#FSI Language Courses have Disappeared! UPDATED

1. FSI Language Courses

I wrote a review last year of the fsi-language-courses.org website, saying that it was a great free resource for those learning foreign languages. It contained courses developed by the Foreign Service Institute in the 1980s and earlier for members of the government who needed to be able to speak foreign languages fluently as part of their position.

Although my understanding was that these courses were in the public domain, I had it in the back of my mind that it wasn’t the Foreign Service Institute itself who was maintaining the website, but some linguistic do-gooder who had taken it upon himself to make the courses available for the general public.

Personally, I have used the courses for Advanced Spanish, French, and German, and was currently going through the materials on the Standard Chinese: A Modular Approach course. Or I should say reviewing them, because I happened to take a Chinese course at the University of Illinois in the 1980s which utilized the materials.

Last year I had taken the Chinese proficiency exam HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) at the third level out of six. The Chinese have in the past few years realigned their language proficiency exam levels to correspond to the European Common Reference Framework for language levels.

2. European Common Reference Framework for language levels

Here is an explanation of the European Common Reference Framework






Can introduce oneself and understand familiar everyday expressions.



Can describe oneself and communicate about one’s immediate environment.



Can talk about past and future events and about most situations encountered at work or school.


Upper Intermediate

Can communicate about simple ideas and concepts in a way that is generally understood.



Can communicate about complex ideas and concepts in a way that is easily understood.



Can summarize complex idea and concepts and create coherent presentations.

Some language proficiency tests cover all four areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening, such as the French DELF (Diplôme élémentaire de langue française) or the Spanish equivalent DELE.

Some tests cover reading, writing, and listening, but do not have a speaking component, such as the Chinese HSK or the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

I found the FSI Language materials good in terms of reviewing grammar and doing drills to help you remember vocabulary. Some courses take you all the way from beginning level A1 through B1, and other Advanced Courses go from B2 through C1 in terms of the level of language you are using.

The best course in my opinion was the Chinese course because besides having a well-developed textbook and audio materials, there were an extensive series of practical exercises helping you use the language in situations that were as close to real life as possible. Each module would be grouped around a series of practical linguistic skills, such as

  • Module 1: Orientation, where you learn to be able to introduce yourself
  • Module 2: Biographical Information, where you learn to tell about your immediate family and extended family background
  • Module 3: Money, where you learn to be able to count the currency of either Taiwan or Mainland China, be able to exchange traveler’s checks and purchase items in a store
  • Module 4: Directions, where you learn to be able to tell a taxi driver where the address is you want to go

These aren’t the only skills learned in the modules, but they give an example of how they were geared towards practicality as opposed to an academic course that would train you to read and write the language for academic purposes.

3. Where are the materials now?

I had downloaded module 3 in January, after not being able to so for a couple of weeks for what I assumed was server maintenance (a lot of places use the holidays for that sort of thing these days). When the site was up, I presciently decided to download module 4 just in case.

When I went to double check the site this weekend to make sure I had downloaded everything, I got the following message

“FORBIDDEN: You don’t have permission to access / on this server. Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.”

I checked at the following website and quite a few people have also been remarking recently that the FSI Language Courses site is down:


Some temporary solutions being offered by the commenters (more of whom are commenting every day on this site, it seems) are:

  • Having volunteers upload the materials they already have to a site so that others may at least share what people have
  • Going to an archive of the FSI Languages Courses webpage
  • Wait and see what happens to the website

The first option is fine if you just happen to want a course that somebody else has uploaded, but you’re out of luck if it is not there.

The second option is no good–the archive page contained the layout of the old webpage, but none of the links are functional, at least for the Chinese language course which is the one I tested.

The third option is what I am going to do for now because either the site is down again for maintenance, in which case it will be up in a week or so like it was last time around the Christmas holidays. Or it will be down permanently, in which option 1 is the only viable option, I’m afraid. For now, if you have ever used FSI Language Course materials or are interested in using them in the future, monitor the website and the link up above which seemed to be popular internet gathering around this topic.

If the situation changes, I will update this post and send a tweet about it with my Twitter account which also uses the handle 4squareviews. At least I know that if the site does go away, that there are enough language-learning fans out there that it will be sorely missed!

UPDATE:   FSI Language Courses are now available at the site fsi.antibozo.net!   Thanks so much, Jennifer, for letting me know about this alternative site!


5 Responses

  1. check out

    those sites have some material that never was on the old fsi-language-courses.org

    there’s also a site-rip of the old fsi-language-courses.org at http://www.legittorrents.info/index.php?page=torrent-details&id=6c15cdfbc76fb8ef1ffc60cf05884d68764888e1

  2. Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, the materials I was looking for, the audio files for the Standard Chinese:A Modular Approach course, were missing from the sites you mentioned; they only had the textbooks. I will keep hoping for the original website to be restored!

  3. Hi,
    I run a small language site called Live Lingua. Like the rest of you I was upset to find out that the site was down a few weeks ago. To help I am going to put it back up – and make it look a little more modern since the old site was a bit spartan – at:


    I started creating the section this morning so it is not done yet, but I hope to have it up by the end of next week. Of course it will be 100% free. Feel free to use and share.

    I hope this helps.

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