Language tuition courses appeared on 78 rpm discs at a very early stage in the format, but became more practical with the advent of the LP (and also appeared on 10″ and 7″ multi-record sets).
Although Linguaphone were the best known commercial tuition company, the BBC provided numerous language courses through their schools broadcasts on radio (e.g. Starting French) and TV (e.g. Komm Mit!). These were free to air programmes, backed up by pamphlets, books and records to buy in book shops. The BBC albums had very sober but effective sleeve designs, often using basic graphic elements and typography. The Parliamo Italiano appears to be the first such BBC album, priced 15/-. The cover includes two of the Italian performers who appeared in the original TV programmes. Prices rose to 17s 6d (1964) then to 24s 11d (1969).
The different series’ covered graded levels of ability and the LPs were also pitched at Adult Education and study courses. Over 100 such album were produced by the BBC and courses often came on two or three volumes, with the same artwork given different colour treatments. Each side of the disc has a different catalogue number, thus Komm Mit! is OP11/12.
RSVP, Sur le Vif and Allez France have photographic covers, more typical of the later BBC language albums – each volume in the series had a different photo.
Ginn & Company provided some competition. The sample here, with an attractive abstract illustration, has instructions to copy it to cassette for use in language laboratories (what price “home taping is killing music”?!).
The American sleeves provide a brash contrast, and were aimed at the home study market. The Cambridge Language Series covered basic European languages. The Spanish cover has a stereotype image of a camera-toting tourist and haughty looking bullfighter.
Conversa-phone (est.1911 “learn today, travel tomorrow”) produced dozens of home study albums covering numerous world languages, maths and spelling. The jet-set couple on the front appeared on every language sleeve and one lesson is devoted to visiting a camera shop. These albums have cheaply printed booklets inside.
Language albums eventually disappeared in favour of easier to produce cassettes and thence to compact disc.