Have you ever put off studying a language because it seemed too hard? If so, Simon & Schuster’s Pimsleur audio-based language-learning program may be an option for you.
But, how good is the Pimsleur method, and does it actually work?
Can it really help you learn a language and improve your speaking and listening skills, as it claims? What are the features, language choices, benefits, and drawbacks? Is it worth the cost?
That’s what this comprehensive article is all about. So, let’s jump into my unbiased Pimsleur review.
The task of acquiring a new language is always a challenge. Yet, it is much-needed knowledge that everyone must take up at least once in their lifetime.
It’s fascinating and provides a fresh perspective on your thinking and philosophy by opening a new window into another world.
Learning a language is also said to increase memory, improve cognitive thinking, and, most importantly, communication abilities. It can positively impact others since people see you as more intelligent and engaging.
But saying from experience, the road to perfecting a new language is never easy. Especially if you are studying it by yourself.
You will be confused about correct usage, new terms, grammar rules, and pronunciation. You may also lack the motivation and compelling reason to practice regularly since no one will push you.
Even speaking is one of the best ways to correct mistakes and learn the language better. You would be terrified of making errors that would make you look unaware.
Since it is a widespread problem, the internet has seen the development of multiple software, apps, and tools. These can help with translations, grammar, sentences, vocabulary, etc. One such option is Pimsleur.
Table of Contents
- What is Pimsleur?
- How does the Pimsleur method actually work?
- Primary features
- Pros & Cons of Pimsleur
- 4 Advantages
- 4 Disadvantages
- How much does Pimsleur cost?
- My Pimsleur Review: Good — 4/5
What is Pimsleur?
Dr. Paul Pimsleur developed Pimsleur language programs and is currently owned by the American publishing company Simon & Schuster. It has been on the market in different versions since 1963.
Pimsleur is an online audio-based program for language learning. Users can access it via a website or an app and other alternate versions.
It will teach you to speak the language in an innovative manner that will help you learn and not just memorize the tongue. You will start speaking your target language right away the moment you start.
How does the Pimsleur method actually work?
A significant part of the content on Pimsleur is audio-based. Still, each session also includes brief reading, pronunciation activities, games, and flashcards to help you gain new vocabulary.
They broke the audio material down into 30-minute sessions, with Pimsleur recommending that you finish one lesson each day.
First, they give you a sentence in a foreign language to listen to. Then you are being asked to repeat it. You’ll then be required to recall the sentence and speak the phrases aloud at specific intervals.
The intervals begin with a low duration and gradually increase. Plus, lessons would become faster and more difficult as you move ahead.
The Pimsleur lessons use conversation and context to teach grammar and vocabulary instead of making it standalone. Thus, textbook material such as lists or tables is not part of the study module.
It is similar to listening to a cassette or audio recording to learn any language. It will not take long for people who have been studying languages in a text-based classroom to understand its functioning.
These are to respond aloud during the lesson, not divert attention by looking up meanings or taking notes. Make sure you complete only one per day. Then, if you are unsure or lack confidence, you can repeat it.
Pimsleur uses interaction and conversation as its primary mode of teaching. So it’s set up to speak and discuss, filling in words and reacting to prompts.
An English-speaking narrator guides the session, pointing out critical context and information you would otherwise miss.
The whole curriculum familiarizes you with vocabulary, day-to-day expressions, and sentences without requiring you to memorize or study.
What makes it a unique approach?
The application uses the same method, i.e., the Pimsleur method. The technique forces you to recollect and engage in real-life situations and conversations like a native speaker.
Instead of playing a word to help you remember it, the audio series will ask you how to express something or answer a native speaker. The best part of this process is that it prevents you from being a passive listener.
You’re fully engaged in what you’re hearing. The English-speaking guide keeps you on your toes by answering at regular intervals.
This active remembering technique effectively encourages you to recall. And use the language in situations where you would have to do so frequently in real-life scenarios.
The application or audio promises to make language learning smooth and easy. Plus, it provides a few basic rules for students to follow.
It is based on the founder’s principle that it was the best way to learn a language. It is about listening to the conversation and the nuances of exchange, such as tones, usages, sounds, and more.
