The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

All about language programs, courses, websites and other learning resources
Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1794
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.
x 4646

The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Jun 27, 2017 7:25 pm

The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series
Although individual language courses in the “The Great Courses” series have been mentioned briefly under separate discussion threads covering specific languages (Spanish, Latin, Ancient Greek), including announcements of their latest discounted sales prices, there does not seem to be a thread covering the complete set of offerings. As this publisher has recently added a French course to this series, I thought that it might be useful to open a separate discussion thread.

The Great Courses LINK
http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses

Modern Languages
Learning French
Learning Spanish
Learning Spanish II
English Grammar Boot Camp


Ancient Languages
Latin 101
Classical Greek 101
Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs
Biblical Hebrew: Learning a Sacred Language


Language-related
Understanding Linguistics
Language and Society (linguistics)
Language A to Z (linguistics)
Language Families


Pricing
The publisher seems to have a practice of offering their courses at rather steep “regular” prices and, several times a year, offering “discounts” of 50% to 70% which are, for all practical purposes, the true "regular" prices. With a view to encouraging the buyer to load up on materials, the language courses are often offered in two-course "sets" combining either two languages or a language plus a cultural course.

Materials
The Great Courses series are highly-regarded introductory video/audio lectures covering a wide variety of subjects. Generally speaking, the course materials include video recordings, a course book and, in some cases, separate audio recordings drawn from the video lectures. Most often, the courses can be purchased either as physical materials (DVDs, CDs, textbooks) or as downloadable files.

General Appreciation
I have copies of their Latin and Spanish courses. My overall impression is that these are well-conceived, well-structured, and well-delivered First Semester language courses that would lead the student towards the CEFR A1 level. There are no “tricks or gimmicks” in these courses, they are a series of lectures accompanied by a supporting course book. In my opinion the exercise materials included in these courses would not replace the dialogues and exercise sets that form the essential part of many self-study language courses. Nonetheless, for those who enjoy lectures, these courses represent an interesting and entertaining introduction to the very basics of a language.

EDITED:
Added: English Grammar Boot Camp, Language-related Courses.
Slight modification to the title, Formatting
Typos, of course!
Added: Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs
Added: Learning Spanish II
Added: Biblical Hebrew: Learning a Sacred Language
Last edited by Speakeasy on Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:05 pm, edited 6 times in total.
7 x

cas_sj
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2016 6:13 pm
x 25

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby cas_sj » Mon Jul 03, 2017 9:20 pm

Well I'm a fan of The Great Courses site. The few courses I've invested in - from finance/investing to history to literature - have all been uniformly very good, college level presentations. But I absolutely agree on not paying the sticker price, and the French language course is a perfect example.... Retail price on the download option is listed at $334.95. 70% off special they're running at the moment brings it all the way down to a more reasonable $84.95, and additional 4th of July coupon drops it another 15% to $72.21.

I'm tempted, but right now I have so much other quality stuff I'm still working thru (Assimil, French in Action, etc.) that it might just be duplication for me. Speakeasy has posted a very good overview of their language courses from his experience with the Spanish and Latin. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who's actually sampled the French course.
2 x

Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1794
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.
x 4646

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby Speakeasy » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:59 am

cas_sj wrote: ... I'm tempted, but right now I have so much other quality stuff I'm still working thru (Assimil, French in Action, etc.) that it might just be duplication for me... I would be interested in hearing from anyone who's actually sampled the French course.
Although I adopted French as my primary language some 30 years ago, out of curiosity, I decided to purchase the Great CoursesLearning French” course and I am presently in the process of downloading the video files. My intention is to listen to every fifth lecture (1st, 5th, 10th, …, 30th), work through the exercises, and submit a review based on my experiences. À suivre …
5 x

User avatar
Carmody
Blue Belt
Posts: 921
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:00 am
Location: NYC, NY
Languages: English (N)
French (B1)
Language Log: http://tinyurl.com/zot7wrs
x 1685

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby Carmody » Thu Jul 06, 2017 2:26 am

Will be very interested to hear how it goes with the French.

