Pimsleur review: is Pimsleur the right method for you?

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After a review of Rocket French, time has come to review pimsleur, one of the most popular language learning method.

Developed by a linguist and used by numerous governmental agencies and companies, the pimsleur Method has everything to please. But does it live up to the expectations?

 What is pimsleur?

pimsleur is an audio-based language learning method created more than 50 years ago by Paul pimsleur, linguist and teacher of French phonetics and linguistics at UCLA.

It consists of 30 minutes daily audio lessons which work as follow :

  • You listen to native speakers pronouncing a sentence in your target language and its translation in English.
  • You repeat the sentences and answer questions your “language tutor” asks.
  • You move on to the next lesson once you can answer quickly and accurately to more than 80% of the questions asked in the lesson.

The goal is to make you memorize the “core vocabulary” of the language. These are the most common French words.

The words you learn are often repeated in the following lessons so that you don’t forget them. This spaced repetition system is extremely effective and truly makes learning vocabulary easier.
However, it’s absolutely not unique to pimsleur and several other methods use it.

Does pimsleur work?

pimsleur works but it isn’t for everyone

Now that you know the principles behind the pimsleur Approach, you certainly wonder one thing. Does it work?

Yes pimsleur does work.

This is not surprising considering how effective Spaced Repetition and the other principles behind the method are.

But it’s not necessarily the right method for you.

pimsleur is mainly an audio method

First of all, pimsleur is mainly an audio method. You basically listen and then speak.

There is also a reading section for French, but the largest part of the learning process is spent listening and speaking.

You do your best to imitate the native speaker’s pronunciation, answer questions and imagine situations described by the teacher

For example, imagine you are lost and need to ask for directions.

The efficiency of this method depends a lot on your capacity to immerse you in the situations without actually living them for real.

The advantage is that you can study anywhere. pimsleur allows you to use the time you spend jogging, cooking etc to learn French or another language.

You will also quickly get to speak the language which proves useful when the time to practice with native speakers comes.

pimsleur teaches you formal French

Then, the vocabulary you learn is quite formal.

This is the French spoken by people, but spoken by people in business situations or in formal environments. If you are a university student, this will be slightly too formal for you.

This isn’t really a problem. Just something to be aware of when you use pimsleur.

pimsleur won’t teach you grammar directly

Pimsleur teaches you French the way you learnt your mother tongue. That is mainly by listening and speaking. You won’t spend hours learning grammar rules.

While I personally think this is a good thing, a few people may hate that. If you love to study grammar for hours, pimsleur is clearly not for you.

On the other hand, if you like to learn grammar naturally as you learn the language, this approach will delight you.

Should you buy pimsleur?

pimsleur is a good French course, but it feels a bit dated and comes at a high price .If you are a beginner, an app focused on conversational French like French Together would probably be a better choice.

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Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn conversational French.