The Pimsleur Method, created by Dr. Paul Pimsleur, uses repetition and recall techniques to teach new language skills in just 30 minutes per day. This method has been used by hundreds of thousands of people around the world to learn the following languages: French, Spanish, German, and Italian.
The Pimsleur Method of language learning is a scientifically proven language-learning system that has been used successfully by millions of people.
It’s a reading and speaking method, where you learn to speak a new language from scratch in weeks, not years!
Learning a language through listening to conversations recorded at natural speed and then practicing what you heard is the most effective way to build fluency quickly and retain it for life.
Read: 3 Easy Way to Learn the Alphabet Backwards
How does Pimsleur work?
Pimsleur allows you to learn how to pronounce each new sound correctly from the beginning. If you learn a language the way most people do—listening to poorly taught, badly organized classes or tapes and trying to imitate what’s said—you may find yourself practicing for hours, sounding more like a native speaker of Tongan than English.
The Pimsleur Method teaches you to speak by granting you exact control over the sounds of the language and the ability to create your own sentences from a wide vocabulary base. By understanding how words and phrases are formed in context, you learn to speak with greater fluency and ease.
The Pimsleur Method is well-known for its rapid success; many people learn 1–3 new languages every year using this method. The Pimsleur Method does not rely on any reading or writing.
What languages can be learned with Pimsleur?
The Pimsleur method is available for over 50 different languages. Here are a few examples:
History of Pimsleur Language Learning
Dr. Paul Pimsleur was a renowned American applied linguist. His research started in the 1950s, when he began teaching languages at Ohio State University. He believed that effective language learning should be based on how humans learn their first language. His theories were used to develop an efficient method of teaching languages based on his assumptions about how adults learn .
Pimsleur died before coming up with a commercial name for his course. His widow, Dr. Norma Pimsleur suggested, “A Community of People Sharing an Idea, Promoting Language Learning Worldwide” which eventually became the name “Pimsleur Method”.
The first Pimsleur program was published in 1963 and was titled “French I: A Basic Course in Speaking and Reading”. Pimsleur courses were designed to be short, practical and conversational enabling language learners to build their fluency quickly.
The Pimsleur Approach
Dr. Paul Pimsleur strongly believed that adults could become fluent speakers of a foreign language by learning key vocabulary and grammar within the first 100 hours of instruction.
His method can be seen as an inverted or upside down method, in which normal language teaching procedures are reversed. It focuses on listening, speaking, reading and writing in that order which is opposite to how most students are taught in their native tongue.
He strongly believed in the “comprehensible input” hypothesis which states that adults can only learn a language when new words and phrases are within their existing linguistic knowledge .
The Pimsleur Method is based on the following assumptions:
- New learning depends upon old learning: For anything to be remembered, it has to be repeated several times. Repetition is not meaningless. By repeating a new word several times, it gets attached to existing knowledge and helps with remembering.
- The more of the language you learn at once, the better: New words should be learned in context since this provides necessary clues for understanding on how a new word is used.
- Learning a language requires the use of communicative, everyday language: Concentrating on the formal aspects of a language can hinder people’s ability to use it.
- Language is learned by listening and understanding first, then speaking: Pimsleur believed that “listen and understand” was how adults best learn languages. This allowed learners to develop their auditory capacity before practicing speaking.
- Learning in context strengthens the meaning of words and phrases: Since new words are learned within familiar contexts, they have a higher chance of being remembered.
- Language is acquired in blocks : Pimsleur believed that it takes an average of 800 hours to achieve language fluency. This is why his courses are designed with 50 minute lessons which add up to 30 hours of daily instruction.
Pimsleur Language Programs
Since his death in 1976, the Pimsleur approach has become one of the most well-known and respected methods for language learning in the world. His company currently offers several different programs that are available in over 50 languages. While each course is unique, they all follow the same principles of the Pimsleur approach.
- Short lessons (30-50 minutes): Each lesson is short and provides a short amount of daily instruction. This enables learners to progress quickly, while still enjoying their language learning experience.
