Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

All about language programs, courses, websites and other learning resources
Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1929
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: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby Speakeasy » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:17 am

Odhams Foreign Language Courses

Odhams Press Ltd.
Odhams Limited was a British newspaper publisher founded in 1890. In 1920, following its merger with John Bull magazine, the new company took the name Odhams Press Ltd., which, shortly thereafter, began publishing books under the name of its newly-formed subsidiary, Odhams Books Ltd. The subsidiary was very successful and, in the early 1960’s, it launched an audio recording division, Odhams Records, charged with the production and marketing of a series of boxed sets of books and audio recordings in a wide variety of subjects. Three series of foreign language courses figured in the company’s offerings. Regrettably, in 1969, this renowned publisher, plagued by severe financial difficulties, ceased to exist as an on-going concern. Following a series of take-overs, the company’s name was changed in 1998 to Formpart (No.11) Limited, which continues to exist only as a dormant private company. The company’s foreign language courses were as follows:

1. Odhams Master Language Courses
The Master Language Courses were this publisher’s most comprehensive home-study language courses and, as was common amongst many publishers of the period, they were available for the study of French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Materials included: (a) a hard-covered course manual, measuring 6” x 9”, comprising circa 300 pages, (b) a hard-covered dictionary, measuring 4-1/2” x 6-1/2”, comprising about 500 pages, (c) a packaged set of 25 flash cards destined for reinforcement of vocabulary, grammar, and verb conjugations, and (d) four 10-inch x 33-1/3 LP vinyl records having a total duration of approximately 2-1/2 hours. Packaging consisted of an attractive, hard-shell, cardboard storage case (refer to the attached images). The course was separated into 50 straightforward lessons for the introduction of the vocabulary and grammar of the target language. The accompanying notes were particularly well-conceived, reminiscent of those of the Living Language Ultimate series. Although the general approach to teaching did not depart significantly from that of many other home-study language courses, many of the dialogues displayed a surprising level of creativity, introducing vocabulary items that one rarely encounters in introductory courses. I estimate that an A2 level would have been achievable with these materials. While these courses were not as ambitious as those offered by Linguaphone, they were of a similar high quality and would have represented a serious alternative to the offerings of both Assimil and Cortina. My collection includes the course manuals from all of the courses in the series as well as a number of the supporting components. The only audio recordings that I have from the series were those prepared for the Master Italian course. Should anyone every come across the audio recordings for the remaining courses in the series, I would greatly appreciate receiving an advice of how and where I might obtain them.

2. Odhams Quick Language on Records
The Quick Language on Records series was this publisher’s attempt at filling an apparent void (sic) in the market for language guides designed to meet travelers’ limited needs for a selection of essential words and phrases for their use in the predicable situations that they could expect to find themselves during brief visits to the areas where the target languages predominated. Languages included in the series were those commonly-studied of the period: French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Materials included a 128-page soft-covered booklet and two 7-inch x 33-1/3 EP vinyl records having a total duration of some 30 minutes (refer to the attached images). To their credit, I would note that the publisher included notes on pronunciation in the pamphlet, supported by a few audio tracks, along with some elementary notions of grammar. In addition, while these language guides operated as typical phrase books, I found the example phrases just a tad more interesting than those commonly-encountered in the genre.

3. Odhams Living Language Courses
Rather curiously, Odhams Records marketed boxed-set editions of a number of Crown Publishers’ “Living Language / Learn-a-Language” courses. As part of their promotional campaign, Odhams offered “Free Trial” packages (consisting of a small pamphlet and one 7-inch x 33-1/3 EP vinyl record) containing extracts from these renamed “Odhams Living Language” courses. While the contents of the courses were identical to those of original series that was widely available in the United States, the Odams’ editions were published as hard-bound course books, acccompanied by three larger-sized 12-inch LP vinyl records and the courses were packaged in sturdier, more attractive storage cases than were the originals.

Superb Product ... Saturated Market ... Prolonged Economic Recession
Hindsight being particularly acute, it would be easy to conclude that Odhams Records’ entry into the competitive market for introductory language courses was as ill-conceived as it was ill-timed. We should try to bear in mind that the United Kingdom had been experiencing a prolonged economic recession, that the company was beginning to struggle financially, and that the market for these types of products was saturated. Despite their genuine virtues of these courses, from the perspective of a prospective buyer, they were most likely indistinguishable from their competitors’ offerings (whereas they were actually superior). There are but a few copies of these courses available on the major online booksellers’ websites and, in the case of the “Master Language Courses”, prices for the course components are inexplicably elevated. Nostalgia? Rarity? In any event, should anyone every come across the audio recordings for the “Master Language Courses”, I would greatly appreciate receiving an advice of how and where I might obtain them.

EDITED:
Tinkering.

IMAGES
1) Promotional announcement for Odhams language courses
2) Odhams Master Language Course in French
3) Odhams Quick French on Records
4) Odhams Living Language Free Trial
Attachments
Odhams Master Language Course Publicity.jpg
Odhams Master Language Course Publicity.jpg (167.96 KiB) Viewed 1207 times
Odhams Master French.jpg
Odhams Master French.jpg (57.1 KiB) Viewed 1207 times
Odhams Quick French on Records.jpg
Odhams Quick French on Records.jpg (100.56 KiB) Viewed 1207 times
Odhams Living Language Free Trial.JPG
Odhams Living Language Free Trial.JPG (87.31 KiB) Viewed 1207 times
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Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1929
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: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby Speakeasy » Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:55 pm

Show and Tell
I know, you’ve all been waiting for this, my latest installment in this series of Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown. I have quite a collection that I could expose, but you would likely find the items discouragingly similar (my wife certainly does). Now then, “show and tell” is a common expression about showing an audience something and telling them about it. In the United Kingdom, North America, New Zealand and Australia, it is a common classroom activity at early elementary school. The case below is as much a matter of “show and ask” as it is of “show and tell.”

