Pimsleur Discussion Thread

All about language programs, courses, websites and other learning resources
Cavesa
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
Posts: 3434
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
x 10137

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby Cavesa » Wed Feb 13, 2019 1:46 am

Speakeasy wrote:
Cavesa wrote: … Who in their right mind could have come up with that? Not introducing the "formal" addressing is about the social norms that the schools want to instill in the children …
Cavesa, while I have the deepest respect for your erudition and your vast knowledge in all matters touching upon language-learning, I find that your comments betray a retrograde attitude towards the most recent, enlightened views on the raising and education of children. It has been scientifically proven in numerous studies that, before 8 years of age, children are simply incapable of distinguishing between the formal and informal registers and their associated singular and the plural forms of verbs and pronouns; notions of politeness and self-restraint are equally beyond them at this stage in their development. Furthermore, any attempts at introducing such concepts at too early a stage cause children to endure unbearable psychological stress which results in near-to-irreparable harm that only professional counselling can even hope to address later in life. These are proven facts. Uninformed parents are free to disagree with the Ministry of Education. Nevertheless, the Ministry has a higher responsibility to ensuring the well-being of its charges and it will not be swayed by outdated arguments no matter how heartfelt these beliefs may held. ;) ;) ;)


I actually know a lot about this as I was part of such an experiment, which included lack of formal addressing at school. The "enlightened" school did a lot of damage not only on me but on many of my classmates too. A "retrograde" school saved me. Let's not forget, that research in humanities (especially stuff like this) needs to be taken with much bigger grain of salt than in science, and using the word "facts" is rather dubious in such a context. ;-) I have yet to hear about a single person, who has needed professional councelling due to being required to address people appropriately in primary school. :-D I guess those studies' authors just wanted to look interesting, so they chose methods and sample that would support their theory, nothing rare.

And children unable to use a normal plural? Like what you describe, a teacher not using it on a group of children? That is nonsense. I can believe that children with certain neurological conditions may struggle with this but not the majority (any condition including significantly lowering the vocabulary of the child, or their intellect, or pathologically affecting their interactions with the rest of the world, may have this as one of the many symptoms, I can totally believe that). A four year old may not understand the concept of politeness, true. But an eight year old not understanding singular and plural probably needs medical attention and professional help, not the school making this the norm. This is very disturbing to hear about such a well reputed country like Canada.

Before anyone says "but you don't have kids": I have significantly lower siblings to have fresh impressions from, whose native language includes singlular and plural and formal and informal way to address people. And they had no problem with this in primary school, nor had any of their native classmates (the non native classmates had a lot of difficulties, most of them learnt everything in a short time). I think this tendency to expect children to be stupid and treating them like it is very unfortunate and going to lead to many self fulfilling prophecies.

And it still doesn't explain, why normal adult language learners are not being introduced to the basic norms of politeness early enough in a language course. A child can be excused, as being too impolite for a given age is the fault of the parents (and in such twisted cases like you describe the fault of the schools and Ministry). But an adult should strive to speak appropriately.

If Pimsleur doesn't teach that (in the languages, where this applies. For example Czech, German, and French use this in the same manner), it is a mistake.
4 x

User avatar
Elsa Maria
Green Belt
Posts: 362
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2015 5:20 am
Location: USA
Languages: English (N), Danish (intermediate). Currently working on Danish, Dutch, Latin and European Portuguese.
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=6009
x 711

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby Elsa Maria » Wed Feb 13, 2019 2:15 am

I hope I didn’t imply that I am against learning formal pronouns! But some languages that have them do indeed very rarely use them, and that is one of the problems with courses that use the same content for all languages. There is not much room for nuance.

I am not completely sure about Dutch. I have asked two native speakers. One told me that the formal pronouns were only useful when talking to royalty. Another told me that a job interview would be a good time to use formal pronouns.
3 x
Corrections are always welcome.

