The Smarter Language Review of Pimsleur - SmarterLanguage (2023)

Our Review of Pimsleur



Pimsleur is by far the best language app on the market for anyone who’s interested in learning a few phrases before traveling overseas. After completing the very first lesson you’ll be able to have a short conversation.

Pimsleur is an audio-based language program that teaches languages through bite-size, 30-minute lessons.

It’s different from the majority of other language learning tools in that it’s designed to teach you useful travel phrases you can use in a variety of situations. After completing the very first lesson you’ll be able to have a short conversation, asking someone if they understand English and letting them know you do not understand their language.

Pimsleur is by far the best language app on the market for anyone who’s interested in learning a few phrases before traveling overseas.

Table of Contents

  • How does Pimsleur work?
  • What languages are available on Pimsleur?
  • How much does Pimsleur cost?
  • Our experience using Pimsleur
  • Pimsleur lessons work
  • Pimsleur is for the short-term learner
  • Pimsleur’s Premium languages
    • Premium Skills practice
    • Premium Bonus Packs
    • The most helpful Premium tool: Speak Easy
  • The best app for beginners and travelers
  • The bottom line – is Pimsleur worth your time?

How does Pimsleur work?

You won’t be filling out conjugation charts or drilling grammar rules on Pimsleur; Pimsleur’s lesson content is based entirely on audio lessons. Each lesson is around 30 minutes long and learners are encouraged to complete a new lesson every day.

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The Pimsleur approach, designed by the linguist Paul Pimsleur in the 1960s, is based on organic learning, or learning to speak a language without studying its formal structure. As such, Pimsleur lessons teach language through interactive conversations.

Each lesson focuses on a new conversation and introduces new words and phrases bit by bit. Pimsleur lessons are really interesting because you’re learning things you can actually use rather than random phrases like “the bicycle is red.”

For example, in your first lesson you will learn how to tell someone you do not understand their language and ask if they understand English.

Pimsleur lessons are also very engaging. The narrator will walk you through each part of the conversations slowly – asking you to repeat aloud after the native speaker and occasionally asking questions (“Now, do you remember how to say _____?”) to help you form stronger memories. It’s recommended that you try to speak aloud as much as possible.

What languages are available on Pimsleur?

Pimsleur offers courses for 51 different languages, including some less commonly studied languages such as Twi and Icelandic.

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The amount of course content offered per language depends largely on the popularity of the language. Commonly studied languages like Spanish or Italian offer five Units (one Unit contains 30 Lessons, meaning 30 days’ worth of material). Generally the less commonly studied languages like Croatian or Swiss German only have one or two Units.

How much does Pimsleur cost?

Pimsleur offers a few different subscription options ranging from $14.95 to $20.95.

Audio-only: $14.95 per month and includes access to one language, audio lessons only.

Premium: $19.95 per month and includes access to one language plus Premium content (study tools, transcripts, flashcards, etc.)

All Access: $20.95 per month and includes access to all 51 languages as well as the Premium content.

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We decided to opt for the All Access subscription since we planned to study several languages. Also, the Premium content is well worth the extra few dollars (see Pimsleur’s Premium languages below for more information about the Premium content).

Our experience using Pimsleur

Out of all of the language apps we’ve tried, Pimsleur courses do the best job of quickly teaching you phrases you can use in everyday situations. It’s the perfect crash course if you’re planning to spend a few days overseas or if you want to make a connection with foreign friends or clients.

We’ve been aware of Pimsleur as a language learning resource for quite some time. We used Pimsleur for Croatian (Unit 1) as well as Japanese and French (Units 1-3) and have always found it to be an incredibly valuable resource.

A few years ago we traveled to Japan and had about 6 months to pick up some Japanese before the trip. We tried a few other language apps but there was too much of an emphasis on learning the writing systems – we made the decision fairly early on to be illiterate in Japanese and just focus on Pimsleur lessons first to see how far we could get.

We were commuting to work every day at the time and the commute took just around 30 minutes, which happens to be the length of many Pimsleur lessons. Being alone in the car, we could speak aloud without anyone else overhearing. Within several months we were able to get through all three Units (90 Lessons total) but would have continued if there was more content available (Pimsleur has since expanded their course to include five total Units).

