Language Phone Method: Funk and Wagnalls 1945 reprint of Rosenthal 1905

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Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1916
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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Language Phone Method: Funk and Wagnalls 1945 reprint of Rosenthal 1905

Postby Speakeasy » Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:56 pm

Notice to the Reader
When I posted the review of the Funk and Wagnalls Language Phone Method, below, I was not aware that these materials were, in fact, a reprint of Dr. Richard S. Rosenthal’s Common Sense Method, published in 1905. I have revised the title of this discussion thread to reflect this discovery, but have left the original review below unchanged. I have posted the updated information as an addendum.

Funk and Wagnalls Company
The Funk and Wagnalls Company was a renowned American publisher of religious books, encyclopaedias, dictionaries, atlases, and other reference works. Founded in 1875, either the company itself, or the rights to its major product lines, were acquired in succession by: Reader’s Digest, Dun & Bradstreet, Field Corporation, K-III Holdings Inc., Primedia Inc., Ripplewood Holdings, and Microsoft. My understanding is that the company itself, and/or its brand name, no longer exist.

The Language Phone Method
In 1945, Funk and Wagnalls published a series of high-quality, home-study language courses under the brand name the "Language Phone Method." Although I cannot be certain, it is possible that this series was a revised edition, or an entirely new edition, of a previous series of language courses. I have not come across any subsequently-published language courses by this company. Interestingly, the course materials do not make mention of either the authors or the editors who prepared these courses.

These courses may have been derived from the Language Phone Method, of the International College of Languages; that is, Richard S. Rosenthal's "Common Sense Method of Practical Linguistry" or "The German Language" course (circa 1901-1905). However, the connection is not clear and, besides, it seems that several publishers used the name "Language Phone Method" during the first half of the twentieth century.

Languages
The commonly-studied languages of French, German, Italian, and Spanish were covered in the 1945 series of home-study courses.

Materials
The printed materials of the 1945 edition of “The German Language” course that I recently acquired included ten soft-covered booklets measuring 4-3/4 x 7 inches of approximately 75 pages each. The first nine booklets contained the lesson materials for the Elementary course, the tenth booklet was a 519-page summary of grammar. In addition, two hard-covered books measuring approximately 6 x 10 inches of some 60 pages each were also included, entitled Speaking and Pronunciation Manual and German Advanced Course. The audio recordings were furnished as a set of eighteen 10” x 78 rpm vinyl records. The materials were lodged in a remarkably-study leather-covered wooden box for storage and transport, having two storage compartments the interior of which was lined with felt. I have Linguaphone and Assimil courses from the same, from previous, and from later eras, and I would say that the Funk and Wagnalls storage box was superior to the former in all respects.
Funk and Wagnalls German Course (1945).JPG
Funk and Wagnalls German Course (1945).JPG (64.95 KiB) Viewed 441 times

Approach to Learning
The approach to learning was quite similar to that of many other home-study language courses of the period, an approach that continues to be used to this day. The Elementary lessons introduced the language through the presentation of dialogues, answer-and-question exercises, and either short or extended reading passages. The English translations of the dialogues, both equivalent and literal, were presented on the left-hand page of the booklets whilst the German was presented, line-by-line on the right-hand page. Although the authors stressed that no particular emphasis would be placed on grammar, preferring to rely upon the assimilation of actual (imitative) situational conversations, explanatory notes accompanied the English translations, most noticeably in the initial lessons. The notes were similar in style to the Linguaphone, Assimil, and Cortina courses. The instructional part of the Elementary lesson materials were printed in a font similar to the Times Roman that had become quite common in many parts of the English-speaking world. However, quite early on in the lessons, the reading sections were printed in the German Gothic/Fraktur font that, while on the decline in 1945, was still noticeably present in German print media.

