English Teacher Article The Pimsleur Method


The Pimsleur Method is heavily advertised on the internet at the moment. Many of the sites seem to have exactly the same information about the method and, while it may be an effective way of learning, many of the claims being made are suspect and or plain ridiculous. The history of language learning is littered with miracle ways of learning, none of which has ever amounted to much.

If the claims for the speed are confined to the basic travel and tourism requirements, then most could be achieved within the time limits established, though this could be achieved by pretty much any method:

Upon completion of the Pimsleur Comprehensive Level I Program (30 lessons), the learner will have achieved spoken-language communication skills at the Intermediate-Low Level. This level is characterized by the ability to participate in simple, direct conversations on everyday topics, in everyday situations; by being able to satisfy immediate needs, such as ordering food and making simple purchases; and by being able to establish rapport with strangers in a foreign country.
(Pimsleur Direct Spoken Programs)

Learning a few names of dishes, the odd item, numbers and currency, plus a greeting and thanks in fifteen hours of dedicated study doesn't actually sound like a miracle method, though some claim that this is a major breakthrough. They term it Intermediate- Low Level, yet the ability to ask for a newspaper and offer a rapport-building banality to the vendor doesn't fit any description of any Intermediate level in my book.

LanguageLovers.com has a page on the Pimsleur Method- Five Key Techniques which is worth looking closely at. The text kicks off with the claim that 'Nine out of ten Pimsleur users report they have acquired specific, measurable spoken foreign-language communication skills when they have completed the first thirty lessons of a Level I Comprehensive Program.' The presentation of the page, with an inverted pyramid diagram of knowledge levels, looks like a rudimentary page from an academic book, but the claim would not be allowed in any such work. There is no supporting reference to show where the claim comes from; we have no idea how many people were sampled, so cannot say whether this is truly a representative sample; it quite simply is a claim that can be given no credence, even though when we look at the rest, the sheer flimsiness of the claim renders it utterly meaningless. 'specific, measurable spoken foreign-language communication skills'. The obvious implication of these undefined skills and their measurement is that they were set at a pitifully low level in order to show that this progress had been made. If they measured the ability to count to five, then they'd probably get close to 100% specific, measurable progress.

They then claim that after 15 hours of Pimsleur training, 90% can 'converse comfortably with native speakers'. Mind you, converse comfortably does not mean have a conversation about current affairs- it means being able to go into a newsagent's, say hello, ask for a paper, understand the price and say goodbye, possibly with a comment about the weather thrown in for rapport's sake. In all honesty, I am surprised that this takes so long.

The Five Key Techniques:

1- Graduated Interval Recall

According to Pimsleur Direct, 'No aspect of learning a foreign language is more important than memory, yet before Dr. Pimsleur's work, no one had explored more effective ways for building language memory.' This type of unsubstantiated claim is typical for methods promising the earth- so often there is a claim of a breakthrough that revolutionises language learning, conveniently ignoring the fact that there has been much work in this area both before and since Dr Pimsleur.

LanguageLovers.com explain the principle at greater length, explaining that 'Research came up with the concept that the time between reviewing a word can increase geometrically.' Naturally, there is no indication as to what that this research was, nor how the research went through the process of peer review to gain acceptance, etc. Apparently, if the first interval between hearing a word and having it reviewed is 5 seconds, then this should be squared to produce the time interview for the third review, etc, then cubed, etc, until the power ten is reached (9,765,625). The logic of this is that the interval is not important, merely the mathematical process, failing to take into account the complexities of the learning process, ignoring factors like age, motivation, mood, etc.

Speaking Portuguese, I find learning words from Latin languages far easier than learning Khmer words, which I am trying to do at the moment, because I can recognise many and file them away straight away. Yet, these sites are claiming that all is the same and fits into their scientific formula. One of the more bizarre claims of Suggestopedia was that their lessons fitted the 'golden proportion' found in the Pyramids in Egypt, which was held up as 'proof' of the science behind their extravagant claims, just like these claims about Pimsleur- if you follow the formula, learning will take place because it's scientific. Any one-size-fits-all approach to learning that promises universal progress regardless of any factors, yet claims to have science backing it up, worries me.

