One of the language learning industry giants, Pimsleur follows the principles of the old Latin saying, “Repetition is the mother of all learning.” This tried and proven learning method helped make this platform the go-to choice for many knowledge seekers. In this extensive Pimsleur review, you will find out what’s so special about this platform and whether it’s a good fit for your learning needs.
Pros & Cons
Pimsleur Unlimited Option
1 Level = 30 Lessons
Pimsleur Unlimited Option
5 Levels = 150 Lessons
Does this fit well enough into your pricing range? If so, then continue reading to find the story behind this language learning giant.
The story of Pimsleur dates back to the mid-1960s when Dr. Paul Pimsleur, a well-known linguist and psychologist, created a learning system based on listening and repeating. Although this technique wasn’t revolutionary by any means, his repetitive method became a core formula for many language learning platforms that have come since.
This program proved so popular that, in 1995, the famous publishing firm Simon and Schuster bought the rights to Dr. Pimsleur’s courses. From that point on, the platform became known as Simon and Schuster Pimsleur. Now that we’ve put a face behind the product, let’s focus on the platform’s features.
Features, Courses, and Materials
As mentioned in the introduction, Pimsleur bases its learning methods on listening and repeating the material (i.e., language lessons). These courses are especially useful for those who want to improve their speaking skills.
- Advanced Learners
Not useful for:
- Writing and reading
Pimsleur’s foreign language software method:
- Auditory experience lesson focus
- Repetition techniques
The idea of listening and repeating words doesn’t sound as exciting as, for example, watching videos or playing games and quizzes, but this method does the job when used regularly.
After all, repetition is key to learning any new skill. This doesn’t only apply to languages but other activities, too, whether it’s playing soccer, playing the guitar, or learning how to drive a car.
So how exactly does this method work in the case of Pimsleur?
Pimsleur Method Review
If you visit Pimsleur’s website, you’ll find a special section that details Dr. Pimsleur’s repetition method. It comprises four concepts: Graduated Interval Recall, Principle of Anticipation, Core Vocabulary, and Organic Learning.
Let’s break it down.
Graduated Interval Recall
Combining his linguistic and psychological experience, Dr. Paul Pimsleur believed that repeating words in regular intervals increased a student’s chance of memorizing them. That’s because spaced out repetition helps the words shift from your short-term to your long-term memory.
Dr. Pimsleur reviews this method as follows: if the teacher’s goal is for you to learn a new word (e.g., kokoro, meaning “heart” in Japanese), you’ll hear it in the first lesson. After a few seconds, you’ll be asked to repeat it. Seconds will turn into minutes, then hours, and eventually days and weeks, thus ensuring you don’t forget the word.
Principle of Anticipation
After hearing this word for the first time, you’ll be “forced” to repeat it and answer the teacher’s question, “How do you say ‘heart’ in Japanese?” You know the teacher will reveal the answer following a short silent pause, so you must break the silence quickly by giving the correct answer – kokoro. If you were wondering, how is Pimsleur so effective, this should shed some light.
Every word is important, but some words are more important than others. The idea behind the Core Vocabulary concept is to help you focus on learning the essential words first, so you won’t become overwhelmed with the quantity of less important words.
The Organic Learning concept involves putting the words in the right context. When you listen to a dialogue, you’ll get a short description of the context and physical surroundings, allowing your brain to create prompts for when and how to use the words and phrases you’ve just heard.
Now that you have a better understanding of Pimsleur’s learning method, let’s talk about the languages you can learn.
Pimsleur Language Learning Review
Every course on Pimsleur is organized into levels, each containing 30 half-hour lessons.
You’d probably expect every language to have the same number of levels, but you’d be wrong. Their number differs: some popular languages (like French, Spanish, or Japanese) have more levels, as opposed to less popular languages (like Irish or Twi) that may contain only one level.
Before we move on and start talking about the details of individual courses, let’s see which languages are offered on Pimsleur.
