Dr. Pimsleur devoted his life to language teaching and was one of the world's leading experts in applied linguistics. After obtaining his Ph.D. in French from Columbia University, he taught French Phonetics and Phonemics, and supervised the language laboratory at UCLA. He went on to become Professor of Romance Languages and Language Education, and Director of The Listening Center at Ohio State University; Professor of Education and Romance Languages at the State University of New York at Albany; and a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Heidelberg. Dr. Pimsleur was a member of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), American Educational Research Association (AERA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and a founding member of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). His many books and articles revolutionized theories of language learning and teaching. After years of experience and research, Dr. Pimsleur developed a new method that is based on two key principles: the Principle of Anticipation and a scientific principle of memory that he called Graduated Interval Recall. This program incorporates both of these principles to provide you with the most simple and effective learning method possible.
I finished all three levels in the series. I originally bought the course because I was about to move to Geneva, Switzerland, and was in a hurry to learn French, having absolutely no knowledge of French previously. This series is a very introduction, albeit expensive. The course alone will NOT make you fluent, and it does not purport to do so. At the end of the second level, I can go to a resaurant and speak to the waiters comfortably, introduce myself, make plans with friends, among other things. Right now, after finishing all three levels, I can make reservations, chat superficially in French with neighbors and friends, and shop without much difficulties. In fact, I find that I can understand a lot if I speak to a person face to face, especially if the spoken words are accompanied by vivid expressions and gestures. Unfortunately, I still cannot understand what goes on on TV or radio, though I find that I can pick up phrases or words here and there. I've taken 3 years of Spanish in high school, and 3 years of German in college, and I would say that I speak French much better at this point, realizing, though, that I have forgotten a lot of German and Spanish. My pronounciation of French, I've been told by many, is quite good. Now, this course does not contain any explanations of grammar, culture, or much in the way of reading. However, if you have ever learned a romance language before, or know English grammar, you would be able to figure out the verb tenses and the correct way to use them (or even conjugate them) pretty easily. In terms of reading, I find it useful to have a dictionary with you while you are doing the lessons. When the course introduces a new word, look it up in the dictionary and see what the word looks like. It also helps with memorizing the word.Read more ›
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The first level of this three level kit spends a lot of time teaching you the bare basics of the French language. By the 8th it really became irritating when the speaker would ask me to say "Do you understand English?". However as you progress you realize that this constant reptition is extremely helpful. In the later lessons there is a stronger focus on composing your own sentances. The grammar becomes more complex and they even introduce you to tenses. Overall I think this makes the kit a great introduction to the French language. I give it four stars instead of five because I feel that it doesn't help enough with the pronunciation. Being a beginner in French can be very scary espeacially since French has some difficult to pronounce consonants, in particular the gluttoral /r/. In addition it doesn't offer much for vocabulary, but as long as you use this kit in conjunction with another book (Easy French Reader makes up for Pimsleur's speaking-approach) you should be fine.
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Aides in memorizing new words: Yes + Constant repetition makes words sink into your memory.
Aides with pronunciation: Yes + By listening to French speakers talk.
Explains the grammar rules of French: No - Left me confused as to why the sentence was the way it was. In English, we say 'I talk to you', but in French, the 'you' related to the verb goes before that verb, so it becomes, 'I you talk' or 'je vous parle.'
Should be used if you have no prior knowledge of French: No - It is more difficult to understand the lessons if you don't know the French sentence structure.
I even took a placement test and got into the advanced French class after getting through with his beginner's program. After, I started listening to Pimsleur again and found that the lessons were actually quite easy, which means that I got through all the lessons in one try.
Just because Michel Thomas's program doesn't have 30 lessons that are about 30 minutes long each, doesn't mean that it isn't more effective. You are expected to pause and think of the answer, which would make the program even longer if there was time given on the cds for thinking, unlike Pimsleur's program, where there are a few seconds given to think of the anwser.
the lessons appear at first to be tedious and repetitve BUT... you soon see that it is in repetition that you start to think in French rather than translating. The people who created the cd's know how to build upon what you have learned in each previous cd. It is thrilling to see yourself actually figure out a new sentence by putting together what you have previously practiced. I am using the cd's in my car during my 40 minute communte to and from work. I am learning with this method so much easier than with any other French mediums in the past. it really works.