Specifically, how it compares with FIA.
1 x

User avatar
Soclydeza
Orange Belt
Posts: 248
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:36 pm
Location: United States
Languages: English (N)

Actively Studying:
German (B2)
Italian (False beginner)
Norwegian (Beginner)

Dormant:
French (Lower intermediate)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=9066
x 505

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby Soclydeza » Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:30 pm

I'm a huge fan of the Great Courses and was very happy to see that came out with a Spanish course and even happier that they are coming out with a French course (as well as others). I'm not sure if you mentioned this and I missed it (I'm on a phone, pain in the ass to read) but the Great Courses Plus lets you stream their videos for 20 bucks a month; the only downside is that they dont have their whole catalog on there, but they do have Spanish already and French is coming soon (they also have some general linguistics courses up too).
3 x
END OF YEAR
: 108 / 108 Babbel Italian (Beginner)
: 47 / 47 Babbel Italian (Intermediate)

CONTINUOUS
: 27 / 100 Assimil Italian

Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1794
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.
x 4646

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:22 am

Basis for this Review of The Great Courses “Learning French”
The following review of The Great Courses “Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures” course is based on my having viewed the Video Lectures and having worked through the Laboratory Exercises for every fifth lesson: 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th. In addition, I visually surveyed the texts of the Grammar Review and the Laboratory Exercises of all thirty lessons of the accompanying Course Work. Finally, I visually scanned several of the printed Transcripts of the Lectures that I had not viewed. My appreciation of these course materials is based on my personal experiences with the French language, having adopted it as my primary means of communication some thirty-odd years ago, and on my familiarity with a number of the study materials which are, generally speaking, recognized by many members of this language forum as being amongst the most thorough for study up to the Lower Intermediate Level, viz. FSI Basic French, DLI Basic French, Pimsleur French, Assimil French, Linguaphone French, Living Language Ultimate French, and French in Action.

Course Materials and Formats
The course materials are delivered through a series of 30 combined video lectures and language laboratory exercises that are available in DVD format, downloadable video files, and streaming. A Course Workbook accompanies the video lectures and is available either as a physical copy or a downloadable PDF file, depending which of the two purchasing options one chooses. Closed Captions are available on the DVD option, but not on the downloadable/streamable files. Finally, although it does not appear in the purchasing options, a Transcript of the lectures is available for separate purchase. The course materials can be viewed/played on Apple and Microsoft computers and on mobile devices supported by Apple, Android and Kindle.

Pricing
As I remarked in my initial post, The Great Courses seems to have a practice of offering their courses at rather steep “regular” prices and, several times a year, offering “discounts” of 50% to 70% which are, for all practical purposes, the true "regular" prices. While the “regular” prices for this course are 385 $US for the DVD version and 335 $US for the downloadable version, the (regular) “sales” prices are 115 $US and 85 $US respectively. It should be noted that the Transcript is priced separately at 20 $US. Purchasers of the downloadable version can acquire a copy of the printed Course Workbook by contacting Customer Service.

Course Description and Review
While I encourage readers to consult the publisher’s webpage for this course (http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/learning-french-a-rendezvous-with-french-speaking-cultures.html), in my opinion, neither the promotional video nor the course description do justice to the course, hence my attempt at a description. The course is delivered through a series of 30 video recordings of which the first 30-odd minutes contain the lectures and the second 15-odd minutes contain the language laboratory practice sessions. The course covers virtually all of the grammatical structures that would one expect to be covered in a well-designed two-semester college/university course; that is, virtually all of the verb tenses and moods, discussions of adjectives, sentence structure, et cetera, are presented. While a “practical” level of vocabulary is introduced, it is not extensive. Cultural aspects of the French-speaking peoples in France, Québec and other regions of the world-wide Francophonie are woven into the lectures. The lecturer presents the materials through examples of the spoken and written language, supported by charts, tables, lists, et cetera. Although the lecturer has a discernable American accent, she speaks French fluently and with self-assurance. Closed Captions are available on the DVD option, but not on the downloadable/streamable files. A Transcript of the lectures is available for separate purchase at a price of 20 $US, which I highly recommend, particularly as it is much easier to review the lectures through a visual scan of the transcripts, annotate them, et cetera, than it is to review the video recordings. The Language Laboratory audio exercises are about 15 minutes in duration and are designed to reinforce all of the grammatical concepts presented in the lectures. They cover lists of newly-introduced vocabulary, verb conjugations and short audio comprehension and listen-and-repeat exercises. These exercises are recorded by a native speaker of French. A transcript of the Laboratory exercises is included as an appendix to the Course Workbook. Although Course Workbook includes a summary of the grammar for each of the lessons, it is barely sufficient and I would highly recommend that the user acquire a simple grammar to accompany this course.

