- Audio-only program with some text for short reading lessons
- 5 Levels for the main languages
- Audio CD or Digital Download
- Each level has thirty 30-minute lessons
- Available for almost every language
Pimsleur is almost entirely an audio-based learning experience, with a handful of short reading lessons to accompany the main part of the course. Developed by Paul Pimsleur, this language learning course is based on four central ideas: anticipation, graduated interval recall, organic learning and core vocabulary. It might be primarily an audio course, but there is a lot of fascinating language science here to get engaged with.
There are three Levels to the main language courses, with each Level containing thirty 30-minute lessons.
This is certainly something to be aware of if you have a family, work, or other commitments, as this might not seem like too long to give to something every day, but the actual practicality of setting this time aside just might not be possible for you. Still, if you do find yourself struggling a little bit, don’t give up on this course. It is one of the best courses to take for foreign languages, and even if you find that you don’t have as much time to give to it as you would like, it is still worth taking your time and not getting disheartened.
This is primarily an audio-aided method of study, though there is also a textbook for short reading lessons. It seems as though this is included so that the designers of this course to be able to say that this course has a focus on writing as well, which not many do. Still, regardless of the reason for its inclusion, it is quite nice to feel as though you are attempting to use the full set of skills within learning a language, and it is true that not many foreign language courses even attempt to work on the ability of writing a language as well as understanding it.
On account of the quite different way that this course is run compared to other courses, I am going to run through each of the four core principles of this course and explain exactly what they are and how they are used.
1) The Principle of Anticipation
This is what I found to be the most interesting aspect of the course, and it’s certainly the one that you will hear the most about. Instead of using the method of listen, repeat, repeat, repeat, Pimsleur developed a method where the student is challenged to say a phrase, and then is corrected on it. This might sound similar to other methods that you have used in the past, but this is considerably more encouraging of independent thought. It requires you to be much more active in your responses than merely mimicking a tutor.
2) Graduated-interval recall
Pimsleur also developed what is called a “memory schedule”, which is basically the idea that there are points at which, if something is not thought of again, it will disappear from your memory and be dismissed as not useful. He hypothesized that these intervals come at: 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, 2 years. This means, in terms of this language course, that anything that you learn is tested frequently at first, with longer and longer intervals between tests. It helps you to remind yourself of the words and sentences before you might forget them, so as to make sure that they are considered important enough to retain in your memory.
3) Organic learning
This is essentially just a way to say comprehensive learning by listening. Grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are all given an equal balance of focus, through the medium of audio, in order to provide an all-encompassing learning experience. Children learn primarily through listening to adults when they are younger, so it is argued why not learn in this manner instead of the way that we have just decided to teach foreign language. With that in mind, this course is not something that you simply take up to learn for a holiday; this program is a great start to becoming fluent in a language.
4) Core vocabulary
Every language has a core vocabulary or, in other words, a set of words that we use most frequently in our daily lives.
Instead of filling up the learners mind with words and phrases that they just wouldn’t use if they were a native speaker, these lessons focus on learning around 600 of the core vocabulary words of a language in a much more useful manner than certain other programs of this kind that just throw words at you and hope they stick.
An interesting point to make is that from the very first lesson, you yourself have to engage with what is happening in the lessons. You can’t sit back and let the lesson happen; you really need to focus on what is going on. This is why I have out-lined the exact methodology here; because it is quite different from other methods of teaching, you do need to think about whether this is exactly the right package for you.
However, I have been using Pimsleur for years, and have known many others to take up courses with them (one of my old students is on their fourth language with them!) and the up-side of all this impressive science is that they really do seem to work. With 45 hours of this kind of tuition, and in such a neat package, it would be surprising if it didn’t.
This program is in the lower-middle price bracket, but then that’s pretty much what you would expect for what is, after all, an audio-based course. And yes, it would be easy to argue that because this is just an audio-based course that it isn’t worth this amount, but that is certainly not the case.
What you are paying for here are some clever, scientifically sound ways of helping your mind to learn something new. It isn’t necessarily the content that you’re paying for; it’s the way that this content is being delivered to you. Of course, you could risk buying a less well-known brand, or sticking with however it was that you learned in school, with language labs and the phrase-repetition method of learning, but if these methods haven’t worked for you so far, then they probably won’t work for you now.
