A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

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A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:14 pm

There have already been a few comments under the discussion thread “Audio lingual language programs” of the “A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center.” Nonetheless, as I have recently acquired a small collection of the course materials, with a view to presenting a more complete picture of them, I thought that it might be worthwhile to open a separate topic.

A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center
By the mid-1950’s, it had become apparent to many educators and scholarly groups that the teaching of foreign languages at American High Schools and Universities was in need of a thorough review and a broad research-based reform. One such group, the Modern Foreign Language Association, pointed to the need of new materials and methods and engaged in pioneering efforts to develop them. Quoting from the Teacher’s Edition of one of the A-LM textbooks, the broad objectives and central concerns of the reform movement were:

“(1) A redefinition of the objectives of foreign language study in high school, involving a commitment to the development of the four communication skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, in that order, and with particular emphasis on oral-aural competence. (2) The need for longer sequences of study; especially, the need for widespread availability of third- and fourth-year programs in the schools, with appropriate materials. (3) A new approach to methods of teaching and learning.”

These efforts yielded the audio-lingual language programme “A-LM (Audio-Lingual Method)”, published by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., a four level programme prepared by the staff of the Modern Language Materials Development Center, pursuant to a contract with the United States Office of Education, for the teaching of French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian in American secondary schools, under the following titles:

A-LM French
A-LM German
A-LM Italian
A-LM Russian
A-LM Spanish

The objectives of these programmes covered four aspects of linguistic competence:

Speaking: He (the student) should speak with a pronunciation and intonation acceptable to a native speaker, with grammatical accuracy, and with adequate fluency. He should be able to participate in a conversation or group discussion as well as speak at some length when a situation calls for it.

Reading: He should be able to read newspapers, magazines, and most non-technical contemporary writing with comprehension and be prepared to begin reading literature from periods other than his own.

Writing: He should be able to write correctly anything that he can say. In addition, he should be aware of an observe the conventions which distinguish formal writing from informal spoken language. He should be able to write two or three pages on a topic within his experience in a style acceptable to a native speaker.

Culture: He should also have acquired a sensitivity to the value system and behavior patterns of the people whose language he is studying. If he ever has the opportunity to live among those people, he should be able to participate in their culture with knowledge and understanding.”

Two Editions
The first edition of the A-LM series was published circa 1960, at a time when the “audio-lingual method” of language instruction enjoyed broad-based support amongst American educators. A second, revised, edition was published circa 1970, with special consideration given to the strengths and weaknesses of the programme as reported by teachers during a decade of actual classroom use. While the “basic spirit” of the programme was retained – that is, the audio-lingual method predominated throughout – significant modifications were effected in the manner in which the materials were presented and sequenced (basic sentences, basic texts, structure drills, supplements, narratives, reading sections, introduction to grammar, and etcetera). My recently-acquired collection includes copies of Student textbooks and Teacher’s manuals from both the first and second editions and, in some instances, I have both editions for the same level of a given programme. In my view, while the first edition materials were sound in themselves, the second edition materials marked a significant improvement over the former and, to a certain extent, resemble the FSI Basic language courses of the late 1960’s.

Although I have come across second editions of the A-LM French, German, Russian, and Spanish courses, I have never come across any second edition materials for the A-LM Italian course. I suspect that there was very little demand for Italian language instruction in American High Schools during this period and that a second edition was never published.

The Materials
The programme was divided into four levels. The list of materials below is based the notes provided by the publisher, the items in my collection, and comments from forum member mente&cervello:
Student Texts
Student Pamphlets (unit-by-unit pamphlets, suitable for inclusion in a three-ring binder, as an alternative to the textbook)
Student Test Answer Form Booklets
Teachers' Edition (keystone of the programme)
Teachers' Test Manual (student test booklet, answer key, scoring, etc.)
Cue Cards (basic materials, vocabulary exercises, etc.)
Practice Record Sets (33-1/3 vinyl records)
Practice Record Sets (33-1/3 paper records) (as reported by forum member mente&cervello)
Classroom/Laboratory Tape Sets or Record Sets (content different from the above-listed Practice Record Sets)
Listening-Comprehension Testing Tapes
Teachers' Classroom/Laboratory Cassette Tapes (comprising a staggering 85 cassette tapes!)

Teachers' Editions vs Students' Editions
I have a couple of A-LM “teachers’ editions” in my collection. I purchased them in the anticipation that they contained a good deal of useful information that the "students’ editions" did not. Well, they don't, actually. Having worked through A-LM German Levels One, Two, Three using both editions simultaneously, I came to the conclusion that their use does not confer any particular advantage to the average independent-learner who works solely with a student edition.

