Reviews of Pimsleur audio instruction contain overall impressions of this method of teaching foreign languages, and users’ informal evaluations of its effectiveness.
The following review of Pimsleur is adapted from ‘Easy, Tiger’, a humorous article by David Sedaris from the New Yorker magazine of July 11, 2011:
In the first thirty-minute lesson, a man approaches a strange woman, asking, in Italian or Japanese or whichever language you’ve signed up for, if she understands English.
The two jabber away for twenty seconds or so, and then an American instructor chimes in and breaks it all down.
“Say, ‘Excuse me,’” he tells you.
“Ask, ‘Are you an American?’”
The conversation grows more complicated as you progress, and the phrases are regularly repeated so that you don’t forget them.
Not all the sentences I’ve learned with Pimsleur are suited to my way of life. I don’t drive, for example, so “Which is the road to Yokohama?” never did me any good. The same is true of “As for gas, is it expensive?”
though I have got some mileage out of “Fill her up, please,” which I use in restaurants when getting a second cup of tea.
Thanks to Japanese I and II, I’m able to buy train tickets, count to ninety-nine thousand, and say, whenever someone is giving me change, “Now you are giving me change.”
I can manage in a restaurant, take a cab, and even make small talk with the driver. “Do you have children?” I ask. “Will you take a vacation this year?” “Where to?”
Pimsleur’s a big help when it comes to pronunciation. The actors are native speakers, and they don’t slow down for your benefit.
The drawbacks are that they never explain anything or teach you to think for yourself.
Instead of being provided with building blocks which would allow you to construct sentences of your own, you’re left using the hundreds or thousands of sentences you have memorized.
That means waiting for a particular situation to arise in order to comment on it:
either that or becoming one of those weird non-sequitur people, the kind who, when asked a question about paint color, answers, “There is a bank in front of the train station.”