Somewhat unusual for introductory language courses, from the earliest lessons, the dialogues, answer-and-question exercises, and reading passages deployed the full German case system and complex sentence structure. While the accompanying notes “stated” which elements of grammar were most apparent, I found that, as for the notes in the Linguaphone, Assimil, and Cortina courses, this could have appeared a little too demanding for a novice. I must admit that, in the case of the Cortina courses, the notes were keyed by number to the accompanying grammar. The Advanced section of the Funk and Wagnalls course was composed of extracts from German poetry and classical literature.

While the language used in the dialogues was most definitely proper German and while much of the material would seem current even today, I was left with the impression that, overall, the materials were just a tad stilted and that, even if they had not been composed prior to 1945, the author may have received his formal education circa 1920, or earlier, and that he had never abandoned the writing style of this youth.

By way of comparison, I found that the level of language presented in the Elementary and Advanced portions of the Funk and Wagnalls German course was equivalent to, if not slightly more advanced than, the Linguaphone Complete courses of the 1970’s.

Audio Recordings
Only one speaker, Dr. Wilhelm A. Braun, Professor Emeritus at Barnard College, was employed for the recording of the audio portion of the German course. His speech was clear, highly-articulated, and easy to understand. Although the cadence of speech approached that of native-speakers in normal conversation, his actual delivery lacked the naturalness of the spoken language and, instead, resembled that of someone reading from a text in a lecture hall. This observation should not be taken as a pejorative remark, particularly as Dr. Braun’s studied delivery did not affect the usefulness of the audio recordings. The total recording time of the eighteen 10” x 78 rpm vinyl records was approximately two hours. Not all of the materials of the Elementary lessons were recorded. Rather, the recorded materials covered extracts of the Elementary lessons which had been reprinted in the Speaking and Pronunciation Manual. A convenient and easy-to-follow reference system was used to connect the audio recordings to the printed materials. While I would have preferred that the entirety of the lesson materials be recorded, I recognize that doing so would have required a substantial increase in the number of the 10” x 78 rpm vinyl records, the sheer mass of which might have discouraged prospective buyers. My vintage copies of the equivalent Linguaphone and Assimil courses do not contain a noticeably greater quantity of audio recordings. On balance, I would say that the Funk and Wagnalls recordings were sufficient for acquiring the basics of the spoken language, provided the user applied himself diligently.

Evaluation and Recommendation
Of the vintage language courses that I have come across over the years, the Funk and Wagnalls materials were amongst the highest, if not the highest, quality that I have ever encountered. The conception of the lesson plans, the composition of the dialogues, exercise materials and reading passages along with the inclusion of extracts from German classical literature, provided a very sound and practical basis for anyone wishing to learn this language up to the Lower-Intermediate level of competence. The physical materials were superior to those of Linguaphone, Assimil, and Cortina of the period. While I understand that, for practical reasons, the recording technology available at the time precluded the preparation of audio tracks covering all of the printed materials, I continue to regret this element, even though the previously-named competitors offered nothing better.

Some 70-plus years hence, despite their obvious age, and putting aside some minor elements of vocabulary, the Funk and Wagnalls language courses would still be sufficient to acquiring a sound knowledge of the target language. However, given that the market for the commonly-studied languages continues to be saturated with well-conceived, up-to-date, low-priced materials, many of which benefit from the latest technological advances, I would recommend that only collectors of vintage materials consider acquiring these courses. On that note, I would point out that a few such courses can still be found on eBay, Amazon, and elsewhere.

EDITED:
Inclusion of a reference to Richard S. Rosenthal's "Common Sense Method of Practical Linguistry" or "The German Language" course. Notice to the Reader.
Tinkering.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1916
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 5107

Re: Language Phone Method: Funk and Wagnalls 1945 reprint of Rosenthal 1905

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:47 pm

Addendum to
Language Phone Method: Funk and Wagnalls 1945 reprint of Rosenthal 1905


Language Phone Method: Update
The Language Phone Method, published by Funk and Wagnalls in 1945, is a REPRINT with minor changes, of Dr. Richard S. Rosenthal’s Common Sense Method, published in 1905 which was a slightly modified version of his own Meisterschaft System that he had introduced circa 1882.

