I saw this video earlier today (The most important part is from 8.00 to 9.00), explaining what the "Pimsleur approach" is. It got me interested, because they claim it's the fastest method of learning the basics of a new language. Has there ever been research trying to find the best method of learning a language? Is this approach comparable to the "best method"?

To place it in context, I want to learn Finnish, and I'm first looking for a good learning method.

  • Simon, welcome to Linguistics. :) We don't give advice for learning languages but I think we might be able to fix your question. First of all, the question about having experience is a survey, and the other questions you asked are quite subjective, they could be both answered like this: it depends.
    – Alenanno
    Jun 4, 2012 at 16:44
  • @Alenanno: I changed the question so it can be answered with facts. Is it better now? Jun 4, 2012 at 16:47
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    Considering how this video makes many wildly exaggerated and guaranteed-to-be-wrong claims during the first minute (like "learn a new language in 10 days, 30 minutes a day", and "speak accentless French"), I would put zero faith in whatever this woman is trying to get you to buy. I have heard of the Pimsleur method, but it doesn't sound very new or revolutionary at all from what I read, though it may work fine (just as most other methods).
    – Cerberus
    Jun 4, 2012 at 17:14
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    Why don't all teachers use it? One reason is because everybody learns language differently, especially second languages. It's really, really clear from trying to learn languages after childhood (and watching others do so) that different people use different methods. And succeed. Or fail. Eventually one comes to the conclusion that there can be no single good technique, usable by every teacher, with every student, in every class, for every language situation.
    – jlawler
    Jun 4, 2012 at 18:34
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    As @Alenanno noticed, "best" is always subjective. Personally, I have used Pimsleur's lessons to get entry levels of Thai and Mandarin Chinese, and I sincerely recommended it to my friends. But of course, it mostly depend on student's way of thinking. It is not recommended blindly to everyone, but may work for many. "Accentless" and "in 10 days" are contradictory, of course. :) Jun 4, 2012 at 23:00

2 Answers 2


There is almost no research about this subject as far as I know, but there is one article called A Second Language Acquisition Model Using Example Generalization and Concept Categories by Rappoport and Sheinman, which defines a basic computational model for learning a new language, and evaluates Pimsleur Japanese I on it.

As mentioned in the article, there are really no methods right now of evaluating SLA methods formally, so it's hard to tell what is the "best method".

Although it has nothing to do with linguistics, may I also recommend Benny Lewis' review of the Pimsleur method, and an explanation why the choice of method is secondary when learning a language.


I found Pimsleur by accident - as I was waiting in the line in the library, I saw an audiobook "Hindi for beginners".

So I borrowed it and started learning Hindi. And here's what I like:

Every word is broken into syllables and syllables into sounds, making learning pronunciation really easy.

Also, it keeps quizzing you on words an phrases learned before.

Maybe it's just me, but I found Pimsleur really effective.

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