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328 of 328 people found the following review helpful
Comparative review of three recorded French CoursesMarch 25 2007
Jonathan B. Spear
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This review is a comparison of three very different recorded French courses - Pimsleur, Behind the Wheel French 2 and French with Michel Thomas Intermediate/Advanced.
I have tried and failed several times at learning a foreign language but, when I started working for a French company, I decided to try one more time. I was attracted to Pimsleur because of its promise to focus on the basics, and I was not disappointed.
The approach taken by Pimsleur is to introduce you to a word or phrase in English and then have it repeated several times by an expert speaker of French, punctuated with long pauses so you can listen and repeat. In this way, the course takes you through typical basic situations - going to a restaurant, finding a doctor, working in an office, making travel arrangements, buying items with Euros, etc. New words and concepts are gradually introduced along the way and each session loops back to remind you of things you learned on earlier CDs. I especially liked the great effort that is put into making sure you clearly hear each word, even to the point of painstakingly breaking down words and phrases into separate syllables. This is especially important for English-speakers who may have trouble with French pronunciation. I also liked the fact that the course never dumped a lot of things on you to learn at once - for example, numbers are introduced a few at a time in natural situations such as telling time or counting change. The same is true of days of the week and months of the year. This is a very intelligent way to help people learn large categories of words.
Each learning unit (French I, French II and French III) consists of about 30 CDs, each of which is about ½ hour in duration. There is also reading material so that the student can see in writing the words and phrases that are being said out loud on the CDs. The expectation built into the Pimsleur course is that you will listen to one CD a day and then move on to the next. For me, I found that I often had to listen to the same CD three, four or more times before I felt comfortable moving on to the next. For that reason, it took me over a year to get through French I, II and III instead of 90 days. But by the time I was through, I had a basic grasp of the language and had even gone to Paris and managed my way through a couple of simple conversations in French.
As another reviewer said, however, you can't expect miracles with this course. You can take all three units and go to a French movie or watch French TV, and still understand very little. It prepares you for basic survival in a French speaking country - not much more. The Pimsleur course includes very little technical explanation of what you are learning or the rules of grammar. A small irritant is the fact that the 30-minute CDs are not broken into separate tracks. But overall I was very pleased with how well the Pimsleur technique helped me remember words and basic sentence structure, mostly in the present tense.
For me, the biggest negative is that there is no Pimsleur French IV! So once I got through the first three courses and decided I wanted to keep learning via the Pimsleur method, there was nowhere to go! That's why I was forced to switch to a different instruction method, so I purchased the Intermediate versions of both Behind the Wheel French and French with Michel Thomas to help me get to the next level.
I found that Behind the Wheel French is a very different course from Pimsleur. It's basic philosophy is that you should learn by listening - as you did when you were a child learning your native tongue - and not be instructed on lots of grammatical details. So, a lot of the material consists of what I'm tempted to call an "audio phrase book," with an English speaker saying something followed by a French speaker saying the same thing - there's not a lot of repetition or "looping back" as with Pimsleur. You may hear a word or phrase and then never hear it again, so you don't get the reinforcing effect. Also, I could not always understand the native speaker's words and there is often not enough time allowed in the recording for the listener to repeat. But there are some real special nuggets in Behind the Wheel French. In particular, I liked the story-telling segments where they first slowly go through a simple story told in English, with each sentence repeated in French. Then, the native speaker retells the entire story in French at a normal pace - this is great for educating your ear to understand French as it is heard in normal usage. There is a similar very nice feature where the speaker will go through the same narrative in the present tense, the past tense and then the future tense - very useful to hear exactly how words change depending on the tense. Behind the Wheel French also includes some practical information about social situations in France, some slang and colloquialisms, and LOTS of vocabulary.
French with Michel Thomas is yet again a very different course - it is serious instruction for serious students. That said, Michel Thomas does everything he can to make it easy, including his opening admonition against workbooks and homework. The format consists of Michel Thomas (a very charming and witty guy) working with two students who are probably no better at French than you are. Thomas is very relaxed and is a superstar at coming up with clever tricks, tips and concepts to help you remember how to navigate this language that has 18 tenses. Lots of things that I could not figure out from the other courses are thoroughly and clearly explained by Michel Thomas.