User avatar
rdearman
Site Admin
Posts: 4804
Joined: Thu May 14, 2015 4:18 pm
Location: United Kingdom
Languages: English (N)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1836
x 11550
Contact:

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby rdearman » Wed Feb 13, 2019 8:12 am

@speakeasy. Irony and sarcasms don't translate well into text, and even worse in text in someone's second language. You may want to include <sarcasm> </sarcasm> tags in future.
1 x

Elexi
Green Belt
Posts: 255
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2015 9:39 pm
Languages: English (N), French (B1), German (A2), Latin (eternal beginner), Dutch (Aspires to find the time).
x 583

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby Elexi » Wed Feb 13, 2019 9:52 am

Lianne Wrote -
It really challenges my working memory, since I often have trouble remembering the whole sentence I'm meant to be translating...


This is a criticism I would have of later Pimsleur levels. I have found that once one gets to a certain level of complexity in a sentence, the 29-33 minutes of the course is too long for Pimsleur to work as a Pimsleur course. Perhaps it is my dumb brain slowing down, but I felt I was being asked to draw on long term memory and on too many elements in my working memory without the necessary time for integration. I realise that the answer to that is to go over each unit again and again in smaller chunks, but that is not how Pimsleur is supposed to work and it becomes instead a script memorisation exercise. At that point, I think that the method breaks down because a written transcript with grammar notes - a la every other language course - works better at that kind of exercise.
6 x

romeo.alpha
Yellow Belt
Posts: 84
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:22 pm
Languages: Speaks: English (native), Swiss German (native), High German, French, Dutch (heritage)
Learning: Greek, Japanese, Egyptian Arabic
x 41

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby romeo.alpha » Tue Feb 19, 2019 3:02 pm

My first exposure to Pimsleur was checking it out for German and Mandarin, German I already spoke, Mandarin I had learned a bit in university but lost it almost entirely. It gave me a good first impression.

It was the first resource I went to when I started learning Japanese, and I was happy with the results. I was able to have some simple conversations within a week, and I think it offered a good foundation for pronunciation (romaji can be somewhat misleading as to how Japanese is actually pronounced, so Pimsleur being audio only allowed me to get a grasp of it without interference from the written system). Pimsleur's cookie cutter lesson format did show itself to be a weakness. Since the dialogue is selected from an English template, it isn't necessarily organised according to what is the easiest to learn for the target language. The Japanese course had some difficulty spikes in a few of the lessons, as there were some phrases with quite a lot of syllables showing up in early lessons, and there wasn't enough time to practice them. A few of them I just resigned myself to not being able to produce within the alotted time.

A particular standout feature for me was that the words and phrases were broken up in reverse syllable order (Gabriel Wyner calls it "back-chaining" in Fluent Forever, I've never come across another term for it). I think that's an excellent way to teach the pronunciation of a word, and I think it's a shame that only Pimsleur seems to use it. So in a language that it works well with, Pimsleur is really great for pronunciation, and if that's all you're expecting out of it, you'll be happy (people who pay over $100 per level however, have some justification for being upset at how little it covers).

My next attempt at using Pimsleur was with Egyptian Arabic, since I had a good experience with it from Japanese (except for lesson 9, that's the only one in Japanese I didn't repeat), I was optimistic about it. Completely different experience, it was awful. In fact I don't think there's a worse language for the Pimsleur format than Arabic. Arabic is highly inflected for gender, so there's two words for "you" depending on if you're talking to a man or a woman. And in Pimsleur the conversation is always between a man and a woman. So there's much less time to drill the pronunciation, you just need to learn all the words and include them in the conversations they provide you. While it's not completely absent, you do lose out on the back chaining, and it ends up being just another audio phrasebook course. And I have a hunch it's probably not the best idea to visit Cairo and start hitting on local women only knowing what you learned from Pimsleur. I didn't get to lesson 9 in Egyptian Arabic, but if it's not teaching you how to deal with a woman's father or brother yelling at you for persistently hitting on her, it's not going to be all that practical.

