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FSI "Programmatic Spanish" vs "Basic"

  Tags: Platiquemos | FSI | Spanish
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 Message 1 of 68
06 March 2005 at 12:35am | IP Logged 
Can anyone explain the difference between FSI "Programmatic Spanish" and "FSI Spanish Basic Course"?
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 Message 2 of 68
06 March 2005 at 9:38am | IP Logged 
FSI Basic Spanish
From the inside of Barron's Mastering Spanish Level Two:     
This course was originally developed by the Foreign Service Institute, Department of State. The title of the original course is "Spanish Basic Course".     
There is a very similar message inside the Barron's Mastering Spanish Level One.   
The "Spanish Basic Course" uses a lesson format like this:   
Basic sentences (new vocabulary and grammar in a dialog).   
Drills and Grammar:   
Illustrations of a new grammar point. (pattern drills) For instance, when introducing "ser" they may have sample sentences like:   
Soy de Chile.   
Usted es de Colorado.   
Ellos son de Inglaterra.   
Substitution Drills. Something like:   
Soy de Chile.   
Ella es de Chile.   
Nosotros somos de Chile.   
Response drills: (Question/answer drills)   
De donde es usted?   
Soy de Colombia.   
(California in low voice)   
De que parte de los Estados Unidos es ella?   
Ella es de California.   
Translation drills: (English to be translated)   
We're from Mexico.   
Somos de Mexico.   
Discussion of pattern. More details about the grammar point you've been drilling on. Often includes a second grammar point.   
Substitution drills: (drill on conjugating ser)   
Es usted de Colorado?   
No, no soy de Colorado.   
Es ella de Peru?   
No, no es de Peru.   
Son de Argentina?   
No, no somos de Argentina.   
Replacement drills: (A word is spoken, you say a new sentence with the word and change everything necessary for agreement of noun, verb, adjective, etc.   
Tengo un coche bonito.   
Tengo una pluma bonita.   
Tenemos una pluma bonita.   
Tenemos la pluma bonita.   
Tenemos la pluma vieja.   
Compras la pluma vieja.   
Variation drills - these are somewhat like translations, but they hit one particular expression:
He's just returned from Cuba.   
Acaba de volver de Cuba.   
They've just bought a house.   
Acaban de comprar una casa.   
We've just begun.    
Acabamos de empezar.   
Review drill:   
An exercise on grammatical point from an earlier lesson.   
Conversation stimulus.   
A meta-narrative and narrative variation of the original lesson dialog. Platiquemos makes this into an oral exercise, whereas in the level 1 FSI recorded material it is simply read by native speakers. These were probably classroom exercises at the FSI school. The conversation stimulus isn't recorded after unit 15 in the original FSI course. In Platiquemos, these exercises are recorded up to unit 42.
Programmatic Spanish
Volume 1 published 1967.
Volume 2 published 1970.

The preface of Programmatic Spanish Course volume I says:
"The principal difference in approach between this course and the FSI Spanish Basic Course, for example is the emphasis placed here on advance, pre-class preparation of new material by the student with the help of tapes."

The forward describes it's approach as:
1) Observation of the language
2) Practive with what has been observed.
3) Variation of that which has been practiced.
4) Application of what has been learned in the first three stages.

That's kind of general, but as you know programmatic Spanish starts out by going through the difference between potato and dad. (papa and papa') They're teaching how critical pronuncation and sylablic stress

The way the Spanish Basic Course starts out also emphasises the importance of stress and pronuncation, but they use a different approach. Drills on the differences between each vowel, drills on similar consonants (r vs rr), (r vs d), etc.   

Programmatic Spanish Vol I Forward says:
"Volume I contains twenty-five units of a course planned to have about 100 units."

Vol II Forward says:
"This volume concludes the programmatic series".

Those two lines in the forward led me to the theory stated in another thread about the plug being pulled on programmatic Spanish. (It just seemed like a huge downward revision to be a the end of 25 lessons, and expect 100, then to stop at 50 - the forward having the benefit of being edited when the volume was complete).

The second component to the theory is that some of the vendors of FSI Spanish offer programmatic V1+2, then Basic Course Levels 3+4.

It makes sense they wouldn't offer basic course V1+2, since Barrons offers it at such a low price.

Does anyone know which Spanish courses are actually used by the FSI today?

Edited by luke on 16 September 2006 at 5:23pm

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 Message 3 of 68
24 April 2005 at 12:03pm | IP Logged 
Luke provided a good explanitaion of the two. If a person was planning to start one of the two, which of the two programs do people on this forum tend to like better? It sounds like the later version is not complete so it would be necessary to switch versions mid stream. Has anyone done this? If so how was the transition? Would it be better to start with the first version so the transition is not necessary? I think I read somewhere that the Platiquemos program used the first program for that very reason, but I can not find that to confirm.
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 Message 4 of 68
24 April 2005 at 1:44pm | IP Logged 
I think both courses are good. When I was only using   
the Basic Course in the form of Barrons Mastering
Spanish 1, I listened to each tape about 14 times over
the course of a week. I would have the material down
very well at on the 7th day.
Today, I'm doing both courses simultaneously. However,
I only go through the Basic Course lessons 7 times over
a weeks time, rather than 14. I still feel I
understand the material very well by the 7th day. I do
1 1/2 units from Programmatic Spanish each week also.
I think the synergism between the courses makes it so I
don't have to repeat the Basic Course lessons as many
times to get them down.
If you cannot sit down with the book, Programmatic
Spanish won't be good for you. Most of it's exercises
require the book. Platiquemos, and FSI Basic Course on
the other hand can be well utilized without the book.
The books are helpful though, and I read the book with
the lesson the first time through. The second day, I
read the dialog before I hit the highway to keep the
translation fresh in my mind. One nice thing about
Platiquemos is the dialog translation is part of the
recording. It's still helpful to read the grammatical
points too. They are usually very short.

