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Personal Review of the Best Language Learning System Ever: Pimsleur

Updated on December 14, 2016

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

Knowing the language of places you visit opens doors unavailable to tourists. You can frequent restaurants only locales visit, take advantage of discounts not posted in English and chat with locals who will find your knowledge amusing and admirable. My partner and I have used the Pimsleur audio series to learn Italian, Japanese, French and Spanish. While we can’t discuss politics, science and literature in those languages, we can mingle abroad with those who speak those tongues. So we regard it as the best learning system.


College classes, Berlitz books and Rosetta Stone software are all worthy methods of learning a foreign language. But they require setting aside a chunk of time that no one can spare from busy schedules. Though engaging such methods proclaims our good


The Pimsleur system prevents the problem by not requiring a sacrifice of time. You use it while you’re commuting or performing some other regular activity such as exercising or gardening. Because that activity is already a necessary part of your day, listening to Pimsleur audio becomes an automatic part of the routine. You’re more likely to complete the series and learn the language.

Most languages contain up to three levels, with popular languages like Spanish or French having up to four. Each level consisting of 30 30-minute lessons. Depending on whether you buy the CDs or download the MP3s, you also get a booklet of supplementary lessons and reading practice. These are not cheap indulgences, with each level costing about $345 in CD form and $120 as MP3s. You can try an introductory lesson on the website. You can also buy introductory programs that you can trade in for the full level or purchase increments of five lessons at far cheaper prices.


Lessons start off with a short dialogue, and then continue with lectures that contain silences where you can repeat what you just heard. Complex multi-syllable phrases are explained syllable-by-syllable going from the last one to the first. This ensures that you’re always trying out and working toward a sound you’ve already heard. You only learn a few new words or phrases at a time. Each lesson builds on the previous one. You can continue the lesson if you’ve mastered about 80 percent of the concepts. You are the only judge of this success.

Pimsleur emphasizes conversation, so you only learn words and conjugations you’re likely to hear in ordinary speech. Reading practice is only supplied for tongues that use the Latin alphabet such as Spanish or Italian. For languages that use their own writing forms, you need to go outside Pimsleur for lessons.


The dialogs and lessons are not written down, and there’s no index of phrases of words. If you want a review of a particular sentence or can’t remember how to say a certain words, you don’t know which lesson to consult for information. We typically end up buying a dictionary and a phrasebook of the language we’re learning. If you’re constrained by budgets, the Internet contains a ton of language learning resources.

Bottom Line

Pimsleur has made learning a language an enjoyable part of our foreign travels. We like to allow four-to-six weeks per level, or up to six months before departure if we engage all three or four levels. This extends our anticipation of the journey by that much time. As someone who has tried many types of systems, I highly recommend Pimsleur.


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    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      9 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Aurelio, though I have heard of this system of learning languages, getting a first hand review from someone who has used it is very satisfying. I might go for it as I need to learn Mandarin Chinese before my visit to China in some months from now.

      glad I cam by this hub and thanks for sharing.

      Voted up & useful.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have heard of Pimsleur but have never tried it. It is wonderful to be able to speak at least a few sentences in a foreign language when traveling to countries with languages other than our own. Even though I probably murdered the Spanish language, people in Spain seemed pleased that I was at least trying to use it and communicate when we were on our trip there many years ago. Up and useful votes.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love Pimsleur, although the costs are pretty high. However the results are better than most alternatives. Rosetta Stone is kinda OK for early stuff, but pretty quickly gets out of control even for someone who can learn languages fairly well.

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L Cronkite 

      9 years ago from Maine

      Very nice, this is not as pricey as Rosetta Stone and seems to cover all the basics of learning a new language. Thank you for this hub, I never heard of Pimsleur before. I think I'll give it a try!

    • vox vocis profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm very happy to have learned about this language learning program. I'll do some more research on it and save this hub for future reference. Voted up and useful :)

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks denkmusket for providing your own experiences. Sounds like you need to write a hub about Pimsleur Hebrew. When learning Pimsleur Japanese, I've had to seek outside sources to learn the writing. It definitely helped me speak the language, but was useless for reading.

    • denkmuskel profile image

      Michael Schmitz 

      9 years ago from Berlin

      I have tried the Pimsleur Hebrew I by just listening on my bikeride to work for 20mins every morning. As I am not in a hurry, I have taken 8 month already and must admit that I actually seem to have learned something incentively as my focus is mainly on the traffic. But without reading the script that comes with the course I had some difficulties with the endings. It is impossible for me to hear the difference between -in and -im unless you know that one could be the female plurar and the other the male one.

      Another disadvantage that I had to accept due to the lack of alternatives is that it uses translation. This is the opposite of immersion and slows down the learning process. Of course it's importants to know what a foreign word means and the fastest way is translating it but for repetition and practise, the native language should be banned. This is not possible with Pimsleur.


      Main advantages are:

      -flexibilty [can be listened to while commuting or doing housework]

      -they are teaching useful language for everyday's use

      -they come with reading exercise


      Main disadvantages are:

      -the use of English translation

      -no transcription of the dialogues

      -teaches only basic skills


      If you are learning German, I would rather recommend the Assimil courses as they enable you to cover the translation for repetition and as they are translating interesting bits word per word making new structures visible and remark-able.

    • hoteltravel profile image


      9 years ago from Thailand

      Am hearing about Pimsleur for the first time. Will try their sample lessons for Spanish. Thanks for the information. Voting up and useful!

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      That is great to hear. I wish more Americans who move abroad would take the time to learn the local language.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      9 years ago from Peru, South America

      You're so right about the Pimsleur method. Our neighbors who moved to Peru six months ago are progressing quickly with their Spanish, thanks to this course.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I just wish they weren't so expensive, although buying them in pieces helps with the cost.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett C 

      9 years ago from Asia

      An honest review of the course, thanks for sharing. I had a look and noticed that they have Thai, so I might give it a try. You are bang on about language opening up doors, if you travel a country and even only speak a little of the language, the entire experience changes!

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I haven't tried the Chinese version of Pimsleur, but I would find it difficult to learn all the tones from just an audio program, even one as good as this. At least initially, my feeling is you need to get a human teacher, if you're unfamiliar with tonal languages.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      9 years ago

      Never heard of this program. I would love to learn Chinese some day and this looks like a good option since I could listen while traveling. Thanks for highlighting the pros and cons for us.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I honest don't know, Michele. Try the sample lesson out on the web page. If you can download it to some device that you can play while commuting, that would be the ideal test. Then see how it works for you. The nice thing about Pimsleur is there's not time limit. You can take as long as you want. But it's most effective if you do it consistently. Please let me know how it goes.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      9 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      I have heard that this is the best. I would like to learn French, but have memory problems because of the epilesy. Could this still help?

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image


      9 years ago

      I certainly never heard of this before but I glad I did just now. Great Hub, Keep up the great work. Voted Up, Useful, Awesome, and Interesting :)

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Let me know how it works out, JSMatthew.

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I have never hear of this before. As a lover of languages I will check this out further! Nice job. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and Bookmarking for reference.



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