Description of Student Textbooks
As noted above, two editions of the A-LM series were published. The basic materials of the Student textbooks are described below. As a general comment, I would note that the Student Textbooks are presented primarily in the target language with only sparse notes in English covering the unit-by-unit grammatical issues. In addition, each textbook in the series contains a cumulative glossary up to the particular level being studied. By consulting the glossaries in my copies of the Level Four Student Textbooks, my estimated “word count” was as follows:
French: 6,700 words
Spanish: 7,300 words
German: 10,300 words

Level One
In the first edition, each unit includes a Basic Dialog in the target language accompanied by an English translation. The dialogs are followed by a series of Structure Drills (repetition drills, substitution drills, replacement drills, recombination response drills, directed dialogs, dialog adaptations, recombination narratives, etc.) and somewhat skeletal notes on grammar that are entitled “Generalisations.” It should be noted that, generally speaking, the audio-lingual method is conceived in a manner that students will infer the target language’s grammar from the structure drills; hence, the notes on grammar a deliberately skeletal and lengthy discussions of grammar are to be avoided by the classroom teacher. The second edition includes several modifications to the manner in which the various components (basic dialogs, basic sentences, structure drills, readings, notes on grammar) are presented. It also includes a pre-reading section.

Level Two
To a large extent, Level Two of the first edition is a continuation, in increasing linguistic complexity, of the elements of Level One, with a heavy emphasis on Structure Drills. However, the Level Two textbooks also include increasingly complex narratives and reading sections. Improvements to the basic approach were effected through the publication of the second edition.

Levels Three and Four
The heavy emphasis on Structure Drills of the previous levels disappears from the Student Texts of Levels Three and Four and is replaced by increasingly lengthy and complex conversations, narratives, and reading passages. Reading materials are drawn from native materials (magazines, newspapers, advertisements, official documents, reports, novels, and etcetera).

Description of Practice Record Sets
In my searches of the Internet, I located only one copy of a reel-to-reel laboratory testing tape and, because I did could not find a copy of the corresponding transcripts, decided not to purchase it. I could not locate any copies of cassette tapes that were issued with the second edition. However, I did manage to acquire a small collection of the Practice Record Sets (33-1/3 vinyl records). Just as there were two editions of the Textbooks, there are two editions of the Practice Record Sets. The vinyl records are packaged in sturdy cardboard storage boxes suitable for placing in a bookshelf. They have aged very well and are quite playable. I will be preparing mp3 versions of the sound files. Generally speaking, there are 15 records included in the complete Level One set. However, for reasons that escape me, the publisher also issued the Level One records in two separate, smaller, packages labelled variously as “A” and “B” or “Unit 7” and etcetera. Levels Two and Three contain only 7 records per complete set. I could not locate any Level Four record sets. I will finish this section with the advice that, if readers are considering acquiring any A-LM materials, I suggest that they confirm with the ultimate vendor exactly which edition is offered for sale; otherwise, like me, they might receive "mismatched" textbooks and record sets.

Reviews on the Internet and My Own Overall Impression
I have come across a fair number of comments on the Internet by students who attended language classes in the 1960’s wherein the A-LM materials were used. I have also come across a couple of academic reviews, written in the mid-to-late 1970’s at a time when the “audio-lingual method” was losing, or had already lost, favour in the academic community. Former students seem to have loved it or hated it; none were ambivalent. The academic reviews were unreservedly critical. My own impression of the course materials that I have been able to collect, particularly those of the second edition, is that they are very well-conceived examples of the audio-lingual teaching method, that the materials are of a very high quality, and that the content either approaches or falls comfortably within the CEFR C1 range. While they resemble the FSI Basic courses of the same period, they place a greater emphasis on contemporary reading materials at Levels Three and Four. Still, it would be quite interesting if former students of the A-LM series were to respond to this post with their own comments and experiences.

Suitability for the Independent Learner
These materials were designed to presented by a competent instructor in a classroom setting with the support of a language laboratory. The student textbooks and, for that matter, the teacher’s manuals are predominately, if not exclusively, in the target language. The instructional approach (the audio-lingual method), although once warmly-embraced by the academic community, has fallen out of favour … although some even speak of it having been “completely discredited”, I attribute such comments to the “ritual discrediting” of anything that is no longer in vogue. The complete sets of recorded materials (the teacher/language laboratory sound files) do not seem to be presently available; what remains are, for the most part, the Practice Record Sets for Levels One and Two, with the odd copy for Level Three. The target languages (French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian) are amply covered by more current and more varied instructional materials, as well as native materials, than were available to students in the 1960’s. Accordingly, given the limitations of the materials, I believe that it would be an unnecessarily difficult task for a beginner to work solely with the A-LM course materials. Furthermore, the availability of the more-or-less complete FSI Basic and DLI Basic courses already provide free access to high quality audio-lingual courses of the same period. My conclusion is that these materials are for aficionados only who might wish to augment their studies with these materials. I am quite pleased to have acquired my current collection.

