3 Vote

is the pimsleur spanish courses worth investing in? what are their limitations and benefits? are they worth the money?

  • Posted Jan 6, 2011
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  • Audio methods depend more on you than on the method sometimes, some people just can not learn without also seeing something in front of them. But you can always draw while you listen or move around or exercise or do whatever you find helps you concentrate - rabbitwho Nov 3, 2011 flag

17 Answers

4 Vote

Is Pimsleur any good? Pimsleur is very good.

When i started using it about 7 months ago i could not speak one word of Spanish. Its repetative and boring as hell but its like a wand. Every hour put in guarantees a certain increase in ability. And you dont have to think at all.This is unique in the business of language learning. Most forms of learning its up to you to think, solve problems and can get distracted. Most forms of learning dont guarantee a certain increase in ability after a certain period of time. But Pimsleur does it for you. You just lie down, put the tape on and 45 minutes - hour later youve improved. Another 45 minutes - hour, youve improved again.

You do have to use it every day though. Me i did 2 hours a day for a month. And like i said its very boring and gets very very repetitive. And it only gets you up to a certain level. It doesnt teach you grammar, though your brain will be able to intuitively work out some of it, which is good.

So to finish the story 7 months ago i could not speak one word of Spanish. For a month 2 hours of Pimsleur a day was my only method of learning Spanish. A month later I spoke Spanish as good as my sister who had been learning it in school for 5 years, though it should be pointed out that the British school system is awful in such things.

  • I agree about the English system not being good for learning languages generally - FELIZ77 Apr 9, 2011 flag
2 Vote

Pimsleur is excellent. They teach everyday language, they way you would speak it. They don't teach grammar, that is for classes and for textbooks and this site. There are many native speakers who have poor grammar. Although learning the grammar is a part of the experience you could become conversationally fluent without being a grammar expert. You can check out the Pimsleur disks from your local library for free so price is not a concern. Gracias.

  • Do you know anyone who became conversationally fluent without learning any grammar? Because I've been teaching Engish 3 years and I've never met someone who did. - rabbitwho Nov 3, 2011 flag
  • Sure, none of my friends at work can even read. - jeezzle Nov 3, 2011 flag
  • I think it's wrong to say Pimsleur doesn't teach grammar. True, it doesn't explicitly explain grammar, but it introduces and drills you on sentences that use the correct grammatical construction, which gives you an intuitive sense of sentence structure. - robpet Mar 6, 2016 flag
2 Vote

Pimsleur is terrible if you want to speak Spanish well. If you're really serious, I'd recommend Platiquemos or the free lessons on the Foreign Service Institute language course website both of these are dull but if you can make it through, you'll speak beautiful Spanish and the price is much better.

2 Vote

I went through the beginner and intermediate Pimsleur series and I have to say that I liked them. The thing that is good about Pimsleur is that it is based on a spaced repetition system (similar to the way that Anki, mnemosyne and other similar programs are designed) to maximize efficiency and retention.

The drawback, is the fact that (to me) there is just a bit too much English, so your brain really gets little chance to try to adapt to thinking in one language but instead starts off by translating (although, I will admit that the further along one goes, the less English is used).

  • I'll mention that even at the advanced level I'm not at, I still spend a great deal of time thinking the sentence first in English and then translating. Unfortunate but true. So Pimsleur can help by at least speeding up your internal translating skills. - robpet Mar 6, 2016 flag
2 Vote

I saw the short course of Pimsleur Greek in the library, and couldn't resist bringing it home.

I like it, although I'm rather sceptical of the claim that at the end of 8 cassettes I'll speak Greek at a beginner level.

The Greek content sinks in incredibly quickly.


  • maybe because the language part of your brain has really developed recently (?) Hi Sally :) - patch Nov 3, 2011 flag
2 Vote

After taking most of the lessons from this website, and three months of daily reading, I was able to enjoy reading light Spanish novels written for kids teenagers, such as the Chronicles of Narnia books in Spanish without referring to the dictionaries. Although reading is great for vocabulary building and grammar understanding, my verbal Spanish skills was close to 0.

Recently I checked out the Pimsleur CDs from our local library. I have listened to all the CDs up to level IIIA now. My feelings are mixed about this method.

Level I (IA, IB) lessons were very helpful to "install" basic greetings and some basic expressions into my brain, and help me start to speak those basic words I already have learned through reading. It also helps firm up some of the basic superposition usage (such as "en casa", "por aquí", etc.) However, this is just memorized, CANNED information, when I use them with a native speaker, I am merely acting like a parrot, rather than expressing my thoughts or feelings. I would not call this speaking Spanish, as the program claimed.

Leve II (IIA, IIB) is a gradual build up from level I by adding more new words, new expressions and more tenses. The most benefit I got from level II CDs was that my listening skills were improved, as the dialog at the beginning of each lesson got faster and harder. On the other hand, the lessons started to feel boring. Although one of the big claim of the Pimsleur method is this "Graduated Interval Recall", my brain gradually got bored with the repetition Also, if I have not done the lessons on SD and read about grammars, I would be totally lost during level II Pimsleur lessons when different tenses were introduced. Adults cannot learn "blindly" like children do, because our brains need more "rational" and "understanding" before accepting new information into memory. Even though I have completed the level II lessons, the expressions I am comfortable to use are still those basic, canned ones introduced in level I, because when the dialogues become more in depth, canned answers are ineffective.