Porta-Play Records?
Recently, as part of my on-going efforts at preserving the quirkiest of language-learning materials of all time, I purchased a set of “Porta-Play Italian Language Course” unusually small 33-1/3 rpm EP vinyl records that had been offered on eBay at a very low price. Although there is no date of publication, I suspect that these packages were produced somewhere between the mid-1950’s and the mid-1960’s. The records are stamped "Porta-Play, Made in the U.S.A." The previous owner had no information on the publisher and I have been unable to find any information on the Internet. I find the publisher’s unusual choice of recording medium intriguing and I am wondering if anyone might have information on this product. Please refer to the attached images and the following description.

Phrase Book with Audio
The genre is the familiar phrase-book-with-audio-recordings language guide. Although the phrase book is missing from the package, the heavy paper packaging insert clearly suggests that this “language course” is a presentation of stock phrases and questions deemed to be useful to a short-term visitor to Italy. My quick review of the audio recordings on these tiny records confirms this.

Curious Recording Medium
The audio recordings are presented on eight 4-7/8 inch x 33-1/3 rpm EP vinyl records. The small diameter of these records is particularly curious given the more commonly-used formats of the period: 7-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch. It is possible that the publisher chose this unusual format so to avoid paying royalties to the larger recording companies which may have still held the patents to the standard formats; however, doing so would have represented a rather extreme measure. Where would one get the blanks and the record-pressing equipment for such a tiny format and how could one recover one’s investment? An additionally unusual feature of these records is the inclusion of a slot which extends horizontally outwards from the centre hole (see images below). It seems to me that the publisher would have consumed less vinyl had they simply opted for a larger format. As an aside, the duration of each recording is approximately 3 minutes per side, which approaches the average duration of a 7-inch x 45 rpm vinyl record of the period. Total recording tilme of the package is approximately 45 minutes which just happens to be the duration of the average 12-inch 33-1/3 rpm LP vinyl record.

Nonstandard Standard Product - Show and Ask
The phrase-book-with-audio-recordings language guide was a standard established many years before these particular records were published. The genre continues to be exploited to this day by virtually countless online providers of phrase-book-style language guides. Theses small guides are designed to assist a short-term visitor meet their most elementary communication needs and they all do the job fairly well, provided one takes the time to master the materials (huge proviso!). The most curious feature of the “Porta-Play Italian Language Course” was the choice of the uncommon 4-7/8 inch x 33-1/3 rpm EP vinyl records.

Does anyone have any information that they can share on these types of records/products?

EDITED:
Tinerking.

IMAGES
Porta-Play Italian Packing Liner
Porta-Play Italian Records
Attachments
Porta Play Italian a.jpg
Porta Play Italian a.jpg (251.37 KiB) Viewed 1183 times
Porta Play Italian b.jpg
Porta Play Italian b.jpg (276.19 KiB) Viewed 1183 times
Last edited by Speakeasy on Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:26 am, edited 2 times in total.
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lowsocks
White Belt
Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2017 4:00 am
Languages: English (N), French (beginner), German (beginner)
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Re: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby lowsocks » Sun Jan 28, 2018 3:36 pm

A small addendum to Speakeasy's post on Odhams: Although this publisher may no longer be active, there are two books, originally published by Odhams, that live on as Dover reprints:

French: How to Speak and Write It, by Joseph Lemaître
German: How to Speak and Write It, by Joseph Rosenberg

Both books include the following notice on the copyright page (after the title page):
This new Dover edition, first published in 1962, is a slightly revised version of the work first published by Odhams Press Limited. The revision consists of minor editing to adapt the book for the American audience."

Looking at some lisitings for the original Odhams edition on abebooks.com, it appears that Odhams first published the French book around 1947 or 1948. This seems to agree with the look of the line drawings in the book. From the similar look of the German book, I would guess that it too was first published in the late 1940's.

As for the "minor editing", one reviewer on Amazon implies that it consists of replacing the British "boot" of a car with the American "trunk", and similar small modifications.

As for using these books: I am not sure how well they would work as your primary text (at least, I don't know if they would work that well for me - I find I need more formal grammar for things to stick). But the books look like they could serve as very useful, and inexpensive, supplements for the student of French or German.
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Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1929
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 5143

Re: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby Speakeasy » Fri Feb 09, 2018 2:31 am

Addendum to the post on "Multingua"
The first vintage language course that I introduced under this discussion thread was the “Learn to Speak 5 Modern Languages” record set, produced by publisher Multilingua, apparently of Toronto, Canada, most likely at some time between the late 1950’s and the middle 1960’s. Recently, I came across additional language courses by this publisher which I am presenting in two parts:

1. Multilingua 2-Speed Language Learning Record for Advanced Study: The French Story
I came across a very low-priced offer for a copy of the “Multilingua 2 Speed Language Learning Record for Advanced Study: The French Story” and could not resist: in for a Penny, in for a Pound. I was attracted by the notion that Multilingua had produced an item for “advanced study” and I was intrigued by the prospect of trying out yet another, most likely dubious, “2-speed” vinyl record. I suspect that variants of these record sets were available for all of the languages covered in the publisher’s introductory courses; that is: French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish.

Materials
The materials include one 12-inch “two-speed” 33-1/3 rpm x 45 rpm LP vinyl record and an 11-page pamphlet measuring 4-1/4 inches x 11 inches, packaged in a very lightweight (flimsy) cardboard box.

Advanced Study: The French Story
The pamphlet, entitled “The French Story”, was published in 1959 by Foreign Language Studies, New York, N.Y. The story itself is a summarized account of the geography and history France, written in the narrative style. The French text appears on the left, with an English translation on the right (refer to image below). While I am often hesitant when assigning levels of difficulty to foreign language materials, I would say that the level of this narrative probably falls somewhere within the A2-B1 range. In my view, the publisher’s introductory language courses, which were really A0+ phrase-book guides, would be insufficient preparation for studying these materials.

