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An average day on the FSI course?

 Language Learning Forum : Immersion, Schools & Certificates Post Reply
United Kingdom
Joined 4539 days ago

51 posts - 119 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Italian

 Message 1 of 6
24 June 2013 at 12:50pm | IP Logged 
Does anyone know what an average day on a FSI School of Language Studies course would
consist of (During week 1, somewhere in the middle of the course and then say in the
final week?)? Say a category IV language (e.g Pashto, Persian, Polish, Russian, Serbian).

Apparently they spend 25 class hours a week and 4+ hours a day studying on their own, i'm
wondering how they fill so much time with productive learning.
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Senior Member
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Speaks: Swedish*, English
Studies: Latin, German, Mandarin

 Message 2 of 6
24 June 2013 at 5:01pm | IP Logged 
My guess is repetitio ad nauseam.
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I'm With Stupid
Senior Member
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Speaks: English*
Studies: German, Vietnamese

 Message 3 of 6
24 June 2013 at 7:23pm | IP Logged 
My friend teaches 4 hour classes with the aim of getting elementary and pre-int students up to upper intermediate so they can go an Aussie uni that has a campus here. If you think about it as an hour with each of the four skills, then it's not hard to fill the time without overloading students. I taught two full hours focusing on a minute area of pronunciation last week. And then there's always task-based learning, where you're simply required to do a task in the language, with the teacher giving you pointers and useful language along the way. And obviously that will take as long as the task itself. And once you get into higher levels (which I assume the FSI is aiming towards), debates, discussion and role-plays can become quite in depth. And the 4 hours at home could easily be achieved with lighter activities like simply reading a book or watching a film.
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United States
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30 posts - 39 votes
Speaks: English*, German

 Message 4 of 6
30 July 2013 at 12:40pm | IP Logged 
I am schedule to start FSI in January. I'll let you know when I get there. :)
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Senior Member
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991 posts - 1896 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 Message 5 of 6
30 July 2013 at 3:08pm | IP Logged 
I don't now whether FSI is any similar, but there is this very interesting thread about the Defense Language Institute. in particular a couple of posts by someone with firsthand experience. Of course, DLI is military and FSI (I assume) is for civilians, in particular diplomats, so the "atmosphere" is probably different. However, I am just guessing that the language learning approach would be pretty similar in the two branches of US Government.
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Winner TAC 2010 & 2012
Senior Member
United States
teango.wordpress.comRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 5204 days ago

2210 posts - 3734 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Russian
Studies: Hawaiian, French, Toki Pona

 Message 6 of 6
31 July 2013 at 12:04am | IP Logged 
"Schedule: Training is generally between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for federal holidays. Some classes may begin as early as 7:30 a.m. or as late as 1:00 p.m. and may end as late as 6:00 p.m. No annual leave is authorized during a full-time language training assignment." (FSI Course Catalog 2011 - 2013, p. 157)

According to several indirect sources (e.g. Wikibooks, ACE), intensive language courses at the FSI include 25 hours of classroom instruction per week plus 3-4 hours of additional self-directed work each working day. The FSI catalog suggests that these extra hours are engaged in guided on-campus study, technology-assisted instruction (e.g. multimedia labs), and homework. (FSI Course Catalog 2011 - 2013, p. 155) This sums to 9 hours of study a day, 45 hours total study a week, not including any extracurricular immersion or activities.

In order to reach ILR S-3 level (approximately C1 level on the CEFR scale) in speaking and reading proficiency, the following timetables are suggested in the catalog on page 157 (to which I've added the estimated number of hours in brackets after each level):

Level I languages (e.g. Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, and Swedish) = 24 weeks (approx. 1,080 hours); French = 30 weeks (approx. 1,350 hours)

Level II languages (e.g. German, Indonesian, Malay, and Swahili) = 36 weeks (approx. 1,620 hours)

Level III languages (e.g. most non-Romance/Germanic languages, except Arabic, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin,) Japanese, and Korean) = 44 weeks (approx. 1,980 hours)

Level IV languages (e.g. Arabic, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Japanese, and Korean) = 88 weeks (approx. 3,960 hours)

On a personal note, I think it's possible to reach C1 level in many of these languages in a much shorter time than that predicted by FSI, especially if you really love the language you're studying and diving into native resources and real dialogue outside the classroom. This isn't to cast any untoward aspersions on the excellent courses offered by FSI of course, but simply to mention that I've known many people to reach advanced levels in speaking and reading in less time. This is why I like the disclaimer added to the Wikibooks entry on this subject:

"Before you even look at the table, here's a little advice: If you find that the language you want to learn is particularly difficult, don't let that stop you from learning it. They may well be difficult, but that doesn't mean they're impossible to learn (and once you do learn it, it will be much more rewarding)! Also remember that the Foreign Service Institute may have gotten things wrong."

Edited by Teango on 31 July 2013 at 12:22am

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