2- Principle of Anticipation
Here, they claim that Pimsleur was the first person to come up with the idea that 'you must retrieve the answer from your own memory before it is confirmed in the lesson'. They reinforce it with the view that all other methods were based on nothing other than repetition. They are also conveniently ignoring the huge changes since Dr Pimsleur leapt forwards to brighten the world and save humanity. This is not a new method, despite the surge in popularity, so the failure to look at what has happened since weakens these, while presenting a cartoon and inaccurate version of what went before. It is true that much teaching was dire and that many language course books, especially the Army Method or Direct Method, were deathly dull, but they are generalising about the past and ignoring the present.

3- Core Vocabulary
Here, Pimsleur is credited with the idea that concentrating on grammatical words rather than lexical items would enable learners to put their learning to use. An idea so widely held, that is a bit of a cheek to claim that it is a distinctive feature of the Pimsleur courses.

4- Organic Learning
Another unoriginal idea- the idea of learning on 'several fronts' at once.

5- Short Daily Practice

Well, I never!

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On level 7 of Mandarin One, very good so far - clever way of teaching - dont have a go at it if ya aint tried it yet man !!!

Sadly, I have to agree. The claims are just plain ridiculous (unless the sample students were from Mensa). But the really unfortunate thing is that these obviously exaggerated claims are probably putting people off using Pimsleur.

I'm up to lesson 50 of the Japanese course - about 15 lessons behind schedule, according to what the maketing boy's claim the 'average' (read Mensa?) student can achieve. Having said that, I am extremely pleased at the ease with which I am picking up the language.

You are right, TDOL. I am still not really able to discuss fine art (or even the weather in any great depth), but I think I will soon be able to say I have reached a solid 'basic' level. I have checked the vocab. and grammar from lesson 90, and I feel it would be, conservatively speaking, lower intermediate.

O.K., the claims are wild, but I'm pretty happy to have been able to reach a good basic level in a little under 3 months.

Some people would undoubtedly learn faster using other techniques, but Pimsleur drums things into your head in such a way that they become fairly automatic.

Despite the fanciful claims of their marketing department, I have no hesitation recommending the Pimsleur system. It may not be for everyone, but it works extremely well for me.

i'm just trying to find out if this method would actually help me learn vietnamese if anyone has had ne succes please EM me>

Wow talk about over-analyzing a language program! I'm at Level 2 of Pimsleur's French course with very rapid progress. Not much caring for what the marketing message says, as the programs were given to me as a gift - and I'd never heard of Pimsleur before that. I would definitely recommend this way of learning to anyone. I am basing the success of this course on the fact that my grandma, who is fluent in French (from France), giggles with glee at the fact that one of her US born grandchildren is actually able to hold a conversation with her.

Good luck to all!

not sure what the marketing people says, but i can say i'm really pleased with how things are with me and the first hebrew course.
actually, i'm amazed ar how quickly i started feeling comfortable with the language.

i gave the spanish course to a friend who's headed for costa rica and she had the very same reaction.

it seems, its all about the time spent getting comfortable, and, of course, how motivated you are.

I am currently using Pimsleur for learning French. I also used it to learn Hebrew. I bought it at a place with a buy back program of $100 which has lessened the final price considerably.

Dr Paul Pimsleur did his main work in the 1960s and has long since passed from the scene. Perhaps for that reason it is extremely difficult to track down any of his own writing on the internet.

The factoids and 'principles' supporting the 'Pimsleur Method', repeated endlessly and uncritically on countless internet sites (even in Wikipedia currently) are pure marketing hype which can no doubt be traced to Simon & Schuster, the publishers of Pimsleur courses.

As language courses, the Pimsleur materials work, and for my money work better than most other commercial courses out there. The content and presentation is controlled without being boring. The learner is constantly prompted in L1 (the speaker's native language) to produce L2. This seems to produce an effective bridge from the known to the unknown; (I think it works far better than the so-called 'direct method' of Berlitz etc : another theology).

The much vaunted 'principle of graduated recall' is certainly not unique, but is nonetheless an important and effective part of the Pimsleur process. The Leitner method uses a similar principle, and controlled recall is to be found in various other guises such as the computer programs, Supermemo, Recall Plus, and others.

