FSI/DLI courses. Are they a waste of time?

Probably while searching on Google or Reddit “free language learning resources”, like any low-budget language learner does, you may have found the audio courses made by FSI and DLI. Many praise them, and I can say that they are at least partially right. If we go over the poor audio quality, the courses are very well structured.

1. What is FSI? 

FSI stands for Foreign Service Institute, the United States federal government’s primary training institution for employees of the US. Basically FSI trains simple officials, ambassadors and even spies. FSI now offers free audio courses, without copyright. But with a little mention: the courses that are on the Internet are old. Very old. They are from the 60s, and the ‘newest’ are from the 70s.

2. What is DLI? 

DLI stands for Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (why DLI and not DLIFLC?). The DLI agency is exactly like FSI (or at least that’s what I understood from what I read on the internet, I don’t live in America), but for generals, soldiers and military personnel.

3. What is the difference between FSI and DLI courses?

There are only a few differences. The first (and most important) one is that DLI contains a lot of words and expressions related to military vocabulary, while FSI is more civilian targeted and contains usual vocabulary, which is used in everyday life. This does not mean that you shouldn’t take DLI courses, quite the opposite. In some cases, DLIs are far better than the FSIs.

In some cases, DLI has extensive courses in some languages for which FSI has nothing, and vice versa.For example, DLI has courses to learn Romanian and 4 Arabic dialects (Egyptian, Iraqi, Saudi and Syrian), while FSI does not. I also noticed that, most of the times, the audio quality of the FSI is better than that of the DLI. DLI seems to have more extensive audio courses than FSI, although both have many hours of listening.

4. Why you should use DLI and FSI

Because they are long. Very long. They teach you many useful words and expressions, so many that some FSIs may take you to (real) B2. It also teaches you complex sentences, which makes FSI and DLI a very interesting mix of Pimsleur and Glossika. The courses use a very boring spaced repetition system, which simply forces those expressions into your brain. It may seem very boring to you, but after 2-3 months you will realize that in the long term you will have learned about 90% of the course content. Which is great.

DLIs and FSIs and pretty well designed and free. Worth a try.

5. Where can you find them?

Here. On Yojik’s website you can find some Peace Corps materials, also worth seeing.

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