The Pimsleur languages list includes the following:
Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Irish, Hebrew, Dutch, Croatian, Ukrainian, Korean, Ojibwe, Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese, Pashto, Thai, Punjabi, Latin American Spanish and European Spanish, Russian, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Arabic (Eastern, Egyptian, and Modern Standard), Swahili, Vietnamese, Dari and Farsi Persian, Czech, Albanian, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Japanese, Italian, Urdu, Hindi, Greek, French, Tagalog, Armenian (Eastern and Western), Danish, Turkish, Romanian, Indonesian, Hungarian, German, Swiss, Polish, Twi, and Haitian Creole.
Pimsleur App Review
The Pimsleur language app is easy to navigate, and it has a user-friendly interface. You don’t have to install any additional players to play the content, and you can use the app while offline.
Depending on your preference, you can download either whole courses or individual lessons for offline use.
If you’re a premium user, in addition to the audio courses, you’ll also be able to view various quizzes and flashcards. There is no separate Pimsleur Mac app or PC app.
The service is optimized for popular web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, so you can access it from your computer no matter which operating system it’s running on. To use the app on your mobile device, you must have iOS 11 (or newer) on your iPhone/iPad or Android 7 (or newer) on your smartphone/tablet.
If you’re wondering what you can get from the courses, you’ll find the answer in the next section.
Pimsleur Language Course – What to Expect From the Lessons?
As mentioned before, each lesson depicts a specific scenario and is led by an English-speaking narrator, accompanied by a native speaker of your chosen language. To get the most out of these courses and the Pimsleur method, you have to take lessons regularly.
After listening to a dialogue, you’ll be presented with the translation of particular phrases and important words. The native speaker will then pronounce the words that you’ll have to repeat, so you could say that the lessons are much like a Q&A session. As you approach the lesson’s end, you’ll hear less English and more of the native language.
Now let’s take a closer look at individual language courses.
Pimsleur French Review
As French is one of the more popular languages on Pimsleur and the fifth most-spoken language in the world, it’s no surprise that there are five course levels to choose from. Another positive thing about Pimsleur’s French courses is that the native voices sound very natural. They don’t speak too fast, so you’ll be able to understand them and practice your pronunciation.
The main downsides of learning French on Pimsleur include the lack of transcripts, lack of grammar explanations, and excessive use of formal language.
Pimsleur Spanish Review
You can learn two dialects of the Spanish language – Latin American (spoken in Central and South America) and Castilian (spoken in Spain). If you’re wondering about the difference between the two, it’s the pronunciation.
Here we can see the difference in the number of available levels: the Latin American Spanish course offers five, while Castilian Spanish only has two. Speaking of levels, many learners note that the difference between level three and level four of Latin American Spanish is nonexistent as their difficulty is almost the same.
Pimsleur German Review
The German language course has five levels to choose from. The first level is intended for absolute beginners, while levels four and five are designed for intermediate students. During the courses, you’ll learn how to correctly pronounce about 200 most-used words that might come in handy if you’re planning a trip to Germany.
Another great feature comes in the form of feedback. Once you repeat the word, you’ll be able to hear the correct pronunciation. However, the lack of transcription and grammar rules might be a deal-breaker for advanced learners.
Pimsleur Italian Review
Pimsleur’s Italian course includes five levels comprising lessons that are approximately 30 minutes long. As such, you’ll have access to more than 80 hours of audio material. The audio recordings are good. The native narrators speak slowly (despite the established belief that Italians speak fast), so you should have no problem understanding them.
As a bonus, after each lesson, you’ll hear some additional information about Italian culture. Going through the courses will help you learn the basics of the language, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll become a fluent speaker.
Pimsleur Japanese Review
The Japanese course is great for beginners who want to learn the correct pronunciation, but you might be disappointed if you want to learn the Japanese writing system. As already said, Pimsleur mostly emphasizes pronunciation and conversation. Still, there are a few lessons that involve reading, and there’s also a booklet to help you with your courses.
Pimsleur’s Japanese course has five difficulty levels that include 150 lessons and more than 84 hours of audio material. The lessons start by explaining the words, grammar, and word order, and they end with cultural notes about Japan.
