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Best and Worst of Pimsleur?

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 Language Learning Forum : Language Programs, Books & Tapes Post Reply
Senior Member
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 Message 1 of 8
21 December 2011 at 12:41pm | IP Logged 
I've been listening to the Hungarian course and I was pleasantly suprised by the quality. While it doesn't do explicit grammar instruction it does mention verb, case endings and vowel harmony. I think the strongest point is the pronunciation, with some of the crispest audio I've ever heard.

In your opinion, what are the best Pimsleur courses ? And what are the worst ?

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 Message 2 of 8
21 December 2011 at 1:41pm | IP Logged 
I've found the quality to be about the same across the board (Japanese, Mandarin, Thai, French, Russian), as well as
the problems. They are all useful to me, because I design my language plan for them to fit in nicely. But I would
have to say the tonal languages are a little more useful, because getting good at pronunciation is more important in
those, and that's perhaps the greatest strength of Pimsleur.
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 Message 3 of 8
21 December 2011 at 6:04pm | IP Logged 
Pimsleur courses are all the same; the only difference I've seen is that the Romance
languages (that are easier for most of us to read!) have short reading lessons, while
Arabic and Japanese (where transcriptions are needed) have none.

I listened to Italian 1, Lesson 1 last night, and realized with a sinking heart that it
was the exact same dialogue that I had heard in half a dozen Pimsleur tapes. And I
instantly knew what the next couple months would hold.   There'd be days working on
variations of "Tell Jennie Jones you understand," "Tell Jennie Jones she doesn't
understand," and that you speak Italian, and that you know Italian. Then there will be
a couple lessons of asking her out to lunch at one o'clock, but she can only do two
o'clock, but you prefer four o'clock, and where is the hotel and would you like some

And I don't think I can go through this again.

For me: I did Spanish 1 & 2, and French 1 & 2. I enjoyed both, and did learn quite a
bit, but was chomping at the bit towards the end of each. I did a preview of French 3
recently, but I think I've jumped far ahead already of the level it is at.

I completed Eastern Arabic 1, and retained almost nothing. The structure of Arabic
isn't suited for Pimsleur's standard conversations. For example: many sentences don't
have verbs, and the past tense is easier than the present - most Arabic courses start
with the past, and take quite awhile to move on to other tenses. If Pimsleur adapted
their conversations to Arabic, it would be fine. As it is, they have you learning
complicated structures before you learn easy ones.

I did a Japanese short course (5 CD's) and can say simimasen with confidence. I
can't say it was worth it. I had the same problem inferring the structure of the
language as I did with Arabic. I also tried a German short course. And, I can say
bitte I suspect none of the short courses are really worth it.

My Conclusions:

* The best Pimsleur are the first and second courses you do. The worst are any after

* Pimsleur is better suited for the Romance, and maybe Germanic, languages.

* Pimsleur Complete Courses are better than Short Courses, though the law of
diminishing returns might kick in by the third level of the complete courses.

Edited by kanewai on 21 December 2011 at 6:06pm

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 Message 4 of 8
21 December 2011 at 7:01pm | IP Logged 
I've had great luck with developing a good accent using Pimsleur. One thing that bugs me is that the dialogue is the same for every language. It's not just that it's boring, it's that it confuses me! I did some of Pimsleur German 1, and all of Pimsleur French 1, and though I pretty much never confuse French and German words, when someone asks me how to say "I speak French well", I automatically think "Ich spreche gut Deutsch!" I KNOW that's not French (nor is it even German for "I speak French well"), but those sentences are now linked in my brain!

I still like Pimsleur for the pronunciation, though, and for the feeling of progress (though I'm getting that even more with Michel Thomas now).
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 Message 5 of 8
09 February 2012 at 6:38pm | IP Logged 
Just for the record: I've gone back to Pimsleur for Italian, and it's like revisiting an
old friend. I still stand by all my complaints, but there really isn't an audio program
like it.

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 Message 6 of 8
09 February 2012 at 8:02pm | IP Logged 
Kanewai, I definitely agree with the points you made in your longer first post.

I used Pimsleur phases 1-3 for Japanese, and it was my first language to use Pimsleur with. I like it because I like speaking the language, and this really helps internalize some of the responses.

But yes, the same things can be inane for those of us who use them with multiple languages. I just finished the short course for French, which I'm doing for the 6WC this go round, and the fact that the first lesson was the same as the Japanese or any other first lesson, was rather mind-numbing.

Once I got over my distaste of the first lesson, I did have fun using the French short course. I could even feel some pronunciation improvement in the short amount of days I had it. So if that was all the French I ever learned, I could say I was an American, ask for directions (though I might not understand all answers), ask for wine or beer, and in a pinch say I didn't understand.
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 Message 7 of 8
14 February 2012 at 12:30am | IP Logged 
I thought the Mandarin Pimsleur was fantastic since Chinese grammar doesn't differ that
much from the English one. On the other hand, the Cantonese Pimsleur has tonal mistakes
almost every lesson so it's better to ignore its English instructions unless you learn
the same vocabulary from other sources too. I did a few lessons of Japanese Pimsleur
with no additional resources and while I don't mind them not explaining grammar, it
would have been nice to talk about the particles; after about 15-20 lessons I didn't
even know these particles existed even though I heard many sentences using them.

As mentioned by kanewai, doing a few lessons of Pimsleur isn't worth it. I've tried the
free Pimsleur lesson in about 10 languages and I can't remember any of them because I
haven't had any more practice. 4 years after trying Pimsleur Japanese I completely
forgot what I had learned from it, yet I had no exposure to Mandarin for nearly a year
after completing all of Pimsleur Mandarin and I still managed to use it after moving to
Hong Kong. If you're gonna do Pimsleur, do the whole thing or at the very least the
first 30 lessons in order to reinforce the language in your brain.
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 Message 8 of 8
14 February 2012 at 2:01am | IP Logged 
I thought the Turkish course was pretty good.

Most people complain about the (lack of) depth of the courses, but I discovered that it actually covered far more than I would have thought initially when I went back and revisited the course a year later. Yes, the vocabulary count is low, but the Turkish course did a really good job of demonstrating the different Wide and abilitative tenses, in addition to the usual simple present, past and future. I wish there were a Turkish II course that covered other tenses/moods, such as narrative, dubitative, conditional and subjunctive, but for a beginner course, Turkish I was pretty decent.

It covered vowel harmony thoroughly, and taught you possessives even though you didn't realize that was what you were learning.


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