The working of the course is heavily based on memory and repetition, also called the spaced repetition method. The information you get moves from a short-term to a long time to finally in your permanent memory.
The available languages
No matter which language you wish to learn, you will most likely find it. It has tutorials in many languages and keeps adding new ones.
Starting from Arabic to Vietnamese, it can help with learning over 50 different languages.
Pimsleur has almost all the popular languages, like French, Spanish, Japanese, Hindi, German, Italian, Russian, Korean, and Mandarin, to name a few. You can also study any famous Scandinavian languages.
Want to learn a specific Arabic, Armenian, German, Portuguese, and Spanish dialect? You are in luck.
It is also available in many indigenous, endangered, and less-known languages, like Albanian, Ojibwe, Twi, Tagalog, Haitian Creole, Lithuanian, etc.
Besides foreign languages for English speakers, it also provides lessons for learning English from 14 other languages.
These 14 languages include Arabic, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hindi, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Haitian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, and Vietnamese. This is part of ESL (English as a second language).
What are the levels?
The number of levels varies depending on the language. But, in most cases, there are 5 premium levels.
A level of a particular Pimsleur language comprises 30 lessons, each of which is 30 minutes. So that means there are 150 parts in 75 hours of study.
There are also review options. It comprises digital flashcards, quick match quizzes, bulb moments, speak-easy, speed rounds, conversations, skill categories, and bonus packs.
These activities allow you to learn, practice, brush up, and review.
It is available in different versions, such as a mobile application, website portal, MP3s, CDs, public libraries, or audiobooks.
You can select any of these options based on your convenience. However, it depends on the language, your budget, and the location for shipment.
The listen-and-repeat and call-and-response patterns used in the lessons and the sections force you to think about what you say. This means you’re not just reciting what others have said or heard but also assuming a native speaker would.
When a tricky new term is introduced in the lesson, the guide breaks it down into one syllable. Combining this aspect with the vocabulary list from the fast-reading lesson can help.
These reading lessons are simple and usually have new words. You can recognize them by sight. Yet, these could be a great way to induce them into your long-term memory.
You would probably spend a lot of effort in the initial classes as you break sentences and words down into sounds.
But, through the program, Pimsleur takes you to step by step through the pronunciations and sound. It ensures that you grasp the fundamentals of speaking the language.
The expectations are unmistakable. Other language programs don’t give a schedule, so you’re on your own and select how much time to devote.
The material provided by Pimsleur is of top quality, without a doubt. It is a study method to explore if your low interaction levels are acceptable.
You will find Pimsleur’s method and approach to learning quite impressive. For example, it opens each lesson by playing a dialogue, promising that you will comprehend it at the end of the class.
This makes it a great way to ensure that your pace is maintained and that you are learning effectively. Besides, your confidence level will increase as you move ahead.
Pros & Cons of Pimsleur
Like any other language learning platform, Pimsleur has its own benefits and disadvantages.
Some of these could be very subjective, as it depends on how you use it and your goal.
For example, the primary goal of Pimsleur is to assist you in knowing conversation skills and enhance speaking and listening.
This might be favorable for those who need to speak at an elementary level before going on a vacation. Or just learning as a hobby.
Possibly for someone good at writing and reading but lacking in the speaking section. Instead of searching for a teacher or native speaker, they can use Pimsleur.
To know whether it will be helpful, let’s check on the positive and negative aspects of Pimsleur.
Here are 4 apparent benefits associated with Pimsleur.
1. Effective Spaced Repetition Method
Given their unique approach to learning a language, you are more likely to retain the information and vocabulary you have already learned.
The repetition and recollection ensure that your brain registers the language in a complete sense and makes it a long-term memory.
They also incorporated the older studies into the newer lessons as the course progressed. Plus, you can always repeat the audio lessons to revisit and re-learn specific parts of the language.
2. Practical learning approach
The application places reliance on everyday and basic conversation. This makes it very simple to understand the basic grammar required for day-to-day use.
The contextualized learning that the guide provides makes it beneficial to learn the actual usages and tones that native speakers would use in their day-to-day conversations.