Two-Speed Record
The pamphlet’s frontispiece contains the following notation: “’The French Story’ has been recorded with the new 2-speed process. Therefore, you may begin your listening practice with your machine running at 33-1/3 rpm. Once you have mastered this slow speech rate, switch your machine to the 45 rpm speed. The faster, normal speech you hear is now relatively easier to grasp.” I played a few tracks of the record at both speeds and I came away with the same impression as I had had when playing the “2-Speed Miracle Records” under this thread: https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=19&p=85067#p85067 I suspect that the narration was most likely recorded at normal speed on magnetic tape. Then, in order to produce the effect of the first, slower speed, the tape recording was deliberately slowed down and the vinyl record was pressed with this slowed-down version. The sound track at the 33-1/3 rpm speed leaves one with the impression that the speaker had taken more than the prescribed dosage of barbiturates. Subsequent playing the vinyl record at the 45 rpm speed leaves one with the impression that the speaker had just taken a week’s worth of amphetamines; that is, the voice was a noticeably higher pitch than normal and the cadence was unusually quick. So, once again, no miracle.

2. Speak German Easily-Pleasantly
I came across an offer on eBay for the “Speak German Easily-Pleasantly” by Multilingua. A cursory review of the attached images reveals that this product to be a subset of the “Learn to Speak 5 Modern Languages” which I reviewed above. Although the title of the course and box cover differ from the former, the materials include: (a) two 12-inch x 33-1/3 rpm LP vinyl records, identical to the German records in the forenamed course, and (b) the same two, five-language pamphlets, printed in landscape style, measuring 11 inches x 8-1/2 inches, of approximately 50 pages each.

I suspect that variants of these record sets were available for all of the languages covered in the publisher’s introductory courses; that is: French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish. Although it is somewhat surprising that the publisher chose not to print separate pamphlets for each of the language pairs, perhaps the inclusion of the full five-language pamphlets was part of a marketing strategy designed to encourage buyers to purchase the other language variants. Wer weiss?

BTW, as I already have the entire five-language set in my collection, to date, I have resisted the urge to purchase this particular item. For those amongst you who believe that they can sail safely past the Sirenum scopuli islands, without losing their minds, I have provided the LINK to the offer on eBay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Speak-German-Easily-Pleasantly-Multilingua-LP-Records-With-Workbooks/263475739819?hash=item3d5860bcab:g:RikAAOSwI59aTRs9

IMAGES
1) Multilingua 2-Speed Language Learning Record for Advanced Study. Box cover.
2) Multilingua 2-Speed Language Learning Record for Advanced Study. The French Story (extract).
3) Speak German Easily-Pleasantly. Box cover.
4) Speak German Easily-Pleasantly. Pamphlet (covers 5 languages).
Attachments
Multilingua French Advanced Study Box Cover.jpg
Multilingua French Advanced Study Box Cover.jpg (64.75 KiB) Viewed 1037 times
Multilingua French Advanced Study The Story of France (extract).JPG
Multilingua French Advanced Study The Story of France (extract).JPG (158.27 KiB) Viewed 1037 times
Multilingua Speak German Easily-Pleasantly 1.jpg
Multilingua Speak German Easily-Pleasantly 1.jpg (286.4 KiB) Viewed 1072 times
Multilingua Speak German Easily-Pleasantly 2.jpg
Multilingua Speak German Easily-Pleasantly 2.jpg (309.38 KiB) Viewed 1072 times
Last edited by Speakeasy on Fri Feb 09, 2018 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1929
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: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:58 pm

Pickwick International, Inc.
Pickwick International, Inc. was founded in the United Kingdom in 1961 to succeed Pickwick Sales Corp., itself founded in 1950 as a publisher of low-priced LP vinyl recordings in various genres (symphonic, operatic, gospel, blues, jazz, and popular music, often by some of the most prominent artists in their respective fields). The company was also known for its release of children’s records, spoken word anthologies, guides to self-improvement, “sound-alike” recordings and bargain-bin repackaged reissues under numerous brand names. The company’s operations were conducted through several subsidiaries. Although many of the LP albums from the 1960s into the early 1970s bore the "Pickwick/33" imprint, the company marketed its records under at least 40 different sub-labels.

Readers suffering from acute nostalgia for the Golden Period of Budget LP Record Albums might consider typing “Pickwick Records” into eBay’s “Search” function. In 1977, the company was purchased by the American Can Company as part of the latter’s program of diversification and was absorbed during a seemingly non-stop series of amalgamations, consolidations, take-overs, and divestments of recording companies, music stores, entertainment businesses, retail superstores, and the like. Despite all of this activity, the company seems to have survived under the corporate name Pickwick Group Limited, which I believe to be a property of Universal Music.

Throughout the 1960’s, operating under the sub-labels Pickwick International, Pickwick Records, and Tops Records, Gala Records, Rainbow Records, and perhaps others, the company produced budget-priced introductory foreign language courses and/or guides to compete with the multitude of offerings from rival recording companies.

Pickwick “Rapid” and/or "Instant" Language Courses
What seems to be the “premium” series of language courses offered by Pickwick appeared under the series titles “Rapid (Language)” or "Instant (Language)". As might be expected, the commonly-studied languages, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish were featured. I recently added this publisher’s “Rapid French”, "Instant German", and "Instant Italian" to my collection of vintage language-learning materials and was rather surprised by the teaching methodology. I ordered both the “Rapid Spanish” and “Rapid Russian” courses but, unfortunately, owing to the pilfering which continues to plague the postal service, these items never arrived. As usual, the major online intermediary refused to honour their (cough, spittle, guffaw) guarantee of reimbursement for undelivered items.

