I’m now half way through my Pimsleur Czech course and am enjoying it. I like the way the lessons are arranged and the way you’re asked to construct new sentences using the words you already know. The focus on listening and speaking really suits me as these are the skills I prefer to focus on. The relatively small amount of material covered by the course is covered in some detail, so I feel confidient about using it.

When I’ve completed this course, I plan to tackle Routledge’s Colloquial Czech. After that, I’ll be able to say mluvím český and I’ll have another go at Russian.

Have you learnt any languages with Pimsleur courses? What do you think of them?

This entry was posted in Czech, Language, Language learning.

10 Responses to Pimsleur

  1. Esteban says:

    I have used the Primsleur Brazilian Portuguese course and found it somewhat over-repetitive, but, then again, that’s the idea, I suppose. I think the Primsleur courses are great if you want to get a good grasp on the sounds of the language. And as Simon mentioned, the structure of the lessons is such that you are at least forced to “think outside the box”, i.e. create new sentences from the information you have learned. It’s a good first step in learning a language.

    As for the Routledge Colloquial Czech book, it’s just great! Lots of reading, very good detail on grammar for a book of this kind. You will definitely learn quite a bit of the language using this course.

    I think it bears mentioning that not all the Colloquial courses are of the same caliber. The Colloquial Catalan course, for example, is very disappointing in my view. Not much vocab, very superficial explanation of grammar, etc. It’s a shame since there are not many good courses out there to learn Catalan.

  2. Polly says:

    I see them in the language sections of bookstores, but I haven’t used one, yet. I don’t remember if cost was a factor in my not choosing Pimsleur even though I’ve heard the name many times.
    I like the approach of “Living Language” courses, which start off on dialogues employing common, useful phrases at the same time as introducing grammar. The one drawback is that the quizzes at the end aren’t very in-depth. So, you’re left to your own devices to practice what you’ve learned. L.L. also don’t shrink back from teaching and using non-latin writing systems. A real plus, since I usually know the writing system BEFORE I start to learn the language itself.
    My biggest problem with any lang. stems from an inability to encounter all the vocabulary I need long after I’ve learned the grammar. I don’t even notice how much I don’t know until I read something or watch a movie and encounter dozens of new words. There’s no course that can teach you ALL the vocab. you need for fluency. So, now I’m printing news articles off the net and going through them with a highlighter in one hand and a dictionary in the other. It’s more interesting and you get to see how the words are used in context. Access to native speakes would be nice, but you can only pester them so much. And, I really don’t know that many people, native or otherwise.

  3. Logan says:

    I’m no big fan of Pimsleur. I can understand the advantage when it comes to basic conversation, but the problem is just that — it helps you gain a solid foundation is the limited diction needed for daily usage, but when it comes to expanding vocabulary and context, it comes up short in comparison to other courses available.

    The Routledge Colloquial books, in general, seem to be fairly objective when it comes to teaching the grammar alongside the vocabulary. Certain ones might seem worse than others, but different teachers are going to stick with different ways of outlining their material no matter which course series you look into. The same can be said about the Teach Yourself collection — there are a few that I’d consider indispensible, but at the same time, others leave a lot to be desired (and learned).

    The Living Language Basics courses (the ones with a coursebook, small dictionary, and two or three cassettes or CDs) are another series I wouldn’t recommend to somebody just gaining knowledge of a language. Most of them seem to stick with memorizing phrases and slow vocabulary build-up without a lot of think-for-yourself exercises. The Living Language Ultimate courses, however — outstanding. These consist of a Basic-Intermediate course and then an Advanced course afterward, and I think each individual course comes with two sets of audio : four cassettes or CDs for learning at home with the textbook, and four cassettes or CDs for learning on the go. The second set provide the needed practice for using the language more effectively (perhaps not as thoroughly as a Pimsleur course, but the range of material is a lot more varied) and work well in tandem with the first set of audio, which focuses mostly on rote memorization and recognizing sounds as opposed to how the second set of audio focuses on listening practice.

    Another nice series not yet mentioned : Hugo’s In Three Months. Sort of a long shot to expect each course’s study plan to fit inside that time frame, but the amount of grammar and vocabulary and audio available is worth the money. Even the Welsh course, which offers a slim textbook (just over 200 pages) and two cassettes as opposed to the usual four, is still the best one I’ve come across for building a decent foundation in both the colloquial language and the written version. These can be hard to come across, but they shouldn’t go overlooked.

  4. Joe says:

    When I started learning Japanese in 2004, I planned to do it the old-fashioned way: slog through some books until I got bored (a few days later). I picked up Pimsleur Japanese at the library, intending to use a lesson or two to get a feel for the sound of the language. In my previous experience with audio “courses”, that’s about all they were good for: a quick introduction to pronunciation.

    As it turned out, I ended up doing all 90 lessons. The book I’d chosen was pretty lame (“Japanese in Mangaland”), but Pimsleur was addictive: in just 1/2 hour you’d actually LEARN SOMETHING.

