Invaluable old FSI courses and audio files, free for you

Dear friends, I am a “hyperpolyglot” and retired World Bank staff age 69. I have a large collection of texts of the languages I have learned. In my younger days these were on tape, and in recent years I have digitized them. Audio files at normal speed are of limited use to learners, due to the limited working memory capacity. Many therefore are slowed down from tape or are used best with the low speed available in many mp3 players. People helped me and read some books on tape, notably the 'Speak Malay" and Read Malay, Bangla for Foreigners, intermediate Bangla, Nepali, etc. Some materials therefore are unique, and I would like to see them used. Some other materials are obsolete and almost impossible to find.

I have deposited texts and audio files to the website below, owned and bravely maintained by Eric Streit. It also has probably old the Foreign Service Institute courses as well as Defense Language Institute courses, Cortina, and many others.

The search function is still being developed. Some files are listed as Helen Abadzi’s files. Please let me know you useful you find the collection. And also leave a thank you note to Eric for his hard work.

Best regards,
Helen Abadzi (Elderpolyglot)


Thank you so much Helen! This is very kind of you. Great to see your Albanian resources (with audio) and those for some of the other languages that are not so easy to come by.

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Thank you Ron, some of the resources exist because I got people to record. One Albanian book is recorded by a Greek-speaking intern.

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@ElderPolyglot Helen, thank you so much for offering these… what a kind gift to the community. Also a huge THANK YOU for your wonderful presentation.

As someone rekindling their love of language after a 30 yr plus hiatus, it was of special interest to me. I started learning Irish at 60, and while things come just a tad slower, and I have to work harder, it has done both my heart and my brain such good to be diving back into language. Hopefully soon enough I can dust off my rusty Russian and Spanish.

Thanks so much, again…


I am very glad you found the materials and sent me a message. We can certainly learn languages in old age, but it’s important also to mind grammatical changes. Does Irish conjugate verbs and nouns? then recite the conjugations in an order you use (for example I, thou, s/he, we, you, they). Then the patterns become clear. Young people are better at deriving patterns. They are also much better at memorizing sequences, and methods books are really written for them.

We can certainly memorize, but it helps to listen to slowed-down audio files while studying until we know all words and grammatical parts. Then listen and repeat each lesson around 15 times at various times. Lessons of 1-2 pages go fast, and you can review many at the same time. I do that while riding my bike, as stated in the presentation I gave. Obviously you can walk with a book at hand, in case you forget something.

Do you have your old Russian and Spanish books or can you find them in the used books market? The old materials enable relearning through the ‘retrieval path’. After that review, you can go on to other materials. If you don’t have them (or even after you finish a review), you can download the free old foreign service institute courses from

For Russian and its maddening verb and noun conjugations you can also get practice while walking around through Pimsleur, available in 3 levels. Because of grammatical complexity, I would not necessarily go through these levels as an absolute beginner. Oral-only methods really help with simpler grammars. But it’s a very good way to get extra practice when you already know more or less how the grammar changes. Pimsleur courses can be found inexpensively at ebay and other sites.

Best regards,

H. Abadzi


@ElderPolyglot Helen, thank you for your reply and suggestions. Irish grammar is different enough and while the verb conjugations are mostly easier, the initial mutations on verbs and nouns can be bit maddening and the grammar as well as word order is definitely different from Russian and Spanish. And then there are the dialect differences which can be challenging to beginners. Happily I’m getting used to hearing both Munster and Ulster Irish along with the Connacht Irish that I’m learning.

I have never used a Pimsleur course, and most of my Russian and Spanish resources from a lower grammatical era are long gone, save for my books of Russian poetry. I did recently find a Russian podcast called Russian with Max that is slow and clear enough for me to follow easily. I was nearly a C1 in Russian and B2 in Spanish when I stopped using them, so I can still understand intermediate material.

As far as slow spoken Irish, I found a wonderful Irish News podcast of 3-4 min. length that is read slowly, and also includes the written transcript in Irish as well. I plan to make alot of use of that on my walks. I’m also blessed to have a number of Zoom communities to practice speaking with.

Blessings and thanks again!


Hello Helen!
Thank you and Eric both for your hard work!
I’ve not sunk myself into many languages (I’m a new language-learner and lover) but I have to say that I absolutely love the FSI course for Cantonese which I had found here: . I found it partly because there aren’t that many materials for Cantonese available.

Although they don’t necessarily slow down speech for me on this tape, they break the sentence up into segments and repeat it many times, (6 times for every part) adding more each time, which I found to be very effective.

One thing that I did notice about this course was that it was focused mostly on the romanization and included very little characters (mainly only as a note). This makes sense, as foreign nationals most likely needed to be able to pick up the language to converse in a relatively short amount of time. I assume that learning a new script may have slowed this process down.

I don’t have these same time constraints so I have been learning the script as I go along, and found that it is much easier for me to remember words and phrases when I’ve typed them out or seen them written with the character alongside the pronunciation. (Perhaps this is due to the fact that I can associate the word with something visual?)
But perhaps I should clarify a bit; I did spend the first few months solely on the basic sounds. I was trying both to accurately reproduce these and associate the sound alongside the romanization, repeating the FSI’s first 2-3 lessons with the teach-yourself’s first few lessons. At this point I sprinkled in a few characters here and there so that if I were to show a native speaker they would know what sound I would be trying to reproduce and they could correct me.
After those few months I began to add more and more characters into my studies.
That being said, I am a year into my studies. I know my pronunciation and listening ability is still FAR from perfect, but native speakers do say that they are impressed with my “accent” and the way I can distinguish tones, which I feel I can attribute to the FSI course. I feel like these courses are extremely overlooked (a true hidden gem!) and more people are gravitating towards newer apps and things.

Anyways, sorry for being a bit longwinded. I have watched one of your talks (which was incredibly excellent by the way) on learning at different ages with a second part on learning scripts. As a 30-year old monolingual (well, 31 as of today) I do sometimes wonder if I’ve “lost an edge I could’ve had when I was younger” or do feel like it’s much easier to forget things or keep more than 4-5 characters/words in my working memory. I also know I shouldn’t really dwell on this and just enjoy the process.

Anyways, I’m having a few issues. One is that spoken Cantonese is usually subtitled as Standard Chinese, so it is very difficult for me to try and find new intermediate material to move on to. When I cannot pick up what they are saying in a clip, I cannot pause the video and review the subtitles because this is often different to what’s spoken. Furthermore, when I slow down this audio using players, I feel it is much more difficult to grasp the tones. Instead, I’ve been getting the help of a couple native speakers to go through with me and a chunk of content (youtube video) and repeat the chunk slowly or with more pauses between short phrases or sets of words. But, I then feel limited to needing their assistance when trying to bridge that gap into more native-like content.

Maybe I am trying to move too quickly into being unassisted in listening to native like-content, (maybe I need more vocabulary first?) but is there anything else that I can do to help close this gap and be able to listen and understand more freely?

Sorry again for being a bit longwinded. As a new language-learning, I didn’t know how much information to provide in order to frame my question accurately.

I also want to say thank you (and Eric) so much for all your contributions to the language learning and community :slight_smile: And for taking the time to read my message.


Hello, hopefully you are still reading this message. The website has Mandarin, not Cantonese. I have not seen the latter. Mandarin was developed in great detail, and you can find it on that website or on the where I deposit materials. If you are sure you have seen old FSI Cantonese, let me know where, so that we can copy it and republish.