If you haven’t already checked out (and/or downloaded) the free Foreign Service Institute language courses at fsi-language-courses.com, you need to go there right now. The FSI courses were designed by the Department of State, mostly in the 1960′s, to teach languages to employees being sent overseas. They’re actually quite comprehensive, if a bit boring with all the repetition and drilling. They are also audio intensive, which is necessary for learning comprehension and pronunciation.
And the best part about the FSI courses is that they are in the public domain. There are no copyright protections, which is how the FSI site above can exist. And this is also how publishing companies can sell the FSI courses at a profit (literally hundreds and hundreds of dollars!!) to unsuspecting customers who don’t know they can download the courses for free or even borrow them from libraries and make copies of the books and cassettes. I’m talking about you, Audioforum, Multilingual Books, Barron’s and Platiquemos…
The FSI site only includes materials that volunteers have donated after spending many hours scanning the books and converting the cassettes to mp3s. Unfortunately, if a language course is not included on the site and it cannot be found in a library, the only option is to buy it from a company (who slapped their own ridiculous “copyright” on it) that charges way too much because the originals from the Department of State are obviously out of print. And this makes me very angry.
Anyway, the course books are available in PDF format, so I decided to start converting the PDFs to HTML. So far, I’ve only finished Unit 1 of the French Basic Course because I don’t have a good PDF to HTML converter. It takes forever to convert to text and then proofread everything with the OCR software that I have.
Language learning should always be free!