Éditions Atlas "Audio-Visual" Language Courses

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Éditions Atlas "Audio-Visual" Language Courses

Postby Speakeasy » Thu May 25, 2017 2:37 am

Previous Reviews?
Recently, I purchased a physical copy of an Éditions Atlas language course, published in the mid-1990's, the original of which first appeared a decade earlier. Having searched both this forum and the HTLAL for discussions of these courses, and having not found any, I decided to post the information below.

Credit, Where Credit Is Due
I would like to acknowledge the information and support that I received from members Reineke and Daristani. A couple of months ago, during one of the endlessly-recurring discussions of the usefulness of the FSI Basic courses, Reineke suggested that the course “Je parle l’allemand” might serve as an interesting alternative to the former. Following multiple searches of the Internet, I purchased a physical copy of the second edition of this course and came up with a partial history of the overall programme. Subsequently, Daristini kindly provided additional information as well as important technical details in support in my project. So then, should anyone feel motivated to “upvote” this discussion thread, I would encourage them to give a thought to the forenamed members, track down one their posts, and “upvote” it as well … giving credit, where credit is due.

Éditions Atlas
Wikipedia characterizes this enterprise, which is part of a larger consortium, as the number one publisher of “cultural products” that are sold through newspaper stands and the like, by subscription, and through direct orders.

Éditions Atlas' Language Courses
In the mid-1980’s the Italian affiliate of Éditions Atlas created a series of “audio-visual” language courses for the self-instruction of French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Russian and English from several language bases including, at the least, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. Although variants existed, it would appear that these courses were offered in 72 or 96 weekly installments, each of which included a pamphlet and an audio cassette. While I could be wrong as to the sequencing, it appears that the first course in the series was “Il Tedesco per tutti” from an Italian base. Production and sales were transferred to Éditions Atlas where the range of courses may have been expanded. One thing is certain: national variants of the L2 language courses were published separately in Portugese, Spanish, French, and Italian. The original German course, “Il Tedesco per tutti”, was re-issued from a French base as “Je parle l’allemand”. Additional "national variants" were published, using the same source materials, with minor changes to reflect the needs of the targeted market. Curiously (given the market potential) neither English nor German L1 variants were published. About a decade later, a “new edition” of these courses was published, which included a CD in every third installment as a supplement to the weekly pamphlets and audio cassettes. Superficial changes were made to the printed pamphlets, the names were changed to “L’allemand facile” and the like, whereas the actual contents were, for all practical purposes, identical to the original series.

Audio-Visual Materials
The “visual” component of the materials was comprised of “comic-strip-like” situational drawings in support of the L2 texts and the audio lessons. Approximately the first two thirds of the pamphlets presented, in order, (a) four or five short “conversations” which could also be characterized as “basic sentences”, (b) two short “dialogues” employing and expanding on the vocabulary and sentence structure just introduced, (c) a brief text for reading purposes, (d) a summary of the grammatical issues deployed in the lesson, (e) a list of newly-introduced vocabulary items, (f) a short exercise section, (g) a self-test and, in the new edition (h) a bilingual script of all of the audio recordings. The “audio” component of the materials was comprised of an L2-only recording of all of the conversations and dialogues for an approximate duration of between 15 and 25 minutes per weekly lesson, totalling something around 26 hours. A small amount of repetition and question-and-response exercises were included in the former. In the initial lessons, the cadence of the recorded voices is somewhat slower than that of natural speech. However, as the lessons progress, the cadence increases significantly and matches that of a fast and smooth-flowing conversation between native speakers.

Authentic Materials
A refreshing aspect of these courses was that the final third of the materials were based on authentic L2 materials; that is, dialogues from cinema, television, et cetera and readings from books, magazines and the like. From my review of the German course, I am left with the impression that the dialogues and other materials were re-recorded for inclusion in the course; that is, while the texts were extracted from film, et cetera, the voice tracks were not.

