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Programmatic Spanish

FSI Programmatic Spanish

Programmatic Spanish Levels 1 and 2
(Now available in a CD version!)
Produced originally by the Foreign Service Institute, this course is in a Latin American dialect and is intended to lead you to a minimum professionally useful level of proficiency. The course offers five learning modes as follows: introduction, dialogue, grammatical practice, variations, and application. The first 20 units of Level 1 emphasize word and phrase structure; the remaining units expand the vocabulary and further develop verb morphology. At the completion of Level 1 you will have completed work comparable to the first year of a college-level Spanish course.

Programmatic Spanish I  -   Contents
Programmatic Spanish II  -   Contents
Pricing  -   RealAudio Sample

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Programmatic Spanish I

Contents of Spanish Programmatic I

The Spanish Programmatic Course is designed primarily for the student who has access to a tape player for study purposes. A typical unit covers a cycle of work requiring from three to five hours from the average or above-average student. The learning that takes place during a typical cycle has been sequenced as follows:

  • 1. Observation of the language.
  • 2. Practice with what has been observed.
  • 3. Variation of that which has been practiced.
  • 4. Application of what has been learned the first three stages.

The sections belonging to a unit relate to these four learning modes as follows:

Sections Within A Unit Learning Mode
Introduction Observation
Dialog Observation
Grammatical Observation and Practice Observation; Practice
Variations Variation
Application Application

The last section of each typical unit (the Application section) contains no recorded portions. It is always a summary of the present unit plus a recycling of important features of the preceding two units and no new material is presented. It serves (1) as a testing device to determine how well the material has been learned, and (2) as a useful ‘homework' assignment. The Application section can serve as a time-saver for students with a limited but active knowledge of Spanish: they should try the Application section first; if they can work it successfully, then that unit does not need to be studied and they should go on until they find areas where errors are made, which indicates the need to study that unit.

Volume I contains twenty-five units of a course of about 100 units. The course as a whole is intended to lead the student to a minimum professionally useful level of proficiency. The objective of this volume is to emphasize word structure and phrase structure; therefore, this volume (especially through Unit 20) displays equal concern with phrase relators, connectors, and verb morphology, and shows less concern with vocabulary. During the introductory phase, the focus is more on the student's ability to perform in multi-phrasal and multi-clausal sentences using the proper connectors and relators instead of memorizing vocabulary items. Subsequent units will develop the remaining verb morphology and expand the vocabulary.

The average learner requires approximately 100 hours to go through Volume I. Since there are 417 ‘words' in this volume, the rate of learning is 4.2 ‘words' per hour. (A ‘word' is defined as a preposition, a verb form, an infinitive, a number, an adjective, etc.) This rate is 1.2 per hour higher than had been anticipated, but it is still comparatively low. The distribution of vocabulary items (‘words') is as follows: 115 Nouns; 130 Verbs, Verb Forms or Phrases; 172 Other.

To encourage the feeling of realism while learning a foreign language, the study of verb morphology starts with a past tense (‘Preterit' or ‘Past of Events'), as it is more natural to ask the student ‘What did you bring last night?' than ‘What do you bring (at night)?' However, the present tense is not ignored; most of the common verb phrases (e.g. tener que -r, querer -r, ir a -r, acabar de -r, aprender a -r and so forth) are treated also in the Present with the results that the student becomes as capable in the Present as in the Past. The Imperative Mood is also taught, as well as several frequent patterns of the Present Subjunctive.

Textbooks for most comprehensive language courses are generally designed for use in both the classroom setting and for self-instruction. To serve the needs of the classroom teacher a text must incorporate a range of drills and exercises that focus on reading and writing skills as well as listening comprehension and speaking skills.

Audio-lingual self-instruction, on the other hand, emphasizes the acquisition of listening comprehension and speaking skills. Sections of the text or segments of the lessons for which answers are not provided are intended for classroom use as quizzes or assignments to be graded by the instructor; they are not fundamental to the orientation of self-instruction. In most instances, 'instructor' is used interchangeably to refer to the instructor on the tape or to the instructor in the classroom.

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Programmatic Spanish II

Contents of Spanish Programmatic II

Volume II contains 990 words including 150 cognates; the total for both volumes is a little more than 1400 words. The grammatical inventory presented in Volumes I and II is more than that normally thought of as comprising a first year college course. Time required to finish Volume II varies according to the students' ability, of course, but it also varies according to the amount of time spent on supplementary ingredients such as conversation, reading, oral discussions of current events, and so forth. Without these supplements, Volume II has required an average of about 150 hours, including student preparation time, during its first year of use at FSI.

Starting with the first unit (Unit 26) in this volume, instruction at FSI normally becomes monolingual, English being prohibited during class. At this point, teacher-student exposure time is increased from 30% to 50%. As the student's production inventory expands with subsequent learning, this exposure is proportionately increased until it reaches almost 100% after Unit 40.

The conversion from bilinguality to monolinguality is achieved progressively starting with Unit 26 headings and instructions. (This is not to be confused with classroom participation which is or can be monolingual starting with Unit 26 or earlier.) By Unit 31, parts of the programmed introduction are written in Spanish, and by Unit 34 some of the grammatical presentations are in Spanish. By Unit 41, everything is in Spanish. The text then proceeds to the end as an authentic and normal experience in Spanish.

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RealAudio Sample

Here is a RealAudio Sample for the Programmatic Spanish Course. RealAudio is a popular Internet audio format with a free player available for most major operating systems at If nothing happens when you click on the "RealAudio" link, you may need to go to and install the player.


FSI Programmatic Spanish Level 1 on CD
Book with 24 CDs