On that note, do you remember what the meaning of the word kokoro is?
Pimsleur Chinese Review
There are two Chinese dialects you can learn on Pimsleur – Cantonese and Mandarin.
The thing that sets them apart is the different number of learning levels. Cantonese only has one level, while Mandarin has five. Both cover topics related to traveling, greeting people, and learning the basics of the language.
Pimsleur has 30 Cantonese lessons, each divided into three parts. The first part focuses on introductions and some basic words. The second part relies on repeating the material and expanding the vocabulary, while in the last part, you’ll be able to understand and revise some words and phrases you’ve learned in the class.
Pimsleur Mandarin Review
When listening to Pimsleur’s Mandarin courses, you’ll hear the voice of three narrators.
The main narrator speaks in English. Their task is to introduce you to the language, translate the words, and explain the grammar. The second narrator is a Chinese native speaker, while the third narrator plays the role of a foreigner traveling to China.
As with all other courses, your task is to repeat the words and phrases you hear during the lesson. At the end of the lesson, you’ll also gain some insight into Chinese culture.
Pimsleur Korean Review
You can choose between three difficulty levels of the Korean language, containing a total of 90 lessons. In addition to listening, you’ll also learn the basics of the Korean writing system. Soon after that, you’ll have a chance to put what you’ve learned to practice by reading various texts.
The first level will teach you some basic words, while the second level relies on commonly used phrases. In the third level, you’ll work on improving your pronunciation and further expanding your vocabulary.
Pimsleur Russian Review
Pimsleur’s Russian language course includes five levels. The first 30 lessons focus on the basic use of the language, pronunciation, and accents. The English narrator will guide you through the process of pronouncing difficult words. You’ll also get to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and take part in various reading exercises.
The last level includes topics about the Russian culture (e.g., superstitions and various omens, food, and holidays). You’ll also learn some common expressions (like “I can’t believe it!” or “Can you imagine?”).
Pimsleur Arabic Review
Pimsleur allows you to choose between three different Arabic dialects: Eastern, Egyptian, and Modern Standard. Each of the dialects has its own course, but the number of difficulty levels differs. There are three levels for the Eastern and Modern Standard dialect, while there’s only one level for Egyptian.
So which one to choose?
If you’re planning a trip to Palestine or Lebanon, you should pick Eastern Arabic. As you can assume, Egyptian Arabic is spoken in Egypt, while the Modern Standard, as the name inclines, is the standard version of the language, mostly used in the media.
The main downside of all these courses is the audio quality. Namely, the native speaker doesn’t sound very natural.
Pimsleur Free Lesson
To get a better idea of what to expect, Pimsleur offers users one free lesson. You need to visit Pimsleur’s website and click on the Free Lesson icon to get access to it. After that, you’ll have to select your country and choose one of the 50 languages listed in the library.
Keep in mind that you’ll get only the first lesson for free. That’s only about 30 minutes of content. Still, it should be enough to get a preview of the course and decide if it’s a good choice for you
Pimsleur Reading Booklet
If you want to learn a new language, you’ll have to work on your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. However, there’s more to learning a language than just practicing conversation.
Pimsleur knows this, so apart from the courses and audio materials, its users also have access to reading material in the form of booklets (in PDF format). That way, you can also practice your reading and writing, which is particularly useful for languages that don’t use the Latin alphabet.
Pimsleur Approach Review – Does It Work?
Is it possible to learn a new language without visual stimulation?
Well, considering that Pimsleur is one of the oldest language platforms that remains popular to this day, the answer is yes. As mentioned before, the Pimsleur approach focuses on repetition, which has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages.
On the positive side, the lessons are short, you get to practice your pronunciation, and there’s no way you’ll forget the new words considering how often you’ll have to repeat them. You’re also not bound to your room because you can download the courses and listen to them offline while jogging, cleaning, or doing other activities.