Materials
Materials included in the “Rapid” courses were a set of three or four 12-inch x 33-1/3 vinyl LP records having a total duration of approximately of 2-1/4 to 3 hours and a set of three or four 8-inch by 10-inch pamphlets totalling 70 to 90 pages. The unadorned, slim cardboard box, the record labelling, and the pamphlet, are a silent testimony to the publisher’s relentless efforts at minimizing production costs.

Programmed Learning!
When I ordered these courses, I anticipated receiving yet another phrase-book-style language guide. To my amazement, this publisher had an interesting variant of the "programmed learning” method prepared, to which the authors referred as a “Reinforced Learning System” based on the principles developed by psychologists F.S.Keller, W.N. Schoenfeld, and B.F. Skinner.

Rather than provide the student with stock phrases for use in predictable situations (introductions, ordering in restaurants, asking for directions, seeking assistance, et cetera), these courses presented a basic vocabulary of 1,000 words which were to be practiced in 400 conventional phrases illustrating the basic grammar of the target language. The initial five lessons were devoted to basic exercises in pronunciation; the sounds of the language, followed by words and word groups. Subsequent lessons presented remaining vocabulary and conventional phrases. There was absolutely no explanation of how the Target Language was structured. Students were expected to infer the structure from the examples.

The English text appeared on the left-hand column or the pamphlets, with the Target Language text appearing in the center column. Specific instructions, supported by tables for charting one’s progress, located in the right-hand column at the bottom of the page, were provided for the repetition of the materials. Please refer to the images below.

Remarkably Well-Conceived!
Despite the Spartan appearance of these materials, the Pickwick introductory language courses were very well-conceived. With a vocabulary of only 1,000 words, the level on completion would have been in the A0-A1 range. Nevertheless, given sufficient application, an independent learner could have reasonably expected to be able to manipulate, autonomously, the basic elements of the Target Language. In my view, these courses were far superior to the more commercially-successful “Living Language / Learn-A-Language” courses from Crown Publishing, Inc., and other budget-priced courses of the period.

For Collectors
Few copies of these courses are available on the online booksellers’ websites and, as is the case for most courses in the genre, only collectors of language-learning materials should consider acquiring them. Should anyone ever come across my copies of “Rapid Spanish” and “Rapid Russian” that some slug stole from the postal service, I would be quite interested in recovering them.

IMAGES:
(1) Pickwick Instant German LP vinyl record set
(2) Pickwick Rapid French pamphlet
Attachments
Instant German 0.jpg
Instant German 0.jpg (343.52 KiB) Viewed 922 times
Pickwick Rapid French pamphlet.JPG
Pickwick Rapid French pamphlet.JPG (89.54 KiB) Viewed 988 times
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Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1929
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 5143

Re: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Apr 04, 2018 6:43 pm

Daily Express Language Courses
The “Daily Express / Sunday Express” newspaper is one of a number of British tabloids which are operated under the banner “Express Newspapers”, a subsidiary of the holding company Northern and Shell Network Ltd. Although this U.K. publishing and entertainment group does not seem to have operated an audio recording company as such, the newspaper and its sister publications did offer, from the 1950’s through the 1990’s, as free promotional items, LP vinyl records, audio cassettes, and audio CDs, a wide variety of anthologies of popular music, classical music, and the like. The collection included a number of introductory language courses under the label “Daily Express Language Courses”, not only those presented in this review, but others, as well.

Basic Conversational (Language)
The courses reviewed here, with one exception*, were published under the series name “Basic Conversational (Language)”, a rather generic title under which numerous books have appeared since at least the late 19th century and for which new works continue to be published to this day. This series name rendered tracking down copies of the “Daily Express Language Courses” editions rather difficult, a matter which was further complicated by the fact that several publishers were associated with these books: Crown Publishers, Daily Express Language Courses, Daily Express / Sunday Express, London Express Books, Harcourt College Publishers, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Jarrold and Sons Ltd, MacDonald Educational, Oldbourne Book Co. The listings of these titles online booksellers’ websites added to the confusion. The following titles were included the series:

Basic Conversational French, 432-pages, by Julian Harris and André Leveque
Basic Conversational German, 372-pages, by Helmut Rehder and Freeman Twaddell
Basic Conversational Italian, 213-pages, by Genevieve A. Martin and Mario Ciatti
Basic Conversational Russian, 215-pages, by Aron Pressman
Basic Conversational Spanish, 228-pages, by Gregory Lagrone
Speaking and Writing Spanish*, 165-pages, by Frederick Agard, Angela Paratore, and Raymond Willis


*Exception: the title “Speaking and Writing Spanish” is listed in the frontispiece of several other course manuals in the series as being an integral part thereof. The use of an “out-of-series title” is doubly curious given that the series already included a course for the study of Spanish.

Basic Conversational x.JPG
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General Comments on the Series
The languages covered in the collection were those commonly-studied for the period: French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. The recorded materials were released under the Daily Express Language Courses label and consisted of boxed sets of 33-1/3 rpm LP vinyl records as either two x 12-inch records or four x 10-inch records, for a total duration of 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The boxed sets did not contain any printed materials. The printed portion of the course materials comprised one hardbound textbook of varying dimensions and depth of coverage of the target language.

I have a copy of a first edition of all of the course books and all-but-two of the LP vinyl record sets. Given that the courses were published in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, it should come as no surprise that, generally speaking, a variant of the Structural Method was used. The textbooks were conceived either (a) for use in a classroom setting with or without allowances to meet the needs of the independent learner, or (b) specifically to meet the needs of the independent learner.

As to the teaching approach, save for one notable exception, the target languages were introduced through a succession of dialogues, reading sections, exercises sets, discussions of grammar, notes to the student, and bilingual glossaries. Although exercise sets were provided, there are no answer keys, a matter which suggests that these courses (with the exception of the Italian and Russian editions) were destined for use in a classroom setting. The overall quality of the courses was exceptionally high. However, they vary considerably in depth of coverage and, as a result, the level upon completion falls between A1 and A2, depending on the individual course.