The two courses cover grammatical points in somewhat
different order. Programmatic Spanish starts out with
the preterite (past tense), whereas Basic Spanish uses
the more traditional approach of starting with the
present tense. Perhaps I can do the Basic Spanish
units with less review because I've been working on the
preterite for weeks with Programmatic Spanish.

Programmatic Spanish volume 1 is described as a 100
hour course. Volume 2 takes the typical student 150
hours. So Programmatic Spanish could be thought of as
a 250 hour course.
The Basic Course and Platiquemos are self described as
500-600 hour courses. FSI expects a typical bright
English student to take 575-600 hours or so to become
professionally fluent in a language like Spanish if
it's their first foreign tongue.

If you can only study an hour a day, it's probably
better to focus on only one of the courses. In that
case, I'd make my decision based on whether I like to
sit down with a book (or pdf rendition of a book) and
recordings, or whether my schedule doesn't permit that
amount of time in front of a computer or printout of
the book.

Edited by luke on 25 April 2005 at 1:11am

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 Message 5 of 68
24 April 2005 at 2:30pm | IP Logged 
Another very subjective way to look at the two courses.
The Programmatic course is precisely structured. It
presents atoms of information in order. If you are an
engineer or left-brain type, it may be easier because
it won't leave you with as many questions.   

The Basic Course is more holistic and focused on
speech. They will use drop in a verb now and then in a
tense they haven't covered yet. They don't feel the
need to explain the entire past tense just to say, "I
arrived yesterday". Interestingly, they will
occasionally drill a sentence in a tense that hasn't
been formally introduced. Not a huge deal. They may
use it in a drill like this:

I arrived yesterday. (a sentence you've been taught)
I arrived last week.
I arrived last year.
I arrived at the party.
I arrived at the house.
I arrived at the embassy.

But if you might say to yourself, "Woah, how can I say
things in the past tense when they've only taught the
present", Programmatic Spanish may offer less
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 Message 6 of 68
25 April 2005 at 7:03pm | IP Logged 
The only thing I can contribute (the programs are well described by crylant and luke) is that the Programmatic Course was not very well liked by my Foreign Service colleague, including me.Thanks to luke, I now have an inkling why. I suspect left brain types are as rare as engineers in the FS. We tend very much to be a bunch of non-linear (is that another way to say disorganized) thinkers. Seriously, though, the main problem with the Programmatic Course is that it just didn't work very well--which may explain why it was never finished. Also, for the present day, a program that ties you to the book constantly may not be very useful.
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 Message 7 of 68
26 April 2005 at 3:36am | IP Logged 
Platiquemos wrote:
the Programmatic Course was not very
well liked by my Foreign Service colleagues, including

And here I was thinking you might decide to toss it in
as a freebee with Platiquemos just to give the
competition something to think about :)

One other observation comparing the two courses. The
Basic Course has a lot of dialogs that would help you
move to a Spanish speaking country. First day at the
job, renting an apartment, socializing, etc.

A lot of the Programmatic Course dialogs occur "en la
clase". "Do you like the teacher?". "Did you prepare
the lesson?" "I didn't understand sentence number 4".

I really do like both courses and I think doing them in
parallel is helping.

Edited by luke on 26 April 2005 at 5:35am

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 Message 8 of 68
06 May 2005 at 4:31pm | IP Logged 
Yet another difference. Programmatic Spanish has some
practices that are not recorded and don't have answers
in neither the student's textbook, nor the instructor's
manual. Though strangely enough, the instructor's
manual has a transcript of many of the audio exercises.

The only "missing answers" in Barrons or Platiquemos
are questions about the readings. The answers to
questions about the readings don't have one and only
one response, so that may be why there are none. It
wouldn't be bad if there were example answers though.
The questions aren't tricky. They are for checks on
comprehension, rather than a specific grammar point.

So, the missing answers in Programmatic Spanish are an
annoyance, because they are for translation exercises,
which as presented have one answer. (word order could
vary, but that's easy to recognize).

The Basic course in the form of Barrons or Platiquemos
is more complete in that respect.

The cover of the Barrons courses include the words
"write it". I haven't run across any explicitly
written exercises in the Basic course yet. It would be
very easy to turn the exercises into a dictation
though. There are no instructions that you should do
that though.

Programmatic Spanish occasionally will ask the student
to write something.

If you wanted to practice writing, the Basic Course
format is more conducive to that. Almost any drill in
the basic course could be a written exercise.

Spanish is very phonetic, so that may be why neither
course emphasizes writing per se. Does anyone know if
FSI courses for non-phonetic language make a bigger
deal of written exercises?

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