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Pimsleur’s Language Learning Software Offers a Simple Method To Get You Speaking a New Language on Day One
Have you ever felt intimidated visiting a foreign country simply because you didn’t know the local language? Despite being an avid traveler, I’ve always felt a bit uneasy approaching the locals in their native tongue out of fear that I would make a mockery of it. That’s right. I’m never concerned about making a fool of myself, but rather disrespecting the local culture with poor pronunciation and lack of vocabulary.
That fear began to dissipate when I came across Pimsleur’s Language Learning software. Pimsleur is the 3rd language learning platform I’ve used to date — and thus far — the most effective. I’ll explain why shortly.
Unlike studying a language by reading a book, or practicing picture and word association, Pimsleur’s method utilizes a process that every single one of us learned during the early stages of our lives – Speaking.
By leveraging a style of language learning similar to what we experience as babies, Pimsleur helps to engrain full, useful phrases into your mind after the very first 30 minute lesson. It’s so effective, that the company guarantees if you abide by their daily 30 minute lesson plans for one month, you’ll be able to communicate with relative fluency in whatever language you choose to learn.
Let’s talk a little bit more about how it works, and I’ll include some examples throughout the rest of this article for your reference based on my experience with Pimsleur’s French Level 1.
How Does Pimsleur Work?
Pimsleur is primarily an audio-focused, speaking-based and engagement-based language learning service. It’s designed to get you speaking in a foreign language immediately.
As you begin the course, a narrator will explain the method to you, and then begin reciting common words and phrases. First in your native tongue, and then in the language you’re trying to learn for you to repeat out-loud. These words are also broken out and spoken by a native speaker into syllables, for you to then recite back. This helps to ensure that your pronunciation is as close to on-par as possible with the native tongue.
Further on, you’ll eventually be asked in your native tongue to recite the phrase back in your target language. For example, if you’re studying French, the narrator would tell you, “Say would you like to eat something?” and you would answer out-loud, “Est-ce qui vous voudriez manger quelque chose?”
As the course progresses, more words and phrases are introduced to help build your vocabulary. In addition to this, they are introduced in various practical contexts, so you can imagine yourself in a foreign country, engaging in a conversation that you would likely have in the real world. In fact, the further you go through the course, many of the lessons begin with a conversation in your chosen language between two individuals.
These conversations are then essentially broken up into chunks throughout the rest of the lesson, with words and phrases being introduced one at a time. By the end of the lesson, you should be able to understand, and recite at least 80% of the material introduced throughout the lesson. If you’re still struggling, you can always repeat the day’s lesson.
Your vocabulary and pronunciation will gradually improve with each passing day using Pimsleur. With each passing lesson, words and phrases learned from previous lessons continue to be utilized, helping to ensure that your knowledge structure builds in a natural way while engraining words into your long term memory.
How Often Do I Need to Study?
There are 30, 30 minute lessons included within each level of a Pimsleur course. The Pimsleur method is designed to help you learn a language as naturally as possible. Of course, it’s software, so it’s not the same as being dropped into a foreign country to your own devices. However, the method leverages the concept that language learning can only be done efficiently if it’s done on a daily basis.
While daily exposure to a new language is essential to learning, it’s also important not to cram too much new information into your mind at one time. From the beginning, Pimsleur advises not to study over one 30-minute lesson per day. If you feel you didn’t grasp enough of one day’s material, you can repeat, or rewind to any particular area where you might have struggled. In addition, there are digital flash cards and brief phrase matching exercises that can be done following any 30-minute lesson to ensure you grasped the material.
Once you pass the 10-day threshold, reading lessons are introduced, and may be completed following your daily audio lesson, or at the end of the course level.
Who is Dr. Pimsleur?
If you’ve been studying linguistics for any period of time, chances are you’ve probably heard of Dr. Paul Pimsleur. He created the system discussed above, called the Pimsleur language learning system and has written extensively on the subject of applied linguistics. His theories have now been integrated into a variety of language courses and publications.
What makes Dr. Pimsleur and his approach unique in the field, was his focus on how children learn a language and what the language learning acquisition process entails. This organic learning process, as it was ultimately called, is at the core of what makes the Pimsleur approach to language learning so effective.
Disclosure: Pimsleur provided compensation and access to their French Level 1 Course in exchange for this review. This relationship in no way affects the opinions discussed above. See my full disclosure statement here.