We got by well in Japan; we could easily get around, ask people for directions, ask the price of things and hold simple conversations. We certainly weren’t anywhere near fluent, but we found Japanese people to be friendly and helpful when trying to converse in their own language. Pimsleur is the ideal language tool for anyone looking to learn “conversational fluency” without spending years working through grammar books.

Pimsleur lessons work

Pimsleur lessons help you learn vocabulary over time and learn to infer the correct grammar. By constructing sentences in your head and changing words, you really do learn how to think and speak in the language. We found the vocabulary stuck quite well and we were able to communicate effectively when in Japan.

We ended up making some Japanese friends and they were very complimentary about our accent, likely since Pimsleur focuses so much on listening to native speakers and repeating to match the accent.

It’s the perfect method to learn if you have a solo commute and can multi-task a little bit (personally we had no problem driving and doing it). It’s a good way to put your commute towards doing something useful.

Pimsleur is for the short-term learner

Most language apps and methods approach language learning with the assumption that the learner is working towards traditional proficiency – learning the language well enough to read and write and understand mostly everything in a movie or on TV. Traditional proficiency emphasizes the detailed study of grammatical concepts and memorization of expansive vocabulary lists. It’s assumed that learners will spend several years studying before they actually use the language. As a result, it may take months before you learn how to order at a restaurant or buy a train ticket.

Not everyone is a proficiency-oriented learner however. Most language learning apps and programs fail to consider the short-term learner: someone who would be content with learning just a few dozen words and phrases. The short-term learner is more interested in conversational fluency – they want to be able to ask for a table, order dinner and wine, then pay the check.

Pimsleur is the ideal app for the short-term learner. After the first (30 minute) lesson, you’ll be able to participate in a short conversation including basic phrases like “Excuse me, do you understand English? I don’t understand [language].” If we learned nothing else before our trip to Tokyo, the first lesson on Pimsleur would have been a pretty good start. In comparison, Duolingo’s Japanese course forced us to work through four units of the hiragana writing system before beginning any of the lessons on “Greetings.”

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Pimsleur’s Premium languages

Some of Pimsleur’s language courses have “Premium” content available for users with a Premium subscription.

Premium content includes extra vocabulary lists and practice activities, as well as audio-enabled conversation transcripts. Non-Premium languages (and users without a Premium subscription) are limited to audio-only.

At the time of this article’s publication, Pimsleur’s Premium content is available for 20 languages:

Arabic (Eastern)
Arabic (Modern Standard)
Chinese (Mandarin)
Haitian Creole

Portuguese (Brazilian)
Spanish (Spain-Castilian)

Premium unlocks two new areas within the course content, each of which contain a handful of extra study activities:

Premium Skills practice

Lists of all the phrases you have learned within the audio lessons, organized by topic. Within each topic you can view your vocabulary items and click on the audio button to hear the native speaker audio. There’s also a “Review” feature to quiz you on all of the items.

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Premium Bonus Packs

There’s a new feature available called “Bonus Packs” which shows you extra vocabulary not included in the audio lessons. The Bonus Packs are pretty cool since they include useful conversational phrases you might find useful in everyday conversation, such as the Croatian phrase “I, što je novo? (Well, what’s new?)”

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The most helpful Premium tool: Speak Easy

We found the “Speak Easy” activity under Practice to be the most helpful for learners – it lets you view the dialogue transcripts of your previous lessons so you can practice entire conversations. It’s a great way to go back and review previous material without having to repeat the entire audio lesson.

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The best app for beginners and travelers

Pimsleur is a great way to get started with a new language but it does not offer much intermediate or advanced level material. Completing all three Units of French and Japanese gave us a solid foundation of travel phrases and some basic grammar, but we were very much still at an elementary level. Pimsleur now offers five Units for both French and Japanese, however we would really like to see the course content expanded even further.

We would compare learning five Units of Pimsleur to roughly what you’d learn if you studied with a private tutor for a few months or completed an entry-level language course (though Pimsleur content is more conversationally relevant).

While Pimsleur does not offer an entirely complete course, we highly recommend their study material for beginners or travelers. Pimsleur is by far the best resource available for learning useful travel phrases before a trip abroad.