I was quite surprised by the “pace” of the video recordings. Having viewed Lesson One which, quite understandably, was but a brief survey of what was to come, I next viewed Lesson Five and was astonished by the amount of, and by the grammatical level of, the French deployed by the lecturer. Bearing in mind that French is my primary means of communication, my reaction was something akin to: “What? Did I miss something? How is anyone supposed to be able to understand this level of French after such little exposure and practice?” So then, I reviewed the lectures and laboratory exercises for the preceding lessons and I would have to admit: “Yes, I suppose that most-or-all-of the material is ‘there’, but the student will have to work very hard if he/she wishes to catch every word of the French presented in the subsequent video lectures.” Alternatively, it may be that portions of the French introduced in the lectures are meant to present the student with a communication that they can “just understand” if he/she focuses intensely on what they have learned; that is, as they be expected to do in a real-world situation.

My overall impression is that this is a surprisingly serious attempt at assisting an independent learner acquire a CEFR A2 level of skill in the French language. This is not a course for someone who merely wishes to develop “a flavour for” the language. Nope, you’re expected to work! However, as is so often the case in introductory courses, vocabulary has been kept to practical minimum. While I have not taken the time to identify and count the different vocabulary items, I am left with the impression that it “might” be in the range of 1,000 verbs, nouns, adjectives, et cetera. On completion of this course, one could still learn something from Assimil, Linguaphone, et cetera, if only to expand one’s vocabulary and to profit from the opportunities to practice the spoken language. In conclusion, I endorse this course as a serious, well-conceived introduction to the French language.

Comparing and Contrasting
I am quite familiar with the following course materials: FSI Basic French, DLI Basic French, Pimsleur French, Assimil French, Linguaphone French, Living Language Ultimate French, and French in Action. I believe that most members of this forum would agree that, while comparing/contrasting these courses is feasible, doing so would take up quite a fair amount of text and it would probably provoke needless debate. So then, I will simply say that, while the Great Courses Learning French course is unlike the preceding list of courses, it is designed to achieve results that fall just short of these not-so-comparable materials.

Partial Extract
With a view to providing the reader with something to “sink their teeth into”, I have prepared, at Appendix A, a short extract of the materials from the Language Lab for the final two lessons of this course.

==========================================================
Appendix A
Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures
Course Workbook
Language Labs
Partial Extracts Used to Illustrate the Level of Complexity of the Exercise Materials


Lection 29 Le Subjontif
Groupe II : Compréhension
Part B. Écoutez et répétez, s’il vous plaît.


Il est nécessaire de conserver l’eau à Sobo Badè. [It is necessary to save water in Sobo Badé. ] / Il est nécessaire les habitants soient conscients de l’importance de l’eau. [It is necessary that the inhabitants be aware of the importance of water. ] / Mais il est important de se laver les mains. [But it is important to wash hands. ] / Il est important qu’ils aient les mains propres. [It is important that they have clean hands. ]

Au restaurant, il est bon d’avoir de l’eau et du savon … [In the restaurant, it is good to have water and soap … ] / … et que les clients sachent utiliser le Canacla. [… and that the clients know how to use Canacla. ] / Le Canacla est une machine pour que les clients puissent se laver les mains. [The Canacla is a machine that allows clients to wash their hands. ] / Ensuite, il est important qu’ils mettent les serviettes en papier dans les corbeilles. [Afterward, it is important that they put the paper napkins in the basket. ]

C’est fantastique que les artisans fassent les Canaclas avec des matériaux naturels. [It is fantastic that the artisans make Canaclas with natural materials. ] / Enfin, il est essentiel de recycler l’eau de Sobo Badè. [Finally, it is essential to recycle Sobo Badè’s water. ]

Lecture 30 Le Futur
Groupe II : Compréhension
Part B. Écoutez et répétez, s’il vous plaît.


