Why I Decided to Give The Pimsleur Approach A Second Chance

A little over two years ago I began studying Russian with The Pimsleur Approach – thus launching my foray into language learning product reviews. In lieu of the company’s horrible

advertising campaigns and lofty price tag I was extraordinarily skeptical of the program and didn’t expect much.

You can read the original review here for a lot more on what Pimsleur is and is not.

Most of us have seen the advertising; the posters suggesting fluency in ten days, punctuated by the words ‘scientific’ and ‘secret’ better suited to commercials for male enhancement than language learning.

Despite this I ended up attempting Pimsleur’s Russian and experienced better results than I had anticipated, but overall was still met with a generally underwhelming experience.

Long story short; I didn’t write the kindest review and despite some success the program left a generally bad taste in my mouth.

However, two years later and many, many programs, apps and other systems reviewed for better or worse, I found myself drawn back to Pimsleur once more.I decided to give the program another go, a second chance with a new language and renewed interest, and perhaps a more open mind.

The reason I decided to reunite with Pimsleur is simple….


…Pimsleur promised me women in body paint if only I learned some Spanish!

Okay, seriously:

Since starting Pimsleur’s Russian two years ago, my motivation to learn and to continue learning Russian has remained strong. I attribute most of the success I’ve had in the language to Pimsleur – perhaps not directly – but as a result of having developed a passion for the language early on.

Love it or hate it, one of the Pimsleur Approach’s best qualities is the way success makes you feel.

The program puts enough of a time constraint on you that when you start answering questions correctly, within the time, the results are immediately apparent and make you want to continue learning.

While the program certainly slows down after a few weeks; rapid, early success with a new language is an enormous boon when it comes to sticking with your project for the long term.

Overcoming that first four or five hundred word slope can set you far enough along with your goal to recognize and appreciate your progress and catalyze your future studies – regardless of the methods you use – into a language learning machine.

Another reason that my sentiments towards the program have changed is that they’ve dropped their price tag considerably with the MP3 Version of their software. It still isn’t the cheapest method out there but I can safely say now that it is relatively cost effective.

If you’re interested in trying out the Pimsleur Method with me and keeping me abreast of your own experiences please check out this link! It’s an affiliate link which means that I earn a small commission on any products that you decide to purchase.

Have you used The Pimsleur Approach? What was your impression?

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Brian is the creator, owner and Apex Editor of Languages Around the Globe. When he’s not hanging around with linguistics nerds and learning languages, Brian works full time at Kolibri Online, a Hamburg based international content marketing and translation agency as a copywriter, human dictionary and general doer of great things.

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Brian Powers

Brian is the creator, owner and Apex Editor of Languages Around the Globe. When he's not hanging around with linguistics nerds and learning languages, Brian works full time at Kolibri Online, a Hamburg based international content marketing and translation agency as a copywriter, human dictionary and general doer of great things.

  • David Cooper

    I’ve never put a lot of money into language courses and I don’t like anything that pushes me into trying to speak a language before I’ve learned to understand it well. I’m finally making rapid progress with Russian after finding a children’s novel in electronic form online (Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons – Ласточки и амазонки) which I’m reading with the help of Google Translate (which removes the need to look up any words), although I also have a copy of the book in English which I sometimes have to look up to clear up confusing bits. To begin with it was taking four or five days to work through a chapter, but yesterday I read the whole of chapter ten in a single session: the rate of improvement with this approach to language learning is astonishing. If you want to give it a go, you can download the book from here: http://www.e-reading.club/book.php?book=1027770 – I went for the html version, and if a story about children sailing on a lake and camping on an island doesn’t appeal, I’m sure they have a lot of alternative books that can be downloaded in the same way. Real books throw all the most important words (and grammar) at you again and again, and I just let themsleves write themselves into my memory in their own good time without making any effort to memorise any of them. As I go through the book though, I’m also revising from a Teach Yourself Russian book to remind myself of particular things to pay attention to.

  • Pimsleur is great, because it puts you straight away in an active role where you have to use your brain to produce phrases. Of course, even with the 90-lesson courses, you don’t get enough vocabulary, but there’s no single course that’s enough by itself. Pimsleur combined with Anki and anything else that works for you, is a great way to start with a language.

  • Bob

    Yes. Luckily my old library had a decent selection of Pimsleur languages. I did all three volumes of French during my commute to work. You wont get a massive vocabulary; but, you will be very comfortable with the vocabulary you acquire.

    I am a little surprised new online courses have not put more price pressure on them. They do seem to be a premium priced product. You can get more vocabulary with audio much cheaper through Assimil. But, they still fill the niche of mobile learning very well.

  • Mandarin is an extremely difficult language to make significant progress with without a tutor – I speculate anyway. I haven’t actually studied it but that seems to be the general consensus.

    Would Rosetta Stone be worth $5? Maybe. I’ve written two reviews, one that was an actual review and one that was more of a personal narrative of my experiences using it in a language lab with ESL learners. There’re a bunch of problems with RS that could actually prove detrimental to a learner, but that’s neither here nor there.

