Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

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LucasGentry
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Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby LucasGentry » Sat Sep 15, 2018 3:05 am

So, it's been a long time since I've started learning a new language. Several years ago, I learned Spanish via Michel Thomas and Pimsleur, then spent a year in Costa Rica, volunteering at a school while taking Spanish classes. After that, we've spent the last few years in Texas, USA, working normal jobs, but with a fair percentage of the clientele as native Spanish speakers, serving to really solidify my Spanish. I'm now pretty conversational in Spanish (not perfect, but good enough to pleasantly surprise the people that come in needing help).

Over the last little bit, I've felt the draw to start this learning process again, and for some reason, I'm feeling really drawn to learning French. (Not that French is a bad language to learn, it's just that I don't have any particular utility for learning that particular language.) With Spanish, words look basically the same as they sound, so I could practice with flash cards and Anki, but with French, I'm completely lost when it comes to turning words on a page into sounds. So, it looks like my biggest issue for learning this language is going to be pronunciation.

Back in the day when I was trying to learn Spanish, I used to read on the forums that Pimsleur wouldn't teach you a large vocabulary, but would give you amazing pronunciation. Is that still the consensus?
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白田龍
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby 白田龍 » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:32 am

When listening to a foreign language your brain tries to decipher the sounds using the phonemic repertoire of your mother tongue. It also hallucinates sounds, causing you to listen to phonemes that aren't really there. So a beginner trying to imitate the input without knowledge of the correct articulation and without reading the written form for control, is probably gonna get a thick accent.
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LucasGentry
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby LucasGentry » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:40 am

So, your recommendation would be to work through a program that is both written and audio from day one then?

Currently, my budget is pretty tight (basically until the end of the year), so I can't purchase a new program at the moment, but I do have access to both French Pimsleur and Michel Thomas. Would something like the FSI program, which I believe is a free resource, be a superior starting point than those two in your opinion?
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby Speakeasy » Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:07 pm

While many people believe that Pimsleur helps develop good pronunciation, I believe that the same amount of time devoted to any other language-learning programme (Assimil, FSI, Linguaphone et cetera) should have a similar effect, provided that the user listens attentively, actually hears the sounds, and makes a conscious effort at reproducing them. My understanding of Pimsleur is that it is an SRS (spaced repetition learning system) language programme whose chief benefits are the gradual assimilation of the basic structure of the L2 through inference and the acquisition of a very basic core vocabulary; any apparent emphasis on pronunciation is something of a misconception ... d'après moi.

Yes, when compared to Spanish and many other languages, French is renowned for its difficult orthography; however, English is far worse. Whereas almost all other language-learning programmes provide a transcript of their audio recordings, the Pimsleur programme very deliberately minimizes this aspect. One of the common complaints of the programme is that the (so-called) “Reading Booklet” is only remotely-related to the all-audio lessons. Nevertheless, given the scope of the Pimsleur programme, I would qualify this as a minor irritant which will be compensated for through the necessary further study of the L2 using courses having greater depth (Assimil, FSI, Linguaphone, et cetera) and through exposure to native-language materials.

Should you be interested in perfecting your French pronunciation, one of the most commonly-referred-to programmes is the ageing FSI French Phonology course. By the way, as this programme deals with issues beyond pronunciation, it is not necessarily the place to begin your studies.

FSI French phonology course – LLORG – August, 2017
https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=19&p=81384#p81384

Also, in the “Le group français 2016 – 2018 Les Voyageurs”, member zjones recently commented …

zjones wrote: … I've heard the FSI course is good, so I'm sure you can't go wrong with that. However, I found it really dry, so I chose to use this short course from the University of Michigan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cc_X4Ho ... 3dxwP&t=0s. I worked on it for about 10 minutes each day (2-3 videos) and finished it in a few weeks. However, I learned the French R as a child, so I can't tell you how useful that part will be. The vowel part was indispensable for me. You could always try something like this YouTube course as an overview, and then follow up with the FSI French Phonology course.

To wrap up, I would say that the Pimsleur programme is a superb place to begin learning the basics of a language and I would most definitely recommend it for students wishing to learn French. However, in my opinion, you will not develop “better” pronunciation with this programme when compared to the results which can be achieved with just about any other programme. French orthography is difficult, but that of your mother-tongue is even worse!
Last edited by Speakeasy on Sat Sep 15, 2018 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby patrickwilken » Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:17 pm

LucasGentry wrote:With Spanish, words look basically the same as they sound, so I could practice with flash cards and Anki, but with French, I'm completely lost when it comes to turning words on a page into sounds. So, it looks like my biggest issue for learning this language is going to be pronunciation.


Have you tried the Awesome_TTS extension for Anki? You can use it to generate computerized audio for cards. I have used it for learning Spanish, and it's been surprisingly useful. I checked the audio with a native speaker and they told me it sounded fine. It's obviously not as good as speaking with a native speaker or listening to native audio, but it gave a definite boost to my Anki deck.
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby Skynet » Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:59 pm

Welcome to the forum, LucasGentry!

