Now let’s talk about the materials available for self-learners.
The complete course costs about US$ 200 and the basic one about US$ 30. Does worth the price? Well, if you’re a disciplined person, sure. Linguaphone method follows this simple methodology: to listen,to understand and to speak.
There is more than one type of course, and you should be aware of the differences.
The PDQ Course aims those people who want learn the basics, contains 4 CDs and the vocabulary guide.
The All Talk series contains 16 CDs and a small vocabulary guide. Aims people who doesn’t have regular time to study and affirm take the learner to the intermediate level.
The PDQ and AllTalk series are the cheaper, but I do not recommend them. The older versions would be a much better purchase, but they are a little bit hard to find. The series below are currently the best courses from Linguaphone:
The Complete CD Course and the 2nd Stage CD course; both courses claim take the student to the advanced/expert level. Besides the CDs they also have textbooks ad exercise books.
Positive aspects: you can study almost anywhere and covers multiple aspects of the language. The pronunciation is clear. Apparently, the older courses are better, so if you have the chance buy the books of the 50’s to 70’s.
Negative aspects: Learners describes that the new series like PDQ are for “tourist” type of student, as they not deepening in the main aspects of the language. Besides that, some students complain that isn’t an easy course for beginners and have a fast pace, with not enough repetition. It’s only available for the main languages. And the audio only courses aren’t good as the traditional material.
Teach Yourself series are available in several languages (60) and that is probably the series major quality. Compare to others methods it’s also cheaper, the price range between US$10-US$ 70, however some courses can be a little bit more expensive.
Since they started to being published the Teach Yourself changed a lot. At the 50’s/60’s books they vocabulary variety was bigger and they went deeper in the language.
Nowadays, focus more on “tourist” situations. The publisher claims that the course can take you to B2 level, what I really doubt.
Positive aspects: price, variety of languages available, so if you’re studying a more “atypical” language it’s a good option. It’s easier to follow for beginners since the audio is in English.
Negative aspects: does not take you to an advanced level of the target language. There are better courses in the market.
As the Teach Yourself and Linguaphone the Colloquial Series were revised to conform to a more modern approach. Consequently the vocabulary diminished, there are more graphics and the exercises were modernized.
Colloquial series holds a lot of similarities with the Teach Yourself series, the price range between US$10-US$ 60 and the books are available in several languages (70). There is a far amount of English audio and the quality can be poor (maybe because it tries to present a real life situation).
The positive and the negative aspects are the same as Teach Yourself series
Assimil is one of the most respected courses in the market. They method is quite simple: assimilation. The course is divided in two phases. The first phase is call “passive wave”, in this phase you do a lesson per day; you should listen, read and repeat the lessons until you understand them. Each lesson takes about 20/30 minutes. In the second phase, call “active wave” which starts at the 50th lesson, besides keeping up with the passive learning, you come back to the 1st lesson and start to translate the text to the target language. Doing 1 lesson per day, you’ll take about 5 months to get the course done. The book + CDs cost about US$60, and they offer about 70 different languages (in French versions).
Positive aspects: The audio it’s clear and professionally recorded, entirely in the target language. Besides, the course presents some colloquial expressions. The lessons are easy to follow and they don’t take long time. Other aspect I really like about Assimil I have the chance to look at the text in my own language and the target at the same time.
Negative aspects: The recordings are slow pace and the speaking can be unnatural.
These courses were developed by the Foreign Service Institute, US Department of State in the 60’s/70’s. And currently, they are in the public domain. You can find most of them in this website. The FSI courses have high quality, but they system is based on “drills repetition”, making them a little bit boring. On the other hand, they can take you to a good proficiency level, probably high intermediary.
Positive aspects: Cover most of the grammar points. Besides the good quality of the audios, the speeds of the dialogues are much more real than more courses. FSI teaches also a good vocabulary range.
Negative courses: The content is outdated and the language very formal. But this is expected since the target audience is diplomacy employers. They have way too many drills and that can be very, very boring.
Michel Thomas method it’s an audio based program. During the whole time you’re going to listen to Mr. Thomas and two students with zero knowledge in the target language. The program claims that you’re going to learn the language through a natural process, without memorizing and books, making possible to learn almost anywhere. Still promises a solid foundation in the target language. Each course costs about US$ 75.
Positive aspects: Since the students in the audio have zero knowledge, you can be sure that you’re going to learn from the scratch too, so it’s good for beginners and for giving confidence. MT explains grammar.
Negative aspects: The accent of Mr. Michel Thomas is not native. The vocabulary cover in the course is not very big. And it’s a little bit pricey!
The Pimsleur Method is based on two key principles: the Principle of Anticipation and a scientific principle of memory training that he called “Graduated Interval Recall”. At first you’re presented to a dialog and its vocabulary. Then, the presenter says a phrase in English and you must translate to the target language. Words and phrases are repeated several times in different contexts to build a solid memory. The price range between US$ 30 to US$ 300 (The complete course).
Positive aspects: The method use native speakers and it’s very good to improve pronunciation. Besides that, what you learn really sticks on your head. It fits well to beginners.
Negative aspects: The progress is quite slow and the method becomes very boring rapidly. Also, the amount of vocabulary covered is small. There is not written materials. The complete course it’s also quite expensive.
Rosetta Stone is a interactive software, which use a method call Dynamic Immersion. In short, it appears pictures in the screen representing the word. From this are create repetition drills, speaking, reading and writing exercises. At first, it sounds to me like a very good method, but when you try it, you see some major flaws. The software is very expensive, one level costs US$180 and the complete course (5 levels course, not available for all languages) costs US$500.
Positive aspects: Rosetta Stone has a beautiful graphic interface, the lessons are short and easy to follow. And there is speech recognition available, it’s not perfect, but certainly helps. They have a wide range of languages available.
Negative aspects: You only can use on the computer and it’s very expensive. The progress is slow and I don’t really feel that I’m learning a language, instead feels like I’m learning random vocabulary.
I only tried the old version of the software. For more details of the new version I recommend this article, from the Fluent in 3 months website.