Pimsleur Review

Updated: September 12,2023
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Language learning apps have gained a lot of popularity with language learners lately due to their proven effectiveness, flexibility, and simplicity. Whether you can spare two hours or five minutes, a good language app will help you feel like you’ve done something useful for your language skills. Welcome to our Pimsleur review, where we’ll take a look at one of the most efficient apps on the market.

Pimsleur Review - Logo


Starts at$14.95/month
  • Conversation-based learning
  • Graduated interval recall system
  • Large selection of languages
  • Online and offline lessons
What we liked
  • Audio-based approach that works best when learning a new language
  • Excellent for word retention
  • Well-structured
  • ESL courses
  • 50 languages supported
  • Well-designed mobile app
What we disliked
  • Doesn’t teach writing or grammar
  • Expensive
  • Only a handful of languages have interactive exercises


Despite being fairly new to the online language learning market, the Pimsleur method has been around for much longer in the offline world. It was named after Paul Pimsleur, a famous scholar in applied linguistics. The initial program debuted in the late 1960s and offered courses for French, Greek, German, and Spanish.

These days, the Pimsleur language learning method encompasses 50 languages, 14 of which are featured in the premium version of the program that boasts additional interactive exercises and materials.

Pimsleur is available through traditional methods (audio CDs and printed booklets), as well as mobile and web-based apps, which will be the focus of this review. Let’s start by explaining how this famous patented approach works and what makes it unique in the veritable ocean of diverse language-learning programs available today.

The Pimsleur Method

First things first: If you are a primarily visual learner or have a penchant for learning grammar in a traditional way, Pimsleur may not be for you. The core of the program is based on Dr. Pimsleur’s patented spaced repetition language learning method, while listening and speaking are the key pillars in the language learning process. 

Traditional language learning through writing and studying grammar is pretty much ignored here. You pick up grammar organically, through speaking and listening, with a little reading at the end, while there are no writing exercises available in the standard Pimsleur courses. The focus is on learning through listening and speaking, which is definitely the most natural way to learn a language. 

The Basics 

Dr. Pimsleur’s research into how human memory works forms the basis of Pimsleur language programs. The core concepts of Pimsleur’s approach are simple: By being reminded of new words at gradually increasing intervals, while being encouraged to reproduce them without much thinking, the learners begin remembering words for longer and longer intervals. 

Essentially, they are moved from short-term to long-term - permanent memory - and retained forever. Through thorough research, Dr. Pimsleur ascertained the ideal time required for this process to occur, and it is precisely this formula that all Pimsleur products are based on.

Recall, Repetition, Retention

These three R’s - recall, repetition, and retention - are at the core of the Pimsleur language courses. Our brains are designed to process speech and anticipate answers automatically. By letting learners first hear a word or phrase, then checking for understanding, giving the learner time to respond, and then providing the correct response, the Pimsleur method accelerates the learning process and speeds up new word retention.

It’s not just about blind repetition, though. Every new word and phrase is carefully selected and taught in the context of an organic exchange or conversation that a native speaker would engage in. 

In this regard, a Pimsleur Spanish review will not differ all that much from say a Pimsleur Japanese review: You start off by learning the core vocabulary, with the course deliberately limiting how much you can learn at first, so as not to discourage you. As you get more comfortable, new words and phrases are introduced, building on the framework established in these early classes.

Lesson Structure

Whether you are using the CDs, the online web interface, or the handy mobile app, the basic lesson structure is the same. Every language has several levels, split into 30 lessons each. 

These lessons are from 20 to 30 minutes long and are meant to be taken consecutively, as each builds on the foundation established by the previous ones. Remember, there are no dedicated Pimsleur reading lessons! Instead, you listen to one or several native speakers, while getting help from an English-speaking narrator, who also quizzes you from time to time.

At the end of each lesson, there is a short reading/listening comprehension exercise, where you read select vocabulary from the supplementary materials and then listen to hear if you got the pronunciation right.

pimsleur lesson structure

The idea is that you should do one lesson daily, and consecutive lessons and exercises (if available) are only unlocked upon finishing the listening part of the previous lesson completely. Carefully spaced repetition is the key to the learning experience: You constantly hear new words but may get asked about specific phrases occasionally, even after several other words have been introduced. 

In the Pimsleur method, a review of previous lessons’ vocabulary is done organically, and the narrator may pop a question about a certain word or phrase within the context of another lesson completely. That being said, the clear lesson structure and the way that lessons build upon each other mean that you should never feel confused or overwhelmed. 

Also, the intervals start rather short (15 seconds or so) and build up to longer periods. During this time, the words and expressions slowly start getting ingrained into your brain, without you even realizing it.

The most popular language learning programs have a clear structure and follow a pattern that facilitates a natural learning process. With Pimsleur, each new lesson will introduce new concepts and phrases which often build on those learned before, but each lesson will have the same general structure.

They all start with a short dialogue, which you should be able to understand completely by the end of the lesson. In addition to simply listening and repeating, there are also call-and-response sections, which force you to think about your answer, instead of just mimicking the sound that you’ve just heard.