You will understand the context and where and when to use different versions of the same word. And also how to use a word differently in other discussions.
3. There are many languages to choose from
Most top-rated language learning apps are limited to a few languages. This is where Pimsleur shines.
It offers 64 languages. This includes 50 options for English speakers and 14 for those whose native or first language is not English.
In fact, you can study multiple languages simultaneously. There are no restrictions at all. Just pick the language of your preference and start practicing.
4. Easily Accessible anytime and anywhere
You can use Pimsleur in your comfort, whether you’re a homemaker, a student, or a working professional.
There is no need to travel far and wide for traditional offline classes, nor are you obliged to maintain a fixed schedule.
There is no set schedule, so you can choose when and where to study. It’s easy to jump into the next lesson or go back to any previous one for review.
The lessons are well-structured, and the duration is appropriate for learners. It is straightforward to navigate and visually appealing.
You just need a mobile or laptop, and internet access, which most people have these days. In fact, there is also an option to use in the offline mode.
Unlike other language platforms, when you need to look, read and respond constantly, you can use Pimsleur on the move.
For instance, you can listen and practice your chosen language while walking, doing exercise in a gym, and jogging. Also, you can study while commuting or traveling, or just relax in your bed. Isn’t that awesome?
Despite some clear advantages linked with Pimsleur Language Programs, they still come with many difficulties that you should keep in mind before plunging deeper into them.
Here are 4 drawbacks.
1. It focuses only on speaking and listening
It is important to note that the courses are more focused on learning how to speak the language rather than the language itself or how it is written. There is some extra writing and reading, but that is pretty limited.
Although Pimsleur develops your practical grammar skills, it doesn’t teach you how to use and apply actual grammar rules.
While this can be great, learning a language as a standalone would not suffice for many learners.
For instance, what if you intend to take one of the language tests like HSK, TEF Canada, SIELE, JLPT, CILS, and TOPIK? You would need courses covering written and reading content to prepare for these exams.
If you’re a visual-spatial learner, imagining what you’re learning may always be more beneficial. What if you’re the person who remembers things better when they’re seen?
Because Pimsleur is exclusively audio-based, whether it is appropriate for someone who learns visually could be a shortcoming for this application.
- The old audio, being old, has not quite adapted to the changing trends of technology. As a result, the user interface could be challenging to maneuver.
- The pace and method of learning are acceptable for an average learner. Still, it might be slow for those looking to pick up some quick vocabulary sufficient for a visit or vacation.
2. It is often boring and repetitive
Pimsleur definitely works and serves the purpose of what they initially developed it for. However, learning with Pimsleur will become dull and pretty duplicative at the initial level and after listening to them many times.
Other language platforms allow you to review faster since you don’t need to wait for the audio to start if you already know the answer. Instead, you can just click to give yourself a grade and then go to the next question.
But, with Pimsleur, you spend a lot of time waiting for questions. There are small pauses all the time when one has to reply. Plus, there are plenty of repetitive questions, which you may know pretty well.
This may be good for some, but it will look unreasonable and tiresome if you have a good grasp of it.
3. Pimsleur is quite expensive
Compared with other language learning tools, the cost is pretty high for an average learner.
The price ranges from around $20 to over $500, depending on the variant, number of studies, and duration. Your language choice and location also affect the cost, making pricing more complex.
The price of CDs differs, and they are the most expensive ones.
For example, level 1 French on CD—which contains the same 30 lessons that you get as the subscription and the MP3s—costs $345.
While the subscription plan is affordable, it is unclear which countries have access to this option. Also, the pricing is for all languages and does not come down for those who wish to try only 1.
You can always try their 7-day trial to test the waters before fully committing.
4. Not meant for Advanced learners
Pimsleur is suitable for those who need elementary and intermediate level conversation skills. It is designed to focus mainly on those groups of learners. However, it leaves much to be desired for advanced learners.
It has tons of interactive lessons for various levels. Still, it lacks enough lessons for learners who already know or have the experience at a certain level.