As a final, general comment, I would note that the accompanying audio recordings were prepared with the assistance of voice-trained, native speakers whose delivery was clear, well-articulated, and at an appropriate speed for courses in this genre. Regrettably, the audio recordings were of a relatively short duration, some 1-1/2 to 2 hours in total, thereby providing only limited opportunities for aural/oral practice of the target language. Additional practice would have been necessary through the use of supplementary audio materials.

Reprints of Previously-Published Courses
As I began collecting and reviewing the individual courses in this series, I was left with the initial impression that the authors had enjoyed an unusually wide degree of freedom in designing their respective courses; so much so, that the lack of similarity amongst them suggested to me that the shared “series title” was more of a matter of marketing strategy than evidence of a common approach to teaching, that the courses had been individually sourced in the absence of an overall guiding structure in mind, and that the series had not benefited from the oversight of series editor. I came to suspect that they were either reprints of previously-published courses or reworked editions of courses which had appeared under different titles.

My continued searches of the Internet confirmed my suspicion. Out of curiosity, coupled with a sound dose of obsession, I tracked down the original editions of all of these course manuals and purchased a copy of each of them. They are all, without exception, either exact copies of, or slightly revised versions of, language courses published during the period from the 1940’s through the 1950’s. My collection now includes a copy of the “Daily Express Language Courses” editions and each of the original works. Here are the paired sets:

Basic Conversational French
In the mid-1950’s, Julian Harris and André Leveque authored a two-part course for the teaching of French, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston under the titles “Basic Conversational French” and “Intermediate Conversational French.” Daily Express Language Courses’ edition of “Basic Conversational French” is an exact copy of the first volume in the forenamed two-part series.

Basic Conversational German
Authors Helmut Rehder and Freeman Twaddell published a small number of textbooks for the study of German, beginning with one destined for the instruction of members of the U.S. Armed Forces during the 1940’s, which served as the model or source of inspiration for their subsequent works, all of which appear highly derivative from their initial course. Daily Express Language Courses’ “Basic Conversational German” would appear to be a reprint, with revisions, to a identically-titled course published by MacDonald Educational / Oldbourne Book Co.

Basic Conversational Italian
The Daily Express Language Courses’ 1959 edition of “Basic Conversational Italian”, by Genevieve A. Martin and Mario Ciatti, is an exact copy of “Living Italian”, published in 1956 by Crown Publishers. The edition published by Daily Express Language Courses combined the contents of Crown Publishers’ two softbound manuals into one hardbound manual.

Basic Conversational Russian
The Daily Express Language Courses’ 1960 edition of “Basic Conversational Russian”, by Aron Pressman, is an copy of “Living Russian”, published in 1958 by Crown Publishers, with a few minor formatting changes. In addition the edition published by Daily Express Language Courses combined the contents of Crown Publishers’ two softbound manuals into one hardbound manual.

Basic Conversational Spanish
Daily Express Language Courses’ 1957 edition of Basic Conversational Spanish, by Gregory Lagrone, series was derived from this author’s “Conversational Spanish (Revised)”, published in 1948 by Henry Holt and Company, with minor changes to the dialogues and virtually no changes to the accompanying notes.

Speaking and Writing Spanish
Surprisingly, even though this series included a course entitled “Basic Conversational Spanish”, a second, separate Spanish course appeared as part of the overall series, under the out-of-series title “Speaking and Writing Spanish.” The 1956 edition by Daily Express Language Courses is identical to “Speaking and Writing Spanish, Book One”, a two-volume series, by Frederick Agard, Angela Paratore, Raymond Willis, published in 1951 by Henry Holt and Company.

Heteroclite Collection: Very Good, But Why Bother???
All of the titles in the “Daily Express Language Courses” series are reprints of well-conceived, previously-published courses. The overall quality of the individual courses was quite high. Given the scope and objectives of the original materials, the approach and the depth of coverage between the courses vary considerably and, as a result, the level of linguistic skill upon completion would fall variously between A1 and A2. As the audio recordings ranged from 1-1/2 to 2 hours in duration, additional aural/oral practice would have been necessary through the use of supplementary audio materials.

These materials were published by the Daily Express organization at a time when numerous competitors (Assimil, Cortina, Linguaphone, Living Language, Obhams, to name but a few) proposed a wide selection of courses for the languages covered in this series, but which also offered the customer a standardized approach to teaching, not to mention a greater number of hours of audio recordings.

While the individual elements of Daily Express’ decidedly heteroclite collection are quite good, I cannot understand why the publisher would even bother going through the effort of locating previously-published materials, negotiating the rights to reprint them, having the materials printed and packaged, stocking them, marketing and selling them, and the like. Seriously, why bother?

As is the case for many of the vintage materials reviewed in this discussion thread to date, these courses would be of primary interest to collectors.

EDITED:
Tinkering.
5 x

Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1929
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: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby Speakeasy » Sat May 12, 2018 9:21 pm

Decca Language Series

Decca Records
Established in 1929, Decca Records is a highly-successful British record label. An American subsidiary was launched in 1934 but was sold two years later, thereby severing the link between the U.K. and U.S. labels for several decades. The British label was renowned for its development of recording methods, while the American company developed the concept of musical theatre recordings. Both companies marketed their records under their own brand names as well as through a large number of sub-labels. Following an extended period of cessation of activities, of acquisitions, and of mergers, the original U.K. and U.S. labels became part of the Universal Music Group, which is itself owned by Vivendi, a media conglomerate headquartered in France. The U.S. Decca label was the foundation company that evolved into UMG. Decca Records continues to be a large, highly-respected producer of audio recordings in a wide variety of genres: classical, blues, jazz, country, and popular music, educational/motivational recordings, and spoken word narrations. For a brief period, Decca published a series of foreign language courses for home-study.