Level III, I am only in the middle of IIIA right now, and I am struggling with many challenges: boredom with the method is the biggest one. I have tried various "Graduated Interval Recall"" based methods and tools (such as anki), it seems my brain refuses to be "installed" with new information after a while, due to boredom. Also, at this level of the Pimsleur lessons, new expressions, new words are introduced at a much faster pace than the previous two levels, so unless I listen to each CD twice, I really cannot make 80% of the response correctly. Since I am already bored with the method, re-listening the CD becomes even harder. With as much pain as it is, the content of the dialog were still quite rudimentary, far from the program's claim of "High Intermediate." I will stick through the CDs, if not anything, at lease I can improve my listening skills further.

In summary, I think the first level lessons (30 total) are the most helpful to get people start speaking or listening, if they start from ground 0 like I did. Also, I do not believe Pimsleur method is sufficient for people to learn a foreign language, let alone learn it "in 10 days." Don't let such marketing slogan mislead your expectations, but do actively seek suitable tools/sites/methods that work the best for you by asking input from learning communities such as SD.

  • I'd like to restate here what I said in my own post, which is that I agree that sitting in a chair listening to Pimsleur of any repitive tapes are deadly boring. That's why I do it in the car, where it's not boring at all! Or on the stationary bike. - robpet Mar 6, 2016 flag
1 Vote

Hi Simon, did you search Pimsleur on this site? There are a few previous posts giving opinions, hopefully they will help you make a decision. smile

Link to Search Page (just type in "Pimsleur")

  • Hope you don't mind, but I added a link to the search page - Izanoni1 Jan 6, 2011 flag
1 Vote

I finished the introductory lesson from Pimsleur last month. They teach only phrases, not grammar and spelling. I decided not to continue my lessons with them because they sent me the next course before I ordered it, then I had to return it before they charged my credit card for the unordered package.

By the end of the first series of CDs I was able to order a beer. They spent an entire CD lesson on "una cerveza".

I don't recommend it. If you follow it closely, it will teach phrases. I think you need the grammar, too.

Send me a PM if you need more information. Hope that helps!

  • You can borrow Pimsleur either on CD or digital from most any library, so expense shouldn't be an issue. - robpet Mar 6, 2016 flag
  • This post mischaracterizes the lessons. The lessons on ordering a beer etc. are teaching vocab for ordering, plus sentence structure and verb tenses and forms, which is grammar! If you stick with the lessons, you'll be pleased by how much you learn by III - robpet Mar 6, 2016 flag
1 Vote

I listen to it on my drive to work. It's no substitute for learning grammar and what you can learn on this site but really helpful in my case when on the road for almost 2 hours a day.

1 Vote

I've done those FSI lessons that you can get for free, talk about boring....... Pimsleur and Michell Thomas are the way to go for audio lessons, everything else it total immersion! (and this site and books).

1 Vote

I'm doing pimsleur and I find it does help to remember things, but it lacks in grammar.

I think platiquemos is more throughout but they are using words in sentences that they haven't translated or using grammar that I have no idea what it is. Anyone else find this?

1 Vote

Me personally, I cannot stand listening to their voices. It's like nails on a blackboard for me. Especially the boy, and sometimes I want to punch him in the face. And I swear I must be deaf because I have to crank the volume up when listening, at which point whoever mastered the audio did a horrendous job because it blows my speakers out, the audio levels are bad. Other than that it's not bad, quite better than other ones, I just personally wouldn't pay for it.

  • Strange, I found both the male and the female voice to be quite pleasant, and I had no problems with the audio. It's among the best audio courses in my opinion, but to each his own, of course :) - Vikingo Apr 9, 2011 flag
  • which program are you talking about? - ionisme Apr 9, 2011 flag
  • I will look up the exact one I have an let you know which one i was talking about - cheeseisyumm Apr 12, 2011 flag
  • It sounds like you're talking about the Michel Thomas one to me.. that boy drove me crazy. They should have let him practise between lessons so he wouldn't keep making the same mistakes over and over, but they didn't, so it's not his fault. - rabbitwho Nov 3, 2011 flag
  • I really like the voices in the Spanish version, both the male and female. - robpet Mar 6, 2016 flag
1 Vote

If I was going to spend all that money I would prefer to get "Learning Spanish like Crazy" which I heard a friends copy of and it's fantastic.

BUT really I wouldn't buy one single resource for beginners Spanish because there is so much free stuff for beginners on the internet. I wouldn't start buying things till I'd gotten through all of that if I were you. And in fact I only bought one beginners course and that was Bueno Entonces and I really liked it and I learned a lot and my listening skills were immediately better than people who could speak Spanish far better than me because they speak so fast on the videos but.. was it worth the money? I'm really tacaña, I don't know!

