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The most important aspect of a language for most of us is verbal communication. Furthermore, most would agree that it is also the most enjoyable part of learning a language. However, it is certainly not the easiest part and here is where Pimsleur come in. The Pimsleur Approach is developed to completely do away with reading and writing practice and, instead, concentrates exclusively on your conversational skills. In this way, learning German with Pimsleur is not only more enjoyable, but also fully portable and significantly more flexible. The entire course comes on CD and can be easily loaded onto your mp3 player meaning that you will no longer be tied to your computer, class or textbooks when learning German.
According to Researchers at Pimsleur our brains instinctively recognize and understand patterns intrinsic to all languages. In this way, we can learn a new language just as we did our mother tongue; without laboriously studying grammatical rules and conjugations but rather, picking them up naturally; learning words and phrases in context through trial and error rather than memorizing tedious vocab lists. With Pimsleur, you simply listen and speak which, even if you aren’t learning German for the purposes of international espionage, will be all that most of us need. In 1967 Dr. Paul Pimsleur developed Graduated Interval Recall Theory which promptly revolutionized the teaching and learning of all foreign languages. The theory states that in order to remember a word we must do more than simply read it and move on; we must repeat the word until it is committed to long term memory. However, there is more to the Pimsleur approach than simple repetition. Yes, words are repeated, but this is done so according to a specific algorithm which gradually increases repetition intervals in order to optimize the memorization process. This exercise is then repeated in different scenarios in order to give users an understanding of the various context dependent meanings of words. This also keeps the learning experience fresh and varied. When it comes to grammar, Pimsleur believe that, as you are exposed to a language, your brain will naturally pick out patterns and rules with which you will be able to put together the vocabulary you have committed to long term memory into sentences of increasing complexity. This makes it possible for you to begin speaking German as soon as you start learning hence, further improving your confidence and fluency. Pimsleur’s theory was revolutionary as it changed language learning from the boring, repetitive memorization exercises that we generally remember from our school days into a natural and easy process; the way learning a language should be. With scientific proof backing up the Pimsleur approach, the theory has been incorporated into most products within this category. However, the Pimsleur approach is the only one to claim to be the original. At just 30 minutes per lesson remaining switched on throughout is not a problem. Users are encouraged to study ‘little and often’ which is excellent for rapid progression towards fluency as it means the course can be both intensive and engaging.
Despite being a trail blazer in its time, we couldn’t help but feel the Pimsleur was rather dated. Almost all other products in this category now incorporate some form of graduated interval recall and just because the Pimsleur Approach was the original does not necessarily make it the best. We were also disappointed with the lack of features available with Pimsleur.. Many other products in this category include speech recognition technology, interactive activities, multimedia activities, online communities and language games, at a similar if not lower price. Such a variety inevitably makes the learning process more fun and optimizes it by stimulating different areas of your brain; a trick missed by Pimsleur. More fundamentally however, without any emphasis on reading and writing Pimsleur may leave you with a rather superficial understanding of German. Even if you are able to pick up the language ‘like a child’, as adults, we learn languages for different reasons and although children can develop oral language skills with exceptional ease, they will not be able to write an essay or a business plan in German simply by ‘listening and speaking'. Furthermore, claiming that users can 'learn like a child' is all very well but the fact is that we are not children and our brains are very different. We will never be constantly immersed in German and nor do we have doting parents who will guide us through the learning process.
Another downside to Pimsleur was their website and pricing policy which we found very confusing. After some amount of research it became clear that all users must sign up to a 'Rapid Fluency Purchase Program'. Once signed up, you will automatically receive new boxed sets at given intervals with associated payments being made from your bank account. This is great for those with little time on their hands and who want to make a serious commitment to learning German with Pimsleur. For the rest of us however, it felt as though it is not really made clear what the actual long term costs of the course will be and that Pimsleur expect us to hand over our card details without really knowing what we are buying and how much it costs. With a 30 day guarantee you do always have the option to cancel at any time, although you will have to pay all associated postage costs. Please keep this in mind when purchasing any Pimsleur product. Don't be immediately taken in by the low initial price advertised on their website. Do your research and shop around.
Although there is no escaping the fact that you will at least need to combine Pimsleur with other products for an all round understanding of the language, if you are looking solely to improve your speaking and understanding then Pimsleaur may be the right product for you. Likewise, if you know you enjoy and benefit from audio lessons then there is no point messing around with all the high tech features offered by other products in this category. In this case, we would recommend Pimsleur to those looking for a no nonsense, straight forward product in order to prepare for a business trip or holiday in which it will be necessary to speak and understand good German. Being fully portable and focusing solely on conversation make it great for those of us living a hectic 24/7 lifestyle; the fact may be that you simply cannot afford to dedicate the time nor effort to other products that involve a more comprehensive study of the German language.
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