Pimsleur Language Programs – Save Your Money

I finished with a couple of Korean language learning sources recently and am trying to decide on which one to use next.

I decided to listen to a bit of the Pimsleur Korean. The audio track took at least six minutes to teach me one sentence in Korean. That’s right – at least six minutes. (I don’t know exactly how long the audio was going to go on about the one sentence because by about the six minute mark I was extremely bored and wanted much more new material already.) I understand that the method they are using in the material is designed to ensure precise pronunciation of the language and that the learner will sound like a native speaker (though I’m not sure if the pronunciation is that precise or that you will sound like a native speaker when they are teaching you to speak soooo sloooowly), but I’m pretty sure I learned 안녕 하세요 (annyeong haseyo) in a shorter amount of time. It’s not that hard to pick up the pronunciation. Spending six minutes to learn one sentence is definitely a waste of time for me when I could probably learn between five and ten full expressions as well as understand the basics of their grammatical construction, not just intuitively know the grammar rules and constraints. I agree with the amazon reviewer who posted (see the first link above) “promises pie in the sky but delivers very little”. He further says

I agree with the reader from New Zealand: these tapes is for beginners. Most of the material on these tapes I learned my first year in Korea.

The product comes with a brochure, telling the consumer all about how wonderful the product is and what a brilliant scholar Dr. Pimsleur is. According to this brochure, ‘extensive research has shown that we actually need a comparatively limited number of words to be able to communicate effectively in any language.’ That is not true. According to a word frequency chart compiled at Yonsei University in Seoul, it takes 3000 words to read 85% of written Korean. It takes 6000 to raise that to 90%.

In short, the Pimsleur language material is over-priced for the amount of content covered. Other sources cover more material for a lot less cost and probably a lot less time wasted. Teach Yourself books and audio materials are a good starting point for some languages as well as being a lot cheaper than Pimsleur, and you can always shop around amazon.com for more material (or use tpb).

If you really need something to practice pronunciation, I recommend Rosetta Stone. It’s more immersive than the Pimsleur materials since Rosetta Stone is computer program. It does have its drawbacks too. It is expensive as well, but probably more worth it than the Pimsleur material, especially if you are learning more than one language. You can also maybe have someone procure a copy for you (university students may have access to it and might be able to give you a copy for personal use). Rosetta Stone doesn’t teach grammar (at least not Korean grammar) as well as other sources, but it at least provides feedback on how well your pronunciation is. There is occasionally the technical difficulty of your microphone not picking you up well, but that can be resolved by reducing how accurate you need to be for the program to consider your pronunciation as “correct”. (A side note: a funny albeit annoying thing about Rosetta Stone is its tendency to occasionally cut you off and tell you you’re wrong (“beep!”) before you finish speaking. When that happens, maybe just restart the program and do the microphone setup again in the program.) The thing I like about Rosetta stone is the use of pictures. That is how children learn language as well. Remember pointing at something as a child and your mom, dad, or older sibling will tell you what it is? That’s how Rosetta stone works. It shows you pictures, then tells you what it is. Obviously that can turn into a “mix and match” game. It also has the pure listening practice, along with reading and writing practice for the language you’re studying. A plus about Rosetta Stone for Korean is that there is no romanization. 😀 (The Korean writing system is actually phonetic, so continuing to use romanization after you’ve learned the pronunciation is a bad habit. The romanization is a crutch – one needs to start walking and running.)

Luckily for me, I managed to procure the Pimsleur Korean material without dishing out an arm and a leg for it. I happened across it and I wasn’t really looking for it. Now, I just don’t know what to do with it lol. Maybe, if I run out of other Korean material (I don’t think that’s going to happen soon lol), which reminds me that I probably should post a blog about some of the Korean material I have used already.


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