Learning a language is often a daunting task but many tools and methods exist to help us along and one of the more popular these days is the Pimsleur language courses using the so called “Pimsleur Method” which has proven to be a fairly effective method for quickly grasping the basics of learning a new language, however with some caveats.
The Pimsleur method, originally developed by Dr Paul Pimsleur, is based on four basic principles – Graduated Interval Recall, Principle of Anticipation, Core Vocabulary and Organic learning. Dr Pimsleur developed the Pimsleur language learning system [wikipedia] as it is also known, in the 60’s initially for learning Greek, French, Spanish and German languages but it has since been expanded to a huge array of languages including all the most widely spoken languages as well as the less common such as Irish, Pashto, Hebrew, Swahili, Twi, Tagalog and many more.
Pimsleur language courses are audio only (or mostly, they do include a basic reading guide also) which makes them ideal for learning a language while you are on the go as they can easily be loaded on to your ipod or other mp3 player and listened to while commuting to work or while at the gym. Although you may get some strange looks as you go around talking to yourself in another language!
Typically a Pimsleur language course consists of 30 lessons per level with each lesson lasting for 30 minutes and using native speakers to ensure you get as realistic an experience as possible. There are usually three or four levels in a complete language course although for some languages, Tagalog for example, there is only a single level at the moment which is very limiting and certainly not enough to make any significant progress with learning a language. However for the more common or popular languages there should be at least three levels available with Pimsleur which provides a good foundation for learning a language. Each level consists of approximately 500 words, although some dispute this figure, claiming that those 500 words actually includes many variations of the same words so the actually total is much lower. Whichever way the vocabulary is counted it is still not too extensive and additional study is needed to achieve real fluency in any language.
A common criticism of Pimsleur language course is that it is quite expensive, typically several hundred dollars for each level which is a lot to spend for anyone, however these days there is also a downloadable MP3 only version which is considerably cheaper and also saves you the job of ripping the cd’s yourself to your pc for loading on to whatever mp3 player you want to use.
Does the Pimsleur method work though? In my experience it does – up to a point. It has a somewhat limited vocabulary as mentioned previously, however it does concentrate on the most commonly used words and the focus is on getting you up to speed with actually speaking in a new language as soon as possible and in this regard it does what it says on the tin, it really helps you get over that initial barrier to start talking with real people in your chosen language.
After you’ve completed all three or four Pimsleur levels you will need to continue learning and using your newly acquired language skills to achieve true fluency. There are a number of ways you can do this for example through a language exchange, vocabulary building with various books and software as well as many online and offline language learning resources.