- Emphasis on comprehension: The learner’s primary goal is not to simply memorize a new word, but rather “comprehend” it by using it in a sentence.
- Understanding then translating: The student first understands what he hears and learns vocabulary. Only when the words have been fully comprehended are they translated so that students can confirm what they have learned.
- Conversation from the beginning: Students are taught to speak from the very first lesson. Each new word is introduced within a relevant conversation.
- Mastery approach to pronunciation: Pimsleur believed that mastery of an accent was not necessary since it would change when speaking with native speakers. Thus, all of their courses focus on natural sounding speech while still maintaining correct pronunciation.
Pimsleur Language Study Methods
However, the Pimsleur approach doesn’t claim to teach you everything about a language. Instead, it focuses on providing you with enough information so that you can converse more easily when traveling or spending time in another culture. By focusing on listening and comprehension, students can better understand what they hear from native speakers.
As with any language learning method, critics of the Pimsleur approach exist. Here are several of the most common complaints:
- Poor grammar explanations: While students focus on listening comprehension, they do not learn much about grammar rules . This can result in many common errors made by learners.
- Only useful with the speaker: The short, daily lesson format is ideal for some people, but not so good for others. Those who learn better by reading or writing may not enjoy this approach.
- Keeps students uninformed about language rules: Some critics believe that learners are not given enough information to understand how these languages work. This can result in incorrect use of words and phrases.
- Repetition is not meaningful: While repetition is used to help with memory, it can become tiring after a while, causing learners to lose focus.
- Cannot be compared to other methods: Because the Pimsleur approach focuses more on understanding than memorizing, it cannot be directly compared with other language learning methods.
Pimsleur Method Review
I’ve tried it with Italian. It’s good in so far as it gets you speaking, I got quite a long way using only Pimsleur and a dictionary, but it’s quite expensive and not really very efficient. If you want to learn a language properly, try the Assimil method.
I have used Pimsleur for many languages. It works great. But it is always good to have a good grammar book as well to add to it.
I have used the Pimsleur method several times for different languages and have been very satisfied with it. I always use a good grammar book after it, but the Pimsleur tapes and courses give you a terrific start and foundation in the language.
I have been using Pimsleur for Spanish. I am very happy with it, but as other people have said you should supplement it with a grammar book and a dictionary. It is a great idea to start with the first lesson of each level on the computer first, so you can listen to the dialogues and words. Then practice reading them – you will find that this approach helps a lot!!
I’ve used Pimsleur for Spanish and Italian and loved it. I also bought “Teach yourself…” books at the same time, so I wouldn’t get stuck if I got bored or ran out of tapes. Yes, it’s time-consuming but well worth the effort for me to communicate with people in those languages. And, as other posters have said, you should supplement Pimsleur with a grammar book and dictionary.
I’m using Pimsleur for Russian and I’m finding it very helpful. The problem with learning a language is that if you’re not in an environment where you are using the language every single day, then the knowledge goes stale. With Pimsleur, you can pop in a tape or CD every day to keep your skills fresh!
I am using the Pimsleur Approach for Brazilian Portuguese and it’s working great! It’s not like a school class, but you learn what you need to know. I recommend this method if you want to learn quick and easy. However, get yourself an audio-English book (in addition), so you can keep practicing your English.
I have tried pimsleur for French, Spanish, and Korean. The Korean was the least effective because it had too few words to work with. The others are great! I use them in my car on long road trips or when doing chores. I highly recommend this system.
I started learning French with Pimsleur and I like it! I’m able to understand most of the dialogs, even though I am far from mastering the language… But it’s not easy… You need to concentrate a lot!!! It’s the only disadvantage I see in it…
I’m using Pimsleur for Spanish and think it’s a great way to learn vocabulary. I agree with some of the other comments that having additional study materials is helpful, but whether you supplement or not, this method really works if you keep with it long enough. I have a background in Spanish, so that helps me sometimes to understand more than I would otherwise, but I think even first-time learners can benefit from the extensive review of vocabulary and pronunciation.