Lavish praise probably hasn't been good for Simon & Schuster. They have had too easy a ride. The Korean version of Pimsleur that I am working with at the moment shows more than a hint of American cultural arrogance. The American narrator clearly knows zero about Korean or Korea and manages some awful mispronunciations. Apparently he didn't have an adequate cue sheet. Koreans will also be astonished to learn that, according to Simon & Schuster, their second city, Busan, is "several hours east of Seoul". We are further given the alarming impression that the American dollar is a kind of defacto second currency in South Korea ... and so on.

The other available courses for learning Korean are pretty awful (in my view), so quibbles apart, the Pimsleur course is a big contribution in making this major language accessible to the world.

What we all really need is some serious competition for the Pimsleur courses. There are very, very few commercial courses out there based on any real understanding of how people truly learn languages. Producing genuine materials takes a lot of time, and genuine insight. The publishing companies are in it to make a fast buck, and language has always been a gift for snake oil merchants.

The language teaching field is crowded with a babble of contradictory prejudices, and academic second language acquisition theory isn't much better. Live language teaching itself is a failed profession in countries like America where (immigrant ESL programs apart), by one estimate (James Asher) 95% or more of people who begin to study a foreign language never achieve anything useful.

At least Dr Pimsleur got a handle on a few tricks that actually work. We can only hope that his underlying ideas become more widely applied.

I'm finding Spanish level one very easy and enjoyable. Would recommend(spelling? sorry)to anyone.

I disagree with alot of the critisms in this article towards the programmes but rather i have my own critism.

I think the priority of the publishers is profit and marketing and as a result the learner loses. 15 hours or 45 hours (all 3) is not enough "immersion" or "work" to learn the language.

The way they sell it is false. All 45hours do not teach the core. Infact after completing Spanish 1, 2 and 3 still i noticed 100s of core words left out. The total course only teaches the learner to a very basic level of about 300-400 useful words. I did learn from it but for the price it is expensive and they need to add another 400-500 words to the learning which would mean another 30hours of audio.

I am shocked at how many of these "comments" are pure marketing shmoes. "Insiders" used to boost ratings. If you don't believe me, check out http://hypecouncil.com/, a "plant" advertising organization that hires people to do exactly the above: rave in person about a product for a paycheck.

That said, I have my own gripes about this "wonder system" for learning language. The repetition is as standard as my books. Same old, same old. By the end of the course, the material covered left me with nothing valuable to say at all, and worse, no real method to continue my study and advance the technical areas that are necessary to improvise in the language, the most important part of being able to speak.

And even if one finds the repetition useful, there was nothing in the area of comprehension for spoken language. Casual, daily conversation is so variable and a lack of true structure in the program makes it near impossible to use studied material to guess meanings, understand situations, etc. I have studied 3 foreign languages so far, using a high school text (Spanish), a university immersion program(Mandarin Chinese), and living abroad(Japanese). Most effective method to learn language is:

1) Study basic grammar and vocabulary paired with cultural studies.

2) expand vocab and grammar as necessary.

During 1 and 2: speak and listen to native speakers.

This is simply it. There is no magic in language learning, just hard work.

I believe Jame was talking in general about the comments, rather than meaning yours in particular. He simply said that many seemed to be promotion. In fact, I interpreted it as not referring to your coment, which brought in a different method, but more to those earlier on that talk of buy-backs and so on. He also says 'this method', which would appear to refer to the Pimsleur Method.

I am Japanese, but grew up in the states, so Japanese wasn't my native language. But I take courses, and learn from my parents a little bit at a time, and they bought me the Pimsleurs Japanese course. I believe it works wonders, my Sensei and Sempai saw me improve much faster. I not speak fluent Japanese, and Pimsleurs really helped in that factor. Being able to hear words broken down, and from native speakers makes learning much easier. I didn't actually use only pimsleurs to learn Japanese, I had a class and parents, but I lent it to a friend, and she and I can have small conversations, I am teaching her more at a time, but she said learning the basics was easy, and she felt comfortable with the language pretty fast. It's not going to be easy learning another language, especially alone, but for any language, repitition is the key to learning.