    I agree that if you’re going to be spending money on anything a tutor is going to be the way to go. iTalki has a lot of really decent rates – including some free tutors.

    It isn’t hard to find language partners or tutors, but a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of trying.


  • Daryl Flamm

    Years ago I tried Pimsleur for Japanese. Back then I didn’t have all the app’s I have today. When I picked up mandarin I gave RS a try. Mostly because of the way I prefer to learn in real life. I need to speak and I like to make a visual connection between a word and an item. These articles (Pimsleur and the Rosetta Stone reviews) nailed most of the problems on the head. I think theres one thing that people should change the way they phrase their dislike for RS. Instead of saying “it cost too much”, maybe say “if it was a $4.99 app compared to $499 software, it would be a bargain”. Since I started studying Mandarin I have been combing the internet for better ways to study. What I read from people is (like this blog) “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. If we all had the money to throw at RS + Pimsleur + Tutors + Apps, we would have the most well-rounded learning program available to man. However, we don’t have that endless cashflow. In my current studies with Mandarin, because of the tones, I find the best money spent was on live one-on-one tutors. They helped me build a good foundation of tones and pinyin. from there I can use apps and youtube, etc to build. If no one ever corrected my tones all my studying would have been a big waste of time. I don’t know how other languages work, but for mandarin, I need someone listening to my speech.

  • pablomaz

    Good to know that, Ali.
    I’ve been studying Spanish for a couple of years now using a very traditional approach (presential classes for small groups). Being a native Portuguese speaker gives you an enormous advantage to learn Spanish, and vice versa, since they’re partially mutually intelligible languages.
    Estudie bien, hombre!
    Un abrazo y cuídate.

  • It’s good, however I’m busy with college courses now. I keep excersing and reviewing to remember what I’ve already learned. Soon I’ll continue with the next level.
    Puedo hablar Español y escribir tambien. 😀

  • pablomaz

    How is your experience going, Ali?! I’ve been thinking doing the same thing with Russian. I’m Brazilian, so everything I’ll use will be in English (I’m still defining the strategy though).

    And, hey, Brian, your site is great, congratulations!

  • With Russian I used the full three level course (90 lessons) but I dabbled with Armenian briefly, and unfortunately they only offer 10 lessons for that. Not surprising – less demand and it’s probably harder to make a decent Armenian series.

    I’m looking at doing German next. I believe German is one of the languages of which Pimsleur offers 4 levels, which will be interesting.

    Since writing this a spokesperson from Pimsleur has informed me that their prices dropped significantly following the release of their MP3 format. So I’m looking forward to editing that into my reviews.

    Gotta keep it evergreen!

  • Very true Dave. Their selection is a bit better than most language programs offer. I wish they’d go further with the 10 Lesson courses.

  • Yeah, I like it. You know. Looks like I’m learning two languages simultaneously. Language is my passion. But, you know, I was kind of unsure about it. Thanks for your answer.

    Thank YOU for your site. 🙂

  • If you haven’t seen them, there are 30-lesson sets on 16 discs available, at least for some of the languages. You do learn quite a bit more (depending on the language) but I feel that your vocabulary-to-dollar ratio drops a bit, especially given the cost. But there’s so much more reinforcement. And I’ve never bought a new set. I’ve always kept an eye on Ebay or Amazon prices, and sometimes you can get a great deal. (My library also has a decent selection.) However, ever since Pimsleur offered their first 15 lessons of Tagalog as a free download after Typhoon Haiyan hit — still available), I have more appreciation for them and am more open to paying the full price for some products.

  • I’m actually a huge fan of Pimsleur (more so than Rosetta Stone) except for the fact that their courses are horridly expensive. But they get me speaking right away, and I end up being able to retain a lot, even long after giving the discs a listen. I wish they had more languages available, although their catalog is still pretty impressive.

  • Hi Ali,

    That’s a fantastic question! I have absolutely heard that learning a third language via your second language is a great strategy. Unfortunately I haven’t been fortunate enough to spend a significant amount of time learning in this way – also being a native English speaker means that most common language resources are available in my first language.

    I do own a couple Russian textbooks written in Spanish, and I enjoy working my way through them from time to time, but I haven’t spent enough time doing so to adequately determine for myself.

    Thanks again for your comment and for reading!

  • I’m currently using Pimsleur for Spanish. I like the method, but I have a concern: I’m Persian native, but I’m learning Spanish in English. Do you have any idea about learning a foreign language by means of a second language. Will it help, or just make things more complex?

  • I really liked Pimsleur for Farsi. I liked that it got me speaking right away, and I had some solid phrases quickly. I enjoy hearing and speaking the language, and Pimsleur allowed me to do that.

    Also, I agree with you about the motivation that Pimsleur offers. When I ran out of Pimsleur Farsi, I was not seeing good progress, and I ended up spending more time looking for the next source or tool instead of actually studying. It petered off…

    What other tools were you using in the meantime that “encouraged” you to go back to Pimsleur?