Decca Language Series
Beginning circa 1944, the U.S. Decca label produced the “Decca Language Series” for the home-study of foreign languages. Courses were produced for the study of French, Portuguese (Brazilian), and Spanish. This selection of languages would normally suggest that courses were available for other commonly-studied languages, notably German and Italian. Over the last couple of years, I have acquired what-I-believe-to-be the major components making up the complete Decca Spanish Course.

Materials
The materials included: (a) sixteen 10-inch x 78-rpm shellac records, having a total recording time of approximately 2 hours, supplied in two large, sturdy, storage albums, (b) two cloth-bound, hard-covered course books, each measuring approximately 6-inches x 8-inches. Although not part in my collection, I assume that other materials included (c) a bilingual dictionary, and (d) a sturdy storage case.
Decca Spanish 1a.JPG
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Course Structure
In a manner reminiscent of the Cortina and Linguaphone courses, the target language was introduced through the presentation of dialogues in the form of a story, in 31 episodes, involving central and supporting characters wherein the plot, action, and settings were woven into everyday circumstances. Each successive episode presented new vocabulary and increasingly complex material. Two somewhat unique features separated the Decca series from the those of their competitors in that (a) the story line, with the intent of increasing the level of interest on the part of the student, was presented as a mystery, and (b) more than twenty characters were introduced in the story, each played by voiced-trained professionals, thereby exposing the study to an unusually wide variety of native voices. As evidenced by the titles of the course manuals for the extant materials, the teaching approach and the story were highly-standardized across the series.

Las Aventuras de Roberto Martin: un drama en español en 31 capítulos, Isabel Brugada, Lester Gilbert Krakeur, 123 pages.
The first of the two manuals contains the transcription of the dialogues, in the target language only (there are notes in a separate manual, but there is no translation of the dialogues), as well as a number of illustrations to aid in vocabulary acquisition.
Decca Spanish 2a.JPG
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Study Book: A Modern Spanish Language Course with Texts and Records, Isabel Brugada, Lester Gilbert Krakeur, 233 pages.
Somewhat similar to the Linguaphone courses, each episode is supported by its own set of corresponding notes. The Study Book begins with pronunciation guide; thereafter, each episode presents: (1) a brief summary of the action, (2) a list of new vocabulary items introduced in the lesson, (3) a remarkably clear, yet reasonably concise, explanation of the points of grammar illustrated in the lesson, and (4) a set of oral/written exercises to recapitulate and reinforce the aspects of grammar and vocabulary just treated. In my opinion, the notes are superior to those of Assimil and Linguaphone.
Decca Spanish 3a.JPG
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Decca Spanish 3b.JPG
Decca Spanish 3b.JPG (97 KiB) Viewed 774 times

Decca Spanish 3c.JPG
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Audio Recordings
As noted above, the audio recordings were supplied on a set of sixteen 10-inch x 78-rpm shellac records, having a total recording time of approximately 2 hours and, quite unusual for courses of this type, more than twenty characters were introduced in the story, each played by voiced-trained professionals, thereby exposing the study to an unusually wide variety of native voices. The speech of the actors was clearly-articulated and at a moderate speed somewhat slower than that of ordinary conversation amongst native speakers.

Appreciation: Excellent!
The Decca Language Series would have represented an excellent choice for the home-study of a foreign language. In my view, these courses would have been sufficient to bring a serious student up to the CEFR A2 level of competency and would have equalled, or even surpassed, those of the competition during the period. The fact that there is evidence of courses having been produced for French, Spanish, and Portuguese, but none for German and Italian, as one might otherwise expect, suggests that this project might not have been a commercial success and that the publisher simply discontinued the series without ever having produced courses for the latter. And what a shame that would have been! Obviously in today's context, these materials would be of primary interest to collectors.

EDITED:
Tinkering.
6 x

Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1929
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: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:18 am

Programmed Learning
Anyone who attended American or Canadian high schools and colleges during the period from roughly the mid-1960’s through to the late-1970’s will most likely have had direct exposure to “programmed learning” materials. While the schools themselves might not have adopted textbooks using this method, numerous publishers offered “study aids” covering a wide variety of “first year college” subjects such as: physics, chemistry, algebra, statistics, economics, accounting, history, philosophy, and the commonly-studied languages such as French, German, and Spanish.

I recall “programmed learning” being promoted as a “miraculous innovation” in teaching theory and practice. I further recall our teachers, who were quite aware of this miracle, counselling us that, if we wished to succeed in our studies, a more fructuous path would involve: attending classes regularly, paying attention in class, taking good notes, doing our own homework assignments in lieu of meeting fellow students in the cafeteria with a view to copying their work, reviewing our corrected homework assignments with a view to learning from our errors, asking the teacher for help in areas in which we were experiencing difficulties, conducting regular reviews throughout the semester of our notes and of the course materials and, finally, beginning our preparations for the final exams a minimum of three weeks beforehand. Quite obviously, as a group, our teachers were not open to innovative ideas in educational theory and practice (sic)!

In the field of language-learning, it is quite possible that at least a few members of this forum are familiar with the “FSI Programmatic” courses, all of which, by the way, I have completed. Putting aside the reprints of these courses which were subsequently published by Barrons, Audio-Forum, Multilingual, and the like, I have never come across such an in-depth application of the “programmed learning” approach to the teaching of languages. My own collection of vintage language courses includes a number of low-budget, very basic language courses, all at the CEFR A0 level, which were published during the 1960’s as LP vinyl record sets; however, these were all highly-simplified versions of the method itself. Nevertheless, recently, intrigued by the mention that an advertised copy of “Learn French with P.I.L.L.” employed the “Scientifically-tested Programmed Instruction Language Learning” method, as you might guess, I could not resist and I purchased said item … hence this review.

