old, they may not amount to much of a loss except for those interested in them as historical relics. Also, I think some of the earlier courses formed the basis of FSI audio-lingual courses that are available.

I also hope that, just as with the Dunwoody materials, the Spoken Language Services inventory may somehow make it to the market and be sold on EBay, by Amazon sellers, etc.
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Speakeasy
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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 1988

Re: Spoken Language Services - Ceased Operations

Postby Speakeasy » Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:01 pm

Introduction
Under a separate discussion thread, it has been suggested that there is reasonable justification to proceed with a project the goal of which is the hosting of the Spoken Language Services language course materials on the FSI-Languages website. I have prepared a reply which I will be posting in the discussion thread in question. Nevertheless, with a view to maintaining the this particular discussion thread, I have decided to copy/paste the text of my prepared reply below.

Copyright Status of the USAFI “Spoken Language” Series
Random Review has offered the at-first-glance-reasonable suggestion that the collection of 78 rpm records that I purchased are proof that these materials were produced by the U.S. Government (United States Armed Forces Institute, USAFI) and that, as a result, they should be considered as being in the public domain and therefore can be made freely-available to the public via the FSI-Languages database and any other means of publication. Although I, too, am not versed in Copyright Law, I would suggest that the matter of copyright is, at the very least, not clear.

First, it would appear that the “Spoken Language” series of courses were prepared in the mid-1940’s under the aegis of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Linguistic Society of America for the account of the United Armed Forces Institute (USAFI). Over 30 languages were covered in the series and individual authors were involved in the conception of courses covering either specific languages or groups of them. I have two copies of the Spoken German course in which the advisory notice “Copyright, 1944, By Linguistic Society of America” appears. Used copies of these “USAFI” editions are still available for purchase. Since, generally speaking, U.S. Law recognizes copyrights for a period up to 70 years subsequent to the author’s demise, I would conclude that the original copyrights and/or any transfers of the rights are still valid.

Second, I would note that the American book publishing company, Henry Holt and Company, published their own edition of these courses in the late 1940’s. My copy of "Spoken German" by this publisher contains the annotation Copyright, 1944, Linguistic Society of America and, while it does not specify precisely under what authority this series was published, it does contain the habitual notice that no part of the material may be produced without written permission of the publisher. I would assume that Henry Holt and Company published their series having acquired the exclusive authority to do so from the copyright holders.. Used copies of these “Holt” editions are still available for purchase.

Third, I also have a copy of Spoken German published by Spoken Language Services, Inc., which contains the annotations: © Linguistic Society of America 1944 and © Spoken Languages Services, Inc. 1972, 1976. In the discussion thread “Spoken Language Services – Courses on FSI Website?”, I reported that I had received the following Email from the owner of the business: "Spoken Language Services ceased business as of January 1, 2017, and the website was taken down shortly after that. We are no longer accepting or processing orders. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this causes. All the best." As it turns out, I had been communicating with a former employee of the company who had kindly assumed the responsibility of responding to my inquiries. In our subsequent exchange of Emails, my correspondent identified the former owners of Spoken Language Services, Inc., and holder of the copyrights to these courses as being Mr. and Mrs. Ron and Mehri Cowan. Although my correspondent forwarded my three requests to the owners, wherein I proposed the free-to-the-public hosting of the Spoken Language courses on the FSI-Languages website, I never received a reply and I dropped the matter.

Fourth, while I would genuinely like to see the large collection of Spoken Language courses (well over 30) made freely-available to the public and would be willing to participate in a project in this sense, from my perspective, the apparent lack of interest on the part of the last-known holders of the copyrights to these materials to engage in discussions suggests that this project is not likely to succeed. Finally, given the unresolved matter of copyrights, I believe that the unauthorized hosting of these materials on the FSI-Languages website would be an unwise move as doing so would leave the entire contents of the website, including its very existence, open to legal challenge.

EDITED:
Revision to text concerning the "Henry Holt and Company" series
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