Wow I can't believe all the negative comments here. I also use Pimsleur's for Japanese and I can't believe how good it is. It is SO much better than those stupid courses that are like "Hello... Konnichiha... Hello... Konnichiha." I love how it actually questions you, or tells you to do things. Sure you're not going to learn thousands of words from this, but that isn't the point. What you learn is grammar and how to put sentences and such together. Even if I can ask where is a restaraunt, all I need to do is learn other locations and can easily ask for that. Maybe asking "Do you want to eat?" isn't amazingly useful, but once again, once you know how to say the structure, you can easily learn other words such as dance, walk, sing, etc and you already have the structure down. I'm only on lesson 9 and my Japanese has improved so much. I think this is by far the best way to learn and I've tried a lot of systems.

If I could add to my previous post, the only gripe if any I have, is that there is no written material, and you don't have to speak Japanese back. Sometimes they talk so fast, I have no clue what they said, and just by seeing it on paper, would have made it so much clearer. I find I remember things a lot better by seeing them written down. For example, when talking online to a Japanese friend, I found I knew a lot but couldn't write it because I had no idea how to spell anything at all. The only other thing is I wish the system would instead of just saying "Ask Miss Tanaka if she would like to drink beer" it would say it in Japanese and be like, "What did Miss Tanaka just say?" etc etc.

I purchased Spanish I from Audible.com and so far, I'm very happy. Previously, I tried TalkNow! Spanish for the computer and it was disappointing.

I'm on Lesson 16 and feel pretty good about the teaching technique. I feel like I'm finally on my way to fluent Spanish. The best thing about it is that I listen to it in the car as I'm commuting.

It actually comes at you pretty fast. I'm going to have to repeat the lessons to get a better grasp (I sometimes get distracted by traffic). It doesn't always explain all of the "why" you use particular word forms which is a bit frustrating but I'm starting to get an idea of why from context.

I have a Berlitz paperback to back up some of the academic knowledge. Maybe that will help?

I speak Hungarian and English (obviously) and I took four years of German in HS / college. Overall, I'm very satisfied and excited about the Pimsleur course. I don't work for a marketing company. I don't even like marketing.

I would first like to say that I am not being paid to write this review. I checked out the french, portugese I & II and Spanish I & II from the library. At different times of course. I really like them all.

My method is to convert the files to mp3 and when I have any free time, listen to a new lesson or review an old lesson. YOU REALLY HAVE TO REVIEW some of the lessons because they offer a lot of new info in ony a small amount of time. For me, the car on the way to school is the best way to lock myself into learning mode. I know the program gives guidelines about not using a dictionary or any paper while listening. But...I like to listen to a lesson once or twice then listen a third time and I write out the complete dialog of the thirty minute conversations. Pausing at the repeat prompts and writing out my answer and repeating it aloud. I find that on the harder lessons this really helps later in the when those little nuances of the laguage are needed. Which takes me to something else....

No, Pimsleur is not the perfect answer-all to anyone who wants to learn a language. It does teach you some things that other "AUDIBLE" type, LISTEN AND REPEAT programs don't. Conjugations in particular. And it teaches you them without you knowing that you are learning them. We all had to take a foriegn language at some time or another in school. I know that I can't remember much of anything from my high school spanish classes but perhaps a few numbers and that when you have two R's together you roll your tongue. With Pimsleur you learn when to when to say "yo quiero, tu/el/ela quieres, usted quiere...." To be able to comfortably conjugate verbs and use the proper tense of each or at least most, is VERY important and pimsluer will do that for you witout making you remember a long list of say this when....
you just know it because you learned the correct phrasing of verbs. Just like I know I dont say "YOU IS, He/She be, We is going" when speaking english. I learned that before I went to grammer school. I have listened to other programs and for me pimsleur effortlessly gets me to remember which tense and conjugations to use in particular references to time.

I love to travel, and 2 years ago in japan I did not speak a lick of japanese, I was there alone for 4 days on a extended layover after parting with friends in Thailand. I WAS SOOOOOOO LOST. I promised myself that if I ever travel to another country I will have some knowledge of the language of wherever it is I visit. Pimsleur came through for me with flying colors in brazil last year. I just wish I had been in portuguese II instead of just finishing I. you triple your knowledge from Unit II lesson 1 to Unit II lesson 30

So use it as a stepping stone and build your vocabulary on your own and native speaker will be impressed how fast you are/were able to pick up their really hard language. Some may think that you belong in mensa but you will know the truth.
Dont study hard just keep studying. It will come.