Learn (Language) with P.I.L.L.
Publisher, Courses, Materials
In 1966, the recently-established U.K. publisher, World of Learning Ltd., which also had offices in Switzerland, began marketing a series of introductory language courses under the series name “Learn (Language) with P.I.L.L.”, the latter being an abbreviation of “Programmed Instruction Language Learning.” The promotional pamphlet which was included in my copy of “Learn French with P.I.L.L.” indicates that the company offered an impressive list of home-study courses:

Basic P.I.L.L. courses: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Afrikaans and, somewhat later, Zulu
Advanced P.I.L.L. courses: French Conversation, Business French
P.I.L.L. courses for learning English: English for French, German, or Dutch speakers
Practice and Revision and Oral Dictation courses: “O” Level French, “O” Level German


The P.I.L.L. course materials included: (a) five course manuals, and (b) five* audio cassettes all of which were packaged a plastic storage case. While searching for additional information on these products, I came across a website wherein the P.I.L.L. courses are advised as comprising eleven* audio cassettes, or compact discs, which might suggest that a subsequent edition of the courses was an expanded version of the originals.
PILL Learn French 1.jpg
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PILL Learn French 2.jpg
PILL Learn French 2.jpg (141.09 KiB) Viewed 607 times


Course Description and Review
Generally speaking, only large publishers have the resources to develop in-depth courses similar to those published by the Foreign Service Institute; it seems that World of Learning Ltd would not have fallen into this category. Perhaps more to the point is the fact that very few prospective buyers would ever consider paying the prices which would be necessary to recovering the development and production of such behemoths unless they were coerced into doing so by their schools, colleges, and universities. From my own admittedly-limited experience, it seems to me that “programmed learning” materials were not widely-adopted by academic institutions during the period; rather they seem to have been marketed as affordable study aids. Accordingly, a combination of simplifications of, and alternatives to, the general concept would have been required to produce “market-priced” versions of language courses using this method.

In the case of the P.I.L.L. series, the (stated) approach to teaching employed the “scientifically-proven programmed learning” method, which itself relied on “computer analysis (which) has broken down the language into its essential parts …” Putting aside such misleading hyperbole, it seems clear to me that the publisher did not employ the programmed learning method or even a clever simplification of it. Rather, the course, which was an admittedly well-designed collection of sentence-pattern drills and short dialogues, could be better described as having taken a low-intensity “audio-lingual” approach to home-study language-learning. As I flipped through the course manuals, the thought kept running threw my mind: “hey, this is a mini-FSI Basic French course!” The publishers were careful to point out that these courses were of an introductory nature only. I would estimate that the level of skill upon completion of the course would be CEFR A0-A1, and no more.
PILL French sample 1.PNG
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PILL French sample 2.PNG
PILL French sample 2.PNG (277.2 KiB) Viewed 607 times

As could be expected of any commercially-produced introductory language course, the audio recordings were prepared with assistance of voice-trained native speakers of the target languages whose speech was clear, highly-articulated, and delivered at a speed somewhat slower than that used in normal conversation. Although the course included some 3-3/4 hours of audio recordings -- which is coincidentally equivalent to the duration of the average Assimil course -- the core of the recordings, by the very nature of the audio-lingual method, were devoted to repetitive, relatively short and simple utterances.

To my very pleasant surprise, overall, the materials are quite sound. Assuming that the prospective language-learner were to apply himself assiduously to his studies, he could achieve a level of CEFR A0-A1 upon completion of these courses. In my view, the publishers made a genuine attempt at providing what-was-for-the-period a new approach to instruction as applied to language-learning in a package that was a compromise between the approach taken by the experienced course developers at the FSI and a somewhat rationalized approach that the typical customer would actually be willing to pay for. However, as to the use of “scientifically proven programmed learning” method, I suspect that they were “riding a wave” of popular expectations; that is, they were appealing to customers in search of the “miraculous innovation” in teaching theory and practice.

Market Niche for this Product?
The P.I.L.L. courses would have appealed to customers who were familiar with the underlying teaching method (or who thought they were); however, I doubt very much that anyone purchasing these courses would have noticed that the approach to teaching was based more on the concepts of the audio-lingual method than those of the programmed learning method. The level of linguistic skill upon successful completion of the course would have been no better than CEFR A0-A1. While I do not have any hard evidence as to pricing, I suspect that these courses would have been offered at prices approaching those of the Assimil courses of the period. Competition would have existed from: (a) budget-priced, phrase-book-style courses, and (b) courses using more concentrated and intensive methods, such as those from Assimil, Cortina, and Linguaphone. As there are only a few trace references to these materials on the internet, I find myself wondering whether or not a market niche ever existed for the P.I.L.L. courses.

Current Sellers of the P.I.L.L. Language Courses
During my multiple, and largely unsuccessful, searches of the internet for information on these courses, almost by accident, I stumbled upon the website of what-appears-to-be the current owners of the copyrights:

Rosebank Language Centre
Rosebank, Braamfontein and Quellerina in Johannesburg
South Africa


As the above company appears to be a going-concern, which continues to offer a small selection of the P.I.L.L. courses for sale, I have created a separate discussion thread to review the company and to draw attention to the product line.

Rosebank Language Centre (African Languages, et cetera)
https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=8677

EDITED:
Attachment of images.
Creation of the "Rosebank" discussion thread and insertion of the link.
Typos.
4 x

dgc1970
White Belt
Posts: 44
Joined: Mon Oct 03, 2016 3:16 am
Languages: English (N), Spanish (beginner)
x 73

Re: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby dgc1970 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 4:37 am

I just paid $5.00 at a garage sale for the Campion Language Studies French course. It's simply the Linguaphone course with a different cover. I believe this was only made for the Canadian market in the late 1980s to the early 1990s. The course used cassette tapes, all which appear to be in perfect condition (I'm pretty sure the books were used once, to the end of the first chapter).

