In the Language enthusiast community the courses that Linguaphone produced in the 1950s/60s are considered the absolute best they ever produced. Unfortunately, about 99% of people who set out to learn a language are not even aware of this. And what’s equally disappointing is that these courses are no longer in print. This means that all those lovely courses that were lovingly and expertly written and recorded back in the 1950s are no longer widely available. You'll find them on eBay all the time, particularly the French and German courses, but there are some more rare ones that are considered lost forever such as Gaelic, Spanish and Arabic. I’m an avid collector of these courses and my interest (and collection) grew so much I was running out of space to store them all in my office. So I began to digitize them and store them electronically. Then I had the idea of making them widely available myself. And the great thing about storing them digitally is that they wouldn’t succumb to mold, dust, water damage etc.
What you'll find with the vintage courses is, they didn’t have a follow up course. There was no "fluency course" or "advanced course" because they didn’t need them. They took you, in just 50 lessons, to a high level on their own. For instance take a look at the last lesson in German:
This isn’t your everyday vocabulary. But by the time you get to this lesson you've amassed a huge amount of vocabulary and the language will, by now, have begun to stick in your mind. You'll find yourself translating things people say in your head and translating the TV in your head.
It's also been said by native speakers of other languages, that these courses make you speak the language "beautifully". Although some of the words and phrases will be rather dated (we don’t usually mention gramophones or records these days), you will, without knowing it, be speaking a very correct and well educated dialect of the language. Back in the early days Linguaphone was a serious language education course - developed for people who either couldn’t afford a private tutor or didn’t want to have a private tutor. As such the company took their mission very seriously. You were not taught to say "my granny rides a blue bicycle" or "the cat sat on the mat", instead you were taught simple but useful phrases and built from there. You were presented with different situations that you would likely find yourself in when in that country and taught the vocabulary and the language.
The audio part of the course came on records, either the large kind or the smaller kind (I don’t know the technical names). This is partly what tends to put people off buying these courses on eBay or in second hand shops. Not many people nowadays own a record player or have the means to convert them to another format. Later, in the 60s, Linguaphone used reel to reel tape to supply the audio but again, not many people are willing to put up with that.
I don’t have an official list of all the languages they offered, but one would see some of the more obscure languages like Irish Gaelic and Urdu. But they were not complete with as many, or any, pictures like the more popular languages.
I make a point of tracking down and converting every vintage course I can find. That way they will be available to new and old learners again. Some people own the courses already but have lost one of the books or they want the audio in mp3 which I'm happy to supply.
But what about Linguaphone before the 1950s? Well, they used to produce their "conversational" language courses. These are now antiques and it's quite rare to find any record that will play the audio to a good standard. I own a few but trying to listen to the LP's is difficult due to the pops, clicks and muffled voices. This is a common problem with antique records. But the books were, again, produced with the learner in mind. You were presented with a scene, at first always a family setting, and each person or item was numbered. At the bottom would be the number and the word in the target language. So right from the start it's like being thrown into a foreign land and being thrown into the language. The handbook that explains the language is, although good, left lots to be desired. Linguaphone had yet to develop their clear, concise translation notes and explanations. But for their time they were miles ahead of everyone else. You could indeed learn the language with the antique courses but it would be more difficult than the 1950s/60s versions in my opinion.