This may be enough for those who aim to have conversational or survival language skills. But unfortunately, you’re not likely to achieve meaningful fluency.
As a result, they may not feel challenged by the number of vocabulary and expressions over hundreds of hours. This isn’t significant. Using English is also much higher than most language learning approaches.
How much does Pimsleur cost?
Depending on the duration, variation, and version, the prices differ. For example, you could buy a specific level for a lifetime or the entire language for 1 month or year based on your convenience.
The first plan is the Pimsleur audio-only lifetime purchase.
You can buy 1 level of a language that contains 30 lessons for $119.90 and 5 tracks for $21.95.
The entire language set with 5 levels and 150 lessons costs $550.00, and the monthly is USD 14.95. It is available on the mobile, web-based app, and physical CD format (the USA-only).
The premium plan is the second plan that comprises audio lessons and some extra interactive tools. It helps you review, covers some reading and writing, and tracks your progress on mobile and web-based apps.
You can buy 1 level of any language that contains 30 lessons for the US $150 for lifetime use. The complete 5 levels set costs $575.00 for the online or mobile app version. The monthly is USD 19.95.
As a reasonable alternate, you could also take up the lessons on a subscription basis.
The All Acess subscription is $20.95/month, and you can access all 51 languages. You can install it on as many devices as you wish and share it with 3 family members.
If this seems too high — a price for something you are not entirely convinced about — you can also take up the 7-day free trial.
The free trial is available for audio-Only. During the 7-day trial period, you can try as many lessons and features as possible. Also, you will not be charged during the trial.
But remember to cancel the subscription before the end of the trial if you wish to discontinue. The company set the subscriptions to auto-renew at the end of the free trial. So if you forget to cancel, the billing cycle will start.
Is it worth the price and time?
For a program created almost fifty years ago, when technology and access to information were not as developed, Pimsleur sure stood the test of time. It is still one of the most popular ways to learn a new language.
It has proved its worth against the new competitors with a definitive advantage in technology and marketing.
This is because of its unique and time-tested approach to learning a new language that still keeps its place. It slowly adapts to modern technology and competition and regains the top position.
Pimsleur has undoubtedly gained the trust of its customers and reputation in the market with its innovative and effective way of teaching.
Once purchased, you can reuse the course content many times to perfect the language and revisit any part you wish to revise. This constantly spaced repetition technique helps you make leaps and bounds of improvement in your skills.
Suppose you are someone that likes to learn to use audio aids. In that case, this application is definitely worth your time and price investment.
You can run it in the background while you go on a walk. And still effectively use the learning resources.
As long as you can pay attention to the audio playing, you do not need to physically sit down with the device you are playing it on.
It seems to be a little on the expensive side. Still, there is always an alternative to taking up the subscription instead of the entire package.
Given the number of benefits and positives the application offers, it is worth the free trial. But, who knows, you might like it enough to sign up for the complete subscription at the end of the demo if it suits your learning pattern.
Besides the few negatives discussed, Pimsleur is entirely worth the price in terms of pedagogy, content, and studying at the best speed suited for you.
My Pimsleur Review: Good — 4/5
Pimsleur is the most familiar and straightforward audio-based language learning. It is an effective and beneficial way to learn how to speak and understand a new language.
There are many hits and misses, like there wouldn’t be enough explanation if you were stuck on any part. Yet, despite various negative aspects, the benefits far outweigh its flaws.
I hope this Pimsleur review was valuable for you to help you make the right decision. Overall, my experience with Pimsleur was good.
If you’re still on the fence, you can check it. At least there is no harm in trying it. I believe it is totally worth the time, though the price is on the higher side.
But don’t expect to achieve any notable fluency with Pimsleur by listening to it 30 minutes a day with audio lessons. You need more learning activities to take your language journey to the next level.
Here is my rating.
Despite flaws like lack of written content and high price, it offers a unique way to learn a language practically and effectively. Considering all, I found Pimsleur’s approach a great way to improve one’s conversation skills like speaking and listening. Thus, I give a rating of 4.0/5, i.e., “Good.”
If you have any questions about my Pimsleur review or want to share your experience, write in the comments below!