On the negative side, many Pimsleur reviews talk about the somewhat monotonous aspect of the platform. The repetitive learning format might become boring after a while, and the fact that Pimsleur doesn’t provide much reading material certainly doesn’t help. Some languages also suffer from the excessive use of formal language and lack of informal language lessons.
With all this in mind, does this approach really work?
The short answer is yes. Pimsleur’s method has been proven as an effective technique. With Pimsleur language programs, it might take you longer to learn the basics of a new language. One thing is for sure, though – thanks to its teaching system, you’ll have a hard time forgetting the things you’ve learned. That’s ultimately the most important part of learning any language, as numerous education statistics confirm.
Ease of Use
The app’s interface is user-friendly and easy to navigate.
If you opt for the web version, you’ll find all the information you need on the site, including the list of languages, prices, special offers, and the FAQ section.
Pimsleur also has a language blog that will provide you with some fun and useful tips regarding various languages, including topics related to culture (like their Shonen Manga Guide).
Pimsleur Plans and Pricing
The Pimsleur cost varies, and not every language costs the same. If a language has more levels, naturally, it will cost you more. On top of that, different formats will have different prices, so the digital version of a course will be cheaper than ordering a CD.
For example, you can buy access to a single Chinese Mandarin level for $150 or all levels for $575. However, purchasing the Hungarian level-one course will cost you $119.95, while the Albanian level-one course costs $41.95. As you can see from the above, the more popular languages tend to cost more.
Some languages also offer the Pimsleur Unlimited option, which includes additional learning material and exercises, such as reading lessons, flashcards, and quick match questions. This Premium option is only available for a few languages: Brazilian Portuguese, French, Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish.
What about the cost? This package will cost you $150 if you decide to buy only one level (30 lessons). To buy all five levels, you’ll need to pay $575 (150 lessons). Pimsleur might be an expensive language learning platform, but as we’ve seen in this review, it’s highly effective.
If you’re still unsure whether you should buy it, you can always try the Pimsleur free trial.
How does it work? It’s simple: you’ll get seven days to review every lesson from the chosen language to see if it’s a good fit for you. However, if you want to activate the trial, you’ll have to fill in your personal details, choose a language course or a subscription plan, and enter your credit card information.
Remember to cancel the trial before it ends, or your credit card will be charged.
This is a new option that will allow you to pay less for your language courses. A monthly subscription will cost you between $15 and $20, and it will give you access to all the lessons and levels of the chosen language. If this is something you want to try out, you have to create an account on Pimsleur.
Keep in mind that the prices are subject to change, so the initial subscription price might increase over time. If you’re not satisfied with your subscription, you can cancel it via your account settings or by contacting Pimsleur’s customer service. You can learn more about subscriptions on Pimsleur’s FAQ page.
The platform also has some special offers like the Pimsleur discount code. To get more information about these offers, you’ll have to sign up. After you’ve done that, you’ll receive an email notification every time one such discount code is available.
You can use one code for one purchase; just add the details to your order. All these codes are valid for a limited time only, so you must use them before they expire.
If you’ve searched for more information about this language learning platform, you might have stumbled upon something called the Pimsleur Gold Edition. This is a version of the course that contains old recordings and has been out of print for a while now. If you’re looking for the most up-to-date version of a language course, visit Pimsleur’s website for more information.
If you buy a digital course directly from Pimsleur’s website or their customer service, you can return it within 30 days of the purchase date and get your money back. The same rules apply to CDs, but the refund will not cover the return shipping costs. This refund policy doesn’t apply to any Pimsleur subscription that includes a free trial of seven days or more.
You can also return your CDs after the 30-day window has expired, but you must meet the following requirements:
- The package must be unopened.
- You must ship it back within 90 days of receiving it.
- The refund doesn’t cover the shipping cost.
- You can only exchange damaged packages.