I Suppose I'll follow the trend and mention that I don't work for any advertising ferm.

I'm a 17 year old high school student.

My mom bought me the Pimsleur Jap. 1 10 disc set from Barnes & Noble, and after finishing it I realized that I would need to either buy (or preferrably download for free, which I'm doing now) because it was so effective.

I'd never attempted to learn Japanese before Pimsleur came into my life and I'm so surprised and the speed I'm learning it. After taking 10 years of spanish in school, 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week I feel as though within 2 months of using Pimsleurs program I'll have surpassed my spanish knowledge.

I wouldn't have posted, but felt I needed to due to the negativity of this authors original post.

English is my mother tongue. I learned German, French, and Italian in school growing up. I picked up some Spanish during my travels in Mexico. I bought a Berlitz book on Russian about 30 years ago and slogged through it, but never had anybody to practice on, so I forgot most of it, except how to read Cyrillic.

I decided to pick up a Pimsleur course a week ago and give it a try again. I loaded it up in the CD player in my car, and have been listening to it on my daily commute.

I've gotta say, it works very well. I was breezing through the lessons, learning the vocabulary and grammar quite easily. I was also shocked to discover that the Berlitz book from 30 years ago horribly mispronounced nearly every Russian word. I don't know if that means Russian pronunciation has changed in 30 years, or if the Berlitz course writers were just all wet.

One thing a Berlitz written course has that this Pimsleur course lacks is a virual reinforcement of the vocabulary. Maybe the more extensive Pimsleur courses also include that.

I say anyone bashing Pimsleur needs to get a life and recognize that, no matter the hype, anything that helps people learn another language easily, is a good thing. Thus far, I have not seen any suggestions of courses that are better than Pimsleur.

I think we can safely say that Lee is not telling us the full truth, or is accidentally exposing the weaknesses of the system. He boasts about how much progress he is making in Japanese, but gets the word 'hello' wrong, twice. He is either someone trying to indulge in some promotion for the method as Jame Stall suggests or his learning is nothing like as good as he claims.

Lee, next time you post about how much progress you're making in Japanese, try using 'konnichiwa'. That way you'd be more plausible.

Er, "konnichiwa", in Japanese the word for Hello is actually spelt KonnichiHA, not konnichiwa. I'm thinking back a couple of years ago, though, and even I think that what I've just said is suspect :-P, but I'm fairly certain it's spelt differently when written.

To Mr. Konnichiwa

You make me laugh, trying to make a post that makes me look like I don't know what I'm saying, when you're the one that's mistaken. Hello in Japanese is pronounced KonnichiWA but as you would know if you actually studied japanese, WA is never written as such, but is always HA and therefore KonnichiHA. Before making foolish assumptions, make sure you know what you're talking about first.

I'm not a Japanese speaker, but I think I can see what might be the basics of the problem here. In your original post, Lee, you did appear to quote from spoken text, with the use of quotation marks, which might have led them to think you were talking about spoken language, not written language, though the point could have been put more delicately.

I have not used Pimsleur as I have a reasonable academic standard and fluency in French, but with my encouragement a friend has tried over the years to 'get stuck in' to French with little success. He tried Pimsleur two years ago (walking a dog is an ideal opportunity) and found that his basic skills improved so much that he was able to study French seriously with the OU. It is no substitute for proper study, but I think if one expects only to 'jump-start' one's language learning, then Pimsleur fits the bill.

