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How to Learn Languages with the Foreign Service Institute (FSI)

Written by David Santana
Posted: May 25, 2022
Last update date: March 22, 2024
7 min read

The FSI was created in 1947 after the second world war, and its goal was to train US diplomats who were to be stationed abroad in different languages. For decades FSI has provided the best free language courses for people around the globe.

While several other applications charge and help people learn foreign languages, the FSI has distinguished itself as a time-tested and free alternative.

It has become quite helpful to professionals and students who live, work, or study in countries that speak another lingo. Studying abroad in a new language can be tasking, and while you can pay for essay assignments, you would still have to sit for tests and exams. FSI courses have served as a great learning tool for diplomats and immigrants alike.

The courses can be accessed online through the online platform, which hosts a database of learning materials for over 40 languages. The platform has ebooks and audio files that cover 127 courses, including all the major languages across the world.

FSI’s Experience with Language Learning

Picking up a new language at FSI is an experience that is worth it. Each of them has an extensive curriculum that is effective. If you follow through and complete the courses, you are meant to speak so fluently that you could be an essay writer in your target language. The courses are designed to help people who live in a nation that has a different native dialect.

You need to be disciplined and committed to studying alone. You would find tons of ebooks and audio files to guide you through the learning journey. You may also be able to get flashcards for your courses.

Live Lingua offers tutoring online at a small price for people who are not self-sufficient and would rather need some form of learning assistance. It is worth mentioning that the training materials are old by some decades and might not be excellent if you like to learn in the most recent contexts.

With So Many Languages to Choose From, Which Will You Learn First?

FSI has some of the most unusual dialects in its vast catalog. Needless to say, it does not matter the lingo you choose; you would almost certainly find it on this platform. Some of the coolest on the FSI language list includes:

Fula: this is a Senegalese lingo, and it is spoken in the Senegal river valley. This may not hold much appeal due to its restriction to only a small locality. However, the audiotapes of this dialect are so interesting that you may decide to give it a try.

Hausa: this is spoken across many African countries and is a fantastic dialect to master if you are considering visiting any of the countries where it is spoken

Tagalog: this is mostly spoken in the Philippines and has extensive materials in its FSI course list. You can scale the fundamentals of these with some commitment.

French: FSI offers a total of eight courses in the French language. There are hundreds of pages of texts and hundreds of hours of audio files to learn with.

Spanish: this also has eight courses for students to learn with. Spanish enthusiasts have struck gold with FSI Spanish courses as some of the classes are customized to their usage in certain places around the world

German: FSI offers five German courses. There is also a FAST course targeted at helping you speak fundamental german in only a few days.

The Simple Action Plan for Learning Languages with FSI

The first thing to do would be to have a preferred language in mind and then go through the list of FSI foreign language courses available:

Kick off with the first course

Most of the languages available have multiple courses available. Some have up to a dozen courses to run through. It is possible you already have a prior background in your lingo of choice; regardless, it is advisable you commence your journey from the beginning. You can get the courses through any of two methods:

  • Through Yojik: this displays the courses and gives additional links for further information
  • Through Live Lingua: this platform is used to host all the courses to keep them in a single place. The platform has courses for more than 49 different languages.

Get all the courses for your language

You can run through the courses on a need basis; once you complete one, you get the next course. You can also get all the courses at once and go through them in whatever order you desire. You can download all the ebooks and audio classes for your courses in one swoop.

This method might be preferred if you are traveling through a foreign country and don’t have the luxury of accessing the internet at will; having it all can serve as a great travel companion.

Practice your pronunciations repeatedly

After each lesson, practice speaking the new words you have learned. If you are a beginner, it might sound funny to hear yourself speak a new one such as german. It is all part of the fun and teaching process.

If possible, record yourself speaking the language drills and compare them to the audio files. Students at FSI centers make a video recording of themselves speaking their new language, and it has been proven to be a worthwhile task.

Continue your training even outside of class.

Do not restrict your study only when you are actively studying the materials or listening to audio files. Find additional ways to supplement your learning. As a student, if you are thinking, who can write my essay in this foreign language, you could attempt using essay samples. In your busy schedule, find ways to learn more.

What’s it like to study in an actual FSI environment?

The atmosphere is quite cool and diverse. Programs here are purposeful and intense. Students are exposed to rigorous language training routines and various languages. For example, the Arlington, Virginia, institution allows service officers to choose from over 80 languages. The average student must spend at least five hours a day in the classroom, aside from assignments.

About these Courses

The FSI language course was initially developed for ambassadors and other government employees working outside the United States. The courses are meant to educate and create listening, speaking, and writing abilities in the new language.

Why Are they Free?

The courses were generated by the United States Department of State, and they belong to the public domain, which means anybody can utilize them. The aim was not to make a profit but rather to create great language classes for US citizens who find themselves working in foreign countries.

How To Use FSI Language Courses

A great way to use FSI course is either:

  • As your principal educational tool in learning your preferred foreign language if you are in your home country.
  • As a supplement to other learning methods or aid a faster mastery of the language if you are already in a country where it is spoken.

Whichever works for you, you may divide the courses or the page into smaller units if you find it difficult and take time to understand each part before moving on to the next.

FSI Courses – the Advantages

Using the FSI platform to learn a new language offers you several benefits. They include:

Quantity of Audio

The institute has an amazing library of audio lessons for each language. You get a rounded and complete audio tutoring for any language you choose. For example, the introductory Spanish Course at FSI has almost 60 hours of audio available on 55 courses, and that is only one of six Spanish courses.

Quantity of Instruction

Like the Spanish course, every language course at FSI has an extensive catalog of teaching materials. The first part of learning Spanish has four volumes of instructions with 2496 pages of teaching. They include pictures, tables, diagrams, and exercises that aid learning.

Drills and Spaced Repetition

Repetitions are key to all forms of learning. After all, it is easier to master a thing when you repeat it again and again. This also applies to learning any new language. The drills can be beneficial in improving your vocabulary and the flexibility to form meaningful phrases and sentences.

Real-world Dialogues

Most language teaching systems find it difficult to teach real-world communications. This is because real-life dialogues can be slightly different from AI-generated conjugations. You do not have this problem using this platform because the courses were originally meant for US diplomats who would engage people in real conversations.

Cost of FSI Language Courses

Learning languages on this platform would not cost you a dime. It is free. While there are different paid programs and applications to learn different languages, such as Assimil, Pimsleur, or Rosetta Stone, the use of the FSI courses comes at no cost.

This is a great advantage if you consider the quality and quantities of the teaching materials available here.


FSI language chart provides 4,169 audio files and 161 ebooks across dozens of languages, including Japanese, Russian, Chinese, German, etc. You can access dozens of courses in some of the most prevalent languages worldwide. There are books and audio lessons, and flashcards that help you grasp whatever language you choose. There are courses available for all stages of learning.

It does not matter if you are a newbie or a good speaker already seeking to gain more mastery; there is a course for you. You can select either the basic courses to begin your language journey or the intermediate courses if you have a basic grasp already. You can also opt for the advanced courses to brush up on your knowledge base.

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