The bottom line – is Pimsleur worth your time?

Does Pimsleur work? Can you learn a foreign language with Pimsleur? The short answer is: yes – but it’s best for beginners who want to learn travel phrases. We recommend Pimsleur for beginners who are interested in learning some conversational words and phrases. If you’re planning to visit Paris for a week and just need to learn a handful of French travel phrases, Pimsleur is the perfect tool for you.

Pimsleur doesn’t offer intermediate or advanced courses, so it’s really best as a tool for beginners. If you want to continue studying your target language after completing the Pimsleur course we’d recommend using an app like Rosetta Stone or Babbel. We’d also recommend putting together an organized study plan and booking some tutoring lessons via video call (we’ve had a lot of luck with tutors on Wyzant and Preply).

Whatever your language learning goals, Pimsleur is the perfect tool to get you started. The first lesson of any language is free to try – you can access it on the Pimsleur website or by downloading the Pimsleur mobile app.

– written by Drew Grubba for Smarter Language. Drew has ACTFL-certified proficiency in Swedish, German, Portuguese, French and Spanish. He’s also studied Mandarin Chinese, Norwegian and Dutch, and is currently learning Russian.


Is Pimsleur method of language learning effective? ›

Pimsleur is one of the most accurate and effective programs for learning to speak and understand a new language. This audio-based system won't teach you reading or writing, however, nor does it have any games or interactive exercises for many of its languages.

What is the main principle that Dr Pimsleur used to make his method unique? ›

Principle of Anticipation

It's an intricate thought process that most of us take for granted. Dr. Pimsleur's research demonstrated that new connections are activated whenever this dynamic system is triggered.

What is the scientifically proven best way to learn a language? ›

The theory is that repeated exposure over time is better than the same exposure crammed into a short space of time. If you're learning a language, start writing down new words as you come across them. Put them on cards with a translation into your language on the back. Then take some time each day to practice.

Does Pimsleur use speech recognition? ›

Get Conversational Quickly with Pimsleur

30-minute lessons you can take anywhere, or do at home with Alexa. Learn to read your new language – effortlessly. Voice Coach NEW! Voice recognition provides pronunciation feedback.

Has anyone become fluent from Pimsleur? ›

While you probably won't become completely fluent with Pimsleur, you will definitely become conversational. And quickly! Pimsleur is an excellent course that teaches you how to speak from your very first lesson. By using Pimsleur, you can reach an intermediate speaking level within 30 days.

Does the FBI really use Pimsleur? ›

Pimsleur has helped millions learn a new language in the past 50 years and is currently used by the FBI, Homeland Security, State Department, Marine Corps, and Navy, Fortune 500 companies such as Mercer and Alcoa, diplomats, journalists, aid workers, and business executives who need to learn a language quickly and ...

Is Pimsleur or Babbel better? ›

So from an overall cost perspective, there's no question that Babbel is the clear winner. On average, their plans are around $5 to $14 less than Pimsleur per month, depending on which subscription option you go with. That said, both companies do give you the chance to test the waters before fully committing.

What is better Pimsleur or Duolingo? ›

The Pimsleur and Duolingo lessons actually complement each other extremely well, as they take such different approaches to learning. With Pimsleur you get more audio-centric lessons and a wider range of drills, while Duolingo's game-like approach to teaching makes learning fun.

Do polyglots use Pimsleur? ›

There are many polyglots who love it and other ones who hate it, but you can rest assure that there are no language enthusiasts who have never heard of it. Pimsleur has been a famous course for several decades and other courses were created based on its original teaching principles.

What is the most accurate language theory? ›

The most well-known theory about language acquisition is the nativist theory, which suggests that we are born with something in our genes that allows us to learn language.

What is the fastest one can learn a language? ›

FSI research indicates that it takes 480 hours to reach basic fluency in group 1 languages, and 720 hours for group 2-4 languages. If we are able to put in 10 hours a day to learn a language, then basic fluency in the easy languages should take 48 days, and for difficult languages 72 days.

What is better than Pimsleur? ›

Babbel teaches more holistically, including grammar and written exercises – two areas mostly ignored by Pimsleur. Learners using Babbel would have a more well-rounded knowledge of the language, but lower speaking and listening skills compared with students using Pimsleur.