They have more extra resources now then they did when I got it, and its cheaper (they have a sale every few weeks, follow them on twitter and keep a look out), so probably yes. I would definitely recommend it above other audio courses because you can be 100% sure you'll finish it, unlike the others where you'll get bored half way through. Not that it's not sometimes boring, and there's too much English conversation in it, and I don't know why I'm expected to really care about what happens to the characters... but anyway it's more interesting than a lot of things.

The whole first lesson is free on the internet as far as I know so you get an idea what it's like from that.

1 Vote

Pimsleur is EXCELLENT for conversational Spanish. I went through all 4 Pimsleur Spanish courses. Like someone else on this post said, I didn't speak a word of Spanish when I started, and by the time I finished, I was carrying on conversations in Mexico with native speakers.

But, don't expect to be at an advanced level with Pimsleur. When I completed all lessons, I would probably have been considered an advanced beginner. But it gave me the background to keep going, and I would now consider myself an Intermediate speaker and an advanced intermediate in many ways.

Pimsleur is only conversational though, and that is it's biggest limitation, in my opinion. There are portions of the class devoted to writing, but they are very slim. However, if you start out with Pimsleur plus another method to help you with the written language, you should be well ahead of the game by the time you are finished.

Pimsleur number 3 is the best set of lessons because it started you on the past instead of the present. Pimsleur 4 was not near as impressive, but it did still teach a lot of vocabulary.

I would recommend Pimsleur anyday, especially if you have a long drive to work. It's perfect when used while driving. I tried other methods that were on the computer, but I didn't have the time on the computer to devote to it so that I could really learn.

Try it! I think that you will love it!

1 Vote

I'm an advanced student who has studied on and off for 20 years. I've never reached total fluency because I've never lived in a Spanish-speaking country, but I'm good enough to give lectures in Spanish (I'm a biologist and teacher) or to carry on a conversation with an individual who doesn't speak too colloquially.

For the past year I have listened to Pimsleur CDs every day while driving to and from work, which amounts to approximately 40 minutes a day. Doing so has vastly improved my Spanish, particularly my ability to speak simple colloquial phrases quickly. Plus I now have a rock-solid understanding of, for example, when to use Ir (to go) and when to use Irse (to leave). There were many times when listening to the tapes that a light finally went off in my head, after 20 years of studying Spanish, where I said, "Ah, so that's why they' say it that way." So I strongly disagree with the people who said that you can't get a good grounding in grammar from Pimsleur. The series does a masterful job of teaching grammar in context, providing just enough English explanation so it makes sense.

Doing Pimsleur while driving significantly reduces my rush-hour stress. I don't have to be impatient while waiting in traffic or at a red light because my time is used productively. I listen to each CD six or seven times until I know it really well.

I agree with others that doing Pimsleur (or any canned language course) while sitting at home would be excruciatingly boring. But it's not at all boring to do while driving. For safety, I do turn it off when I'm navigating through tricky downtown streets. I suspect those who didn't like Pimsleur didn't stick with it long enough or had unrealistic expectations. Learning a foreign language is a lifetime endeavor..

I have used many different methods of learning Spanish including language schools in Costa Rica and Guatemala, private tutors in the U.S., internet tutors in Guatemala, and extensive reading of fiction in Spanish. I've also tried Rosetta Stone (expense and nearly useless), the US Foreign Service course, and others. Of all the recorded methods, I've found Pimsleur to be by far the best and a great compliment to private lessons. One of the big drawbacks to classes or tutors is that the student doesn't get enough repetition to ensure that they really "own" the phrases they are taught. This is where Pimsleur comes in.

The more I use Pimsleur, the more I am in awe of how well it is made. They've done an amazingly good job at introducing new material at just the right rate, and they loop back to reinforce old material at just the right frequency.

As a side note, here's a bit of advice for those contemplating language school in Latin America. I've been to 6 or 7 schools, and I found that without exception they are mills designed to churn beginning students through, for a couple weeks each, with no real plan for ensuring the students learn. I eventually figured this out and asked the better teachers whether their schools had ever gotten a student to fluency. The answer was always no. One of the reasons is that even their much-advertised "small group" lessons are ineffective compared with one-on-one tutoring. It finally dawned on me that sitting in a classroom with 3 or 4 other people who are mutilating the language isn't an effective way to learn. If there are 5 people in the class, then you only get 1/5 the teacher's attention on your needs. It's by far more cost-effective to hire a one-on-one tutor at double the cost. The math is simple: $20 per hour for 1/5 attention, or $40 per hour for 100% attention.

At one language school, after a month there when I was learning very little, I convinced the director to let me pay double for a private tutor. Then I started making so much progress that other students asked me enviously how I was learning so quickly. When I told them, they all wanted private tutors too, Unfortunately, this ran counter to the financial interests of the school, which makes much more for 5 students in a class with a single teacher, than with the same five students each paying for their own teachers. I ended up getting kicked out of the school for upsetting their financial strategy.

  • Hi Robpet. I was wondering which level of the tapes you have used with Pimsleur. Did you start at the beginning or did you choose a higher level because you're an advanced student? Thanks! - mercat Jan 27, 2016 flag
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