Speakeasy wrote:While many people believe that Pimsleur helps develop good pronunciation, I believe that the same amount of time devoted to any other language-learning programme (Assimil, FSI, Linguaphone et cetera) should have a similar effect, provided that the user listens attentively, actually hears the sounds, and makes a conscious effort at reproducing them.


I second Speakeasy and would further posit that using a simple cost benefit analysis of the programs (Pimsleur, Assimil, FSI and Linguaphone), you'll come to the realisation that splurging $104.13 on Gold Edition Pimsleur French 1-5 Whole Bundle Set I, II, III, IV, V - 80 CD's is NOT better than a) Assimil New French with Ease 1 (Beginners) - Book+4 CDs for $27.57, b) Living Language French, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, including 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, and free online learning for $35.88 and c) FSI's French Phonology course for the impossible-to-beat-price of ZERO.

I am looking forward to seeing you progress in French!
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby tastyonions » Sat Sep 15, 2018 2:11 pm

I wrote up these pronunciation guidelines recently for a French meetup I run:

https://speakfrench.neocities.org/lessons_fr/pronunciation.doc

It won't teach you everything or cover all the many, many exceptions but it will give you a good idea of what you should watch out for. Includes IPA so you can look up the exact sounds discussed.
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DaveAgain
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby DaveAgain » Sat Sep 15, 2018 2:18 pm

Given that you can already speak spanish, you might like to consider parallel texts with audio.

Your spanish should give you a head start with reading french, and you could use the french audio to guide your pronunciation.

e.g.
Around the world in 80 days: french audio, french text, spanish text.

EDIT
french language cartoon adaption.
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby Deinonysus » Sat Sep 15, 2018 4:08 pm

I'm a heavy Pimsleur user and I would definitely say it's a great way to train accents. People have had no trouble understanding me in French, German, or Icelandic. But I couldn't understand much of what people said back to me in Icelandic, because you really need to do a lot of extensive listening to supplement Pimsleur, which I did in German and French but not in Icelandic.

Pimsleur certainly isn't the only way to develop a good accent. I've heard that shadowing is extremely effective (I haven't really done much of it myself). But Pimsleur isn't only good for accents. It is a learning resource that will get you very comfortable using a small core of basic vocabulary.

Pimsleur is indispensable to me, but it is only part of a complete breakfast. It will train your speaking ability very well but you will need to use other resources to learn reading, writing, and any listening ability beyond short sentences or dialogs. You will also need another resource for vocabulary. My usual regimen is to do Pimsleur in the car, Duolingo whenever I can fit it in, some combination of vocabulary tools (Memrise, Anki, and recently Clozemaster), and then add in some native materials as early as possible.

Take this with a grain of salt. I'm still not quite fluent in my two best languages, French and German. I did all five levels of Pimsleur French and the first four of German. I did feel very confident in getting around on my own in France despite not quite being fluent. I also did the first level of Assimil French.
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Re: Is Pimsleur still a great way to train accents?

Postby Speakeasy » Sat Sep 15, 2018 4:32 pm

LucasGentry wrote: … Currently, my budget is pretty tight … but I do have access to both French Pimsleur and Michel Thomas. Would something like the FSI program, which I believe is a free resource, be a superior starting point than those two in your opinion?
This expands the discussion beyond the question of accents but, what the heck, most threads go off the rails rather quickly.

If you are concerned about correct pronunciation, you should avoid Michel Thomas as, despite whatever other strengths the MT Method is purported to possess, neither Michel nor his students can serve as models of native-like pronunciation. My position, which is based solely on the poor pronunciation of the non-native speakers in the Michel Thomas courses, is that they are amongst the worst choices available.

The question of whether a particular language course is “superior” to another is open to unresolvable debate. Many members of this forum believe that the Michel Method is superior to the Pimsleur method whereas just as many people believe the opposite. The FSI/DLI French Basic courses employed the “audio-lingual” method of instruction, were designed for use in a classroom setting, and contain some, but not a great deal of, obsolete vocabulary and use a rather formal register of speech. For some people, the audio-lingual method itself has been “discredited” whereas for many other people, the opportunity to reinforce one’s grasp of the language’s structure and vocabulary through the repetition of the sentence-pattern drills represents the irreplaceable “unparalleled value” of these courses. In addition FSI/DLI basic courses cover the L2’s in much greater depth than do the Michel Thomas and Pimsleur courses.

At the very least, deciding which courses are “superior” to the others requires elaborating a set of criteria by which one can objectively evaluate them and, on this latter point, I would suggest that many people on the forum, myself included, develop personal preferences that are not all that objective.

So then, given your present situation, I would recommend:
Pimsleur French I, II (and no further) accompanied by a very basic grammar of French, then either
FSI/DLI French Basic (try both and settle on whichever suits you the best), or
Assimil French (the older editions are floating “freely” on the Internet), then
Native materials


Bon courage et bonne chance! Vas-y, t’es capable!
Last edited by Speakeasy on Sat Sep 15, 2018 7:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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