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Personal Review of the Best Language Learning System Ever: Pimsleur

Updated on December 14, 2016
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© 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.

Problem

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

System

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

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.

Issues

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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