I took a brief look at it when I was refreshing my French, but abandoned it because it makes the same mistake a lot of courses do when breaking French down syllable by syllable. As an example, most French courses, Pimsleur included, would teach "vous êtes" as "voo, voo, ett, ett, voo-zett" (or worst case scenario as "vooz-ett"). What they should be doing is teaching it broken down as "voo, voo, zett, zett, voo-zett", or in the case of Pimsleur, "zett, zett, voo, voo, voo-zett". Since the strength of Pimsleur is in learning the pronunciation of the language, and it completely pisses beside the pot in how to present French pronunciation properly, it's basically useless.

I also took a look at it for Dutch. While it isn't quite as bad as Egyptian Arabic or French, in the sense that you can still use it as a base of pronunciation, the lesson sequence is still off. Pimsleur is all about hitting on local women, and if you go to the Netherlands or Flanders and approach a woman speaking Dutch or Flemmish, rather than English or French, you'll probably make a good impression (assuming you don't screw anything else up). But given how quick Dutch are to go to the informal you, it's really a language where if you're using the formal you with someone, it's clearly inappropriate to be hitting on them. The worst that will probably happen is you'll get laughed at for the inappropriate juxtaposition, but it's something they could easily do much better, and I think it points to some cultural tone-deafness on the part of Simon & Schuster in making these courses.

So the usefulness of Pimsleur really varies. I think for Japanese it's not bad. It's grammatically simple enough (in terms of gender inflection) that the course format works for it just as a pronunciation base, and if your goal is to pick up Japanese women, there's a district in Tokyo you can go to where that's expected.

Also everything I've heard from people who did Pimsleur for Mandarin is they felt it was really good, and I would expect that to be the case. Most Mandarin words are two syllables long, so there aren't going to be any of the annoying difficulty spikes that occur with languages with a lot of long words, and there's no gender inflection, so you'll really get the necessary time to drill pronunciation.

Languages with heavy gender inflection, and languages with ellision and flexible word boundaries that don't line up with the syllable boundaries depending on the neighboring words, like French and Arabic, are going to be exceptionally poor choices for Pimsleur.

Also, one of the criticisms I've seen repeated about Pimsleur is that it is really dry and boring. I'd have to agree, even Japanese, which I used the longest, I quit at lesson 27 or 28, and had no interest in going further. So at least the languages that only offer 1 level, or only 10 lessons aren't really disadvantaged by the lack of attention paid to them. I've even seen some packages being sold that only offer the first 8 lessons (Quick & Simple), which I think is optimal, as it spares you having to sit through lesson 9.
5 x

Speakeasy
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2270
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
x 6011

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:41 pm

@romeo.alpha, I truly enjoyed your balanced review of the Pimsleur programmes. It is always nice hearing from someone else who has tried, and benefited from, this programme for several languages, as I have done. There is, however, one of your comments that I take issue with …

Mention has been made, several times, of the few truly odd scenes in the Pimsleur Level 1 programme wherein the male character seems to be coming on a little too strong for the female character’s taste. My own reaction to this, now a decade on, was to wonder who in their right mind was responsible for exercising oversight over the programme. If these programmes had been developed in the 1950’s and never revised thereafter, one might be tempted to write them off as merely representing outmoded social attitudes from bygone era. That these curiosities should persist into the present era is, from my perspective, truly unfathomable. It should be clear, then, that I agree with everyone who finds the presence of these scenes so odd, if not objectionable, and all of this without even bothering to note what very little worth they could be to anyone at all. Nevertheless, having plainly stated my position on this issue, I find that your statement “Pimsleur is all about hitting on local women” to be an exaggeration of the role that these odd little scenes play and an egregious over-simplification and unjustifiable condemnation of this publisher’s entire five-level programme. Surely you would recognize that the Pimsleur programme has more to offer than a few particularly maladroit pick-up lines, however objectionable these might be.
4 x

romeo.alpha
Yellow Belt
Posts: 84
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:22 pm
Languages: Speaks: English (native), Swiss German (native), High German, French, Dutch (heritage)
Learning: Greek, Japanese, Egyptian Arabic
x 41

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby romeo.alpha » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:00 am

@Speakeasy

I'll clarify my point about Pimsleur being for hitting on local women.

