- Focus on speaking and pronunciation
- Cultural context
- Easy to use
- Lessons can be taken offline
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Lack of grammar exercises
- No voice recognition
- Absence of a placement test
Pimsleur was one of the first self-instructional language learning courses to hit the market. Back in 1963, Dr. Paul Pimsleur released his very first reel-to-reel tape with a Modern Greek course. Nowadays, Pimsleur offers programs for more than 50 languages. Though the time of reel-to-reel tapes is long gone, there is one thing that Pimsleur maintained: the Pimsleur method. By combining graduated interval recall, the principle of anticipation, core vocabulary, and organic learning, Pimsleur helps people speak a language in no time. It's possible to get the various learning language courses by purchasing each level of the program, or by subscribing to a monthly billing cycle that provides full access. Either way, unless you get the CD version it's possible to use the software both on desktop and mobile, or to download the lessons in MP3 format for offline use.
Pimsleur has a portfolio of over 50 languages, offering both popular and less common language courses. Since it's audio-based, Pimsleur focuses on listening and speaking. Some extra exercises do help with reading and writing, but overall the program lacks the depth found in its competitors. For instance, grammar is entirely out of the picture.
Learning Through the Pimsleur Method
The Pimsleur Method is the base for all Pimsleur courses. It integrates organic learning and reminds students of new words at gradually increasing intervals. By doing this, learned pieces of vocabulary move from short-term to long-term or permanent memory.
Next, it uses the principle of anticipation. This principle maintains that our brains are hard-wired to process speech and anticipate a correct response automatically. Pimsleur asks you to understand a specific phrase, pauses so you can respond, then reinforces the right answer. This system is proven to accelerate learning and increase understanding.
While engaged in this process, Pimsleur throws in core vocabulary. Contrary to other learning language software, it deliberately limits the number of new words you learn to give you time to internalize each item before increasing the difficulty.
Programs That Seem Targeted to Businessmen
Pimsleur is not perfect. Back in the day, the courses were designed for businessmen, as they were the people who traveled the most. Obviously this is no longer true, and if you’re in your early twenties or younger, you may find that you won't use some of the phrases you're learning. Furthermore, the use of a more formal type of speech in the early stages is prevalent in all the programs. While this might make sense in a business setting, it's less applicable when you’re traveling for leisure. Nevertheless, the system works, and by the end of it, you'll be able to speak at an intermediate level.
Premium users have access to interactive games to further improve their language learning. However, most games are not as exciting as we would expect.
Of the four games, only two have actual added value. Speak Easy shows real conversations you can listen to and repeat using the content learned so far. The second one – Speed Round – is a game where English words move down the screen, and you need to click on the correct translations before they get to the bottom. It's perfect for simulating the pressure experienced in real conversations.
Pimsleur courses are extremely structured, and users are supposed to follow each class in the way the software tells them to. Unfortunately, there is no placement test, so people who already know the basics should speak with customer service to steer them to the correct level. Bear in mind that programs depend heavily on the language taught. Popular languages such as Japanese or Spanish will have five different levels in total, whereas less common ones may have only a single level. However, there are perks to having each program built by taking the individual language into account. Every level has a cultural context and will teach what is most important for that country's culture.
On average, each level has 30 lessons with a duration of 30 minutes each. In other words, if you follow Pimsleur religiously and do one lesson a day, it will take you around five months to complete everything. Though you might want to do more classes per day to speed the process, this is inadvisable. The course structure is such that the best way for you to learn is to abide by the rules and do one daily 30-minute class and, if you want, use the extra exercises for consolidation.
Since Pimsleur’s main program is audio-based and can be downloaded in MP3, it works on any device that plays this type of file. Despite being audio-based, Pimsleur offers an online platform that can be accessed from any modern browser, desktop applications for Windows and macOS, plus mobile apps for Android and iOS. To get the extended exercises you'll need to use one of the applications.
The platform itself is straightforward. Each level has the 30 lessons nicely displayed in boxes. You click on them, and the class begins. Again, since it's audio-based, nothing more needs to be done. When you complete a lesson a check mark will appear in the middle of the box, so you won't lose track of your progress. Extra games for review purposes are to the right of the audio play button. The exercises themselves are easy to understand, with the gameplay being reasonably simple.
Unlike its platform, Pimsleur‘s pricing is not so user-friendly. The monthly subscription option isn’t even shown on the main web page.
Buying each level of the course separately is one of the many options. For the audio-only version, each level costs $119.95, while the Premium is $150. Or, you can get the full program as a bundle costing $550 and $575 respectively. You'll save some money by purchasing all five units together, but the monthly subscription is by far the cheapest alternative.
With a monthly billing cycle, you'll pay $14.95 for the standard version or $19.95 for Premium. If you take the course seriously and do one class each day, it'll take five months to complete. This way you'll spend around $100 in total, saving you more than $400. However, to find this option you'll first need to search for it under the FAQ section, or create an account using the free lesson offer. When you click on the locked classes in the latter, you'll be prompted to start a monthly subscription.
Pimsleur offers 24/7 customer service through its American and international toll-free phone lines, though you'll find most information in the comprehensive FAQ. In fact, info about the monthly subscription can only be found there. You can also use email or social media to get in touch with the customer support team. Pimsleur is present on both Twitter and Facebook, where you can contact them through messenger and expect to get an answer the next day.
Pimsleur is a user-friendly and effective way to learn a new language, at least in terms of speech. However, bear in mind that no attention is given to grammar, which can make languages with a different sentence structure harder to comprehend. But despite being targeted to businessmen, the courses are well thought out, take cultural context into account, and make you speak right from exercise one. Though in the past the high price was a strong barrier to new customers, the new subscription model is priced competitively, making Pimsleur much more attractive to language learners. Furthermore, you can always start with the free lesson offer to try the system for yourself and see whether the Pimsleur Method works for you.Visit PimsleurTry Pimsleur for Free