A very good thing that taught me my german teacher (God, she rocks) is that everybody should write their own language grammar-course-book. People are by nature dorn to learn from other's example - that's how you learned your native language. Your mom/dad/tutor dind't actually taught you grammar and stuff. You learned it at school. Now, if you (like me) are learning Medicine or maths or something else than languages, and someone will give you an exercise with something like ... put in the reflexive pronoun when necesary... O_0... What the heck???!!! But, if there will be an example, you'll say...."Aaaa... that's how it is"... and put them where they're needed. When your teacher would tell you to write why it's so and why it's not something else, you'll make again O_0... "Don't know, it's just right..." CUZ IT'S YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE!!! Most languages (german - that I learn now) have honestly NO LOGICAL explanation of why it's so... There are rules... but the number of exceptions is leaps ahead. Now what's the magic - automatism. Your brain must put this into the subconcious like in your native language. And you can learn this by lessons, graphs... And this way you'll know both theory and practical use. But most of us don't need it unless they want to be teachers. Most of us need just the subconcious thing - FAST. You learn it by listening, watching TV, conversations, AUDIO. I doubt most of you could write a they're 5 years. That's where this stuff comes in. When you can understand and talk in a language fluently - take some real courses and you'll learn writing, spelling in no time. Cuz you already know it but can't write it. That's how I learned english - Cartoon network & courses :). So stop complaining that Pimsleur does not work... There are just people how learn slower... PRACTICE... And if you still don't know how to talk fluently - trust me, you won't even by taking courses. All words you can learn only by LIVING there. No program will teach you everything.

I've just finished the Korean courses I and II lessons 1-30.

They worked well. I did each one three times - so about 40 hours work. I'm confident with the material but I'd still consider my Korean to be at an early Beginner stage.

Language learning just takes huge amounts of time. The good thing with Pimsleur is I could listen in the car. Otherwise this would be an hour wasted a day just driving.

About the original article... well of course the marketing is going to over-do it, just like every language-learning program. Yes they do sell it like snake-oil. But I don't regret my $$ spent on Pimsleur Korean, and it's given me a very nice grounding to move onto a harder course.

The good thing about a self-teaching method is that it can be used every day. I teach ESL; but my classes are twice a week; an hour and a half for each lesson. I can't explain here everything I do; but all I know is it is working! Some people respond well to listening (I have them listen before they read); some need to see the written text. Repetition does work!! I do a lot of substitution drills - and they work! Certainly, if I taught every day, there would be faster progress.

I took 4 years of high school Spanish and can't do much with it. I can understand what others are saying but can't speak back. I just have a problem formulating anything due to never speaking in the classroom. My reading and writing skills are ok, just nothing great. Going into college I barely missed the requirements to pass out of my foreign language requirements. I didn't want to pursue Spanish, so I decided to go with German and start from scratch. Well I ended up having two teachers, one was amazing and the other one... well not so amazing. After taking these two classes I still felt like I had almost no real ability to speak the language. I just didn't get enough practice with speaking the language. Writing and reading are fine, but speaking and hearing are completely different. I've recently started to take Pimsleur's German and I'm already amazed at how easy it is to pick up. I would feel pretty comfortable in a conversation now. I know my pronunciation has really improved. I used to always be kind of timid to speak in class due to fear of miss pronouncing certain words, but I feel like German class will be much easier this fall largely due to these courses. I am studying grammar on my own though as it's a whole different ball game.

I studied languages for years in high school and in college. I GUARANTEE I can pick up a language far, far more quickly using the Pimleur CD's. I travel around the world for extended stays (at least a month)twice a year. I work very diligently with the CD's, repeating a lesson in the morning, while driving to work, on work breaks, on the drive home, once when I get home, and I listen to a new lesson late at night. Three to four times per lesson, sometimes more if a lesson is causing me difficulty. The progress is rapid. No class could advance me like Pimsleur does. Give me 90 days, a portable CD player, and two sets of rechargeable batteries and I will be speaking well enough to get around in any country in the world.

I have a whole shelf full of other methods, but none of them even comes close. With Pimsleur I don't have to memorize anything. I am given a context and basically just repeat back until my responses are smooth. Somehow the stuff just sticks in my brain and I "get" it. I have used it for Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, Russian, and am now rapidly advancing in Thai.

Don't get me wrong. I work very hard at the lessons. But they are very easy and very convenient. And I always get comments from native speakers about how good my pronuciation is. And when you get to another place far from home, people sense the respect you have given their language and their culture and will respond accordingly. There is no way to get off the beaten tourist path better than being able to speak to an average person you meet.

Can I have political discussions with people using Pimsleur? Not a chance. Can we discuss religion? Hardly. But I can break the ice and have innumerable memories of being invited to go someplace by people who spoke no English and finding out things about cultures that no book can properly teach.

