Pimsleur Method Review: “Language Learning on Steroids”

After just ten lessons, I was able to loosely but confidently converse with someone in Spanish! How is THAT for a positive result? I accomplished this through the Pimsleur Method of language learning, which I’m going to review in this post.

First, let me describe my journey with language learning pre-Pimsleur.

I took at least one Spanish class every single year from the time I was in 8th grade until I was a junior in college. That’s eight years of trying to learn a second language. Eight. Years. Despite all of that practice and verb conjugating and testing, I still had no confidence to actually converse in Spanish.

The desktop version of Pimsleur makes it convenient and fun to practice your language skills at any time, anywhere. © Shalese Kocher

Auditory learning was always a struggle for me. I could master memorization and writing, I just didn’t have the ear for listening and comprehension. Plus, a few embarrassing classroom presentations left me far too insecure to try speaking another language out loud to anyone.

This post contains affiliate links. The Budget-Minded Traveler is an affiliate of Pimsleur, but this is an unsponsored review of a personal experience by one of our regular contributors.

Missing Out at Home and Abroad

After high school and college, I still wanted to be bilingual. To me, there was nothing that would open up my world more. When I thought about traveling to some of my bucket list cities like Madrid, Buenos Aires, Patagonia… I couldn’t help but think about how much I would miss if I visited those places without a firm grasp on the language.

Earlier this year, CNN posted an article that said 13.4% of the United States population speaks Spanish at home. That means there are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. than in Spain! Only speaking one language means you’re not just missing out abroad — you’re missing out at home, too.

Related: Want to Live Another Life? Learn a Foreign Language.

learn a new language with the Pimsleur method
Speaking just one language means you’re not only missing out abroad — you’re missing out at home, too. © Jessica Da Rosa / Unsplash

Use the Pimsleur Method to Break Language Barriers

Here on the East Coast, I run into language barriers all the time in my daily work. During our first year in business, the event venue that my husband and I run together became a popular choice for quinceañeras.

In one week, I met with three different Spanish-speaking families for tours. During each tour, one member of the family would translate between us while the others listened to my elevator pitch. I would answer questions and try to look at everyone while I was speaking, but deep down, I felt so frustrated with myself. I wished that I could at least meet them in the middle with SOME Spanish!

After hearing Jackie talk about Pimsleur on the podcast, I was always curious if it would really help. Using other apps was always fun for a little while, but it was more about multiple-choice, memorization and word/image association than actually hearing, comprehending, and speaking the language. So, after seeing that Pimsleur focuses so strongly on auditory learning, I thought… why not give it a try?

Pimsleur helps you meet people not language barriers. © Alexis Brown / Unsplash

How the Pimsleur Method Works

With Pimsleur, you just listen and repeat. There’s nothing to look at, so the memorization is all about sounds. They even break words and phrases down into syllables so you can perfect pronunciation and accent. This unique method makes a foreign language feel more familiar, faster.

Pronunciation Perfection

The magic of the Pimsleur Method is in the pauses. Throughout the lessons, the instructor will say something like, “Say, ‘you can pay.'” Then there’s a pause to give you a chance to say out loud, “Puede pagar.” The Spanish speaker will say “Puede pagar,” and leave another pause to let you say it again. The first pause forces you to pull the Spanish from your brain all on your own, then the Spanish speaker tells you if you’re correct and gives you another chance to cement that phrase in your mind.

The second repetition of the phrase in Spanish also helps perfect your pronunciation. It becomes automatic to repeat whatever the speakers say, so the foreign words start to feel more and more natural. This is what sets the Pimsleur Method apart from more conventional methods.

“It becomes automatic to repeat whatever the speakers say, so the foreign words start to feel more and more natural. This is what sets the Pimsleur Method apart from more conventional methods.”

It’s repetitive enough to develop muscle memory, but not so repetitive that you get bored. By the end of each 30-minute lesson, you’ve learned a new conversation, one that you could encounter both in everyday life in the States and while traveling abroad.

Learning to Read & Write

The Pimsleur Method has fun ways to help you visualize the words you’ve been hearing. Some languages have digital flashcards that you can review in the app or on the desktop version. In the French lessons, for example, you get to choose between French to English or English to French. Each card shows a word or phrase and pronounces it. You just tap to flip the card to see if you got it right!

Currently, the Spanish lessons do not have as many review games as some other languages. They do, however, have Reading Lessons for each lesson where you can review the words while the instructor and Spanish speaker hone in on your pronunciation. This does help with reading and comprehension as well as pronunciation of things like double “Ls” and the “ñ.”

Pimsleur Method flash cards
Pimsleur offers plenty of fun ways to practice what you’ve learned and to visualize the words you’ve been hearing.

In other languages, you can also review each lesson’s vocabulary, take quizzes, play matching games, and practice your recognition skills in the speed rounds. Pimsleur breaks down the vocabulary you can review into categories: Meet + Greet, Polite Phrases, Survival Skills, and Speak + Understand. This is learning a language on steroids!

Pimsleur Method vocabulary review
In Pimsleur’s first French lesson, you learn three “Survival” phrases to help you navigate early conversations.

Practicing with Games

One of my favorite games is the speed round. Here, words and phrases in English fall down the screen as quickly as you can choose their French counterparts. If you’re the competitive type, it’s extra fun to try to beat the record time! Plus, your brain is working overtime to see how quickly it can translate between English and your new language.

play games to learn a new language
Pimsleur’s Speed Round is an extra fun challenge to put your new skills to the test!

Put Your New Language to Use

After my first three Pimsleur lessons, I met with a Mexican family looking for a wedding venue. As I listened closely to their conversation in Spanish, I found myself picking out words that I knew — enough words to understand the gist of what they were asking! So, when I answered in English (not quite ready to answer in Spanish), the mother of the bride looked surprised and a little delighted. “You speak Spanish?” she asked. I explained that I was working on it, and they all smiled and nodded with encouragement. The bride said, “We’ll slow down so you can practice!” 

That small interaction taught me SO much:

  • First of all, no one is going to laugh or roll their eyes or make fun of you for trying. Trying to speak someone else’s language, even if you mispronounce things or have a less than perfect accent, shows that you CARE.
  • Secondly, I could tell that they immediately felt more comfortable, and that’s exactly what I had hoped for.
  • Lastly, it showed me that I was on the right track. I had finally found a way to practice language that worked.

Related: One Month Study Abroad in France: I Can Speak French Now!

Pimsleur Method Provides Languages for Everyone!

$14.99 a month seems like a small price to pay for so much. Pimsleur has given me confidence that I’ve never had before, even after eight years of classes. Plus, you can try dozens of other languages – 51 to be exact! I’ve been dabbling in French for fun and Irish in preparation for our trip to Ireland in the spring.

Pimsleur Method desktop version
Having a mobile app and desktop version of Pimsleur means that you can practice your new language any time, anywhere. © Bonnie Kittle / Unsplash

I truly believe that even just 30 days of Pimsleur lessons in any language gives learners a HUGE advantage. With classes ranging from Albanian and Arabic and to Urdu and Vietnamese, there’s something for everyone’s travel itinerary!

Finally, my favorite part about Pimsleur is simply the exercise my brain gets. After graduating from college and getting settled into a career, it can feel like you’re not learning anything new. But with Pimsleur, you can use the 30 minutes you may spend mindlessly scrolling Instagram to work your gray matter instead.

Nothing opens your world more than traveling… except for learning another language. My advice? Download the free trial of Pimsleur and test your language skills! You never know what doors, and lives, it could open for you.

By Shalese Kocher