I myself am using Pimsleur for French, and it is a great way to learn the language. In the lessons, they repeat words and grammar structures over and over again until you get it right. It’s almost like training for a sport…
How does Pimsleur compare to other language learning programs?
Many language schools that provide classes for beginners run classes for just a few weeks. In those short few weeks they expect their students to learn as much as possible, resulting in the fullest extent of which they are capable. The result is that these students can hardly say anything at all! Because Pimsleur teaches you the basics directly, and then encourages you to use those basics in everyday conversation with native speakers from the very beginning, learners are not only able to say a lot more after using Pimsleur, they can also communicate as soon as they have completed the course.
How much does it cost?
The cost of a Pimsleur Language Program varies depending on which country you’re in, and what languages are being studied.
In the United States, a single–level Pimsleur program costs US$150. In Canada, a single-level program costs around CA$165. In Australia, a single level language course costs AU$199. In the UK they are typically GBP£100 each.
How quickly can I learn a language with Pimsleur?
If you study one lesson per day, in 30 days you will know 1,500 words and many sentence constructions. With 90 lessons (about 6 months’ worth of daily 30-minute learning sessions) you could easily achieve conversational fluency.
How long does it take to learn a language with Pimsleur?
The Pimsleur Method provides an easy, fast, and enjoyable way to learn another language. You can study on your own at home. With 30-minute lessons, you can study as little as one lesson per day or tackle several in a single day.
You will learn the essential words and phrases that allow you to communicate in any situation. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you learn!
Is the Pimsleur Method for learning a language effective?
The Pimsleur Method is based on solid scientific research that shows how people learn languages naturally. The approach has been successful with millions of learners because it respects their success as well as their potential to achieve fluency in another language. It teaches listeners to think in a new language, not just parrot words and phrases. Whether a listener wants to travel, communicate with friends or colleagues, reconnect with family, or become more educated in their own language the Pimsleur Method can give them the tools to reach their goals.
How long does it take using Pimsleur?
The amount of time it takes to gain fluency will vary for each person. Most people report that they can speak and understand at a good level of proficiency after 30-40 hours of study; many require more or less time than this, depending on their learning style and starting point.
Can I use Pimsleur without having someone to correct my pronunciation?
People can work through the audio programs at their own pace without a teacher or tutor. However, users also have access to the Pimsleur digital editions of each lesson, which provide opportunities for listeners to read and hear all of the words in context.
How much time should I devote to learning a language using Pimsleur?
As much time as possible! The more time listeners spend with Pimsleur, the faster and easier their language study will be. If they can find 30 minutes per day to listen and speak, they can see considerable progress.
Is it okay if I listen to a lesson more than once?
Listening to a lesson one time through is enough for the material to sink in and make progress. But listeners can go back and listen to anything they find especially helpful. Listening to a lesson multiple times helps people who like repetition and/or need extensive review.
How should I use Pimsleur in conjunction with another training method?
Complete fluency requires learning grammar, vocabulary, and culture. Pimsleur teaches the basics of pronunciation and comprehension in the target language. For more advanced study or to build upon what has already been learned, teachers/tutors should supplement Pimsleur with other available materials as needed.
How can I improve my pronunciation when using Pimsleur?
The Pimsleur Method teaches correct pronunciation from the very first lesson. The learner is speaking with native speakers in no time.
How does Pimsleur work?
Pimsleur works by teaching listeners new words and phrases in context, in a natural way. In initial lessons, Pimsleur focuses on learning to speak and recognizing simple words and phrases. In the latter part, learners begin using what they have learned to communicate with confidence. It is then that listeners can begin fine-tuning their pronunciation with Pimsleur’s pronunciation program, which guides the listener in learning to hear and pronounce sounds of the language in a way that is different from their native language.
Will I be able to speak if I use Pimsleur?
Yes! Within 30-40 hours, most users can speak with confidence. While some words or phrases may still come easily to listeners, they are no longer struggling with basic pronunciation.