Je chercherai des occasions de pratiquer mon français. [I’ll look for opportunities to practice my French. ] / J’explorerai les activités de l’Alliance Française. [I’ll explore the activities at the Alliance Française. ] / Je regarderai des films français sous-titrés et la télévision en français sur Internet. [I’ll watch subtitiled French movies and French TV on Internet. ] / Je ferai un voyage dans un pays francophone. [I’ll travel in a francophone country. ]

Je lirai des romans, des poèmes en français. [I’ll read novels and poems in French. ] / J’étudierai l’histoire et les cultures des pays francophones. [I’ll study history and cultures of francophone countries. ] / Je participerai à un club de lecture en français. [I’ll join a French book club. ] / J’écouterai des chansons françaises. [I’ll listen to French songs. ] / Je chanterai des chansons françaises. [I’ll sing French songs. ] / Je copierai les belles phrases dans mes textes en français. [I’ll copy beautiful sentences from my French books. ] / Je ferai des listes de mots nouveaux. [I’ll make lists of new words. ]
Last edited by Speakeasy on Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
13 x

User avatar
n_j_f
Orange Belt
Posts: 109
Joined: Sat Aug 29, 2015 11:41 am
Location: Sydney, Australia
Languages: English (N)

Studying:
French (B1), Persian (beginner), Irish (beginner)

Up Next:
German

Flirting With:
Sanskrit

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

Bucket List:
Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Hindi/Urdu, Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, Modern Greek, Tamil, Singhalese, Malayalam
x 149

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby n_j_f » Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:36 am

Speakeasy wrote:The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series
Although individual language courses in the “The Great Courses” series have been mentioned briefly under separate discussion threads covering specific languages (Spanish, Latin, Ancient Greek), including announcements of their latest discounted sales prices, there does not seem to be a thread covering the complete set of offerings. As this publisher has recently added a French course to this series, I thought that it might be useful to open a separate discussion thread.

The Great Courses LINK
http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses

Language Courses
Latin 101
Classical Greek 101
Learning Spanish
Learning French (recently added)
English Grammar Boot Camp


Language-related Courses
Understanding Linguistics
Language and Society (linguistics)
Language A to Z (linguistics)




A minor addition, is Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs. I haven't seen any of the lectures, but looking at the contents I am assuming that it only briefly looks at the language and grammar behind the writing. It does, however, cover the alphabet and translating parts of well-known inscriptions. Having said that, for someone (like me) who is a visual learner, and especially for such an obviously 'visual' language, it would be a great introduction to be followed up by the Assimil course.

Here's a link for the Egyptian related courses, as well as various offers to combine with other languages in the series:
http://www.thegreatcourses.com/search/? ... ieroglyphs
2 x
: 25 / 113 Assimil French With Ease (active)
: 79 / 160 Pimsleur French I-V lessons
: 1713 / 5000 Anki French Frequency Dictionary 5000

Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1794
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.
x 4646

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:42 am

n_j_f wrote: A minor addition, is Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs...
Thank you very much! I have updated the list of courses in my original post.
1 x

User avatar
Carmody
Blue Belt
Posts: 921
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:00 am
Location: NYC, NY
Languages: English (N)
French (B1)
Language Log: http://tinyurl.com/zot7wrs
x 1685

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby Carmody » Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:47 am

Speakeasy

Many thanks for the very comprehensive review; greatly appreciated.
1 x

User avatar
tomgosse
Brown Belt
Posts: 1135
Joined: Tue Aug 25, 2015 11:29 am
Location: Les Etats Unis
Languages: Anglais (langue maternelle)
Français (A1)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1185
x 2287
Contact:

Re: The Great Courses: Language Lectures Series

Postby tomgosse » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:32 am

Speakeasy wrote:Basis for this Review of The Great Courses “Learning French”
The following review of The Great Courses “Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures” course is based on my having viewed the Video Lectures and having worked through the Laboratory Exercises for every fifth lesson: 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th. In addition, I visually surveyed the texts of the Grammar Review and the Laboratory Exercises of all thirty lessons of the accompanying Course Work. Finally, I visually scanned several of the printed Transcripts of the Lectures that I had not viewed. My appreciation of these course materials is based on my personal experiences with the French language, having adopted it as my primary means of communication some thirty-odd years ago, and on my familiarity with a number of the study materials which are, generally speaking, recognized by many members of this language forum as being amongst the most thorough for study up to the Lower Intermediate Level, viz. FSI Basic French, DLI Basic French, Pimsleur French, Assimil French, Linguaphone French, Living Language Ultimate French, and French in Action.
....

Thank you for your thorough review. I have decided to purchase a copy of this course for the "sale" price of $115. I don't know if it is caused by age or illness, but I find it easier to listen to a lecture than work through a text book. I like to have a real book in front of me instead of a e-book. Also, I like to have the video on DVD's so I can load them on to my computer, and not be dependent on streaming video.
4 x
Rejoignez notre groupe français ! Les Voyageurs


Return to “Language Programs and Resources”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest