The Most Honest Pimsleur Review You'll Ever Read
- Written byDonovan Nagel
- Read time16 mins
- Research-backed, proven method
- Effective spaced repetition system
- Affordable with new subscription model
- Audio only
- Dated social scenarios
- Unsuitable for higher levels
Pimsleur is a timeless classic that, after many decades, remains a viable and highly effective tool for language learning. One of the few methods with solid research behind it and proven results.
Hit the green button to use Pimsleur for free (for 7 days).
“Practically everybody believes that learning must build up gradually from the simple to the complex… My principle is this: Learn the hardest thing first and the rest will then seem easy.”
– Paul Pimsleur
UPDATE: For a much more comprehensive audio course alternative to the Pimsleur series (and more affordable), I recommend the Rocket Language series. The dialogues and pronunciation are higher quality, a wider range of content and topics are covered in detail and all the audio is 100% downloadable (see my review here).
Select the language you’re learning to see what it’s all about:
I’ve also listed some excellent alternative resources on my Essential Language Learning Tools page to help you.
Pimsleur is one of the longest and most well-established household names in language learning – right up there with other commercial giants like Rosetta Stone and Michel Thomas.
Questions about whether or not Pimsleur works do tend to pop up all over the place and a simple online search yields a lot of review and opinion pieces on it.
As I said in my Rosetta Stone review, nearly all of the search results that you’ll find online for Pimsleur are totally suspect because they’re either motivated solely by commission rates for selling it or trying to deceive you into buying something else by dismissing it.
Very few reviews actually go into real depth to cover its content and effectiveness with fairness.
This review will do that.
For the purpose of making a comprehensive analysis of the Pimsleur Method™, I’ve sampled two editions of languages that I know extremely well (Egyptian and “Eastern” Arabic), three that I know quite well (Korean, Russian and Irish), and one language that I know absolutely nothing about (Thai) to put myself in the position of a new learner.
I’ve also studied the book How To Learn A Foreign Language by Paul Pimsleur himself which gives a lot more insight into his method.
There are some new software packages available on the Simon and Schuster site but it seems to be the original Pimsleur Method™ + flash card and game apps.
This post will deal the core product and method of Pimsleur only.
WARNING: Pimsleur.com is the real site – Pimsleurapproach.com is a scam. It’s called the ‘Pimsleur Method™’, not ‘Pimsleur Approach’.
Before we go any further, pay careful attention to this.
There are countless complaints online from people who signed up to a bogus site (that looks incredibly professional and real) which hooks people into a recurring billing cycle.
Simon and Schuster (who own and distribute Pimsleur) use a trademark name calling it the Pimsleur Method™ (hence the trademark symbol).
Anything calling itself the ‘Pimsleur Approach’ is fake and run by sneaky affiliates.
Only ever use the official website.
You’ll find other bogus domains that are just as bad, run by affiliate spammers (e.g. pimsleuraudio, pimsleurunlimited and so on).
Be smart 🙂
Now on to the review…
Pimsleur is not just a learning tool – it’s a method
Let’s deal with the most important thing first.
One of the terms that gets thrown around a lot in language learning discussions is ‘Spaced Repetition System’ (or SRS). I feel it’s one of those terms which everybody knows is a good thing but most don’t actually understand what it means.
So I’ll explain it to you in the simplest way possible by way of example:
You’re learning a foreign language.
You come across a brand new word that you’ve never seen before.
You forget it almost immediately.
One hour later, you see it again.
It’s familiar to you but you can’t remember it until the answer’s shown.
A few hours go by and you forget it again.
The next day, you see it again.
This time it’s very familiar but you still can’t remember it until it’s shown.
Three days later you’re shown the word again.
Finally you remember the word.
Now that’s a really simplified way of demonstrating how SRS works but let’s look at what’s happening here.
Each time the word is shown, there’s a larger gap between the time it’s shown and the previous time you saw it. At first you forget the word almost immediately but gradually it becomes more and more familiar until you remember it with ease.
Sometimes this happens early, sometimes it takes a lot more exposure for it to really stick.
Getting back to Pimsleur…
Paul Pimsleur developed his own version of SRS based on his research into intervals (the periods between each time a word or phrase is recalled) so the Pimsleur Method™ adheres to a fairly rigid timeline starting with high frequency recall (in seconds and minutes) and gradually moving up to days, weeks and months.
So if you listen to a Pimsleur product, you’ll hear a word or sentence introduced for the first time and then seconds later you’ll be asked to recall it.
Then it will be minutes later, hours and so on.
Now here’s where the Pimsleur Method™ is unique and in my opinion excellent:
Paul Pimsleur knew how important participation is in the process of language learning. Usually, when people learn with SRS they do it for memorization.
In other words, just listening or reading at spaced intervals.
Pimsleur products pressure you to recall and participate in an actual exchange.
So instead of playing a word to get you to remember it, the audio series asks you how to say something or to respond to a native speaker.
The beautiful thing about this is that it never allows you to become a passive listener.
You’re actively involved in what you’re listening to and the presenter of the series keeps you on your toes because you need to respond at various intervals. This active recollection is powerful at getting you to recall and use the language just as you would often have to do in real life situations.
If you’re interested in how this works and knowing more about it, the best explanation I’ve come across is actually by the man himself in his own book.
I’m finding Paul Pimsleur’s insights into foreign language acquisition that are in the book quite helpful.
It’s a purely audio-based method
So what does that mean for visual-spatial learners like myself?
What about people who remember things better by seeing them?
As a visual spatial learner (see my detailed post about that here), I’ve always learned better by being able to visualize what I’m learning (although I’m a huge fan of Earworms MBT which is also a similar kind of audio-based approach to language learning that uses music).
Since Pimsleur is entirely audio-based (except for a reading booklet which accounts for a small part of it), this poses the question of whether or not it’s suitable for someone who learns visually.
It actually is (at least for me personally) and I’ll explain why.
For a program that’s entirely auditory, Pimsleur is surprisingly visual in its own kind of way.
First of all, the presenter gets you to imagine scenarios:
“Imagine an American man meeting an Irish woman in an area where Irish is spoken. He wants to begin a conversation…”
I didn’t realize this at first but this kind of mental imagery can actually be more stimulating for me as a visual-spatial learner than reading text on a page.
If I were to read those same lines – “Imagine an American man meeting an Irish woman…” – as words on paper or on screen, it might even distract me from visualizing it because I’d be focused more on the actual text I’m reading.
The other thing is the way the pronunciation of words is presented.
The native speakers speak the words backwards, one syllable at a time.
This actually gets you to picture and focus on each individual syllable.
We associate sounds with mental images constantly and it’s those mental images that serve in helping us to remember what we hear.
One thing I would recommend if you do use Pimsleur is to make sure you’re not preoccupied with anything while you’re listening to it (e.g. commuting) since concentration is so important.
Very polite language
I’ve found the same issue with Rosetta Stone and other products.
Just listening to Pimsleur Korean, Russian, Egyptian and Eastern Arabic, I noticed the excessively formal and polite language used in the dialogues (for example polite verb forms in Korean and plural вы pronoun in Russian).
Although it’s good practice to learn and use these forms where appropriate, in reality native speakers aren’t always this formal – especially when talking to family or strangers who are the same age or younger.
The difference between Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur though is that Rosetta Stone makes the absurd mistake of having older people address younger people and people who are friends and family addressing each other using polite forms (which is almost always not the case in reality speaking from experience living in these places).
In Pimsleur’s defense most of the dialogues are stangers addressing each other so their use of polite forms is quite justifiable.
Vocabulary is limited
One common criticism of the Pimsleur Method™ is that it doesn’t teach enough vocabulary.
Each language series only introduces a few hundred new words in total. The exact amount depends on how many levels there are since some languages have only one level and others have three, four or five.
Here’s what the Simon and Schuster website has to say about this:
“Effective communication in any language depends on mastery of a relatively limited number of words and structures. Trying to learn too much at once substantially slows the process, and many people quickly become discouraged.
Pimsleur courses deliberately limit the amount you learn at any one time, giving your brain a chance to internalize each new item before moving on. Once this foundation is built, adding new words and phrases becomes easy and natural because there’s a clear framework to attach them to.”
Keywords here are ‘structures‘ and ‘clear framework‘.
Language products like Pimsleur aren’t meant to be exhaustive sources of vocabulary. They exist to teach you the ‘framework’ of a language so that you can do the rest on your own.
No language product or course is going to teach you every bit of vocab that you want/need.
It’s up to you to do that.
Some (but not all) language editions sound very unnatural
I can’t judge the recordings of the Thai version that I sampled but I can say some of the language versions do sound dreadfully artificial.
Both Arabic versions that I listened to made me skeptical that I was even listening to native speakers – at least a few of the voices sound very non-native.
I had my Egyptian friends listen to the Egyptian Arabic recordings and they had a bit of a giggle at how silly the voice actors sound – not just the accents but the manner in which they’re speaking.
This is unfortunately a common problem with a lot of language product dialogues in that they sound like somebody hired D grade voice actors to read the script.
On the other hand I was quite impressed by the Russian, Irish and Korean recordings which sound much better than the Arabic.
Lessons are intentionally very short
I must say that I think the way this is marketed is a bit disingenuous.
One of the biggest selling points of Pimsleur is that you only need 30 minutes a day to become proficient in a language. As someone who has learned many languages (and failed some), I can attest that this definitely not true.
30 minutes of language time doesn’t cut it.
To learn a language well in a reasonable amount of time requires hours a day consistently.
Pimsleur marketing needs to be more clear about what they mean. Are they saying that you only need 30 minutes of language time overall or 30 minutes of lesson time?
I’d like to see a link to a study that backs that claim up personally.
I am all for short study periods though.
Studying for hours on end is detrimental and you can actually retain more by focusing on a smaller amount in a short time.
As I’ve said before, it’s harder to learn 10% of 50 words than it is to learn 100% of 5 words.
But Simon and Schuster shouldn’t imply that simply putting on headphones for 30 minutes a day is all that’s required on your part as a learner.
It should be 30 minutes of Pimsleur + many hours of language use.
Its priorities are right
As I’ve already said, Pimleur is purely audio-based.
There’s no book or program to look at. You just put on your headphones, listen and repeat. So the emphasis is entirely on speaking and listening.
This is how languages should be learned.
Languages are not written. They’re spoken (or in the case of the hearing impaired, signed).
We invented writing systems as a way of representing spoken sounds on paper – not the other way round.
I think part of the problem with language education is that we’ve reduced foreign languages down to a list of rules on paper. We focus too much on the representation of what we hear when we should focus on what we hear first and worry about the representation later.
Doing so is not only a more natural way to learn but also helps with your pronunciation.
You can’t really learn to pronounce something properly by reading it. You need lots of listening and repeating.
Does its age give it authority?
I feel that this question has to be asked of all the big name products like RS, Michel Thomas and Assimil as well.
Does the fact that something’s been around for half a century add weight to its value?
You have to keep in mind that products like Pimsleur came out when cassettes were all the rage and there was no Internet or easy way to find native speakers for practice.
So it makes sense that something like Pimsleur would have been groundbreaking at the time – not just because it was an effective methodology but because it was something new that utilized the technology of the day.
And it’s true that when any brand is around long enough it gains familiarity and trust.
That being said I do actually think Pimsleur is an outstanding, timeless product.
Age aside, it’s great for what it is and even after decades remains a very unique product in a saturated market full of imitators.
Fantastic tool but it’s WAY overpriced
Pimsleur is ludicrously expensive if you buy the course outright.
It’s a fantastic product of which I have mostly good things to say about but the price is frankly extreme and completely unaffordable by ordinary people.
For example, French 1 – 5 (CD version) is currently selling for $1,190 (!!!) on the Simon and Schuster site or $550 if you take the MP3 version which is still very expensive.
They do provide a lot of different options for customers (e.g. only buying some levels or individual lessons) and you can occasionally find it cheaper on Amazon.
MAJOR UPDATE: Pimsleur have since created a subscription option with a free trial that is incredibly affordable by comparison. See here for more info.
I’ll never condone piracy on this site (especially having created my own language product and knowing how much work and love goes into making something that other people steal) but by putting price tags like that on Pimsleur, I think they’re encouraging people to do the wrong thing.
As I said in my Rosetta Stone review there is so much you can buy with that kind of money.
For example, instead of the $550 for levels 1 – 5 of Pimsleur’s French MP3’s, you could:
Get approximately 50 personalized, one-on-one lessons with native speakers on italki.
Buy a cheaper, similar audio-based product such as Earworms MBT or Glossika (review) and save the rest of your money.
Buy a more comprehensive, high quality course like Rocket Languages.
If you’re in the US or Australia you could put the money toward an actual trip to places like Latin America, Quebec, South-East Asia and so on (in the case of the $1,190 CD version you could probably buy a whole overseas trip).
If you live in Europe that kind of money would easily pay for a low-budget airline trip + hostel + food for couple of weeks to another European destination.
That money could feed you and pay your accommodation for months in the Mid East and many parts of Asia to learn the local language.
You should always consider what you could achieve with that kind of money before going out and spending it on a very expensive product.
But hey, if you’ve got the cash and you’re cool with spending it then Pimsleur is an excellent product.
It’s a tool that I would definitely recommend, especially for new learners.
The 7 day free trial is a great way to test it out without any risk too.
Great review Donovan.
I agree with your opinion that Pimsleur is a great tool when used in combination with other tools. I have been using Pimsleur Italian and enjoy the flow of conversations. Also, since it's audio, it's great to use while you're in the car on a long drive or even running or in the gym.
I have found that if I am using a vocabulary acquisition tool like Memrise or Anki, these boost up my vocabulary so by the time I hear those words on Pimseur, I already know their meaning. It makes the Pimsleur lessons a bit easier for me the first time I hear them.
I think your comparison of what you can purchase for the same investment in Pimsleur is also smart. It's crazy that you can buy private lessons for almost the same price that you pay for the Pimsleur set (I'm assuming 75 hours of audio in the 5-set French version).
I would say that in my limited experience with Pimsleur, it's a good way to start with a language, but even initially should not be the only tool you are using.
One thing to keep in mind on the price is in the US your local library may just carry it. In fact the Pimsleur audio itself advertises the fact that it's at your library. So your tax money is being used to pay for this expensive program, you should take advantage of it. Where I live all the libraries in the county are linked, so if your library doesn't have it maybe another location in your library system does.
It's a great review. I still remember some Russian words and phrases I heard two years ago using Pismleur Method! It's an excellent way of learning when you on moving. The price Is really a problem!!
I've also gotten Pimsleur audio programs from the local library in the USA. As Jon said, it's already paid for by tax money.
Hello ! George Modilevsky here.
I am currently teaching six languages in Mexico City and I teach all structures of a given language in One Month with only a few sessions in person if my students live in the city or through any other online and virtual device if they live far away ! I am not american so, I do not believe in rigid methods which are made famous by american market, like those mention above. Nowadays, people have access to the world and so, all the vocabulary and all structures needed to learn a language fluently are contained ìn any TV series, in case one could have access to all TV series in at least 10 of our favorite languages to learn. Methods from the past are not necessary any more. Too long and too expensive. What all students need is an excellent polyglot teacher who teaches fast and who cares about quality on his lessons. Then, this teacher will show his students how to be self-learners forever and send them, if possible, to another country to live with a family. Then, their money will be well invested, and their time, too. All expensive methods are divided in many levels which are useless. This is done for money making only. Not for teaching at all. Schools are money makes only, as well. Wise students should avoidexpensive old methods and instead, they should follow a good teacher's advice to see the world...first online...and then, in the flesh ! Good luck ! George.
My local library in the UK also has Pimsleur in a wide variety of languages, the two libraries I have accounts with offer about 20 (combined) as well as a few English for X Speakers. Many of these are just the first 10 lessons but that's enough to get started and maybe decide if you think it's worth spending the money on the full set.
I definitely agree it's important to stress that no one product, book or tape is going to be enough on its own. Much of that idea is down to marketing and I guess they have to make somewhat exaggerated claims to be competitive because so many other products on the market (such as Rosetta Stone, which spends far more money on marketing than product development) claim the same things. That doesn't mean it's okay, especially with something so ridiculously expensive but it's understandable.
Pimsleur has been great for me when getting started with a new language. I have used several now: Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, and Armenian. I received nice compliments from speakers in each language saying that my pronounciation was good.
The CD's cover the basics of introductions, following directions, counting numbers, and basic transactions such as ordering in a restaurant. If you have a long commute, they are perfect for use while driving to/from work. This way you won't be embarrassed to practice saying the words out loud repeatedly (which could be a big problem on the bus for example).
After you make it through a level or two, I suggest adding other more specific sites for small talk ("colloquial") or specific topics like business or technology that you need.
As you said, pimsleur is really worth for a FULL beginner in a language.
I used it for languages (Brazilian and Japanese) since I didn't know at all those languages. It helped me a lot for prononciation, especially for Brazilian.
I was listening 1 lesson at least 3 or 4 times in 1 or 2 days, sometimes more... So it took me about 6 - 8 months to finish the 3 levels of each language each level have 30 lessons).
After that I started to work with Assimil (I'm french :-) ), also a very good method.
But Pimsleur is absolutely useless if you have already some knowledge in the target language. Even if it is a very small knowledge. Because you do not learn a lot of new syntaxes and words (as it is said : you learn the basic syntax in order to work alone easier later).
I tried it for English and German, 2 languages I learnt at school, and ... I gave up after 10 lessons!
I worked thoses 2 languages with Assimil (and other materials of course), and after the books have been finished, I paid for one to one lessons by skype. I'm fluent now for both, one year later.
I hope it'll be the same in 1 year for the 2 languages I'm learning now :-)
So in a nutshell :
Pimsleur yes for real beginner. No if you have just a lettle bit foundations in the target language.
And definitely no because of the price!!!
I tried my hand at several languages and several different methods to learn them. I prefer the kind that has you listening and repeating since it is much faster than learning to write a new language (and in some cases an entire alphabet) at the same time.
The 30 minutes a day, I think, would be good for people who go on vacation and want to pick up some of the language before they go only to forget about it as soon as they land back home, and in that case would probably work quite well.
I personally do (with the Pimsleur courses) the 30 minutes to begin with and each next day I repeat the previous days' lesson before continuing with the next. Every couple of days I re-do several lessons again, because I found that, if you don't repeat them enough the language will stick for a while, but 6 months later you will have forgotten pretty much everything about it.
Also after about 15 lessons -half the course- (my preferred method of learning) I will take a break of at least two weeks and after that re-start by quickly reviewing lesson 5 through 15 again.
I can't compare with a whole lot of famous/well known methods (several of the ones you mentioned I haven't even heard of before) but here in the Netherlands the Colloquial series seems to be popular and in that case I would certainly recommend Pimsleur over Colloquial.
Still I would say (and agree with what you have written) Pimsleur is far too expensive for a language course and it doesn't cover nearly enough.
I also do not want to advocate piracy but will not blame people for it with these prices and limited options.
Another thing I could mention (from my own experience), Pimsleur works okay for me, I do the lessons on the computer while cleaning the house, or on the bus when going somewhere but I do find that after several lessons I have a great need for a native speaker to have a conversation with.
First to ask if I am actually pronouncing several words right, because even with the breaking down to syllables it can be hard to know if you hear and say it correctly, but also to have a bit of a distraction from the same routine.
People who are interested in only one (or maybe two) languages will not have this problem, but I myself like to try and learn as many different ones as I can and find myself easily mixing up languages, because with the same routine (same words you learn in the same order and the exact same conversations in each and every one) you tend to memorize the correct response to what you hear and that can be very tricky.
Oh, I found Pimsleur Spanish on Amazon but it bears the title 'Pimsleur Approach'. Is Amazon selling a fake? It is odd that it has really good reviews.
I just finished 30 lessons of Pimsleur Hebrew; thank you, now I understand the method a little better. I liked it, and used it well on my commute, though I did repeat lessons 2-3 times before moving on. (Maybe my attention was torn from my bus ride, but it was a great way to pass the time on the bus and only once did I nearly miss my stop..)
I want to learn Mongolian for an upcoming trip, but am finding it hard to find a similar program. Do you have any thoughts on this? I liked that I could commute (by bus or car) with it. Which would rule out Rosetta Stone or other hands on interactive programs. I can use the web on my phone, but haven't found a Mongolian program yet... Thank you!
Excellent. Many of the comments were exactly my feeling, as well. Now, I’d like to get Pimsleur’s book, as well.
I like to combine Pimsleur’s series with Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. (I'm working on Italian now, and have used this method with French.) I think the combination of the three fill in gaps for me, such as vocabulary and even other ways of saying the same things (sometimes less formally).
With regards to the cost and what you could buy instead, I would answer in this way:
• “Get approximately 50 personalized, one-on-one lessons with native speakers on italki.” After 50 personalized lessons perhaps you would only be about half way through the same benefits as Pimsleur.
• “Buy a cheaper, similar audio-based product such as Earworms MBT or Glossika and save the rest of your money.” Yes, you would save some of your money, but would you reach the same level of fluency as you would with Pimsleur and in the same amount of time?
• “Buy a more middle-ranged, quality product like Rocket Languages.” Again – Fluency per unit time. Perhaps use Rocket Languages WITH Pimsleur.
• “If you’re in the US or Australia you could put the money toward an actual trip…(in the case of the $1,190 CD version you could probably buy a whole overseas trip).” Yep, and come back less fluent than using Pimsleur by itself. And while you’re learning from Pimsleur, you could save up your lunch money for the trip you know you’re going to have to take (and as a reward to yourself for all your hard work) when you complete the series. And I would further define “complete the series” as being multiple passes through until you can complete each 30-lesson level in just 30 days with at least 90% correct. That should be about 18 months to 2 years.
• “If you live in Europe that kind of money would easily pay for a low-budget airline trip + hostel + food for a couple of weeks to another European destination.” Great trip; terrible benefit for learning the language. I think I want to learn the language and take the then highly beneficial 2-week trip later so I can practice on real people.
• “That money could feed you and pay your accommodation for months in the Mid East and many parts of Asia to learn the local language.” Okay, he’s got me. But I’m not personally interested in learning a Mid Eastern or Asian language…, yet.
Bottom line for me is that if I am serious about learning a non Mid Eastern or Asian language, Pimsleur is a great base for my language learning and can easily be supplemented with Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, Rocket Languages, etc. etc., with the time saved by only spending 30 minutes a day on Pimsleur. Multiple methods would result in a few hours per day of exposure to the language, just as the doctor prescribed.
I’ve completed Pimsleur Italian parts 1 to 4, and now working through Pimsleur French. I’ve found Pimsleur great for building vocabulary, ensuring good pronunciation, and drilling to construct sentences on the run. Even though I studied French at school many years ago and know many of the words, I am still learning a lot from Pimsleur. In fact, I it was not until I started Pimsleur that I realized how inaccurate my French pronunciation was.
It is important to understand that Pimsleur alone will only get you so far. My approach to language learning is work through several courses at once: Pimsleur, Assimil, Teach Yourself, Made Simple books, Easy Reader, grammar books. It reinforces learning to come across the same word, expression or grammatical rule in multiple places.
Each Pimsleur lesson needs to be done more than once and reviewed later. I'm now redoing the Italian lessons in parallel with the French. This highlights the similarities and differences and helps me learn to switch between them without mixing them up.
Pimsleur is great to listen to when walking or doing housework. For road safety reasons, I recommend not doing it when driving the car. Pimsleur requires a high level of concentration and distracts too much from the driving task.
Great review. One typo: "This post will deal [with] the core product and method of Pimsleur only."
This is an excellent review. You have great points & I totally agree with you.
Also, I am wondering would you please share more info on those languages that are going extinct as I am great fan of learning new languages.
Thanks and appreciate it,
You really went far in this review, listened to it in several languages and even read the book. That's impressive.
I agree with everything. I've being trying the Pimsleur method, and it's really efficient. It gives you enough grammar to understand the main points of what you read, so you can walk with your own legs in the journey of learning a language.
I've done pimsleur 1-5 spanish and agree with everything you say here.
I've found them to be a great learning tool when used in conjunction with other resources.
Unfortunately if people ask me if I would recommend them, I have to say that they are way overpriced and I would only recommend them if they can find them free (library for example) or at a greatly reduced price.
A great review but I would give it one caveat - that is I'm guessing that you only listened to the Level One discs. You say that the language is artificial with excessive use of formal language structures - in the two courses which I have completed (German and Russian) Level One is entirely formal, Level Two largely informal, Level Three and beyond very mixed, and good, if basic, guides on when each should be used.
My only complaint is that there was no Pimsleur course available when I started to learn Scots Gaelic!
For Christmas, I received an itunes gift card for $25. Unsure of how to spend it, as Spotify is my primary music source, i decided to try Pimsleur (level three, lessons 26-30, as level 4 could only be bought with all 30 lessons...waaaay more money than I wanted to spend.) Your review is spot on. A bit overpriced, but it seemed effective. The formality was actually helpful for me, as i'm very comfortable speaking in the tú form, but rarely practice speaking formally.
Hi Nathan, thanks for this great review. I'm learning the Levantine Arabic dialect at the moment and have bought Units 1-5 of the Pimsleur Eastern Arabic method to supplement my weekly evening classes. As a female student the first thing I've noticed is that the student listening in the course is always assumed to be male. For a language where verbs, adjectives etc are different for females/males this seems like a problem. I'm trying to decide whether to buy the remaining Units and wondered if it becomes a bit less male-centric later in the course? They do seem to give you some feminine verbs etc (by using a woman as the opposite person in your conversations) but I expect a bit more than that in 2017....
Regarding price...free at your public library
I am learning Vietnamese and wanted to supplement my lessons with an audio program. Read really great reviews about Pimsleur's Vietnamese. They offered a discount so I purchased the full 30 lesson program for $99, after I tried their free trial lesson, which was pretty good. First, but minor, problem is it is spoken with the northern accent. The biggest problem is at times it is very hard to understand what they are saying as there is no written supplement.
At times the man and woman speakers say the same word in a different way. For example the female says Hiểu and when the man speaks it sounds like Hiễu and Ở đâu sounds nothing like the female speaker who says it correctly.
There are many good things about the program, and it would be great if they offered a written supplement when you get stuck on understanding what is being said. I would not recommend it as the only learning program, but it is a great supplement.
"The native speakers speak the words backwards, one syllable at a time."
Good heavens, no.
The technical term is back-chaining. Neither phonemes, syllables, words nor phrases are presented as backward strings at any time. Rather they are chained—starting from the final element—toward the end of the string, in progressive iterations:
It's a method very well-known in ESL pedagogy, particularly useful for pronunciation, and goes way back to Army techniques pioneered in the 40's.
I have found it useful in pronunciation and short phrases and sentences. For fuller sentences and syntax, not so much. At least that was my experience for Korean.
What a great thread following the review! One thing I wanted to ask... I haven't figured out how to learn a language by being around native speakers. I've been trying to learn Spanish forever, and I live in Southern California where it is spoken often. But the only way I seem to be able to make progress is the various apps and programs. When a Hispanic person speaks to me, I only understand the words I already know. If I ask a question, they get going on an answer and I have no idea what's being said. And on top of that I feel shy. I know how frustrating it can be to speak to a person with poor command of English and I can't get past the discomfort I feel while stumbling over Spanish. So native speakers scare me. While language programs feel safer.
Do you have recommendations for solving this problem?
Pimsleur is my go to for learning a new language. If they don't have the language I want, or it's not good quality (like Arabic), I then look for something else.
The pronunciation method is unique, and I think is what sets it apart more than the SRS (which I find pretty terrible in this implementation). Teaching words and phrases in reverse syllable order is brilliant. It does a great job of stopping you from bringing any preconceptions in, and just listening to how the words sound. There's no mention of any writing system, so the whole thing is listen, repeat, compare, refine until you get pretty close. It's the reason I prefer to start with Pimsleur over other courses, it's just that much better than everything else when it comes to pronunciation.
I also like that it starts with sentences, but that's hardly unique, just something in its favour. Your first experience with speaking a language is then using proper grammar, and you have grammatically correct sentences to refer to as a test of your understanding of grammar rules to construct a sentence. It also gets you speaking pretty fast. 5 days in I decided to strike up a conversation with a non-native Japanese speaking friend. I could keep it going for a couple minutes before I just didn't know enough to keep going and wasn't able to understand her answers, but it was still impressive nonetheless.
The SRS they have is silly, before every even numbered lesson starting at 4 you're supposed to listen to lesson 2 first. I eventually stopped doing that, it was a massive drag. Didn't seem to suffer from it either. Shows they didn't put much thought into the system and it doesn't make a big difference if you don't follow it.
I couldn't tell that the accent was bad for the speakers, I assumed that it would be overly formal though, for Arabic. I still had major problems with it. Pimsleur follows a template, they want to cover a specific conversation, translated from English, within 30 minutes. Arabic has gendered second person pronouns, and the rest is heavily gendered as well, so since you're doing a conversation between a man and a woman from lesson 2, there's actually not enough time to go over everything, the vocabulary you need to learn has been effectively doubled. Japanese had some particularly long words that also created a difficulty spike, but they were just odd words, and I could just shrug and keep going if I didn't say one right. With Arabic there wasn't even the opportunity to practice the pronunciation of the words. I suspect Hebrew would be at least as bad (maybe they'd get good pronunciation at least). I also have a hunch Chinese works better than Japanese because most words are just two syllables, so you don't get the difficulty spike from following the template.
Hi Ryan, I am going to Indonesia in a few months and I want to learn it better. I have lived there before and know basic stuff and my pronunciation is correct, but I just want to be able to speak it more confidently. Is the 99 dollar pimselur training worth it, and if not , do they accept refunds?
I'm in Hebrew Level 1, Lesson 9! I can speak Hebrew like a Rabbi! Yay!
Er... Only if he's asking a woman if she wants a drink at his place... Or... Er... Never mind!
Thank you for great review and discussion. I wanted to add Pimsleur method is the closest there is to the way a child learns language: starts with one word and slowly builds "scaffolds" . Children BTW will pick up a new language in a couple of weeks. For me, I've tried to learn Spanish over and over (and must do it again). Pimsleur helped me jump from memorizing single words to being able to put them into sentences. Very empowering. I would say Pimsleur gives a foundation from which to begin to really learn the language-develop vocabulary, speed grammar, etc With P I was able to do quite well in college level Spanish classes I audited. Lastly, some people are more talented with languages than others (me, eg)
Great review, and I think you are spot on!
I used Pimsleur as my 1st step to learning Brazilian Portuguese -- at the time, there were only 3 levels available. I found Pimsleur to be a great stepping stone that I could listen to in the car to and from work.
Of course, Pimsleur didn't make me fluent, but after levels 1-3, I could ask directions, engage in the 1st few sentences of a conversation with a stranger, etc. Pretty decent results for me.
Now, I'm improving by speaking with a local friend from Brazil, and by taking online courses at Semantica-Portuguese.
I am very disappointed with Pimsleur Greek. There are many sounds in Greek that are difficult to understand. There are subtle differences as compared to the English language, it is often difficult to understand at times, exactly what sound is being spoken. Pimsleur refuses to provide a transcript or even a printed vocabulary list to assist their customers. I written, called and emailed. They say this is the method and they will not provide written vocabulary. Thousands have requested the transcript but it falls on deaf ears. When some one posts a transcript on the internet they threaten copy right infringement, interesting since they don't print it. They fail to understand that people learn in different ways. They do a great disservice to their customers. Extremely disappointed. They are also ,missing a market dsegment of those willing to pay.
I really like the Pimsleur method for teaching spoken Russian. I had some Russian in college but learned to speak very little; this is slow going for me until I come upon something I actually learned in college, at which time I feel very smart and speed along.
The one thing about it that sort of bugs me are the topics -- how you learn a thousand different ways to come on to people. The female speaker is sort of whiny and reluctant. The male speaker is always trying to talk the female speaker into having a drink, into inviting him over to her place, into her coming over to his place, etc. etc. Of course it would be nice to know if anyone trying that on me, but since I am an older woman who will be staying with relatives in Moscow when I go, it probably isn't going to come up that much.
If you are interested in Pimsleur Japanese, they now have Japanese Level 5 as a download or CDs. Use code LEVEL5 for a 10% discount until 9 Nov 2017. Also, Russian level 4 is now available as of October 2017. The discount of Russian Level 4 has expired.
I would like to suggest a small update. Pimsleur Approach is no longer a licensed reseller of the Pimsleur product. I picked up Level 1 at a used bookstore the other day and liked it very much. It was only when I went to the official Pimsleur website that I learned the reseller status. That said, I called the company and they said it is Pimsleur but only as up to date as the packaging indicated. End result, I was able to go on Amazon and find Level 1-5 for an exceptionally affordable price. Approach may have started as a rip off but can be a way to beat sticker shock now.
No product is "overpriced" if it consistently sells for that price. One may as well declare the Rolls Royce to be overpriced. People who can afford only a used Toyota but would like a Rolls Royce may idly say that the Rolls Royce is "overpriced." But then all this means is that people would like their money to buy more and better stuff than it can. Obviously, there is a sufficiently high demand for Pimsleur courses to enable the company to continue selling them at the high price. Perhaps they would make more money if they cut the price in half. I don't know. I don't know the costs of production, advertising and so forth. But the claim that a product is "overpriced" merely because the price is higher than one would like is not valid.
Well balanced review of a program I've been using for years. Pimsleur has been teaching me Italian and I'm up to almost Italian 5. I agree that the vocab is limited and I often use a translate program if I just can't quite grasp what's being said. And I listen to each lesson multiple times before I move on. My biggest hurdle is not having anyone to communicate with, but I keep at it!
I keep a Spanish Pimsleur in my car CD at all times. When I feel like practicing I just turn it on for however many minutes. I had been trying to study Spanish at the University and the tutor in the lab could not understand me. I realize I have a slight hearing deficit so that in a class room, or even watching a movie, I don't hear things correctly.
With Pimsleur in the car less than 2 feet from me, and being able to adjust the volume, my pronunciation has improved dramatically. The tutor is amazed at my improvement.
It is a great addition to studying Spanish other ways. Exceptional to just listen and answer with no writing or reading.
Also, if you do not want to check out CD's from your library, you can go online and find used CD's, even the Gold versions, for very little.
Pimsleur works very well for me and I like the fact that many libraries have several of the Pimsleur series.
John R. MASTERJOHN
I think that pimsleur's failure to provide a transcript and or at least a vocabulary list with interpretations is a very serious flaw and undermines the usefulness of the program. I am studying GREEK and the transcript is essential for understanding the pronunciation of many words. I end up having to use an interpreter or G/E dictionary which costs much time. I am also a visual learner. There is no reason for them not to provide, even at a cost that I think thousands of people would pay and they could profit by. Personally I discourage all from using this program.
I love Pimsleur Language Programs! I think they are the best to start learning a language, at least the speaking and listening parts. For writing and reading you need to find a different program. But, the hardest part of learning a language is speaking, and Pimsleur is awesome. I currently live in the USA where they have really good public libraries. When I have the money I invest in some reduced price Pimsleur programs or I just get them from the library. I have tried French, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese.
Hi Donovan: thank you for the review-very well written. I am an old American who likes to travel around and have developed a routine of taking the Pimsleur intro from the library)San Francisco has them all) before I go to a new place-currently doing Japanese. Yes they have many shortcomings but all in all its a good tool for my purpose. I have never really been good at languages so essentially it stimulates my brain and allows me to say a few words and phrases, find the bathroom and generally get a smile and chuckle from the locals-all good. I'm jealous that you have all those languages! And yes Japanese is MUCH easier that Thai!
I've been using the Thai language set. Thai is a very difficult language, as it is tonal (as I'm sure you're aware), and therefore small mistakes in pronunciation are actually large mistakes in conversation (and very confusing for Thai people).
My wife is Thai, and most of her family lives in Thailand. I've been trying to learn so I can converse with her and her family more in their heart language. Thai folks are very friendly, so learning is easy once you have the proper framework for learning. In my limited assessment, the Thai set is very good for a beginner to the language (as opposed to other methods that may try to teach the alphabet and writing in addition to vocab and sentence structure). That said, sometimes things are a bit "over-pronounced," and sometimes much slower than in reality. That said, the slowness and tendency to "over-pronounce" is actually very helpful for learners from non-tonal languages, who, generally, tend to under-pronounce words (which means they are speaking nonsense, and/ or something else entirely).
Anyway, thanks for this review.
In my experience, having studied 10 languages over the years, Pimsleur is the only one that works. It doesn't teach you every word in the language, but it gets you started so that once you arrive in the country, you can start speaking and are taken seriously as someone who can "deal" in that language. Then the rest follows.
Your accent and rhythm are superb -- and added vocabulary comes with time.
For languages with hard vocabulary, I make notes on the lessons, look up the words and make flash cards. On the Indonesian CDs, maddeningly, the time they give you to speak is often a bit too short, so I have the pause button ready so I can collect myself.
On a recent trip to Amman, Jordan,, I only had time to cover four Pimsleur lessons, and even with just these I was functioning fine with street, shop, taxi and hotel Arabic.
This is the system that works. There is also a big secondary market in used CDs, plus libraries often have them.
HOWEVER -- here is the real gap in the market that no one is addressing. Understanding is very often harder than speaking. When you speak, you use only words you know and go at your own pace. When someone else speaks, you have no control. There needs to be a comprehension set of CDs, similar to the old "dictée" system that used to be a staple of French iinstruction. They could have a normal conversation and then slow it down progressively until the words became clear. THIS is the frontier!
Dont know if anyone else has seen but you can get each lesson on audible for about 30 bucks
How will you mark something that you can’t quite distinguish in the audio file?
2) How will you mark something that you can’t hear in the audio file?
3) Can you guess the word if you are not 100% sure what was spoken?
4) Which text format is this “The transcribed text does not include speech errors, false starts and various filler words, such as: um, uh, hmm, so, you know, sort of, etc.”
5) Which speaker label is correct?
6) Choose the correct form:
7) The client requires time stamping every two minutes. You need to transcribe the 10-20 minute part of the audio. Where do you start time stamping?
8) Choose the correct form for full verbatim:
9) If a client requests timestamping every two minutes, how would it look?
10) Timestamping time format must be:
11) Are speaker tags required everytime when speaker changes?
12) Which text format is this, “The text is transcribed exactly as it sounds and includes all the utterances of the speakers. ”?
13) What is the correct answer of 2+2*3+2*2+4=?
14) If a client requires timestamping on speaker change, which format would that be?
I use my audible to get Pimsleur lessons. You can get 5 lessons for 1 credit or the whole 30 lessons for 5 credits. Your membership for audible is 14.99 so using all 5 credits ends up costing about 74.95. Much cheaper than getting Pimsleur from the websites or on Amazon. Also, buy purchasing 5 at a time, I don't feel overwhelmed. I can do the lessons once or twice before moving on. Love it!
Donovan, opinion from someone learning a second language at the age of fifty.
I agree with most of your review, and while I agree that the speakers in Pimsleur Spanish aren't native sounding, I need this; I couldn't understand anything native Spanish speakers were saying, and can only slightly now, after a year of study. I tried half-a-dozen "learn from native speakers" cd sets before I found Pimsleur, and to me they were utterly useless; I find the less-than-perfect speakers and dialogue in Pimsleur perfect for my level, I think Dr P. knew this.
I listen to Pimsleur in the car, and use Mango languages at home. At this point it's a good combination; I'm sure I'll try other things as I improve.
I got the five-level Spanish set used for $111, and to me that's worth it.
I want to learn Castilian Spanish and had Pimsleur recommended to me. Your review suggests Rocket Spanish but they only do Latin American. Pimsleur is $230 so not the crazy $1000. With those factors in mind, which do you think would suit my goals best?
Dario Llanos Bolivar
Hello, what a great review indeed, BUT you dont give any information about an important topic, which is what i came looking info for, and its this one.
i have at my disposal the 5 levels of french, and obviously im gonna use them, but i dont know after i finished them all and "master" them, what level profiency you think ill stand?
Now, i know this is not an easy answer, but i need to know this because, the main reason im gonna study french is to apply for a visa in montreal, and one the requeriments its to take a french test, now i dont remember what level is minimun requirement, but i guess it would be B2-C1.
I understand that if i use this program, i would have to learn more vocabulary aside from the one they give me, and thats fine, no problem there.
BUT what about grammar, really, what do you think it would be my best option? to use this programan, but also study grammar like mad somwhere else just to take the test??
and also, do you have a review for earwormslearning???
thanks in advance.
Great article. You should note however that Pimsluer now offers a monthly fee access at $15/mo. It gives me access to the app and Spanish courses 1 through 5 at that price. I had never tried it before because it was so cost prohibitive. As someone who uses duolingo and rosetta stone I must say im making mich better progress with pronunciation with Pimsluer. My daughter in law is a native spanish speaker and she agrees.
I agree with many of the comments. 1) I'm getting Pimsleur Latin American Spanish free from my library. 2) I have been dabbling at learning Spanish off and on for 20 years, so although I recognize many of the words I wasn't previously adept at forming sentences and definitely not at engaging in conversation. Having some familiarity is helping me to learn faster. 3) I do listen on my drive to work, which let's me speak aloud without bothering anybody. However, as I'm also paying attention to the road, I do pause the CD to have a little more time to think of my response. I will also repeat a lesson at least twice. 4) For Level 2, I'm using a digital version, which I cannot pause. I wish they would give us a bit more time to think of a response, as sometimes I'm halfway through when then give us the answer! 5) I do really wish there was somewhere we could look up the words in the lessons, especially for the vignettes. This would speed up my learning, because as one responder noted, the two narrators don't always say words the same way and sometimes it's difficult to catch what they are saying. 6) I also wish they would give us longer sentences in the lessons, to give us more experience listening to native speakers. But maybe that will come in later lessons. 7) My library's versions are rather old, so some of the conversations are a bit dated and even sexist (like Juan giving Maria a hard time about needing to be ready NOW for something he has just sprung upon her and is guilting her into.) And last 8) I am also using Duolingo, which is a good complement. Probably other apps are as well, to get to see and write the words to go with Pimsleur's listening component.
Overall Pimsleur has been the best at helping me to be confident in Spanish than anything else I've tried. I'm now bringing my speaking outside of the car to real people, which has been a great confidence booster.
Just wanted to make a point about the price. Pimsleur is available on Audible, and you can get a whole level for 5 credits. It's a good way to get it, since you can return audiobooks for credits or subscribe to get a certain number a month. Definitely made it affordable for me,.
After completing Pimsleur German Level 1 i tested 77% A1 online. I supplement Pimsleur with 2 hours of German music a day, written grammar exercises by Practice Makes Perfect, Teach Yourself Short Stories plus audio, and Nico‘s Weg Videos and free online material. I also use an online translator regularly when I hear something I don’t understand, to check spelling, and say something new. The multi-pronged approach works best, with Pimsleur as a base. Native Germans tell me my pronunciation and vocabulary are excellent. I highly recommend Pimsleur. It is challenging and effective. You never feel like you’re not learning. Every once in a while I will repeat a lesson, as recommended, if I didn’t retain enough of it. I also pause a lot to practice something that is difficult for me before moving on. Hope this helps.