What are the components of The Pimsleur Method?
The Pimsleur Method provides you with effective instruction in the following components:
a) Core Vocabulary – taught in every lesson;
b) Structure and Culture – cultural notes included in each lesson;
c) Reading and Writing – in the digital editions, which allow you to learn pronunciation and spelling simultaneously.
How does Pimsleur differ from other language learning products?
Pimsleur is different because it is efficient and effective:
a) Time – 30 minutes per day; less time overall compared with other methods.
b) Method – Pimsleur uses the scientifically-proven Pimsleur Method to take you from start to finish quickly.
c) Personalized – Your ongoing assessment of progress allows increasing levels of language learning that are tailored to your specific needs.
d) Speak and Understand – Native speakers guide learners in making progress by speaking to them in the target language.
e) Retention – Pimsleur is designed to help you retain what you’ve learned; it’s not focused on rote memorization (i.e., learning lots of words and phrases for a test).
How can I learn pronunciation if I don’t have access to audio or CD?
Pimsleur digital editions include the pronunciation program that allows listeners to hear and compare sounds of words or phrases as pronounced by a native speaker with their own attempts, which guides them in learning to hear and pronounce sounds of the target language in a way that is different from their native language.
Books, audio CDs, audio tapes, computer software and apps are just some of the materials that you will find in the Pimsleur method for learning a language. The Pimsleur method is one way to learn any new language. Though they are not comprehensive nor thorough, they give you an idea or a taste of what it is like being a speaker of the new language.
This is one of the most inexpensive ways to learn a new language, too. You can find these materials in online stores and through word-of-mouth recommendations passed on from other learners who have just finished learning a new language using this method.
In my opinion, these Pimsleur course materials are not enough or thorough for language learning. I would expect that you cannot learn a language using the Pimsleur method only because this is just one of many tools available to help you learn a new language.
The first time that I came across these materials, they were on the internet where I was able to listen to samples of their real audio. They did not sound that bad after listening to the samples but I noticed a problem right away with their approach – it is not truly natural language acquisition.
I believe the solution to a good way of learning a new language is by immersing yourself in the new culture and becoming one with your peers who speak different languages. You can do this by going to a country where they speak a language that is different from yours and stay there for a good period of time.
I do not mean these materials are ineffective at all because many people have benefited from using them. But I want you to know this so you can consider the positives and negatives about their approach before deciding on which way you want to learn a new language.
The Pimsleur method is effective in that you can listen to these materials over and over again until you master the language. The triangulation process they employ through reading, listening comprehension and speaking practice is solid because it enables you to stay focused on learning the language especially when you are away from your teacher.
One of their drawbacks, however, is that at times you will not be able to speak with your teacher when you are in the country where they speak the language. If you try to, then expect for everyone to look at you strange! You can still learn something from them but it would be very challenging for sure.
Another drawback I noticed about the Pimsleur method is that it is not comprehensive nor thorough in language learning. They focus on conversational language; but if you were to ask me which language skills I needed most, my list would be different from theirs.
I want you to learn reading and writing first before anything else like listening and speaking because this will also help you with your pronunciation.
Another drawback is that you can only learn from one person who speaks the language fluently which may not be enough because a lot of people speak a language differently from each other. This drawback will depend on the teacher’s skill and experience.
The price, of course, is another factor that makes this method very attractive. You can buy their materials for a very low price even though you can get it free on the internet.
Many people who are learning languages are doing so because they want to communicate with other people in an effective way. So these Pimsleur course materials will only give them part of what they need to make this happen. The Pimsleur method is a great way to start learning a new language but their drawbacks will show you that it is not enough in the long run.
There are many other sources of information about this method which you can find online and in bookstores. I hope my review helps you in your choice to learn a language or not by using these Pimsleur course materials.
You can visit Pimsleur’s website to learn more about the method.
Thanks for reading this article about the Pimsleur method, I hope you found it helpful in understanding these materials better.