What’s Out There?
With the notable exception of the Russian textbooks, for which the corresponding Practice Record Sets have been difficult to locate, If I found it, I bought it. There are plenty of Student textbooks available for the French, Spanish, Russian, and German courses at Levels One and Two, but locating textbooks for Levels Three and Four has proved to be a serious challenge. With the exception of Russian, the availability of the Practice Record Sets matches, more-or-less, the availability of the textbooks. Tracking down any of the Italian materials has been a real bitch! In my Email communications with the small vendors that offer their wares via the big-box online stores, I learned that (a) there seems to have been a surge in demand for the A-LM materials over the past couple of years, but none of the vendors knew why this was the case, and (b) most of the vendors acquired their A-LM materials, as they do many of their used books, through the purchase of unseen lots or palettes; that is, they buy "pigs in pokes"! Thus, it is difficult for them to estimate how much hidden inventory there is out there and when it will come in. A few offered to add my name to a list for future receipts, but I think that it would be unreasonable to rely on this.

How I Located The Items In My Collection
I am a 69-year-old nerd. I know it, my wife knows it, our cat knows it … but I am NOT a computer geek! All of my searching has been done by creating numerous, varied, simple, manually-typed searches of the Internet and by visually scanning hundreds upon hundreds of pages of results. When I stumbled upon my first A-LM textbook, I immediately noticed that the big-box vendor had NOT identified as “A-LM German Level One”, which I found rather curious. So I started conducting direct searches of the Amazon, AbeBooks, Alibris, EBay collections and expanded it to more generalized Google searches. In doing so, I discovered that many vendors had used their own nomenclature for identifying the books and record sets. This comment applies equally to the big-box online stores, to the smaller bookstores, and to individuals who offer their personal items for sale on EBay and on online Want-Ad websites. I would say that up to two thirds of the items that I eventually located were listed in a manner such that a “reasonable” search criterion would not have generated matches (don’t expect Google to generate a match for "A-LM Spanish" when it comes across a listing for "A&M Spanish"). However, as you probably already know, nerds are known for their perseverance (OCD) and I just kept typing variants of the title, the publisher, the term audio-lingual, the name of the team that authored the series, the individual contributors, and so on. In addition to a general Google search, I conducted this typing exercise on the individual American, Canadian, UK, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and general European websites of all of the big-box online stores. It came as something of a surprise to me that many items were either not cross-listed at all or had been listed under different names on the different big-box regional websites … type, type, type. I do not think that I could possibly recall all of the name variants that I used to locate the materials in my collection. However, in many cases, I saved the LINKS to the specific items that I found most interesting. In some cases, there was only one item listed and, since I ended up purchasing it, the corresponding link is no longer valid. As a special favour to you -- and to anyone else is interested in purchasing some A-LM materials -- I have appended below the LINKS that I saved (and there are many links that I did not save) … copy-paste, copy-paste, copy-paste … NOTE: As this copy-paste activity will take a little time, and as something could go temporarily wrong during the process, I will PUBLISH this post, reopen it to add a few links in the EDIT mode, save it once again, and continue the process until I have added all of the links.

A-LM French Books

A-LM French Record Sets

A-LM German Books

A-LM German Record Sets

A-LM Italian Books

A-LM Italian Record Sets
None found to date.

A-LM Russian Books

A-LM Russian Record Sets
Only one found to date, which I purchased.

A-LM Spanish Books

A-LM Spanish Record Sets

Miscellaneous Lists

Typographical errors.
Expansion of the text.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Fri Sep 14, 2018 6:32 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby Tomás » Mon Apr 11, 2016 10:09 pm

Thanks very much for the review. The "completely discredited" allegation seems over-stated to me, given that so many people successfully learned languages via A-L courses. My experience as an educator is that all teaching techniques work; some just work better than others, for different combinations of students and teachers. I have many experiences of giving the same course back-to-back, and what works brilliantly for the students at 9AM fails miserably for the 10AM group.
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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby jfisher944 » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:11 am

I am a former student of the A-LM language in German. My public school did not use all four books of the second edition. The 9th and 10th grades used the level one book and 11th and 12th used level two. I cannot say anything bad about the instruction method. With only two of the volumes I was able to go to a train station in Augsburg, Germany as a 19-year-old soldier and made my way to Nürnburg by train. It was my first weekend in Germany. Not bad, I'd say.
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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby Speakeasy » Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:12 pm

Given the rarity of the A-LM course materials, I thought this offer on eBay for A-LM French books and student records to be worth mentioning. As of this writing, the offer ends in four days. À qui la chance?