Picking Up New Vocabulary

Earlier in this Pimsleur review, I mentioned that learning vocabulary through this method is about more than just memorizing new words. Each lesson contains up to 10 new vocabulary units, and finishing a complete level should teach you some 250-300 new words and expressions. 

If that doesn’t sound like much for a month’s worth of work, consider that you are learning to truly use and understand how these words and phrases work in a wider context - not just memorizing them. Owing to this broader focus, the language learner can build a foundation with which those words and expressions lead to absorbing new ones further down the road. 

Available Languages

There are currently 50 languages available through the Pimsleur app, in addition to English-learning programs for 14 languages. The quality and quantity of the materials depends on the chosen language, with popular options such as Mandarin Chinese, French or German having five levels of 30 Pimsleur lessons each, plus the option of buying additional interactive materials and exercises. 

Less popular languages, such as Albanian or Tagalog tend to have fewer materials, but they should still get you up and running with at least A2 level conversation skills.

Personally, I tried out Pimsleur in German for this review, but languages offered for English speakers also include Albanian, Arabic (Eastern, Egyptian, and Modern Standard), Armenian (Eastern and Western), Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dari Persian, Dutch, Farsi Persian, Finnish, French, German (Swiss), Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Ojibwe, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian and European), Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Spanish (Latin American and European), Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Twi, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Pimsleur Premium

A service called Pimsleur Premium is also available, which is pricier than the audio course and offers more interactive content. It’s available only for select languages such as Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Latin American Spanish. It’s not only for English speakers. 

You can also learn Spanish by taking advantage of the Premium service when learning English. If you’re not learning one of the above languages, only audio courses will be available to study.

Pimsleur language learning products for those wishing to learn English are not limited to Spanish speakers. While the Premium package is only available in Spanish, standard English lessons can be taken in Arabic, Cantonese Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Farsi Persian, French, German, Haitian, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

User Experience

The Pimsleur experience has been around for a long time. What started on tape in the ‘70s evolved into CDs and Simon and Schuster books in the ‘90s, and finally digital MP3s distributed online in the 21st century. In this section, I’ll talk about the experience of using Pimsleur’s digital content: its mobile and web apps. 

Supported Platforms

Pimsleur’s web interface works well on PC, Mac, and Linux systems. There are also dedicated mobile apps for both Android and iOS systems. I had no trouble starting up and running the apps on either of these operating systems.

Mobile and Web Apps 

The web and mobile apps have exactly the same functionality, with a slightly different layout based on the platform you use. The mostly blue interface is easy to navigate on both platforms, and I ran into no technical issues on either. 

Be aware that past the initial free lesson, a Pimsleur subscription or Premium plan are required to access the content, including both the lessons themselves and the post-lesson exercises. Also, just 14 languages actually have the exercises, the rest will only get access to the audio lessons and the option to download them for offline use.

Pimsleur mobile app

Another handy feature is the Driving Mode. Trying to learn a language while driving is probably not the smartest idea in the first place, but in case you want to just listen to a lesson, this mode makes all of the buttons bigger, so it’s easier to press pause and play while behind the wheel.

Premium Content and Exercises 

Many Pimsleur reviews mention that Pimsleur is primarily an audio-based learning platform (as opposed to, say, Rosetta Stone, which mostly focuses on visual learning). In response to various objections pertaining to the one-dimensional nature of the Pimsleur course, the company has tried to expand its scope in recent years, through adding various exercises to its Premium language program, available for its most popular languages.

Bonus content available through the Premium subscription includes Skills and Practice sections. The Skills section features a list of helpful phrases from the lesson itself, written down for people who, after using the Pimsleur approach, review everything in written form. They’re split into sections such as General Phrases, Polite Phrases, etc. and are designed as supplementary materials after listening to the audio lesson.

The Practice section features exercises such as Flash Cards, Quick Match, Speak Easy, and Speed Round, all using the audio lesson vocabulary. Quick Match is a multiple question exercise for practicing your translation skills, while Speak Easy gives you a short dialogue and then prompts you to imitate one of the speakers. 

Finally, Speed Round is sort of like Tetris: phrases in the target language drop down from the top of the screen, and you have a limited time to match them with selected phrases in English.

Sadly, I have to agree with almost every Pimsleur review out there: these exercises are not completely useless, but they do definitely feel tacked on and don’t really add much to the learning experience. They also tend to be a little on the easy side, rarely providing a real challenge to the learner. 

Pimsleur review practice

Customer Support

In my brief experience with Pimsleur’s customer support, the team responded to queries fairly quickly, and I was able to get an answer regarding their foreign language packs within half an hour of sending my email. 

Should you have any questions or concerns about the functionality of the Pimsleur language learning app or want to ask about subscription options for one of the available Pimsleur languages, the customer service team is also available 24/7 through phone at 1-800-831-5497 for US and Canada and +1 800-051-4293 for international callers.