I graduated high school in 1988 and remember seeing this course constantly advertised in magazines and newspapers. Since my school had a Swedish exchange student I decided to purchase the Swedish course. The price was not advertised so anyone interested had to mail in a magazine insert, checking the box of the language you were interested in. I now know that any time you have to ask the price it's going to be expensive.

About three weeks later I received a letter in the mail, the price was $800! In 1990! I just used an inflation calculator and that works to $1368.66 in today's money. So I didn't buy it. But I remember clearly that about 6 weeks later I received another letter, this time offering the exact same course for $400. 50% off! I didn't reply and about 6 weeks later I was mailed another offer: $200! I didn't reply again and finally received an offer for $150! I was sent this final offer a few times before they stopped mailing me. To this day I wonder about the percentage of people who bought the course that paid the full amount.
Attachments
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6 x

Speakeasy
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1929
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 5143

Re: Vintage Language Courses of Lesser Renown

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:36 am

Unusual Recording Medium – Forbidden Insignia – Disgraced Author
Since my discovery a few years ago of the “durium” record technology of the pre-WWII era and of a vintage self-instruction French language course that was published in the 1930’s using this technology, I have been searching the internet for a similar course for the instruction of German. The major record producer using this unusual material was an British (and later Italian) company of the same name: Durium Dubrico. Recently, I came across a small course published by Durium, mostly likely during the period between 1935 and 1945, for the self-instruction of German from an Italian base: “Facile Corso di Conversazione in Tedesco” by Professor Jan van Dam of the University of Amsterdam. With the help of Elexi , who holds this item in his collection, I have put together the following presentation.

Durium Recording Material
Durium is a synthetic resin, somewhat like Bakelite, invented in 1929 by Dr. Hal Trueman Beans, Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University, U.S.A. It is flexible, tasteless, odourless and highly resistant to heat. The resin may have been used in casting metal newspaper type and for non-metallic parts in aeroplanes. When used in the production of records, the hot liquid resin (raised to a temperature of approx. 230o Celsius) was spread over wide sheets of thin cardboard, followed by the immediate and simultaneous pressing of twelve 7-inch record disks. The resin cooled and hardened very quickly after which the details were printed onto the central area of the disks. The backs were printed, as necessary, and lacquered in an effort to prevent curling/warping of the disks (owing to the different expansion rates of the heated Durium resin and the cardboard backing). The finishing step involved the punched of a hole for the record spindle. The production process was both inexpensive and quick, factors which permitted high volumes and low prices for those wishing to use the records as advertising inserts. The playing speed for these records was 78 rpm. While larger formats were available, 7-inch diameter records were quite common. Although these one-sided records were more durable than the shellac records of the period, the technology never really caught on with other producers, most likely due to the inherent warping of the disks following only a few playings. The YouTube video, below, shows a Durium record playing on a 1930’s era turntable.



Durium Records -- Durium Dubrico
I have appended the links to a couple of sources of information on Durium Records. The first source (Michael Thomas’ website), which includes a partial listing of the company’s releases, identifies the Durium Record Company as having operated from 1933 to early 1934 in Slough, England, and notes that the company had close ties to several other European record producers. The second source (Wikipedia) identifies the Durium company as having operated in Italy from 1935 through 1989. There are numerous other sources of information on the internet for this company.

Durium Records -- Michael Thomas’ website
http://www.mgthomas.co.uk/Records/LabelPages/Durium.htm

Durium Records -- Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durium_Records

Durium Language Courses
The record jacket of one Durium self-instruction language course that I discovered on eBayIT indicates that several languages were offered in the series, including at least: Amharic, Arab, English, French, Gallo, German, Latin, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish. It is clear that, in addition to Italian, these courses were also offered from an English base (see image below).
0 Durium Language Courses.JPG
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Facile Corso di Conversazione in Tedesco by Professor Jan van Dam
Brief Description
This self-instruction German course was translated for use by speakers of Italian by Professor Dr. Gino Lupi in 1939. Note carefully that the records themselves are labelled in English. Although the original date of publication is uncertain, the year of translation and the markings on the record jacket covers (see below) place it at some time during the 1930's. The materials were comprised of (a) six 7-inch x 78 rpm, one-sided, durium records, (b) record jackets containing a transcription and translation of the L2-only recordings along with notes to the student, and (c) a very small grammar.
1 Durium German Course.JPG
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Although the first record of the course package is missing from the set, a quick review of the remaining record jackets reveals well-conceived, very basic introduction to German. The image below is taken from the second of six record jackets. Despite the warping of the records, Elexi was able to digitize one of the lessons. The native speaker's delivery is clear, articulate, and at a moderately quick pace.
2 Durium German Transcription and Translation.JPG
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Jacket Cover Artwork (subsequently forbidden)
The upper-right-hand corners of the record jackets display Nazi insignia which I have hidden for posting on this forum. There were at least two printings of these jacket covers depicting slightly different versions of the insignia. The previous owner of these materials advised me that the Third Reich’s insignia was replaced by an image of the Italian flag in a subsequent editions of this language course.
3 Durium German Jacket Cover.JPG
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Author (subsequently disgraced)
The author of this self-instruction German course was Dr. Jan van Dam (1896 - 1979), Professor at the University of Amsterdam. Following the end of the Second World War, he was publicly disgraced for having collaborated with the occupying forces. https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_van_Dam

Unusual Recording Medium – Forbidden Insignia – Disgraced Author
When I set out to locate a copy of a self-instruction German course by Durium, I was motivated by the sheer geekiness of the recording medium and by the age of the materials. Needles to say, at no time did anticipate either the presence of forbidden insignia on the record jackets or the association that the author had with the regime it represented. Uh, erm, what a find!

EDITED:
Typos, tinkering.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Wed Apr 24, 2019 4:37 pm, edited 10 times in total.
8 x


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