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Programmatic or Basic

Printed From: FSI Language Courses
Category: Learning Languages
Forum Name: Spanish
Forum Discription: Discussion about studying Spanish using the FSI course.
Printed Date: 16 January 2009 at 3:37am

Topic: Programmatic or Basic
Posted By: elefd
Subject: Programmatic or Basic
Date Posted: 18 June 2006 at 10:16am
I am looking for opinions on which of these is the "better" course for learning Spanish. I know some Spanish (been through Pimsleur Plus) but want to really learn it now. I found the book for Programmatic at a bookstore (no audio yet, but I can eventually get it I think). I can check Barron's (which is basic, right?) out of my library. Since the major investment in either one will be my time (even if I have to buy the programmatic audio somewhere), I'd like to hear what other people think before I dive into either one.

If it makes a difference, I tend to have more time for listening to audio than I do for book work, but I obviously plan to do quite a bit of both.


Posted By: daristani
Date Posted: 18 June 2006 at 12:14pm
I haven't used either of the FSI Spanish courses, so can't speak from personal experience, although I have looked at them in comparison, and from what I understand, the programmatic courses are intended for imparting a general ability to "get around" in the language, rather than the more thorough mastery that the traditional courses aimed at.  My understanding is that the programmatic courses do not contain as much drill material as the traditional courses, and focus primarily on "essential" grammatical elements rather than trying to impart all of the main elements of grammar.

If you look at the (Brazilian) Portuguese course on this site, you can see the pattern of the programmatic courses with audio.  To me, it's very gimmicky and almost insulting in the way it seeks to spoonfeed the info into you, with constant quizzing.  So my vote is for the traditional courses (which themselves vary considerably in terms of who prepared them and when they were prepared.)  I think that the traditional Spanish course is considered to be one of the best of the FSI courses, and that's the one that I understand will eventually appear on this site.  So it might be worth it to save your money for the time being, and perhaps gently nudge our esteemed webmaster to start putting up a bit of the Spanish course if possible.

For more commentary on the relative merits of the traditional FSI Spanish course versus the programmatic one, see sp?TID=147

Posted By: elefd
Date Posted: 18 June 2006 at 3:01pm
Thanks for that! There was a lot of info in that link (by the way, there's a space in the middle of the url that needs to be deleted -- I got it, but maybe others reading wouldn't pick up on it).

I'm left with two questions, though:

1. If done in their entirety, are the two courses designed to (at least in theory) bring the student to the same level, or does one go further than the other? It sounds like the Basic/traditional goes further.

2. I can get Barron's from my library. They have 1 and 2. So, this sounds like half of the original Basic course - correct? I could get started on that and by the time I make it through those, it's likely the whole course would be up here.

This site is an awesome service, by the way.

Posted By: Malcolm
Date Posted: 18 June 2006 at 7:14pm

1. No, the Basic course will take you further. Don Casteel, the editor of Platiquemos (the updated FSI Spanish Basic course), says that the programmatic course was never really completed and that it wasn't very popular at the FSI. I haven't actually used the programmatic Spanish course, but I've heard a lot about it, and I have used the programmatic Portuguese course as well as Platiquemos and some of the Spanish Basic course. Programmatic Portuguese doesn't even come close to the Spanish Basic course in terms of overall coverage, and I'd assume the same holds true for Programmatic Spanish.

2. Yes, the first two levels of the Barron's course make up the first half of the FSI Basic Spanish course. You will need levels 3 and 4, which will probably not be ready in time considering that you could get through the first two levels fairly quickly with your background.

Posted By: Noel
Date Posted: 22 July 2006 at 6:05am
Hi there,
Just found your site by accident yesterday. I am interested in learning Greek
and Spanish for various reasons and couldn't believe it when I found the full
FSI Greek Course. I had already purchased Part one from Barrons at a
reasonable price of 50+ dollars. But would have to fork out a lot more to
audioforum or someone else to get the remainder of the course. Like
everyone else who appreciates this site I would be glad to make a donation
to keep it up and running. Keep up the brilliant work.

P.S. I hate to sound like a spoilt child but is there any chance the two
missing audio files on part two of the Greek course will be added on. Really
looking to the spanish courses.

Posted By: gdfellows
Date Posted: 22 July 2006 at 7:36am

Originally posted by Noel

is there any chance the two
missing audio files on part two of the Greek course will be added on.

Unfortunately, the tape set I borrowed was missing that tape.  I'm hoping that as more members join the forum, someone will either own the Greek course or have access to it at a public library and be able to provide the missing audio.


Posted By: gdfellows
Date Posted: 22 July 2006 at 7:45am

Originally posted by daristani

and perhaps gently nudge our esteemed webmaster to start putting up a bit of the Spanish course if possible.

I have the Basic Course Units 1-30, but I do not yet have the second half of the course.   This course is next in line for digitizing and uploading.

I am pushing hard right now to complete the French and German courses.  Many people are eagerly awaiting the second half of the French course, as it is not generally available unless at great expense.  Sir Nigel and daristani are helping with the German, so it should be done soon.

A comment for Don Casteel and Platiquemos - :  even though I already own the first half of the original FSI Spanish course, I purchased the entire Platiquemos course from Don.  He has done an outstanding job of updating the course, and it is what I am using to learn Spanish.  The cost is nominal compared to the cost of courses from NTIS, and his comments and insights about the language are most helpful.

Posted By: gaucho
Date Posted: 17 August 2006 at 12:18pm
I have used both the Programmatic and the Basic Course and find them to be complementary rather than mutually exclusive. While I prefer the format of the BC, I think the Prog. course gives you more mini-dialogs and drills that are useful for practice. So if you have the time, I recommend using both. 

Posted By: SoTxBPA
Date Posted: 12 September 2006 at 5:07am
Personally, it would depend on the outcome and level of fluency that you hope to attain.  With the basic course, you will get a fairly decent knowledge of the grammar and some dialog to digest.  The prog course takes it to a deeper level.
I went through the DLI Spanish course in 1994 and though it was a good course, though the emphasis on the course seemed to be transcribing numbers (since it is designed for signal intercept type folks), but I felt I left with a great grasp on listening and reading.  Although I went to Panama for 18 months immediately following, I still did not feel that comfortable speaking the language.
Three years ago I took a new job where Spanish is a requirement, and since I use it EVERY DAY at work, my fluency has improved much.  Basically, what I'm trying to say is you will get out of either course what you put in, and when it comes to speaking, if is at all possible make a friend with a native speaker who will tolerate you butchering the language until you start getting better.


Posted By: Bill
Date Posted: 17 October 2006 at 6:11pm
The cost of a course like Platiquemos is neglible when amortized over the time commitment required to learn the basic structure of a foreign language.  It truly is a no brainer.
The convenient format, quality recordings and adjunct materials make it an excellent value.
I want to study French next and wish someone would provide a product as enhanced as the one Don Casteel developed for Spanish.

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