1960's Vintage ALM Practice Record Sets - Complete Sets Level 2 & 3 French

I would underscore that the Student Records contain only the recordings of the basic sentences, et cetera, that appear at the beginning of each chapter in the corresponding textbooks. The vastly more complete “laboratory” recordings for the A-LM series were available to schools as large sets of reel-to-reel magnetic tapes, LP vinyl records, or audio cassettes, all of which are next-to-impossible to find nowadays.

The usual disclaimers apply here: I am not the vendor of these materials, nor do I have any manner of relationship with the vendor. My only benefit from posting this announcement is the cherished thought that someone will save these vintage materials from the dustbin.

Minor changes to the text.
A-LM French Two & Three.jpg
A-LM French Two & Three.jpg (233.43 KiB) Viewed 6691 times
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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby lajean » Sat Oct 07, 2017 9:16 pm

I used the A-LM Series to learn French in high school--worked extremely well for me. I'm now studying italian and decided to look for the Italian equivalents. I was able to find and purchase the student practice set of records for Italian Level 1 (but no textbook), and the textbook for Italian Level 2 (but no records). I'm still searching for the Italian Level 1 textbook and Italian Level 2 record set. I will be digitizing the Italian Level 1 recordings into mp3 form. Any help or reciprocity of resources would be super! Thank you!
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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:32 pm

Benvenuto nel forum, lejean! I hope that you will take the opportunity of participating in other discussions and that will you contribute your own experiences in language-learning.

With respect to your specific question, as far as I understand, open discussions on this website suggesting or promoting the sharing of, or transmission of, copyrighted materials is an infringement on the Forum Rules. This matter is taken quite seriously, as such discussions could result in legal challenges having the potential for the shutting-down of the forum.

I have sent you a Private Message. To access it, you will have to log into the forum. My understanding of the security controls of this forum is that new members wishing to respond to Private Messages must make a total of three (3) posts to the forum that are acceptable to the Moderators. As, at this juncture, you have made only one post, if you wish to respond internally to my message, you will have to make two additional posts. They do not need to be made under the A-LM discussion thread; they can be in reply to any other discussion thread or they can be entirely new threads that you might wish to initiate. ADDENDUM (2 Dec 17): It has been almost two months since I submitted the Private Message and, as it has never been opened, I have DELETED it.

Ancora una volta, benvenuto nel forum!

EDITED: Addendum
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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby peterkendall » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:27 am

To Speakeasy:

I have preserved my A-LM French texts and the two sets of Practice Records I bought back in high school. I took four years of French at Council Rock High School in Newtown PA, from 1971 to 1975. The "Capretz Method", named after Pierre Capretz (prof. of French at Yale Univ.) so captivated me that I spent all my study halls in the Language Lab in the Library. I remember quite well the closet full of reel magnetic tapes, and the clunky toaster-size tape player with a dial to select any one of 21 tracks on the tape. I perfected my accent and developed quite a proficiency, and now at the age of 60 I am finally getting around to transcribing those records into mp3s so my wife and son might try them.

I spent the summers of 10th and 11th grades in Paris, thanks to a local university's summer program, where I took a couple classes at the Sorbonne. I was able to get around Paris at the age of 16 quite well, and only after two years of AL-M French! Memorizing dialogs, role-playing, structure drills, and clearly-written texts all combined to create the finest foreign-language course I have seen. I rekindled my interest in French in the 1990s, when our local PBS station began airing the "French In Action" video series. The very same Prof. Capretz, supported by the Annenbergs, created an very high-quality series of 52 video lessons, all shot in France. To me it is the gold standard for French instruction, and I do various exercises just about every day (Over 200 hours of audio exercises!).

Anyway, I came across your post and wanted to acknowledge and second your obvious appreciation for the AL-M courses. Regards, Peter Kendall

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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:48 pm

Welcome to the forum, peterkendall, and what a charming manner of introducing yourself! Thank you for sharing your experiences with the A-LM French series and “good hunting” in tracking down the illusive reel-to-reel tapes that formed the core of the audio portion of these courses.

Thank you also for your comments on the French in Action programme, one which has earned great praise in this forum. I look forward to following your participation in other discussion threads.

In passing, there are two "Study Groups" devoted to the sharing of information, experiences, and the like amongst students of French.
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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby peterkendall » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:53 pm

Hi Speakeasy and thanks for your reply.

Il y a deux "groupes d'etude" sur le forum? Il faudrait que je me renseigne alors!

Amicalement, Peter
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Re: A-LM Series by Harcourt, Brace & World Center

Postby Daristani » Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:49 pm

Welcome to the forum, Peter!

And I also have to say how nice it is to see some of you youngsters showing appreciation for the older language materials!
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