Turn of the 20th Century Language Courses
As many members of the forum are aware, several home-study language courses having their debuts around the turn of the twentieth century (Berlitz, Cortina, Edison, International School of Correspondence, Rosenthal, Linguaphone, and the like) employed the new-at-the-time technological advance of phonograph cylinders. It would appear that sales of these courses were facilitated by newspaper advertisements and offers in the very large catalogue mail-order operations of the period.
Advertisement for Dr. Rosenthal’s Language Phone Method, Popular Mechanics, 1913
Language Phone Method 0, Popular Mechanics, December 1913.JPG
Language Phone Method 0, Popular Mechanics, December 1913.JPG (113.25 KiB) Viewed 327 times


Subsequent to my review of the Funk and Wagnalls Language Phone Method, published in 1945, I purchased a set of course books for Dr. Richard S. Rosenthal’s Common Sense Method, published in 1905. I received delivery late last week, I reviewed the contents of the Rosenthal course booklets and compared them to those of the Funk and Wagnalls edition.
Book covers: Funk and Wagnalls 1945 and Dr. Rosenthal’s 1905
Language Phone Method 1.jpg
Language Phone Method 1.jpg (100.73 KiB) Viewed 327 times

Page from Funk and Wagnalls 1945 course book, showing identical text (with cosmetic changes)
Page from Dr. Rosenthal’s 1905 course book.

Language Phone Method 2 Funk and Wagnells 1945.jpg
Language Phone Method 2 Funk and Wagnells 1945.jpg (119.04 KiB) Viewed 327 times

Language Phone Method 3 Rosenthal 1905.jpg
Language Phone Method 3 Rosenthal 1905.jpg (132.7 KiB) Viewed 327 times

The Funk and Wagnalls’ Audio Recordings
Dr. Wilhelm Braun is identified as the speaker on the Funk and Wagnells both on the 78 rpm vinyl record labels that were prepared in 1945 and in what-appears-to-be a clipping from the promotional material accompanying the course, presumably stapled to one of the course books that I purchased by a previous owner. My searches of the Internet reveal that Dr. Braun joined the staff of the German Department of Barnard College in 1900 and that he took his retirement in 1943. So then, the following questions remain: (1) did Dr. Braun lend his voice to the original recordings that were prepared in 1905 to accompany the Rosenthal course, and (2) if so, were these sound files transferred from the original phonograph cylinders to produce the flat 78 rpm vinyl records of the Funk and Wagnalls course in 1945, or (3) did Dr. Braun lend his voice for a second, wholly new, replacement recording in 1945 on behalf Funk and Wagnalls either shortly before or shortly after his retirement? Does anyone care to guess? What do you mean, you don’t care!
Save for a few cosmetic changes, they’re the same! Although I had not predicted it, my impression concerning the period during which the author might have received his formal education and my supposition of his having retained the writing style of his youth turned out to be not far from the mark (see the initial review, above).

Longevity!
A matter that I find quite fascinating is that, even though these materials were first published in 1905, with the exception of a few items of grammar and a certain formality of speech, these materials are still (fairly) relevant more than a century later. That is, were one to study these materials in isolation from other materials, in a determined fashion, over a six-month period, one could conceivably navigate successfully in a German-speaking environment at a Basic to Low-Intermediate level of linguistic competence. Yes, of course, certain adjustments would be necessary to ease one’s functioning in the receiving society; however, for the astute learner, the period of adaptation would be surprisingly brief.