You might think our Pimsleur review is biased for claiming that this platform gives better results than many language learning platforms out there. But if you look up other online reviews, you’ll find that most of them say the same. In fact, both expert reviewers and users seem to agree that the Pimsleur method works miracles in the long term. Of course, Pimsleur isn’t perfect. Users agree that there should be more writing and reading exercises and less formal language use. Another commonly mentioned downside of this platform is the pricing, which can be very high if you opt not to use the subscription option.
If you find this platform too expensive, there are a few other learning apps that may provide a good alternative. You’ve probably heard of the veteran Rosetta Stone or popular platforms like Babbel, Duolingo, Fluenz, and Living Language.
Let’s compare Pimsleur with these five services to get more insight into their similarities and differences. How much do they cost, what do they offer, and are they a better learning option for you? Keep reading to find out.
Pimsleur vs. Rosetta Stone
We’ll start with the clash of the industry titans, Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone. They both use similar teaching tools (like CDs) and have also created mobile apps and digital versions of the lessons that can be downloaded.
Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone have similar prices and language lists, but there’s one major difference. On Rosetta Stone, you can learn Latin, a language you won’t find on Pimsleur. On the other hand, Pimsleur gives you a choice of three Arabic dialects, while Rosetta Stone only has a course in the Modern Standard dialect.
Another key difference is the learning method. While Pimsleur mostly uses audio recordings, Rosetta Stone also uses visual elements like pictures.
Pimsleur vs. Babbel
Looking at the number of languages available on these platforms, you’ll immediately notice the difference. As you know, Pimsleur offers 50 languages, while Babbel offers only 14.
Babbel is a cheaper platform that focuses on grammar and writing, which is not Pimsleur’s main focus. You might find Babbel more appealing because of its playful quizzes and exercises, as opposed to Pimsleur’s audio lessons. So which one should you choose?
If your goal is to become a fluent speaker, Pimsleur might be a better choice. On the other hand, if you want to understand more about the language in general, you should choose Babbel.
Pimsleur vs. Duolingo
The most important feature that sets these two platforms apart is the subscription plan. Duolingo has a free and paid plan, while Pimsleur doesn’t offer a free plan.
Duolingo is known for its short, gamified courses and numerous quizzes that test your knowledge. The platform also includes rewards like virtual coins you get for consecutive days of learning, which should give you an incentive to keep practicing every day.
Compared to Pimsleur’s 30-minute lessons, Duolingo’s lessons don’t have a time limit, which might make them sound like a better option. However, it’s not likely that you’ll become a fluent speaker without proper speaking practice, and Duolingo is far behind Pimsleur in that aspect.
Pimsleur vs. Fluenz
Both Fluenz and Pimsleur are pricey platforms, although Pimsleur’s new subscription makes the service much more affordable than it used to be.
Fluenz is known for its academic approach, podcasts, video tutorials, and one-on-one tutor simulations. You can learn seven languages on Fluenz: Latin American Spanish, Castilian Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese.
Both platforms rely on repetition. However, the main focus on Fluenz is not on speaking and listening but the language in general. So if you want to learn how to speak a foreign language and become fluent in it, Pimsleur may be a better choice than Fluenz.
Pimsleur vs. Living Language
Living Language and Pimsleur have two things in common: they both offer a free lesson (although Living Language doesn’t offer a free trial) and many languages (Living Language has 61).
Unlike Pimsleur, Living Language doesn’t have a mobile app for its courses, and the lessons are not very interactive. According to many reviews, the materials are not challenging enough, and students often struggle with motivation.
For this reason, Pimsleur is a much better choice than Living Language. It might take you a while to learn the language, but it should get the job done.
As we near the end of our Pimsleur review, we can conclude that this platform is something of an oddity in today’s online language learning landscape populated with fast, visually oriented learning apps.
If you genuinely want to learn how to speak a foreign language, it will take a lot of time and patience to comprehend its many aspects, from grammar to context and pronunciation.
Pimsleur may not be as flashy as its younger competitors, but it understands the complexity of learning a new language.
Sure, this platform could and should create a more amusing approach to the languages they teach. But at the same time, younger competitors might want to look at Pimsleur for ideas on how to make their short lessons more comprehensive and effective.