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30 messages over 4 pages: 1 24  Next >>
Pyx
Diglot
Senior Member
China
Joined 4132 days ago

670 posts - 892 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: Mandarin

 
 Message 17 of 30
05 March 2010 at 3:42pm | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:

You'll be glad to know that fanatic has already done so and written about it.

It didn't take him anywhere near 6 hours a day either.

Classroom language learning is extremely inefficient.

I was first disappointed by his 'managed quite well', but then I saw the list of skills he lists for his German. If this is in fact what he got through Assimil, then I should really order right now. I'm still doubting this, though. I'm quite aware that classrooms lessons are a ridiculous waste of time, but there are just SO MANY WORDS you need to know for a B2 understanding! That must be a couple of thousand word families, and how would a course teach them all? If it were even just 2000 word families, or, what the heck, lets even say words, which is by far not enough to reach the described level, then that would be 200 words per chapter! Does Assimil really pack that much of a punch? Or where am I being illogical?
Then again, somewhere must be a logical mistake; it must be that either fanatic overestimates his German, or he learned with a lot more than Assimil after all, or I am really wrong and Assimil does teach that much, or I'm wrong elsewhere, and you really don't need that much vocab for a B2 level.
Looking forward to your reply.
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josht
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4843 days ago

635 posts - 857 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: French, Spanish, Russian, Dutch

 
 Message 18 of 30
05 March 2010 at 4:21pm | IP Logged 
I've used Assimil's German with Ease course, and, looking at what the B2 level is supposed to encompass, I don't think the course gets you there. I think the primary problem is what Pyx is pointing at: vocabulary. While the course teaches a lot of the core vocabulary, there's a lot of core vocabulary that it doesn't teach.

This is a bit of a rough way to think about it, but I think it might help put things in perspective: the newest German with Ease book is 416 pages, of which more than half is in English (translations and notes). Let's be generous, though, and simply cut that in half, leaving us with 208 pages of German, in relatively large print. I don't have my book with me currently, but I believe each page of German has, say, 9-12 sentences. As these sentences are graded, many of them from earlier lessons aren't exactly packing much of a punch in regards to vocabulary. A lot of the vocabulary is repeated, and a fair amount of the sentence content is made up of the most basic words in the language: articles, various forms of "sein" and "haben", etc. The end result is that there just isn't enough space to teach all of the vocabulary you would need to be at a B2 level.

Honestly, looking at what the B2 level is supposed to cover, I wouldn't really expect any single course to get me there - and vast holes in vocabulary would be one of the primary reasons. Having said that, I think Assimil probably provides the most bang for your buck when it comes to vocabulary, at least in regards to language courses.



Edited by josht on 05 March 2010 at 4:24pm

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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
Joined 4836 days ago

4474 posts - 6725 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 19 of 30
05 March 2010 at 4:29pm | IP Logged 
Pyx wrote:

I was first disappointed by his 'managed quite well', but then I saw the list of skills he lists for his German. If this is in fact what he got through Assimil, then I should really order right now. I'm still doubting this, though. I'm quite aware that classrooms lessons are a ridiculous waste of time, but there are just SO MANY WORDS you need to know for a B2 understanding! That must be a couple of thousand word families, and how would a course teach them all? If it were even just 2000 word families, or, what the heck, lets even say words, which is by far not enough to reach the described level, then that would be 200 words per chapter! Does Assimil really pack that much of a punch? Or where am I being illogical?
Then again, somewhere must be a logical mistake; it must be that either fanatic overestimates his German, or he learned with a lot more than Assimil after all, or I am really wrong and Assimil does teach that much, or I'm wrong elsewhere, and you really don't need that much vocab for a B2 level.
Looking forward to your reply.


On the fanatic side of things, he's written quite a few posts - his reasons for liking it post is probably a good place to start, though I can try to dig up a few more if you really want. If you're interested in searching, Professor Arguelles has also written quite a lot about Assimil.

With regards to B2, it can really mean rather drastically different things with different focuses - I was tested at B2 for Italian after a few years of studying it (I'd memorized grammar, as this is what was taught and tested), but had essentially no conversational ability at the time, while on the other extreme there are people who are very conversational but only actively produce one or two tenses, who have far more skills than I did in practice but wouldn't test at B2.

I don't think an English speaker learning German needs to learn 2000 word families to get to B2 comprehension, much less B2 production. The languages have enough cognates in the higher registers that it really provides a huge boost - this is vividly demonstrated by giving people starting an A1 class German newspapers and having them highlight words they recognize. Having an idea of what an article is about is sometimes possible with no study of German whatsoever. Filling in the grammar and some hundreds of the most common non-cognate words goes an amazingly long way.

The number of words you can use/recognize is very strongly secondary to which words they are and how comfortably you can use them/how well you understand them in real contexts. Given that, I'm deeply skeptical of rating level by vocabulary - they're correlated, but it provides an upper bound of ability, rather than an assessment. There are plenty of people (myself included) who have memorized many pointless specialized words and gotten almost nothing out of it - by pointless, I mean words which are obscure/technical enough that the person memorizing them hardly knows them passively in his/her native tongue.