Pimsleur Approach Gold Edition was an authorized Pimsleur method program by Simon & Schuster, published by Internet Order LLC, and distributed by Stroll, Inc.. It was a different company than Pimsleur.com and they were licensed to sell the program by Simon & Schuster. It had some minor differences and some fancy packaging, but was almost exactly the same program. The licensing eventually was discontinued. It wasn't a scam, it was legally licensed.
I know this because I bought Spanish I & 2 Latin America in 2012. Last year, I decided to pull them out and finally go through the lessons. I wanted to download the reading booklets and tried to get them on the website, but the web sight for pimsleurapproach.com was now automatically redirected to pimsleaur.com. After searching that site, I called and I was told that the company licensed to sell the product as pimsleurapproach.com was no longer in business and the booklets for Pimsleur Approach Gold Edition were no longer available.
I took two college level courses in Spanish in the past year and I also used my Pimsleur Approach Gold Edition CDs. I found them to be a great companion to the course. College language courses are very grammar and textbook focused, while these CD lessons are all about listening and speaking. I did the 30 lessons in Spanish I and the 30 lessons in Spanish II, but not the supplementary reading lessons. I would love to get the booklets to do the audio reading lessons, but I can't find them online anywhere.
Pimsleur is my favorite method because it is not the standard memorization and dissection of sentences. That has never worked for me. I like to get a good feel for how a language works and learn some vocabulary along the way in context. That works for me.
Whatever your native language is, you learned it this way. You picked up a few words and then started learning how they go together. Over time, you just get a feel for what sounds right. You learn the exceptions naturally. It isn't until you are quite comfortable with speaking and well equipped with vocabulary that you finally go to school and sort out the grammatical details.
I also find that 30 minutes a day is sufficient for the beginner. Down the road, you may want to pursue other methods or resources to expand your knowledge and acquire more words. However, this audio only method that engages you to constantly respond from day one is probably the best way to start off (in my opinion). It gets you past the hump of being able to have simple conversations, which I believe is when you are able to learn and retain new words, concepts and expressions in context.
Again, this works for me. Some would insist that wrote memorization of vocabulary lists and sentence diagrams is the only way to go. Maybe this is true for those people so to each their own.
Actually my understanding is that the Pimsleur Approach CDs are not "spammers"... Simon & Schuster actually licensed the product to another business for a period of time, but then decided that they didn't like how the other business was operating (I think they may have been seriously undercutting S&S), so bought back the rights.
I am so sorry, but I find it very difficult to distinguish various sounds in the Pimsleur Irish language CDs I'm listening to: B, Th, T, and V are especially hard to distinguish, so I would be learning words wrong. Also, the audio files are very difficult to understand and repeat. I listen, I repeat, and the next day, nothing remains. Nothing. I am not a rote learner. My method of learning is to build on small bits. A child learns by seeing a cat and hearing somebody say "Cat." The Pimsleur method doesn't even help me understand where one word starts and the next ends. I've spent a lot of time listening and trying to repeat, and I'm just very frustrated. BTW, I taught elementary linguistics on the college level as part of a communications course. Is there any actual science behind the idea of trying to memorize whole phrases rather than starting with single words?
Great review. I almost got duped into signing up for a fake Pimsleur site, but I thought I’d better read some reviews. You’re review was the first and I can’t thank you enough. In addition, your review was intelligent and very helpful. I’m going to Italy for the 3rd time in 6 weeks, am very motivated to learn some Italian before this trip. Your review is great.
I loved your review ! I don't have the Facebook etc .. Thanks for the tips . I travel to Mexico every year and yes the money is more than equal to airfare and Airbnb . I learn more by speaking and listening Spanish . I have trouble with complete sentences . I can say words and understand signs , so again thank you . I just about fell for the 14.95 a month deal w Pumsleur !
To me, living in Vietnam for around 10 month in total I must say I didn't like Pimsleur. First of all because it's using a language the locals don't. It's to formal and come on, let's hit straight to meeting women, in fact old men meeting women. The method of course is ok, no doubt, but the lessons are too short and the book included is really vaguely written.
I would be interested in what you think of the French in Action course. It contains audio, video, a workbook and a text book. And it has a continuous story that keeps it interesting.
I'm using Pimsleur now for kiswahili which I generally like but also feel like it's filled with pick up lines (i.e. asking a female to go out for drinks, asking if she wants to have dinner at your house, asking if she wants to have drinks at the hotel!!!). It's really been throwing me off and given some of the tourist prostitution that happens it feels downright weird!
Excellent review and great advise glad to see and read a good honest review for a change to
Thank you for your comprehensive review. After I started learning Mandarin Chinese by taking a beginning Mandarin adult-eduction class offered on Saturdays on the campus of our state university for about 4 months, I have worked through 5 of the Pimsleur Mandarin language courses over the past few years and have found them to be excellent. My gauge of my learning is listening to Mandarin language news podcasts and evaluating how much of the information I am grasping. I'm surprised at how much I have learned from the Pimsleur courses. I do realize that to truly master Mandarin I will need to return to regurlary attending more structured language classes and ultimately I will need to spend tme living in Taiwan or mainland China. Based on my personal experience, however, am definitely a fan of Pimseleur language courses. As to the expense, I have found courses available for purchase on the secondary book market at reasonable prices. Hope this helps.
I bought a set of Pimsleur Spanish CDs several years ago. Audio only makes sense so you don't try to read the language first and end up with a funny accent. Which brings me to the fact that the male tutor right away pronounced "Habla" incorrectly. He pronounced the first "a" as you would the "a" in "apple". There is no "apple" "a" sound in the language. Not sure how that got by them but I felt it was thoughtless and a bit lazy.
Great review and a great set of mixed comments from people who've tried Pimsleur too.
I find that Pimsleur is the BEST tool for getting directly into conversation with whichever language you choose to pursue. What's better than landing in a foreign country and being able to speak to people/ask for directions etc, immediately?
I don't know if it was a feature when this article was written but Pimsleur also contains Flash Cards, Speed Rounds, follow along written transcripts, test quizzes to match words to what you hear + more! All of these allow you to see the words in German so that you can begin to learn how certain sounds are written/pronounced. If you do not make use of these features then you are seriously missing out!
After 1 month of learning Pimsleur Level 1, I visited Hannover in Niedersachsen and amazed some of the locals with my pronunciation and vocabulary. they thought I had been learning for at least a year lol. I was even able to read signs and menus etc thanks to spending an additional 30 mins a day challenging myself with the flashcards and word association challenges.
Yes, yon't become 100% fluent using just Pimsleur but it will land you within the 75%-85% ballpark of fluency and you'll be more than able to just 'get by' if you were to visit. Just like learning anything else in life, it's good to use multiple resources to further enhance your learning. I paid for Pimsleur and used DW learning which was free and had a great A1 learning path.
I can't recommend Pimsleur enough...
Unfortunately I would not recommend Pimsleur. I felt like I wasted my time and money on their recurring service, total rip off. I did the Spanish lessons and don’t know why so much was about drinking and hotels, extremely presumptuous. I didn’t feel like I learned the basics of conjugations or vocabulary I could use. I also had some interactions with customer support and they were unresponsive and when they did respond, outright terrible. So for those reasons I hope you try something else!
Vince San Angelo
I have finished my set of the Pimsleur Approach Gold Edition consisting of 8 discs (16 lessons). Which set of discs would I need to continue my learning. There are so many different options available--it's confusing.
Interesting review and much appreciated. I wish I had your dedication to learning so many languages.
I tried RS for many months and didn't really get anywhere, I read your review of pimsleur a few months ago and decided to try it. It has worked very well for me, actually got me excited about learning.
