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Friday, July 27, 2007

Review: Pimsleur Italian

I checked this out from the library, and used it to try to learn Italian. It's terrible, compared to the competition, for instance the Berlitz series or even the Fodor's French For Travelers that I used 2 years ago to learn French. It goes at a slow pace, which isn't bad for retention, but as far as I'm concerned, it's focussed on entirely the wrong kind of things a traveler would be interested in.

For instance, the initial 3 CDs spend all their time talking about "How are you?" "I'm well." The next 3 are spent asking, "Would you like to eat?" "Would you like to have dinner with me?" "When would you like to eat?" Mike Samueltried to learn German using the German equivalent, and we made jokes about how Pimsleur should really be renamed "Pimpsleur". It's all very useful if your primary focus is picking up members of the opposite sex or trying to be very polite, but for a bicycle tour of Europe, it is absolutely worthless. For survival in the country-side or in the city, it's is also worthless.

When Lisa and I went to Europe 4 years ago, we used Berlitz German, which was much more practical, taught you how to count, etc. The tapes were dense, so we had to listen multiple times, but that's the point of having it on tape, so you can replay the lessons over and over until you get it.

All in all, the Pimsleur language lessons are not good value for money, and not useful for serious travelers. Disrecommended.


md said...

I never tried Berlitz, but I do recommend Living Language. I've used their French sets (both the short course and big "Ultimate French" package). Of course, my French is lousy, so my rec may not stand for much. Ditto for Spanish.

Unknown said...

Thanks! We're talking about the pyrenees next year, so Spanish might be the next order of business.

Unknown said...

I find Pimsleur to be the best course out there for a starter. It builds a very solid foundation to study a language. It gets you used to the native accents and gets you speaking with a native accent. It is a slow course but the results are outstanding if you keep with it. To each his own but I think you should try and give it a real chance by at least completing a full comprehensive in a language that you don't have any background in.

PS: thanks for the Virtuality review post that got me to your blog in the first place!

Unknown said...

I did give it a chance, but like I said, both Berlitz and Fodor's do a better job. If a language course doesn't provide you with the incentive to learn it by giving you useful phrases (as opposed to phrases to pick up women --- sorry, that's not why I travel), then I consider it useless.

perritoscl said...

I've used pimsleur to learn italian, german and chinese and I think it's a great system.

Elisa said...

Thank you for what seems to be an honest review. I almost bought the very unrealistic anniversary version of CDs for only 10.00 dollars. It's not a bad price, but I knew when the ad said, "Learn a new language in just 10 days" that something was not right. I was raised in a Sicilian/Italian household and read and write Italian very well. But I know very well you don't learn a language in 10 days EVER. And I was kind of afraid that it would be the "basics". Well, I need something to help me not to hem and haw on deeper, more conversational Italian when I am in Italy. So, if anyone has any suggestions about a course that helps NON-beginners who want to speak more fluidly...let me know. I will be interested to see if there is a course out there, or if it would be better for me to just go and live there for 90 days (before my visa expires). :) Thanks again!

Piaw Na said...

For non-beginners, just go there and live there. If you e-mail me (my e-mail is easily searchable) and ask, I'll put you in touch with a friend of mine who's living there.

Unknown said...

I've been using "PIMPsleur" for awhile now, it still hasn't got me laid so I'm going to ask for a refund!

On a more serious note, I could say pimsleur's great but I honestly don't know if their translations are all that accurate.
eg. Pimsleur's Japanese, a phrase like "iie, keko desu" is translated earlier as "No, thank you" but later the phrase "keko desu" is translated as "that's fine" - that's odd, I thought they said "keko desu" was thank you? - clearly the first phrase ("iie, keko desu") might have been better translated as "No, it's fine"

I would say though, compared to my GCSE French and Spanish the content is more appropriate - never understood why a tourist would tell someone they have a three-bed house back in England?!