Many people in this thread talk about the theory of languages and learning, and proof or lack thereof, but I KNOW this works firsthand. I have started languages FROM SCRATCH and was having real, life-enhancing conversations with people 90 days later. I work hard at it, but it has always been 20,000% worth the effort.

I have a life, yet I will dare to bash Pimsleur. English is my mother tongue. I live in Korea with my Korean wife. She falls about laughing when she hears the useless, antiquated, and rigidly formal expressions of the Pimsleur Korean course. The methodology may work, but nobody will understand what you are saying!

I used the pimsleur Japanese up to level 2 and learned quite a few useful phrases for traveling in Japan. I am currently almost through the level 2 Spanish now, and it really gave me a good basis for learning. I am able to say a lot now. I will start level 3 next week. If you have an hour commute back and forth, you can reasonably expect to learn 5 lessons a week, with 80% or better recall. Although, pimsleur is an excellent tool to get you started, you're going to have to study grammar and vocabulary etc after you finish. I do recommend the pimsleur to anyone who can afford it though. Especially if you can find a way to secure it for free... like the library. Check out the torrents also. I listen to each lesson twice usually, on my way to and from work on the subway. People probably think I am strange whispering in Spanish... Since I live and work in Korea as an ESL teacher at an elementary school, I guess I should be studying Korean... but I have reached a level of basic fluency and just can't seem to get interested in going beyond it. Oh, and what that guy said about the Korean pimsleur was right on the money. They use a very old style of formal "Chon Dae Mal" or honorific speech. I don't think it would be useful. If you want to learn Korean, try the teen korean website on the internet. Anyone can use it, and it's meant for overseas Koreans, who want to learn Korean. You also have to remember that when speaking a language like Korean, which doesn't have a lot of dialects, you have to speak very clearly to be understood. It's not like English where you can have any number of accents and still be understood all over the world. I hope this helps someone.

I've finished the Japanese course in Pimsleur and honestly found it addictive. It took me an average of three listens per lesson to be sure I'd really got each one, and I kept going back to review lessons I'd done months before because I'd forget so much.

I think it definitely needs a written component. I found someone on the internet who'd provided a summary of each lesson for the first 25 or so and that was a huge help. After that I wrote it down myself. The course tells you not to do this, but I suspect for many people it's the way to go.

I defnitely feel the 90 lessons aren't enough though and would have loved more. Also perhaps a couple of revision lessons that combine everything you've learned so far. Now I've nowhere to go to learn more and I'm thinking of doing French. I'd be interested to know how difficult it is to remember the first language when you're learning a new one.

So Pimsleur - For ME = very good but limited.

About two months ago I had no idea that I could learn a language without writing sentences or reading lots of grammar books. Now, I can say that just by listening the CD's I have acquired a vocabulary of more than 2000 words in french. Of course, it does not mean that I can speak the language comfortably, but I have an idea of what native speakers say on the train or on the bus. I can say that the course has helped me to feel confident with the language. So much, that now it is just a matter of time for me to master french.


I have used Pimsleur for French, German & Spanish, the full 90 lessons for each.

The Pimsleur method works, and is ideally suited to those on a daily commute. It is especially effective at reducing the need to "translate in one's head", the parrot-like repetition ensuring that the recall core phrases is indeed fluent.

Of course the claims about "conversational fluency" or "upper intermediate" etc are total bunk - the basics are learned well, but it is only to beginner level.

The drawbacks to Pimsleur are:
1. Immensely over-priced
2. Very boring after 90 lessons
3. Inadequate core vocabulary (all the courses cover tennis & chocolate cake quite well). This is a serious shortcoming
4. Lack of parallel learning,
5. Useless "reading" booklet
6. No advice on general language learning or knowing how to continue learning
7. The Level 4 courses (for German & Spanish) are a total waste of time & money

Having said that, I'd still recommend Pimsleur, if only to train the brain not to conciously translate.


Hello Jame,

I am interested in learning Spanish. I will be spending some time in Panama this coming year and would like to be able to communicate with my spouse’s family, amongst other personal reasons.
Do you suggest a course of study, books, programs, etc…?

Thanks for your time.

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