Pricing Plans

When it comes to pricing, the cost will largely depend on the format that you choose, with CD sets being more expensive than digital downloads, and Premium packs for one of the most popular languages costing more on top of that. For example, the Pimsleur Approach Gold Edition CD set with 80 CDs is going to set you back a fair bit more than an Armenian course that’s much leaner on learning materials.

The site currently advertises Premium plans for languages that include Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Latin American Spanish. A bulk buy offers great value, costing $575 for all five levels, while individual levels can be bought for $150 each. If you opt out of receiving the Premium content, prices are $550 for the bundle and $120 for each individual course level.

Customers in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom can also subscribe to the Pimsleur Language Programs courses Pay-As-You-Go subscription. For details on that offer, check here.

As with other learning software, such as Rocket Languages or Duolingo, there is a free trial available. However, no matter which Pimsleur language you choose, only the first lesson with the corresponding exercises will be free, which is far less generous than the majority of the competition. 

When we look at Rosetta Stone vs. Pimsleur, we find that even the former offers a three-day free trial. The silver lining here is that you don’t even need to sign up for Pimsleur’s free lesson, so as long as you’ve got half an hour to spare, you can get a basic idea if this software works for you or not.

Pimsleur Review Pricing Plans

Audio Only

$14.95 /month
  • Vocabulary and grammar
  • Pronunciation lessons
  • Reading lessons
  • Mobile app


$19.95 /month
  • Vocabulary and grammar
  • Pronunciation lessons
  • Reading lessons
  • Mobile app
  • Flash cards
  • Speakeasy
  • Amazon Alexa compatibility


Let’s say Dr. Pimsleur language review method doesn’t go at the speed you like, or you just want to try something a bit different. What alternatives does the market offer?

Unlike Pimsleur, which only recently introduced a subscription-based system, most of its competitors have been using it as their primary sales pitch from the beginning. 

First off, there are completely free programs with a premium subscription option, such as Duolingo. Duolingo Plus offers an ad-free experience with offline use for just $6.99 per month. On the other hand, LingoDeer has a premium option that costs $14.99 a month or $159.99 for a lifetime subscription.

Rosetta Stone beats Pimsleur in price. It offers three months of German for $11.99 per month, for example. Then again, you could buy a lifetime subscription to an unlimited number of languages for just $179, which is less than the price of just two levels of a chosen language at Pimsleur.

Fluenz and Rocket Languages are among the rare companies that offer a similar pricing scheme to Pimsleur. The former features one-off payments ranging from $187 to $398, while the latter’s lifetime access costs anywhere between $99.95 for one level and $259.90 for the entire pack for your selected language.

Each of these methods offers a different type of language learning experience; so finding one that works for you is about more than just looking at the prices. Once upon a time, identifying a decent Rosetta Stone competitor was a tough mission. These days there are so many good language learning programs on the market that you’ll face a completely different issue: deciding where to start. 

While Pimsleur may not win against the competition on pricing alone, it’s still probably the best audio-based approach on the market. Visual learners will gravitate towards Rosetta Stone or Fluenz, while those looking a mixed approach may look to Duolingo or LingoDeer. Finally, for an alternative that’s most familiar in its approach and pricing scheme, Pimsleur fans can also try Rocket Languages. 

How Does Pimsleur Compare to Other Language Learning Programs?

Pimsleur Logo
Starts at $14.95
  • Conversation-based learning
  • Graduated interval recall system
  • Large selection of languages
  • Online and offline lessons
  • Role-playing activities
Duolingo Logo
Starts at Free
  • 20+ languages
  • Bite-sized lessons
  • Grammar exercises
  • Listening, speaking, and reading
  • Android & iOS app
LingoDeer Logo
Starts at Free
  • 200+ lessons
  • Web & mobile app
  • Quick, interactive lessons
  • Offline and online lessons
  • Free trial

Final Thoughts

While it may not be new, the Pimsleur method holds up well over half a century after it was conceived. While the new interactive exercises aren’t as good as those offered by most of the competition, they still provide extra value to your learning experience. 

But even the most efficient language learning technology cannot help a bad student. It’s crucial for the success of the Pimsleur language program to both temper your expectations and keep a regular learning schedule. That is to say that you shouldn’t expect to reach intermediate proficiency in any language within a month, but also that your progress will be much faster if you can stick to the recommended learning regime as much as possible.


Does the Pimsleur method really work?

Yes, as long as you make sure to put in the work and cover your Pimsleur courses on a daily basis.

Can Pimsleur make you fluent?

Yes and no. Don’t expect miracles, but completing an entire language course in Pimsleur will give you enough proficiency in the target language to communicate with native speakers at a reasonable level.

Is Pimsleur better than Duolingo?

For audio-based learners, yes. As I mentioned in the Pimsleur review above, you cannot beat Pimsleur when it comes to the audio learning approach. That being said, Duolingo offers plenty of other learning methods, including dedicated grammar sections. It also offers a whole lot more content completely free.

Which is better, Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur?

That depends entirely on your learning style. As Rosetta Stone reviews point out, this method is primarily visual-based. Pimsleur, on the other hand, heavily relies on audio. Depending on what kind of learner you are, the Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone debate may go either way.

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