With regards to Assimil - I consider it the best commercial course on the market. It's not perfect, and B2 can be a disappointingly low level when you're actually there, but I haven't seen anything else which produces results like Assimil given a small amount of time per day. As others have noted, the quality varies drastically by course as well. Assimil German is one I'd rate as fantastic, while I'm yet to see an Assimil course I like for a non-Romance/non-Germanic language (I've heard good this about the Russian course, but not used it; I dislike the Polish, Arabic, Japanese, and Persian ones, and haven't been persuaded by my very brief glances at the Mandarin, Indonesian, and Swahili courses). It also has some features I dislike - the annoyingly artificial intonation in many of the courses, especially more recent ones, is one of the reasons I rarely use it these days. It's not perfect, and I prefer non-course approaches at this point, but it is the best course (for more than one language) that I'm aware of.



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Pyx
Diglot
Senior Member
China
Joined 4132 days ago

670 posts - 892 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: Mandarin

 
 Message 20 of 30
05 March 2010 at 4:30pm | IP Logged 
What josht wrote sounds pretty fair. And again, I'm by no means trying to bash Assimil, I'm just saying that B2 seems quite impossible for me to reach after simply using a language course, no matter how great it is.
That being said, on its website Assimil states that they teach 2000-3000 words per course. Is that a fact? How do they pack so much into 500 pages? Does anybody have a list for, say, German or Chinese, so that I might see just what kind of words they teach (and what the actual number is.. who knows how they count!)
1 person has voted this message useful



Pyx
Diglot
Senior Member
China
Joined 4132 days ago

670 posts - 892 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: Mandarin

 
 Message 21 of 30
05 March 2010 at 4:47pm | IP Logged 
Thanks Volte, your post was very insightful, as all your posts are.
Also thank you for the link and the offer. If I want to learn more, I'll look for myself, but I'm not too terribly interested - my Chinese is above the level that Assimil could teach me, and it'll be quite some time until it's good enough that I can start learning a new language.

I'm not convinced that you don't need that many words, though. Of course you get quite a lot of freebies, especially once it gets scientific, or political, or anything like that, but it's still a terribly great number of words you have to get to know. I remember all to well my first book that I read in English (and my first emails, and my first times trying to understand the Simspons, and so on), and I'm pretty sure that you need more non-cognate words than that when trying to follow even the main plot of a typical movie (which would be B2 level). I'm not even sure, that you could make the logical connection from cognates such as bomb-Bome, or terrorism-Terrorismus in that situation, even though you most likely would, when leisurely reading a newspaper.
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josht
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4843 days ago

635 posts - 857 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: French, Spanish, Russian, Dutch

 
 Message 22 of 30
05 March 2010 at 5:06pm | IP Logged 
While I don't think Assimil's going to get you to a B2 level, I agree with Volte that they're some of the best commercial courses you can buy. While their prices vary, I picked up Spanish with Ease with the four CDs for $35. Considering how much the courses do teach, that's pretty amazing.

Regarding the question of vocabulary and Assimil, I'm not talking about highly specialized vocabulary. I've done my fair share of (pointless) plowing through lists of technical words that I don't use in my native language, let alone in a target language. I'm talking about everyday things. Take, for example, things around your house. Broom; sink; washing machine; light bulbs. These are things that I, at least, must deal with quite often (alas!). They're things I would expect to know the words for in a language in which I was rated at a B2 level. Are those words included in German with Ease? I'm not sure, but I would wager that they're not all in there. I would say that the same could be said for a vast number of other everyday words.

Of course, that doesn't diminish the usefulness of Assimil's courses; it just means you need to perhaps adjust your expectations about what you're going to get out of it.
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reltuk
Groupie
United States
Joined 5213 days ago

75 posts - 110 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, French

 
 Message 23 of 30
05 March 2010 at 5:16pm | IP Logged 
I think this conversation has taken an odd turn by arguing that Assimil won't get you to
B2 levels of comprehension in languages that have a lot of cognates and
grammatical similarities to English. It just isn't nearly as hard as production, and the
B2 production requirements are quite demanding. I'm not B2 at all, and I can
understand philosophical arguments on Macadam Philo (an RFI podcast), read
newspaper articles without recourse to a dictionary, read contemporary novels, follow
the plots and some subtleties of communication of movies and television shows
without subtitles, etc.

I don't think Assimil will take you to level B2 in any language, and the real reason is
that it doesn't involve any practice in conversational production. It will greatly reduce
the amount of practice you actually need though. Combined with language exchange
partners and the regular use of native language materials, it might take you to B2 in
Category I and Category I.5 languages. But if you want to know if you're capable of
writing an essay on a topic of interest and giving reasons for supporting your
viewpoint, the first time you try to do it probably shouldn't be the B2 certification
exam, even if you just finished a complete with Ease course, following all of the
instructions to a T :-P.
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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
Joined 4836 days ago

4474 posts - 6725 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 24 of 30
05 March 2010 at 6:23pm | IP Logged 
After completing an Assimil course, you'll definitely be missing a lot of everyday vocabulary - another one of fanatic's posts talks about not having known the word for some everyday item of clothing. You won't be able to talk comfortably about brooms, specific foods, etc.

This will have surprisingly little impact on your ability to get the gist of a large number of newspaper articles, to have basic philosophical conversations, etc. reltuk's post bears reading in this light, I think; he or she states this quite well.

I personally really dislike being at a B2 level in a language - it's so ridiculously limited. That said, it is an important (set of) milestones on the path to higher levels. Doubt about whether something can get you to a B2 level should be tempered with a realistic assessment of what B2 really means. Getting to B2 comprehension in a Germanic or Romance language for a native speaker of a language from one of these families is not a particularly difficult feat (approached well - approached poorly, all bets are off), especially after you've done it for one non-native language.





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