Pimsleur Spanish Method – An Amazingly Powerful Way For Learning Spanish

The Pimsleur Spanish method is a proprietary Spanish learning method based on the principles of the common audio-lingual approach.

The Pimsleur learning system is developed by American teacher Paul Pimsleur and comprises a total of 90 audio lessons, each 30 minutes long, recommended to be done every day.

Every lesson consists of a conversation, a revision of what has been taught so far and some new material.

Description of Pimsleur Spanish method:

  • The main principle of the Pimsleur method is constructing phrases or repeating together with a recording.
  • Every student progresses by constantly repeating the old phrases along with the new ones.
  • The method comprises the most commonly used words and phrases. 
  • The old phrases are repeated at random, so this approach allows associating words and phrases with certain meanings. 

The Pimsleur Spanish method is highly effective and it really allows learning any conversational language relatively fast.

It is more advanced than language immersion (not only vocabulary but also grammar is taught) and more effective than situational appraoch (all the exercises and drills related to the situational lesson are avoided), as it allows a simultaneous implementation of all the three important stages of Spanish learning: presentation-memorization-application.

The Pimsleur method incorporates three basic principles vital for learning conversational Spanish:

  • Imitation. This is a key factor upon learning any foreign language but here it is really effective when you are supposed to imitate native speakers being placed in their company. This is certainly the principle of language immersion, however in Pimsleur method this immersion is just partial and, moreover the stress is laid both on grammar and vocabulary.
  • Prediction of what your partner is going to say. This is another common technique when developing your listening skills. Training your abilities for prediction is not an easy task however, and it takes both time and hard work. Pimsleur method teaches how to predict what to hear without even the learner being aware of.
  • Repetition in certain periods of what you have already heard/learnt so far. This technique is called gradual interval recall. It is a much more advanced and effective than plain repetition which is commonly used in some older methods, like grammar-translation and situational learning. These intervals of recall are not randomly chosen, they are based on the properties of the human memory and can successfully refresh its content without making the learner feel bored or tired of repeating the same phrase or grammar conjunction again and again. 
  • Core vocabulary. The main concept here is that the words most frequently used in a language consist a relatively small part of it - a couple of hundred. This amount allows every learner not only to have a solid base for verbal communication but also to gain confidence for any further development of their language skills.
  • Organic learning. The audio format was not randomly selected. Paul Pimsleur's investigation showed that most people first of all want to understand and speak a language; and these two skills are most typically related to learning a foreign language. He proved that listening and speaking should be developed in a different way than reading and writing skills, and for this reason he suggested the format of auditory lessons, which he called organic learning.

Benefits of using Pimsleur Spanish method:

  • The method provides a solid base to everyone for contextual learning – both of conversational and written Spanish. After you are through with all the 90 lessons (a total of 45 hours), you can continue on your own.
  • When your course is over, you have the basics in Spanish and surely feel more confident. Either you have already “felt” the Spanish language or you’re just about to do it.
  • The lessons integrate most commonly used grammar structures with most frequently used words and phrases in Spanish.
  • The learner is involved in a conversation with native speakers.
  • The Pimsleur method can be used both as a stand-alone program for Spanish learning and as am additional learning tool.
  • It concentrates on useful words and phrases, used in real-like situations.
  • After your course is over, you have a solid knowledge of grammar without the burden of having passed through great number of grammar drills and thousands repetition of verb conjugations. 

Disadvantages of applying Pimsleur Spanish method:

  • Compared to situational learning, the Pimsleur method looks somewhat extravagant. It could irritate people who are used to more classical ways of learning Spanish. All the method seems to any outsider as uninteresting and pointless, since you cannot distinguish the common real-life situations where Spanish is used, and therefore, taught. 
  • The vocabulary included in the full number of Spanish lessons (a total of 90) is relatively small – between 500 and 600 words and phrases. This cannot guarantee you fluency, though these words are actually the most really used ones.
  • Although the lessons are provided with a booklet, the method is not focused on developing your reading and writing skills to a sufficient degree. 
  • Compared to the audio programs for learning Spanish, based on situational approach, the Pimsleur method costs significantly more, despite being itself an audio learning program too. 

Recommended level for using Pimsleur Spanish method:

  • Mostly for beginners 
  • could be used also for intermediate. 

Another method similar to Pimsleur’s is the Michel Thomas method. It is based on very similar principles but is much less popular.

The FSI courses are another form of the audio-lingual approach, however they are much older and difficult to apply. The FSI courses combine audio-lingualism with the principles of situational learning, and books play an important role in the learning process.

These courses are also less effective as they lack one of the main concepts embedded in the Pimsleur method – they still heavily rely on traditional plain repetition of words, phrases and grammar forms and rules to memorize them successfully.

They contain large number of traditional drills typical for the situational approach, and to learn to apply all the newly learnt material, you’ve got a lot of long hard work.