It’s easy to stagnate when it comes to languages, and if you think you might need a fresh approach to the way you have been learning, then this is certainly a good bargain for what you get.
Another point to reconsider is that of how much of the language you feel you’ve come away with. The value of a language learning course surely has to include some mention of how much language you will actually learn, and here unfortunately is where the program lets itself down a little bit.
While you probably won’t have much difficulty in getting to grips with the methodology employed in this program, you might be disappointed at how much you actually have learned. Make no mistake, the things that you do learn will be learned very well, but the range is not particularly wide for the topics discussed, and at the end of the course you will feel as if you’ve barely scratched the surface of the language.
Still, if you’re looking for a course that isn’t phenomenally expensive but still gives you the taste of a language, excellently presented in a way that you can really get to grips with, then this is still the course for you.
This course is a great way to begin learning a language, with extra emphasis on the word “begin.” The methods used are probably going to help you learn in ways that you have never learned before.
The real focus here is on how to begin immersing yourself in the language and doesn’t necessarily take you deeper into the culture or the language. Unfortunately, this means that you will probably still be at beginner level by the end of the course. Due to the primarily audio nature of this course, it is also not particularly suitable for children.
While this course doesn’t just target the tourist, and there is clearly a lot more to be discovered here, it is not for someone looking to become fluent in a language by the end of the course. On the other hand, this is not something that is ever advertised by the makers, and if you’re looking for a program to inspire you with language and be learning-effective, then this is definitely a good one to go for.
Pro & Contra
|very good for beginners||can be too slow for some beginners|
|can be used without computer||you won’t leave beginner level at the end|
|can be used in the car, train, etc.||you will only learn phrases|
|each lesson only takes 30min||audio-only|
I did not make much progress with it but I really like the slow approach for TOTAL beginners to French and that it is completely audio-based. An completely audio-based course is a real advantage if you are commuting a lot like me…so you can learn all the hours you sit in your train/car French. The only problem with Pimsleur is that it won’t take you far in French (just for real Beginner) and it is really expensive if you buy it from Amazon. What I would recommend you is to get it from your library.
I’ve used the course in combination with the Speed learning languages course that is more advanced. I think its a great combination to make 1 level of Pimsleur if you start with a language, because of the slow introduction and afterwards you proceed with the Speed learning languages course.
I tried Pimsleurs Arabic and the one pro is that the words and phrases are understandable with each word broken down by syllable but the software in my opinion has many weaknesses.
1. No guide book or even a written transcipt. It helps me a lot to see the word transliterated and next to the orginial arabic. In fact because there is a lot of repetition this would be a good way to learn arabic script.
2. No grammer, for me simple grammer often provides learning short cuts such as Y(A)- goes before arabic verbs in the future tense.
If you want to learn Spanish and like the Pimsleur method I would try Synergy Spanish due to the lower price.
This course is a disaster. For half an hour they keep repeating the same sentence once and again. After that, you think it’s over, and then you start the following lesson, and it is the same sentence again…. After all, you’re only able to say a few sentences that you have learnt by memorization, and of course, you are not able to comunicate at all.
I completely agree with the summary and pro & contra sections, but I can’t understand why then it has got the second position in the ranking.
Fantastic language program, halfway into the course and I have a strange feeling of confidence when speaking about essential topics like conjugations, places, heat, time and date.
I am planning to purchase the whole set and would suggest this to all who are searching for a quick paced immersion package which would only require 30 minutes of your time daily.
Because you wont learn how to read or write I only give it 4 stars!
I used this for my beginning Portugues. I liked it. What I did not like however was the lack of completeness. There is some grammar but without spelling, it’s hard to tell how what is being said is actually pronounced. It also lacks conjugations which are central to learning most latin languages. Many whose idioms are based on the latin languages truncate words through the conjugations. While this program touched on it, it did not take it far enough. Either way I went online and learned the conjugations myself. Next I went to Brasil and was able to survive a week without embarrassing myself too badly. I could function effectively but I had to do a lot of extra study not found in this product.