When you have a language like Arabic where the back chaining falls away, you lose Pimsleur's strength in developing a good foundation for pronunciation. If you get a language that is a good fit for pronunciation, like Japanese, German or Mandarin, even if the content isn't of much value, you still get the pronunciation. Arabic is also a more extreme case. Other courses will point out that it is inappropriate for men to approach and speak to women they don't know - even if just to ask directions, and their example scenarios often have men talking to men and women talking to women. So with Arabic, you really do lose anything of value from the Pimsleur course.

I'd also say in general it's not just lesson 9 where he's not understanding her no. But the whole content of level 1 at least is a template for getting to know a woman, asking her on a date, and then going on that date. Naturally if you have friends you're visiting, you can use a lot of the same phrases, but I'd be very surprised if that weren't the intention behind selecting the lesson topics.
2 x

Speakeasy
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2270
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:19 pm
Location: Canada (Montréal region)
Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
x 6011

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:16 pm

@romeo.alpha, thank you for your comments. Still, I find myself at odds with your assertion “the whole content of level 1 at least is a template for getting to know a woman, asking her on a date, and then going on that date” which I find to be a gross mischaracterization of the materials and their intent. Rather than debate the issue with you, I have sent a message to the publisher via their “Contact Us” portal, containing a link to this thread, inviting them to comment.
0 x

romeo.alpha
Yellow Belt
Posts: 84
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:22 pm
Languages: Speaks: English (native), Swiss German (native), High German, French, Dutch (heritage)
Learning: Greek, Japanese, Egyptian Arabic
x 41

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby romeo.alpha » Wed Feb 20, 2019 1:22 pm

I've given it a bit more thought, as aside from lesson 9 it actually doesn't bother me in general, and I find it just to be particularly objectionable with Arabic. My larger criticism is of the cookie cutter lesson design, and in Arabic that manifests as inappropriate conversations (among other problems). Each language is the same conversation with no concern paid to what you would be doing in different countries, and unlike Glossika which had the same approach, there's no way to use that cookie cutter design to learn language X through language Y of your choice. For Japanese it's perfectly fine, do Pimsleur, go to Roppongi, and profit. For French the problem would be more it doesn't leverage back chaining to properly present French prosody. Since in French in Action Mireille just chides Robert for asking her out in an overly formal way.
0 x

User avatar
kanewai
Green Belt
Posts: 434
Joined: Fri May 22, 2015 9:10 pm
Location: Honolulu
Languages: Native: English
Active: French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic
Inactive: Turkish, Indonesian, Pááfang
Very Inactive: Latin, Ancient Greek
x 1433
Contact:

Re: Pimsleur Discussion Thread

Postby kanewai » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:52 pm

Elexi wrote:Lianne Wrote -
It really challenges my working memory, since I often have trouble remembering the whole sentence I'm meant to be translating...


This is a criticism I would have of later Pimsleur levels. I have found that once one gets to a certain level of complexity in a sentence, the 29-33 minutes of the course is too long for Pimsleur to work as a Pimsleur course. Perhaps it is my dumb brain slowing down, but I felt I was being asked to draw on long term memory and on too many elements in my working memory without the necessary time for integration. I realise that the answer to that is to go over each unit again and again in smaller chunks, but that is not how Pimsleur is supposed to work and it becomes instead a script memorisation exercise.


I've never been able to complete five levels of Pimsleur in a row, though. Generally I either hit a wall somewhere in the middle of the second level (Japanese) or am completely bored with the pace by the third (any Romance language). But when I leave Pimsleur, focus on other skills or courses, and come back to it, the higher levels (IV and V) have really helped. They'd bee invaluable when I've wanted to re-activate my speaking skills in a language. It helps to have certain complex constructions drilled to the point where they become natural.
8 x
Manuel Puig, El beso de la mujer araña : 15 / 100
Ibrahim al-Koni, Les mages: 245 / 620
Andrea Camilleri, La forma dell acqua: 28 / 100
L.L. Arabic: 20 / 30


Return to “Language Programs and Resources”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest