What is Assimil
What is Assimil?
Although you may not be familiar with the name, Assimil has been a leader in language learning programs for nearly a century. Founded by Alphonse Chérel in 1929, Assimil has produced over learning programs for over 100 languages.
Despite the popularity of Assimil's language programs in Europe, until recently, the company has shied away from the US market; that said, ask any polyglot what his or her favorite and most effective program is, and Assimil will regularly rank at the top of the list.
What are the Assimil products?
Assimil offers several products, including the following:
- "With Ease" series, which teach basic rules of grammar and a vocabulary of 2000-3000 words
- "Perfectionnement" series, which teaches more advanced idiosyncrasies and idioms of the target language
- Business series, which focuses on vocabulary related to international business
- Idioms series, which teaches common idioms
- "On the Road" series, which serves as a travel companion
- Slang series, for contemporary slang usage
- "For Kids" series, which is meant to introduce a language to 3-year olds
Assimil’s “With Ease” series is far and away the most popular product, and the one available to English speakers. Most of the “With Ease” series was largely redesigned between 2012 and 2014, and the most up-to-date version available is the “With Ease Super Pack”. These packages typically include the following:
- Complete course book
- Over 100 comprehensive lessons
- Nearly 200 practice exercises
- Complete answer key
- Dual language glossary
- Grammar summaries
- Four audio CDs
- Additional CD with MP3 files
The inclusion of a CD with all audio files as MP3s is especially helpful, as it eliminates the time and frustrated associated with ripping audio files.
What will I learn?
Assimil’s “With Ease” series is targeted at beginners and emphasizes a core vocabulary of 2,000 – 3,000 words. Each “With Ease” language program is designed to bring the user to a Level B2 (high-intermediate) of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL). The CEFRL is a European-wide scale used to evaluate how well someone can speak a foreign language. Although it was established in Europe, it is a general scale that can be applied to non-European languages as well. In total, there are six proficiency levels, ranging from A1 (beginner) to C2 (proficiency). Speakers who achieve Level B2 are generally able to:
- Freely interact with native speakers of a foreign language
- Speak, read and write on a range of topics, general, technical and professional
- Understand the main idea of complex text
- Comprehend a range of concrete and abstract topics
- Produce communication (verbal or written) to explain a position or viewpoint on topical issues
How long will it take?
Since everyone is a bit different, it’s probably more appropriate to address effort than time. Assimil’s “With Ease” series are organized around 100 lessons. Each lesson consists of a brief dialogue that is structured around a set of core vocabulary, along with grammatical explanation and cultural foot notes. This approach is unique in that frames grammar in the context of real-world discussions. Assimil suggests spending 30-minutes per day to study the target language. Some people spend 30 minutes on each lessons, whereas others might quickly breeze through several lessons, with the notion of reviewing them at a later date.
One of the most powerful things about the Assimil “With Ease” series is its flexibility. Each “With Ease” Super Pack comes with a set of audio files and a book. Each book contains dialogues, vocabulary sets, grammatical explanations, practice exercises, drills and reviews. As such, it’s really up to you to take all of these resources and use them in the way that works best for you. That said, most Assimil users tend to complete the “With Ease” series in anywhere from 3 – 6 months.
What is the Assimil Method?
There are a lot of different ways to describe language learning methods. Some approaches rely on audio vs. visual, reading vs. writing, listening vs. speaking, etc… From a teaching perspective, most language programs are either inductive or deductive.
Inductive: Teacher or text lays out a concept, explains it and then the student creates a sentence
Deductive: Student is given a sentence and left to understand its conceptual structure
What’s unique about Assimil is that it applies elements from all of the above and provides flexibility for the user to decide the approach that works best for him or her.
Each “With Ease” program comes with audio files and a course book. Taken together, the entire program encourages the user to understand whole phrases, taken in context. For example, “Can we go over Bill’s house?” To a student of English, this expression implies visiting Bill’s house, even though the word “visit” is nowhere in the sentence. To the contrary, taken literally, one might assume the speaker is going to literally jump over the house that belongs to Bill. Assimil teaches phrases in context and then breaks those phrases down into unique vocabulary pieces. It then provides practice exercises that encourage the user to build new sentences based on what was just learned. At each stage, grammatical explanations are provided as well. Some students may dig deep into grammar; others might focus on vocabulary sets, while others might just listen to the audio files and learn useful expressions.
This flexibility is quite powerful.
Each “With Ease” program is organized around 100 lessons and broken into two phases- passive (first 50 lessons) and active (second 50 lessons). During the passive phase, the user is absorbing a lot of new information. During the active phase, the user is called upon to create new sentences and expressions based on materials that were previously “assimilated”. (That’s where the name Assimil comes from, by the way.)
Below is an excerpt from Assimil’s “Russian With Ease” course book:
With each lesson, the user is encouraged to spend as much time as is needed to fully assimilate each lesson. Generally speaking, some students are able to complete one lesson per day, using approximately 30 minutes.
How do I use the Assimil “With Ease” product?
All of Assimil’s “With Ease” programs come with a comprehensive course book full of interesting dialogues, helpful vocabulary and robust explanations on grammar and culture. What’s really powerful about the Assimil method is that grammar is there to guide the way – not intimidate. Grammatical explanations are presented at the end of each dialogue, which helps put things in context. This approach dramatically helps to improve conceptual understanding of the content, which reduces the need for rote memorization. Put simply, it’s a lot easier to remember what is well understood, and Assimil does a great job explaining everything.
There are a lot of different ways to use Assimil. Some like to listen to audio files while commuting or on lunch. Others like to write out all the exercises. There is no one way to use the product, and that’s part of its power and flexibility. That said, here is a general guideline for newcomers:
For each lesson, begin by listening to the audio file of native speakers. It doesn’t matter what your initial comprehension is; what’s important is that you get a feel of the language and try to get a sense of what is being said. Each dialogue is only a 2- 3 minutes long, and most are pretty interesting.
Next, read lesson’s dialogue out loud, attempting to re-create the sounds from the audio file; for programs with non-Latin based alphabets, you can read the native alphabet or the transcriptions that are provided.
Review the English translation (on the opposite page) to cement your comprehension of what was said, and then read the text again, aloud or quietly, taking the time you need to internalize the meaning of what you are reading.
Listen to each recording again, while reading along, silently; if you wish, you may also want to write out the dialogue. This is purely optional, but many students report better and faster results from writing out each dialogue.
Review any notes on grammar or pronunciation – as you deem necessary – for you to better grasp the material.
Continue on to each practice exercise, taking the time you need to get things right and make sure you are assimilating all the new information you are learning.
in hours, not years.
- Just 30 minutes a day
- Go at your own pace
- Any time, any place
- Proven method from Europe