FSI Russian Language Course

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What is this FSI Russian course?

This FSI Russian course actually consists of two separate sets of course materials. The first is an “Active Introduction” to Russian, while the second is a FAST course.

The Active Introduction is an experimental course that was developed as a response to the lack of progress FSI students were making with more traditional courses.

According to the old way of thinking, learning languages was based on first acquiring a mastery of the grammar, after which things like listening comprehension and fluency were expected to somehow “fall into place”.

Nowadays, this would be considered a very old-fashioned approach, and even in 1973, when this course was published, people were beginning to realize that it wasn’t working, especially with such a highly inflected language as Russian.

Instead, this course is based on communication, teaching the students Russian through real situations and leaving them with much more advanced practical speaking skills upon completing it.

Lessons revolved around a physical model of Moscow in the classroom, and communicative activities were related to places, buildings and even vehicles in the model.

The other course materials available here make up a more traditional FAST course, shorter courses provided by FSI to provide basic introductions to languages as well as giving students some cultural background before being sent to their postings abroad.

How were these courses originally used?

The FSI Russian Active Introduction was taught as a 44-week intensive training program, with students taking around six hours of classes per day and supplemented by personal study time.

They would have spoken Russian as much as possible, both during and outside class time, and in this way, at the end of their course, they would have acquired a relatively high level of fluency in Russian.

The FAST course would have been studied in similar conditions – although perhaps less intensively – over a shorter period. It would have left students with a less thorough mastery of the language, but they would still have been confident and comfortable with using the Russian they had learned when facing the kind of common situations they practiced during the course.

How can you use these courses?

Unfortunately, since most of the audio recordings that are supposed to accompany these courses are unavailable, they will be of limited use to those who have not already learned some Russian elsewhere.

For beginners, the Active Introduction FSI Russian course will be practically unusable without recordings, and the FAST course won’t be much better.

However, if you are studying Russian with another coursebook or are taking classes with a teacher, the materials found in the texts of these courses may provide a useful way to review and consolidate the Russian you have already covered.

Taking it further

However you decide to use this free Russian course, you will never master the language if you don’t practice. This means that, at the earliest opportunity, you should take your Russian skills out into the real world and put them to the test.

Look for Russian speakers to converse with, and above all, do everything you can to make speaking Russian a part of your daily routine. Because when you do, you will see how quickly you begin to make progress in this tricky but extremely rewarding language.