I just finished level one and am looking forward to the other four levels. I have been listening to a local HIspanic radio station and watching subtitled spanish movies and tv shows, I find it helps me a lot with learning the sounds of the language.
Regarding Pimsleur’s Vietnamese, and the comment on 2017-03-17, the commenter mentioned how differently a man and a woman, in the dialogues, would pronounce the exact same word, such as “Hiểu”—Understand, or “Ở đâu”—Where. The unfortunate truth is that both pronunciations are correct, and it’s good to learn both. Those are both very important words. (That particular man speaking, Mr. Bình Ngô, whom I met once, is a Vietnamese linguist and professor at Harvard, and knows his stuff.) One reason for the disparity in pronunciation has to do with Vietnamese’s six (6) “tones.” Unlike in Western languages, whose words’ two (2) components are: the vowel, and the consonant; in Vietnamese the three (3) components are: the vowel, the consonant, and the tone. (That’s what makes Vietnamese so challenging.) A clipped (very quick) version of “hiểu” is hard to understand until you ALSO have learned the graceful slow dipping and rising version of “hiểu” that people say, at the end of a sentence, with a smile. But all of your work through that challenge pays off, when you can chitchat about their proudly beloved Sài Gòn // Hồ Chí Minh City, with the local man who is driving your taxi, or with the local lady strolling by with a basket, offering you all kinds of side dishes to complement your dinner and beer on the sidewalk.
Very good article, and reassuring to those of us who have bought only Pimsleur products for many years. I studied French in college for two years, and loved it when we actually attended those classes in person because we were called on frequently to speak, and I was complimented by my professors on my pronunciation.
After school, I started over from the beginning purchasing Pimsleur CDs from Amazon, and because I had enough grammar study in college, I was able to visualize the word and that helped me to think about the structure differences between English and French. I simply can't learn well without seeing the words in my head or on a screen. That would be like playing the piano without any theory study at all - it is a sloppy way to learn. You should at least have a handle on reading basic chord charts! It's much easier to communicate with other musicians when you all speak the same music language!
I'm on my 4th and last Pimsleur CD, and would love, love , love it if Pimsleur had bothered to include a workbook along with the high price of their CDs. But they don't, so a lot of time is lost "wondering" how the hell French words are actually spelled! As it is, I don't feel confident and willing to engage with a French-speaking person without having tried to understand the spelling of words. With verbs, it's so much easier to see what's happening.
Right now, I'm a big supporter of Pimsleur, but very discouraged that I haven't been able to motivate myself to finish 7 more CDs in the package. I loved your article, though. Thank you for such a good explanation.
I have the Italian version. I wish I could slow it down. It’s spoken so fast that I often have to repeat a long phrase several times before I get it.
I tried Pimsleur Korean. It was a mishmash of Korean and Japanese. This was confirmed by native speakers of Korean and Japanese who listened to it!
Just wanted to say that a lot of libraries offer Pimsleur! For more niche languages it's probably less likely they'll have it (and those Pimsleur lessons tend not to be as good of quality anyways, like you've mentioned with the speakers), but it's worth checking out to avoid the price tag.
Ty sir! This was a great review. I got to lesson 10 of Russian. I was a bit slow with it bc I wanted to master each lesson, so the 30 minute lesson might be repeated 2-3 times over a couple of days. I wasn’t satisfied w/ 80% and then move on. It saved me in the Ukraine when I was getting in to the country. I bluffed my way in w/ the little Russian I learned. I was given compliments on my accent and I have retained about 50% of what I learned 15 years ago, so Pimsleur is definitely my go to. I tried Babbel and Rosetta Stone, but just didn’t seem to work very well for me. I love the subscription and plan to use it and help my kids learn a new language or two along the way.
[Regarding European Portuguese:] If you believe that the best way to teach someone to swim is to push them into the deep end of the pool then this course is for you. At one point in the first lesson the moderator says "notice how the words run together." Yes, I do. That may be the way natives speak, but it was too fast, too soon for this beginner. I gave up in frustration.
Thank you for this review! I'm considering Little Pim for our young kiddos, and I may invest in Pimsleur next!
Retired, so old, and presumably slow learner. I have been using Pimsleur Italian via the monthly subscription for several months, religiously doing one lesson every day, occasionally two, and on the rare occasion I miss a day, I do two the next day. It takes me at least an hour and a half to do one half hour lesson, because despite the fact that I studied the grammar and some vocabulary 20 years ago, I cannot possibly produce the Italian sentence in the time given for each response, though I can usually understand the answer given if I don't pause. But I assume that I will learn more if I force myself to at least try to come up with an answer before hearing the correct one. It isn't entirely clear if by pausing I am disobeying the Pimsleur method, but in a call to Pimsleur I was not advised not to pause. Clearly if I don't stuff will slip by me that I will never get. I will admit that I need to understand the "reason" for the grammatical construction in order to reproduce, but I can look that up when needed. Again, probably not what Pimsleur intended, but I don't want to sound like a baby.
I do however have some question whether the specific language lessons were prepared by people with firsthand knowledge of the languages, e.g. I am now at lesson 21 of level three, essentially halfway through my 150 day course, and they are hitting me with the use of the verb stare in a couple different tenses. For "you have been speaking about..." they want me to say "Sta parlando...," but I wonder if that is really more appropriate for "You are speaking about [present tense in English]." And then there is the irritation of beating to death the request to translate "Cathedral Square" to "Piazza del Duomo," as if anybody, American or not, is going to find a map of a person who refers to such a place as "Cathedral Square!" Amazing how difficult it is to hear that unfamiliar English phrase a dozen times and have to spend the time translating it to the more familiar Italian one! Minor issue is the predominant use of the formal "you," though for a tourist (and apparently Pimsleur is marketing to people who might be working in Italy] the formal is probably more appropriate...I'll be talking to my wife in English. And though our daughter spent two sessions as a student in Italy, where she spoke with Italian friends with "tu," that won't be our situation.
I trust that I am not wasting a lot of time learning useless constructions.
But so far, I am happy to have this review, at the end of which I hope my speaking ability will be better than what I got out of an Italian for Travellers course and personal book study I did in the 1990's.
Don’t forget your public library! I was able to find lessons 1-5 in several languages.
NEVER BUY A PIMSLEUR COURSE. I AM NO LONGER ABLE TO ACCESS THE COURSE I BOUGHT. AND UNABLE TO CONTACT PIMSLEUR.
I agree Pimsleur on its own is not enough. I also agree the marketing is a bit deceptive. First, I have to listen to each lesson (and do the exercises) several days in a row before I have a firm grasp, so 90 days, no way. Second, having done some LingoDeer prior, I don’t think I would have grasped the Pimsleur lessons as well without the prior study.
Pimsleur lessons have a VERY format repeitive. and the dialogs are unimaginative and artificial. So the study process becomes boring, Also, there's no real method for accumulating vocabulary and phrases for further study or for well-organized study of grammar. I think this is because of a rigid adherence to the Pimsleur philosphy that emphasizes listening and speaking. I agree that listening and speaking are central to language learning but without good followup study the process would be ineffective. So I've used my own followup study method. Also at times the dialog is too fast as if there is little sense of what learners might find more difficult and so need slow repetition. On the other hand, sometimes simple words or phrases are repeated slowly for no clear reason. I suspect the course was developed some time ago and never revised.