Does the government use Pimsleur? ›

Pimsleur's Method® has been trusted for 50 Years by U.S. government agencies, diplomats, corporations, and anyone who wants or needs to learn to speak a language quickly and effectively.

Does the military use Pimsleur? ›

This dream became a reality and allowed Pimsleur® to develop audio-based language training courses in Pashto and Dari. The USO is distributing these courses free of charge to U.S. Troops via digital downloads from the USO and portable audio players from Playaway.

How long does it take to become fluent in Pimsleur? ›

The overriding message is that anyone can learn a foreign language, but some people are quicker at it than others. Still, language learning is a serious commitment, and if one's aim is to speak it comfortably (say, 2+ on the FSI scale), this is likely to take the equivalent of six months of full-time study.

What is the difference between Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur? ›

What is the difference between Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone? The main difference between Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone is that Pimsleur focuses on audio lessons and guided drills, while Rosetta Stone is big on imagery for visual learners.

What does the CIA use to learn languages? ›

The Defense Language Institute (Where CIA Spies Study Languages) The Defense Language Institute (“DLI”), located in Monterey, California, is where the CIA, members of the U.S. armed forces and various other government agencies go to learn foreign languages.

Does the CIA have a language school? ›

Since CIA formally established a language program in 1951, the Agency has invested heavily in the development and professionalization of the language school's instructor cadre.

Is Rocket language better than Pimsleur? ›

Pimsleur and Rocket French are comparable because they both feature a conversation/dialogue between native speakers in each lesson. Pimsleur has a much stronger focus on pronunciation and helps you focus on learning how to speak correctly. Rocket is good because it focuses more on conversation and cultural topics.

What is better than Babbel? ›

Duolingo uses plenty of example sentences to help you learn words in context. And since words are frequently reused in different examples, you'll get to see how a word may be used in more than one context. Duolingo offers over 20 languages, so you'll have over twice as many language options as Babbel.

Has anyone become fluent from Babbel? ›

You will most likely not become fluent with Babbel. It's a solid language app and can give you a strong foundation in your target language, but to achieve fluency, you'll need to use other resources. While it won't help you become fluent, Babbel can help you improve your language skills.

How long does it take to learn a language with Pimsleur? ›

Pimsleur is a great learning program. If you do one lesson a day, six days a week (a break is always good), it will take you 25 weeks, or about half a year. There are 5 levels, each with 30 lessons. Pimsleur recommends that you do only one per day so that you have time to absorb the things you have learned.

What language level does Pimsleur get you to? ›

This program includes all of Levels 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. With this program you start from zero, learning first survival phrases and vocabulary, and eventually progress to a high-intermediate level of speaking and understanding.

How do I get the most out of Pimsleur? ›

Pimsleur's Golden Rules”: respond out loud, don't take notes or look anything up during lessons, and stick to one lesson a day. If you follow these rules, Pimsleur claims, you'll be able to pick up the language through the conversations and narratives that make up a bulk of the program.

What does Pimsleur cost? ›

Pimsleur All Access subscription is $20.95/month. Pimsleur Premium subscription is $19.95/month. You will not be charged during the free trial period (the first 7 days of your subscription, as applicable).

What are the advantages of Pimsleur? ›

Helps confidence with speaking

Perhaps the biggest advantage to Pimsleur's particular audio lesson format is that you can put yourself in a situation where you're forced to speak without actually interacting with anyone.

Should I take notes with Pimsleur? ›

They were also less able to use it “on the fly” in actual conversations. So even though it may seem counter-intuitive, we strongly recommend that you don't take notes or look things up while doing your Pimsleur course. Relax and let your brain do the work it was designed to do.

Who owns Pimsleur? ›

Pimsleur Language Programs is owned by Simon & Schuster Audio, a division of Simon & Schuster, which is part of Paramount Global.

Which language you should learn in 2023? ›

JavaScript and Python, two of the most popular languages in the startup industry, are in high demand. Most startups use Python-based backend frameworks such as Django (Python), Flask (Python), and NodeJS (JavaScript). These languages are also considered to be the best programming languages to learn for beginners.