So which course would I recommend? My experience with Pimsleur convinced me that it is the best foundational course. It will give you the basics in a very thorough disciplined manner that you can easily follow - expensive but worth every penny. Michel Thomas is a must for anyone who is seriously interested in becoming proficient at this language, because he is extraordinarily skillful at getting technical grammar concepts across without actually calling it grammar. Michel Thomas is the next best thing to having a private tutor and his course complements Pimsleur very effectively by providing lots of explanation. The Behind the Wheel French is great for improving your ear and building vocabulary, but it is hard to imagine that anyone could become conversational in French with this program.
470 of 478 people found the following review helpful
Excellent but don't expect miracles.Aug. 13 2003
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I finished all three levels in the series. I originally bought the course because I was about to move to Geneva, Switzerland, and was in a hurry to learn French, having absolutely no knowledge of French previously. This series is a very introduction, albeit expensive. The course alone will NOT make you fluent, and it does not purport to do so. At the end of the second level, I can go to a resaurant and speak to the waiters comfortably, introduce myself, make plans with friends, among other things. Right now, after finishing all three levels, I can make reservations, chat superficially in French with neighbors and friends, and shop without much difficulties. In fact, I find that I can understand a lot if I speak to a person face to face, especially if the spoken words are accompanied by vivid expressions and gestures. Unfortunately, I still cannot understand what goes on on TV or radio, though I find that I can pick up phrases or words here and there. I've taken 3 years of Spanish in high school, and 3 years of German in college, and I would say that I speak French much better at this point, realizing, though, that I have forgotten a lot of German and Spanish. My pronounciation of French, I've been told by many, is quite good. Now, this course does not contain any explanations of grammar, culture, or much in the way of reading. However, if you have ever learned a romance language before, or know English grammar, you would be able to figure out the verb tenses and the correct way to use them (or even conjugate them) pretty easily. In terms of reading, I find it useful to have a dictionary with you while you are doing the lessons. When the course introduces a new word, look it up in the dictionary and see what the word looks like. It also helps with memorizing the word. The course is excellent, but one should still proceed slowly. I do each lession at least 2 to 3 times before moving on, twice in the evenings, and once in the shower in the mornings as review. I don't stop the lesson during the pauses to think of the answer because I figure if I truly know it, I would be able to answer within the pause. By the third listen, I can usually answer within the pause. Don't expect miracles and be realistic. You still need to take time to listen and absorb the materials. However, the course is designed in a way that encourages you to use it. After I listen to the lesson, I usually want to go out and use it immediately, and I characterize myself normally as a shy person. Definitely buy it if you are going to invest the time and need to start using French immediately. After finishing the series, you will be at the stage of learning curve where your speaking/listening skills can improve exponentially, provided that you are in an environment where French is a necessity.
76 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Great course, TERRIBLE priceMarch 9 2005
C. P. Leroy
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Over the years I have studied many languages, using several methods and media, and I can say without any reserve that the Pimsleur method is by far the best. The lessons are structured in such a way that promote natural learning & retention of the material. Two things that I love about the Pimsleur courses are (1) Pronunciation is stressed, whereas in most language programs this vital topic is only given cursory coverage, and (2) Repetition, Repetition, Repetition! When you are learning a language, especially when you are eager to move quickly, it is SO easy to fall into the trap on covering a lot of material and fooling yourself into thinking you have it mastered. More likely than not, you're forgetting much, if not most of what you learned previously. In the Pimsleur lessons they repeat new material several times, prompting you in several different ways, so you learn new material better. In addition, all new lessons contain at least some review of previous lessons, so it forces you to review and use old information.
That being said, learning a new language is never easy, and this course is no exception. More likely than now you'll have to go through the lesson a few times before really feeling comfortable with the material. Furthermore, given the rather obscene price of each course, I wouldn't saying you're going to be learning a whole lot. You really do need to go through all 3 levels to benefit from the courses, and even then while you might have a really good grasp of the overall structure of the language, you're probably going to be severely lacking in areas like vocabulary, familiarity/fluency with verb conjugations, etc. Chances are if you try to have a real conversation with a native/fluent speaker you'll be able to say a lot, but I doubt you'll get very far before you're struggling to express yourself.