Overall Impression: Very Good, But …
I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of these course materials. The pamphlets were printed on fairly heavy, glossy, high-quality paper. Strong, rigid binders were available for archiving the materials. Although there had been a change of recording technology, the publisher made the decision to include both the audio cassettes and the CDs in the new edition of these courses. Whereas aficionados of language-learning materials might decry the “unreal” nature of the lower-level dialogues, I was genuinely impressed by the obvious care that had been taken in crafting the progressively more difficult mini-conversations, dialogues and readings. The inclusion of “authentic” materials in the latter stages of the programme was a rare and refreshing discovery. I suspect that the materials would take the conscientious student into the CEFR B1 range. In my opinion, an independent learner, armed with a simple grammar and a dictionary, bolstered by a good dose of perseverance, could use “any” L1 variant of these courses with success; that is, knowledge of the L1 language is not essential to using these courses. The only “reserve” that I would express pertains to the “visual” component of these courses: the “comic-strip-like” drawings that take up the majority of the printed materials. While it is surely a matter of personal preference, I did not find that the drawings evoked the texts in a meaningful way. Owing primarily to their presence, the new edition of the German course clocks in at a startling 2,112 pages (96 pamphlets x 22 pages each), exclusive of the eight, six-page, summaries. I believe that the drawings could have been dispensed with completely, thereby yielding a much shorter series of pamphlets, or one manual, equivalent to something approaching the Assimil course book. Addendum: As an aside, the full package of 96 pamphlets, 96 cassettes, 32 CDs, and 8 binders weighs in excess of 50 lbs.!

Educational Success versus Commercial Success?
The 72 or 96 weekly installments were available through newsstands and subscriptions to individuals, either on weekly basis or for the purchase of complete packages. Life being what it is, I suspect that the probability of missing an installment (more than once) would have been quite high. Re-ordering missed installments or attempting to progress without them would have been bothersome which I believe would have lowered the “completion rate” for these courses. For the quick learners, the necessity of awaiting the arrival of the next installment would have been a source of frustration. Frankly, I have serious doubts as to the efficacy of such a programme and I suspect that the "completion rate" was even lower than that for more conventional programmes. However, the fact that the courses were available in several different L1-L2 pairs, coupled with the fact that a second edition of these courses was published, suggests that the programme was a commercial success. As far as I can tell, only used copies of these courses are presently available.

Recommendation: Yes!
As I noted above, the inclusion of authentic materials is a rather rare and refreshing component, particularly in introductory-level courses of this nature. If you are interested learning any of the languages in this series, and if you can get your hands on a complete package, these courses represent a very interesting option, irrespective of the L1 variant available.

Typographical errors, grammatical errors, and examples of poor style. Wie immer!
Inclusion of "Russian" amongst the languages in this series of courses.
Mention of the "weight" of the entire collection of "L'allemand facile".
Addition of images

1) L'allemand facile, binders and CDs.
2) L'allemand facile, leçon 1, cover
3) L'allemand facile, leçon 1, basic sentences / practice
4) L'allemand facile, leçon 1, dialogue
5) L'allemand facile, leçon 1, grammar
L'allemand facile 0.JPG
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L'allemand facile 1a.JPG
L'allemand facile 1a.JPG (47.39 KiB) Viewed 226 times
L'allemand facile 1b.JPG
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L'allemand facile 1c.JPG
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L'allemand facile 1d.JPG
L'allemand facile 1d.JPG (62.27 KiB) Viewed 226 times
Last edited by Speakeasy on Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Éditions Atlas "Audio-Visual" Language Courses

Postby reineke » Sun Aug 20, 2017 11:01 pm

Thanks for the hard work, Speakeasy.
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Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2204
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
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Re: Éditions Atlas "Audio-Visual" Language Courses

Postby Speakeasy » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:16 pm

Aravinda kindly sent me a private message advising me that there is currently an offer for a complete set of the Éditions Atlas "L'allemand facile" at the remarkably low price of 20 euros. À qui la chance?


The usual disclaimers apply: neither Aravinda nor I have any relationship whatsoever with the vendor, nor will we profit in any manner whatsoever from the sale of this item.

Complete set of Éditions Atlas "L'allemand facile"
L'allemand facile 0.JPG
L'allemand facile 0.JPG (45.55 KiB) Viewed 226 times
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