What will be the most spoken language in 2030? ›

As we have mentioned the importance of English and Mandarin, it is clear that these languages will be leading in 2030. A Chinese speaker has a different value among speakers of other lingoes.

Which is the most clearest and logical language in the world? ›

Hamel, French is the clearest and most logical language. It has a clear and precise structure, which makes it easy to understand and learn. 2. Rich Vocabulary: French language is known for its rich vocabulary.

What is the most complex invented language? ›

Ithkuil is an experimental constructed language created by John Quijada. It is designed to express more profound levels of human cognition briefly yet overtly and clearly, particularly about human categorization. It is a cross between an a priori philosophical and a logical language.

Who knew the most languages fluently? ›

Powell Janulus, a Canadian who now lives in British Columbia still holds the Guinness World Records that he earned in 1985 for being fluent in 42 languages. Qualifying for the record was grueling, as he had to pass a 2-hour conversation (fluency test) with a native speaker of each of the 42 languages.

Is 2 hours a day enough to learn a language? ›

According to the research, the ideal amount of daily study time for rapid language learning is around 1 to 2 hours per day. This may seem like a small amount of time, but it's important to remember that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to language learning.

Do bilinguals learn languages faster? ›

Summary: Researchers set out to examine what benefits bilingualism might have in the process of learning a third language. They found that students who know two languages have an easier time gaining command of a third language than students who are fluent in only one language.

What language takes the longest to learn? ›

1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.

Is Pimsleur outdated? ›

Pimsleur's still great for what it is and even after decades, it remains a very unique product in a saturated market full of imitators. Pimsleur is a timeless classic that, after many decades, remains a viable and highly effective tool for language learning.

Is Mango languages better than Pimsleur? ›

The language lessons from Mango and Pimsleur differ in terms of length and format. The Mango lessons are shorter and rely more on quick-hit practice drills, whereas the lessons from Pimsleur are more comprehensive and centered around interactive audio exercises.

How long does Pimsleur last? ›

In total, there are 90 lessons, and each one is about 30 minutes in length. If I listened to every Pimsleur lesson only once, I would have invested 45 hours into the complete program. In reality, I listened to about half the lessons more than once. As a result, I'd say that my total time invested is around 60 hours.

What language app does the US military use? ›

GLOSS is one of its many programs. The acronym stands for Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), Global Language Online Support System (GLOSS).

How do military learn languages fast? ›

There are intensive language classes seven hours a day, five days a week, plus homework and self-study time. And that's just the language-learning side. Remember, these are military students, so they have regular duties and PT to do as well.

How many words does Pimsleur teach? ›

Core vocabulary - The Pimsleur system focuses on teaching a core vocabulary which in the case of most European languages is around 2000 words. In general a single level of the Pimsleur system will typically have about 500 words; with many courses having four different levels.

How do Green Berets learn languages? ›

There are advanced language courses that Special Forces Soldiers can attend. Each Special Forces group has a language training facility (commonly called a 'language lab'). The SF groups will run language refresher training periodically; usually prior to an SF detachment deploying on an overseas mission.

What text app does the military use? ›

Troop Messenger, an instant messaging software for military, is designed to fit all network types those including low-bandwidth.

Does the Pimsleur Method work? ›

The answer is that the Pimsleur Method doesn't help you learn a language at all. And it can't. It's especially weak in some cases because it's almost purely auditory. Even if you go through the guidebook, it won't help you learn the hiragana or katakana, for example.

How much does Pimsleur cost per month? ›

Pimsleur Premium subscription is $19.95/month. You will not be charged during the free trial period (the first 7 days of your subscription, as applicable). TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD.

Does Pimsleur only have 30 lessons? ›

Pimsleur Spanish Only Audio

The program offers five Spanish levels with 30 lessons each. That's a total of 150 complete lessons.

Is there a lifetime Pimsleur subscription? ›

Yes, all Pimsleur courses are available as a lifetime purchase from When you purchase a Pimsleur course, the lessons never expire and are yours to keep. To Purchase, choose the language you want to learn here.

Can you learn Mandarin with Pimsleur? ›

Premium Makes Learning Chinese (Mandarin) Easy

30-minute core lessons you can take anywhere with the Pimsleur app, or do at home with Amazon® Alexa®, or on your computer.


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