on September 15, 2002
The Pimsleur family of language courses is probably the best available in the English-speaking world. Unlike most other audio programs, the emphasis is not on mindlessly repeating phrases... but rather on natural conversation. Spanish words and phrases are slowly introduced by the English narrator throughout the conversation, and you then incorporate them into conversation with the Spanish speakers (followed by the "right" response to compare yourself to). This more natural approach makes a huge difference in absorbing and retaining the knowledge.
However, the tried-and-true Pimsleur courses today are owned by the Simon & Schuster corporation... which has made some very corporate-like decisions in marketing them. The classic courses are 16 CD's/cassettes each, three course levels available per language, with all being quite in-depth and quite expensive. Unfortunately, "in-depth and expensive" is not in as high demand as "cheap with just a few phrases to impress your friends". Most people who pick up tapes and CD's at the bookstore are just trying to learn a few phrases so they can have fun with it on some upcoming vacation... they're not trying to gain actual proficiency with a language (and if they are, they're crazy for thinking that's possible with just a handful of lessons!).
Therefore, Simon & Schuster has extended the Pimsleur product line... creating 4-CD and 8-CD sets (in addition to the original 16-CD sets), to market head-to-head against other companies' products in lower price ranges. The 4-CD set is basically just the first four CD's of the original "Spanish I" 16-CD set, and this 8-CD product is just the first eight CD's of that set. There's nothing really new here but the packaging, the company is essentially just trying to squeeze some new money out of an old workhorse.
The problem is that this material wasn't designed to serve as a standalone product, it was designed to be the first eight CD's of a 16-CD set. If you're hoping to just learn some travel phrases, you'll probably be a bit disappointed... your needs may be better served by purchasing some other "Repeat after me: Where is the bathroom? ¿Donde esta el baño?" product.
If you're more serious and hoping to really gain some proficiency in Spanish, the only real value here is to give you an idea as to whether or not you want to go all-out and buy the real 16-CD set... and there's a rebate offer included if you decide to go on to the full "Spanish I" program. However, I still don't see the point in going this route. If you're just wanting an inexpensive "test drive", the 4-CD set may be a better option. If, however, you really want to dive in... go ahead and buy the full "Spanish I", the rebate offer included here basically just takes the price down to the level Amazon sells it for anyway.
The Pimsleur approach is probably the best out there for learning a foreign language... so I by no means want my poor rating here to imply that I wouldn't HIGHLY recommend other Pimsleur products. All I'm saying is that Dr. Pimsleur originally designed courses that were comprehensive programs for serious learners, and that's been twisted around here into a marketing ploy. By itself, this sub-set doesn't really seem to do a good job satisfying the needs for anybody.
on January 22, 2003
The previous review by Steve Perkins is EXCELLENT. Please read it before buying this product. These edited, shorter Pimsleur products are "throwaway" products. If you're SERIOUS and dedicated about language learning, you will bite the bullet and buy the full, very [spendy] Pimsleur product.
But how do you KNOW you'll like the full, [spendy] set without trying a baby set like this one first? Call libraries in your area. MANY have copies of these baby editions. Borrow one, even if it's not in the language you're interested in, and try it for a day or two. You'll very quickly know whether or not you appreciate the Pimsleur approach, and can then buy the big set, or move on to another product if the approach didn't resonate with you.