EDITED:
Alignment of the images with the corresponding texts.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1916
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 5107

Re: Language Phone Method: Funk and Wagnalls 1945 reprint of Rosenthal 1905

Postby Speakeasy » Thu Aug 08, 2019 3:31 pm

Rosenthal’s Common-Sense Method of Practical Linguistry (recycled/revised)
When I discovered the “Funk & Wagnall’s Language Phone Method” of 1945, which I reviewed in the first section this discussion thread, I was unaware at the time that this series of home-study language courses was, in fact, a (minimally) revised edition of “Rosenthal’s Common-Sense Method of Practical Linguistry (Published in 10 Parts)” which originated circa 1897 of which Dr. Rosenthal, himself, published two minimally-revised editions in 1901 and 1905 and which I subsequently mentioned. However, it seems that Funk & Wagnall’s association with the Rosenthal language series did not end there …

Funk & Wagnall’s [Language] Self Taught series
In the same year that Funk & Wagnall’s published their “Language Phone Method”, 1945, they also issued a new series entitled “[Language] Self Taught” which was a hardbound edition of the “10 Parts” of Rosenthal’s Common-Sense Method, for the self-study of all of the languages of the original series: French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. Putting aside the title, the binding, and the group of the 10 Parts into one volume, the contents were the same as Rosenthal’s original series and could have been used with the circa 1920’s audio recordings that Funk & Wagnall’s had reproduced in 1945. Whew! The image below is of the cover of the Funk & Wagnall’s “Self Taught German” course and the frontispiece wherein the publisher acknowledges the origins of this series. The annotation “New Revised Edition” is misleading as it pertains to Rosenthal’s 1905 minimal revision to his 1901 edition, which was a minimal revision to his 1897 edition. Once again, whew!
German Self-Taught 1.JPG
German Self-Taught 1.JPG (58.2 KiB) Viewed 148 times


Funk & Wagnall’s New [Language] Self Taught series
In the early 1950’s Funk & Wagnall’s commissioned what-I-imagine-they-hoped-would-be a genuine “revision” to the “Rosenthal’s Common-Sense Method of Practical Linguistry (Published in 10 Parts)” covering all of the languages in the series: French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. The revisions were executed by pairs of noted linguistics/instructors, who were accredited for their contributions. The image below is of the cover of a reprinted edition of Funk & Wagnall’s “New Self Taught German” course and the frontispiece wherein the publisher references its own copy of their own “Language Phone Method” series of 1945, but no longer references Rosenthal’s series which are the true source.
German Self-Taught 2.JPG
German Self-Taught 2.JPG (82.64 KiB) Viewed 148 times
Revisions? Really?
The Forward to this revised edition advises the reader: “In the present revision, corrections and changes have been made throughout and outmoded expressions have been brought up to date … If used in conjunction with the set of Language Phone Method recordings, made by native-born speakers, it should give excellent results.” Did you notice the “fudging” here? First, I have a copy of Rosenthal’s 1901 and 1905 editions of the original work and, having compared these to the digitized copy of the original 1897 edition which is available via the Hathi Trust website, I would say that they are virtually identical, one to the other. I have also compared these originals to the Funk & Wagnall’s 1945 edition, renamed the Language Phone Method, for which they reproduced the 1920’s era recordings, and I found virtually no differences. Ditto for their regrouping of the original 10 pamphlets into one volume under the Funk & Wagnall’s [Language] Self Taught series. Now then, the authors of the Funk & Wagnall’s New [Language] Self Taught series simultaneously advise the reader that the new edition contains “changes throughout” and that it can still be used to good effect with the circa 1920’s recordings. In other words, the “revisions” to the latest edition were, once again, minimal. Not only does this stand to reason but, having compared “New German Self Taught” to all the preceding editions, I found very few differences, indeed.

And, ...?
There are at least two ways of considering at “Funk & Wagnall’s New [Language] Self Taught” series, either: (1) the publisher, in callous disregard of the interests and needs of independent language-learners, put lipstick on a pig, and marketed an out-dated language course of little value, or (2) Rosenthal’s original “Common-Sense Method of Practical Linguistry (Published in 10 Parts)” was actually well-conceived and, as I suggested in my initial review, “despite their obvious age, and putting aside some minor elements of vocabulary … would still be sufficient to acquiring a sound knowledge of the target language …”
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