But don't let that scare you. The Pimsleur courses are a very, very good starting point for learning a new language. A common problem that most people have is going through rote exercises, getting to a certain point in the language, quitting, and never really learning anything. These courses are interesting, consistent, and engaging enough so that that very major hurtle shouldn't be a problem. Also, because it's an entirely oral/aural course, if you actually repeat everything as instructed, by the end of level 3 you are going to have a comfort level with speaking that most courses (and even college classes) won't give you.
In conclusion, I love the concept, I love the course, but the price stinks, especially given that just going through level one isn't really going to take you very far.
46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Half of my learning...Oct. 23 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
A couple of months ago I bought the Rosetta Stone program. I love it, and it's helped me immensely. However, after hearing a lot of hype about Pimsleur, i decided to try it out. And I love this as well.
What I like about Rosetta Stone is that it gives you an overall education of the language - reading, writing, speaking, understanding etc. However, while it gives you a good understanding of the language, it doesn't teach you everyday speech.
What I like about Pimsleur is that it does give you everyday speech and it helps with pronounciation. What I don't like is that it doesn't teach you to read or write. You can understand and speak it, but that's where it ends. Now, especially with a language like French, it's hard to just hear a sentance and know which word is which, and which sounds belong to it. I don't know about other people, but I like to imagine the word. And I like to know the word, not just the sounds.
As you can see, both have their pros and cons. But one's pros is the others cons and vice versa. You won't ever find one perfect program, but these two together come pretty close.
By using the one I understand sentance structure, grammar, reading and writing. And the other takes off from there, giving me practical usage and pronounciation.
If you just want to be able to speak and understand the language, then this is perfect for you. If you want more, I suggest you try both of these together.
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Pimsleur delivers what it promisesApril 8 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I'm not just getting on the bandwagon, but I have to go along with those who award the Pimsleur French I course five stars. Here's what you need to understand: This is a no-nonsense course all about learning to SPEAK and UNDERSTAND SPOKEN French. That's what they advertise, and that's what they deliver. There is very little about French culture (only what comes through in the CDs), almost nothing about reading, and nothing about writing the language (at least not in this series). When I first got the package, I thought they left out the book. But THERE IS NO BOOK. What you get is a little folder of just a few hundred words that explains the Pimsleur teaching method and giving you study tips. In a nutshell, here are their rules for success. Listen for ½ hour per day and absolutely repeat aloud after the native speakers. Just "thinking" you spoke the words and phrases won't cut it. You learn by SPEAKING ALOUD.
Do NOT take notes. Taking notes causes you to develop a lousy accent. This is especially important with French where proper pronunciation is critical. Working exclusively from the brain rather than the written word is the basis of the effective Pimsleur technique. If you think you have mastered 80% of the material in your half-hour session, go on to the next lesson THE FOLLOWING DAY. Do NOT do two consecutive lessons in a day unless you are reviewing a lesson you have previously taken. This is important. The half-hour sessions are intense, but hey, it's only 30 minutes. It's kind of like exercising. If you discipline yourself to do it every day, you'll get in shape quickly and stay in shape. Lesson one boggled my mind, and I had to repeat it four times. I almost gave up. But eventually the rhythm of the language comes through, and you'll only need those single 30-minute sessions. The Pimsleur people say that after 30 lessons you will have advanced to the intermediate level in SPOKEN French. I believe them. Someone taking a college course will not get to this level nearly this fast, but again, they are also working on reading, writing, and culture.
Get ready to drill, drill, drill, drill and drill some more. Sometimes you'll want to say, "All right already! I get it!" But these people understand the need for repetition, and they know what they're doing. Toward the end of the course you use a very small folder to see what written French sounds like. But make no mistake; the emphasis is absolutely on SPOKEN French. The Pimsleur folks note in their folder that the most important part of learning a language is grammar and pronunciation. Imagine building a brand new house. You want to put up a good structure (grammar and pronunciation). The "furniture" (vocabulary) can come later. There is little vocabulary in the course. That can come later and it's much easier. Don't worry about it yet.
When I first started with Lesson 1, I really sounded like a mush mouth, and I doubt if a Parisian would even have had a clue what I was trying to say. But now, if I may say so, I think I sound pretty darned good.
I highly recommend the course, and I will definitely be buying the next course in the series.