Pimsleur Spanish offers one of the most comprehensive language learning methods online. The scientific background from where it was developed can assure fast learning outcomes from the first lesson. The system works fantastic for those users who do not know Spanish at all as it adapts the teaching method to the phonetic and linguistic characteristics of English-speaking learners. However, the method is audio-based, meaning that visual learning methods, such as writing and reading, are not prominent.
The Pimsleur Method is a world-famous language-learning technique created by linguist Dr. Paul Pimsleur. It combines well-established linguistic and pedagogical research with an intuitive process to get you speaking from the first day. The courses feature real-world context and flexible vocabulary, enabling you to learn fluidly and naturally. Let’s have a deeper look at how well the Pimsleur Method performs for learning Spanish.
Pimsleur Spanish overview
Dr. Pimsleur thought that the best way to learn a new language was to approach it the way babies do: by listening and repeating. His method is based on three main rules:
- No notes-taking
- 30 minute-lesson per day
- Respond aloud, not only in your head.
Pimsleur offers an incredible number of languages (51), including more niche ones, such as Haitian Creole, Pashto, and Tagalog! It is currently accessible through desktop, Android, and iOS and has been implemented with Alexa.
Pimsleur Spanish offers two courses: Spain-Castilian and Latin American. I appreciate this about Spanish online learning courses, as they allow learners to approach cultural differences between Spanish-speaking countries effectively.
The Spanish course is divided into five levels, each composed of 16 hours of learning, which makes a full 80-hour course. The course will take you from basic phrases, vocabulary, and grammar to a more intermediate speaking level. The course does not count with more advanced content, which is a drawback, as the well-thought method could profit from a more complete coverage of all learning levels.
The method takes into account that learning a new language is a different experience depending on each learner’s linguistic background. For instance, learning the phonetics of Spanish will be different for someone who speaks a romance language than one who speaks an Anglo-Saxon one.
How does it work?
The Pimsleur method is based on repetition and intervals where words and phrases will be recalled along different frequencies (days, weeks, months). You will be asked to recall information that you learned in the past, keeping the basics fresh in your mind. Unlike other methods, Pimsleur will pressure you to recall and actively participate in an exchanging way. Although this generates deep engagement with the learning process, this might not be the best option if you prefer a learning experience that runs secondary or in the background of other daily life activities.
This audio-based program focuses on listening and speaking, with almost non-existent focus on reading or writing. It is a method emphasising phonetics and native fluency, which I think is quite special. Even when it comes to reading, for instance, the approach tells you that it is important to understand what the words sound like to read more fluently. Similarly, Pimsleur features an AI learning tool to fix pronunciation mistakes, available in 21 languages. However, the method teaches everything by pieces of audio, so if you want to practice a new language by reading small pieces of text, this might not be the right option.
Since the method is focused on listening and speaking, the notion of visual learning is not part of the experience. Other platforms use graphics, photos, or videos to let you associate words with images. Pimsleur will ask you to imagine situations, so all the neurolinguistic process of connecting concepts with images or meanings will happen in your mind. Although the platform includes a well-balanced arrangement of visual and interactive elements, this option is not ideal for learners who appreciate visual support.
Each Pimsleur course offers a free session, which you can take to check if the method suits your needs. The session starts with a 30-minute audio where a narrator will guide you through learning words and phrases following an imaginary daily life situation. While the narrator speaks, the dialogues are separated into parts, making spaces for you to repeat and revise new words and phrases. This is what the Pimsleur method calls spaced repetition, which is one of the bases of the method for learning through listening and speaking. Each lesson takes 1 hour to complete fully.
Something I found unpleasant was the large number of times when the narrator asks you to repeat a new word. However, words might be dissected even into syllables, which can be amazing for beginners with a different phonetic background (Anglo-Saxon or Slavic, for example). If you are completely new to Spanish, this can be a good option to ensure good phonetic learning. However, it can get a bit boring as the audio has many pauses you should fill with repeating the words. This is not a good option if you want to learn Spanish while doing other activities where you cannot speak (commuting, for example).
After you follow through with the audio, you proceed to the voice coach. This is an AI language-learning tool that helps you fix pronunciation mistakes, compare your speaking with native speakers and test your accuracy and recalling abilities. It has two different modes: the Pronunciation Practice and the Challenge mode.
The first one consists of a flashcard system where you will hear a phrase, and then you will record your voice repeating it. The system will process your recording and give you a score. The Challenge mode will test your memory and conversation skills with 30 sections that consist of a phrase in English that you must translate and pronounce in Spanish.
This is what the speaking practice section of Pimsleur Spanish looks like.
After the speaking part, you will access a reading session showing a list of words and phrases displayed with or without translation in English. When you click each box, you will get the correct pronunciation and a complementary explanation of the nuances or grammatical specifics you should consider while learning the word.
The reading section is followed by different practice drills, including a flashcard-based game where you will reinforce new knowledge of words and phrases with their translation to English and a multiple-selection test. It also includes the Speak Easy part, where you will see a conversation that collects all phrases and words learnt, and the Speed Round, a game where you must match falling boxes with English phrases to their translation in Spanish before they touch a bottom line.
Something I liked about the platform is that each session will show you how the knowledge that is being learned relates to specific contextual linguistic skills. For example, Lesson 1 addresses meet and greet, polite phrases, survival skills and speak and understand. If you click on each of these skills, you will see a list of related words and phrases corresponding to each subject.
What are the pros and cons of Pimsleur Spanish?
- Sophisticated method with scientific backing: The fact that a well-known linguist designed the method can give you confidence that the method will work.
- AI-assisted learning tools for voice recognition: This is not easily found in other learning platforms.
- Learning is crafted depending on the linguistic background of users: This is probably the most differential characteristic of the method. Depending on which linguistic background you come from, the narrative and learning structure of the course are different.
- Perfect for beginners with no previous Spanish background: The detailed dissection of phrases and words with a phonetic approach makes it perfect for those beginners who struggle with making the words sound
- No grammar learning: There is no focus on grammar structures, which is also important when learning a language when you are not a kid.
- No reading and no writing: Pimsleur focuses on listening and speaking.
- Relatively expensive: Compared to other services such as Busuu, Rocket Spanish or Babbel, this option is not the most affordable.
- Too much English: All guide-through narrations are in English.
- Repetitive: Several times you being asked to repeat a word can become boring and upsetting.
- No content for advanced learners.
Although Pimsleur is more expensive if compared to other online-learning language options, it offers the possibility to get a refund from a one-month initial purchase if you don’t feel satisfied with the courses. The complete Pimsleur Premium course costs $575. However, you can purchase every level separately for $150. Each level contains 30 lessons.
Pimsleur courses can also be purchased in an Audio-only version that costs $119.95 per level.
The 5-lesson purchase of $21.95 offers a more affordable option, granting you access to 5 lessons from one of the first three levels.
What is the right audience for Pimsleur Spanish?
This course targets the very initial stages of learning when the familiarity with the language is near zero. This might be the best option if you are looking for a rigorous and time-demanding option for learning Spanish. Pimsleur can work amazingly for those who enjoy focused learning without distractions.
My overall review
The Pimsleur method might be one of the most sophisticated ones to learn a new language nowadays. I found the platform well-crafted with a good design across interactive media. It is impressive how this long-established method has been able to adapt to present times, for example, the integration of AI with voice recognition. However, I truly missed more visual parts, but that’s something of my taste. If you want a more integrative option that includes writing and reading, you might need to complement this course with other sources.