    After 45 lessons I started speaking with natives and it’s been nonstop fun ever since. Follow Pimsleur closely and you should end up with great pronunciation and enough useful phrases to keep the natives guessing: just how good IS he/she? Pimsleur didn’t give me a wide vocabulary or a lot of useful grammar, but it gave me a decent foundation and enough to start experimenting on my own. Couple Pimsleur with lessons and a good textbook and you’re really on your way.

    Sadly, I’ve tried repeating Pimsleur Japanese and just can’t get into it. Also sadly, there’s no equivalent once you’ve finished a course: you’re on your own. And third-time sadly, I’ve never been able to get into another Pimsleur course like I did Japanese: Spanish was too irritatingly slow, Portuguese just didn’t grab me, nor did Mandarin. Maybe I just don’t have the interest to keep going. Seems like I had a few dry spots with Japanese too, but also had the interest to push through them.

    If you’re interested in a language, Pimsleur is expensive but a good way to start (check your library before buying). For me the first lesson of Mandarin was pure magic: it started off with a “conversation of pure gibberish”, I worked through the half-hour, and by the end I actually understood that conversation. Pimsleur isn’t magic, but sometimes can really feel like it.

  5. Polly says:

    I didn’t know there was a different version of Living Languge Courses. I’m using the “Ultimate” and it seems good.

    I got the Advanced Russian but I haven’t really looked into the course book. I like the CD’s, though. L.L. was the ONLY one I saw that offered Advanced Russian. Beyond that, it’s “real” books and movies and also internet-radio, which, thanks to Simon’s suggesting Audacity I can now record to mp3 and playback later on the go. Works great!

    I am just starting out in Japanese using the Ultimate L.L.. So far so good, I guess. I have no basis for comparison. Looks like I may have to visit the library (としょかん / 図書館) and see if they carry Pimsleur.

  6. parkbench says:

    I have Everything from Haitian Creole to Mandarin Chinese…

    …and I haven’t listened to any of it yet.

    Besides my procrastination/busy (re: not busy at all) schedule, I find I can never get past the first two minutes of a lesson (mostly because I consider myself prehensile enough to skip the child-rearing techniques):

    The word for library is, Toshokan. 図書館








    How do you say, library?

    …but honestly, I want to like them. So I figure one day I’ll check em out. I mean, hell, where the hell else am I going to learn Haitian Creole?

  7. Logan says:

    Polly : Well, a few of the Living Language Basics courses have follow-up Beyond the Basic courses, which more or less cover grammar and more vocabulary. This course in tandem with the regular Basics course would be a good study plan, but the problem is that not all the Basics courses are continued with a Beyond the Basics supplement. This method of teaching (rote memorization with a focus on regurgitating phrases or sentences, not too much attention to actual sentence structure or grammar explanation) works okay for some languages, but others I wouldn’t recommend.

    On the topic of Russian, “The New Penguin Russian Course : A Complete Course for Beginners” (Nicholas J. Brown) is an exceptional course in the language and probably one of the best “isolate” courses out there that I’ve come across. There’s no audio accompanying the course, but the amount of information provided throughout the book is pretty thorough.

  8. justin says:

    I have very mixed feelings about Pimsleur but overall I think its all depends on your goals. When I goto the gym, many times I will listen to a lesson or 2 of pimsleur for fun and just absorb easy listening, usually when I’m first starting a language or to listen to a lesson in a language I know nothing about. For serious study howevery I think its slow and while it does provite authentic listening I think your time is better spent somewhere else. After 6 lessons of chinese, you know maybe 35 words and can say “do you want to drink something?” as your longest sentance, not bad but for 3 hours of study…I feel I could accomplish that faster by myself. The curve might change later, but I more or less use them as light study or intro while taking the train or some other time where actual study time cant be accomplished.

  9. renato says:

    Dear Simon, after reading this article, about Pimsleur, I decided to go to Pimsleur web page, and could downloaded Italian’s first lesson demo version. My opinion is: 1- Book prices are more expensive than Audio Forun; 2- The pronounciation of words and sentences are excelent; 3- I don’t agree with the sistem where you repeat a word from back to front, IO PARLO ITALIANO, is in right way io- par-lo i-ta-li-a-no, and not NO-A-LI-TA-I repeat italiano. No child around the world learns any word this way. So I think this part of his method, can cause confusion in more difficult languages. This way I agree with Parkbench. It looks like all Courses from Pimsleur follows the same method.

  10. T-Moor says:

    Well, just finishing downloading Pimsleur German Plus course and I think that it’s an amazing course, though there’s one drawback, it’s oriented towards an American speaker, which i think is not a good thing, ’cause not only Americans are buying this course. I am also planning to use some Living Language courses along with the Michel Thomas language courses, hope to learn more with the help of these courses.
    As to learning Russian, I can help with obtaining free materials and even with poractising via Skype, so if you’re interested in learning Russian, Uzbek or even Tajik just call me (my Skype name’s t-moor) or e-mail me 🙂

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