I’m quite fond of Assimil courses, and I use them for French, Spanish, Russian and Dutch. But in one area, they’re very often lacking: instructions. In many of the courses, the instructions amount to: “during the passive wave, just listen to the audio and read the text, and you’ll slowly start to understand; during the active wave, go back and translate from the base language to the target language.” Considering Assimil uses a methodology that is different from most textbooks, the instructions are rather vague, especially for a person who might be studying their first foreign language. There are also “exercise” sentences at the end of each lesson, but it’s never really clearly stated what you’re supposed to do with them; do you not look at the translation, and translate them on your own after doing the lesson? Do you just treat the exercise sentences exactly like the lesson itself, listening, reading, and understanding?
The Dutch with Ease course, unlike the other courses, actually has very detailed instructions:
1. Listen to the text with the book closed. It does not matter if you do not understand what is said. You will gain a general impression of the sounds, hearing the pronunciation without being influenced by the spelling.
2. Listen to the recording a second time while looking at the English translation.
3. Read the Dutch text aloud (with the aid of the phonetic transcription if necessary). Be sure you understand the meaning of each sentence, comparing it with the translation as required.
4. Now read the Dutch text again, but this time without looking at the translation.
5. Listen to the recording twice, once while looking at the English translation, and once while looking at the Dutch text.
6. Listen to the recording again with the book closed. At this point you should understand what is being said.
7. Listen to the recording once more. Stop the machine after each sentence, and try to repeat it aloud.
8. Carefully read the comments several times. Examine the Dutch sentences being explained. These notes are very important.
9. Read the exercises. Repeat each sentence several times. The exercises review material from the current lesson and from preceding lessons. If you have forgotten certain words, consult the English translation.
10. Examine the examples of sentence structure. They show how words and phrases are combined in Dutch, which is not always the same as in English.
Of course, the Assimil courses can be used in many ways – adding the sentences and translations to a flashcard program, shadowing, writing out the lessons, etc. – but it’s nice to see detailed instructions as to how Assimil thinks their courses should be used.