PROS / The Pimsleur method trains you to anticipate, rather than just memorize, phrases and core vocabulary.
CONS / The program doesn't offer much for visual or young learners.
VERDICT / The Pimsleur method is an excellent approach for strong auditory learners, but others may get lost in it.
Simon and Schuster's Pimsleur Spanish Unlimited is Spanish learning software designed according to the system developed by linguistics scholar Paul Pimsleur. This audio-focused learning approach trains you to listen and speak Spanish fast by teaching you the same way parents teach their children language. This is a strong method for a lot of learners, but it can quickly become stale for people with certain learning styles.
Other instructional methods present lists of vocabulary words or grammar exercises first and then have you incorporate the information into conversations. However, Pimsleur is heavily focused on auditory learning and may lose the attention of strong visual learners or younger students who want games and stimulation when learning.
Each lesson focuses on a sample conversation. Once you hear the initial dialogue, the audio instructor walks you through each word, phrase and variation. This familiarizes you with casual Spanish dialogue for conversations you have every day in English. Once you hear the conversation in its entirety, you learn to anticipate and actively recall the correct answers, rather than just memorize phrases. While you focus on common phrases, the software refreshes your memory of previous Spanish lessons in graduated intervals, which helps you retain the material presented to you. The active thought and analysis requires you to really know your vocabulary and mechanics.
The audio lessons work best if you review them every day. This may sound like a chore if you're only interested in Spanish for vacation, but each lesson takes only 30 minutes, about the same length of a network TV show and the recommended period for a learning task. The process works best if you respond aloud, rather than quietly thinking of the answer. When you respond quickly with the right answer 80 percent of the time, you advance to the next lesson.
Pimsleur chases audio lessons with Spanish reading lessons. As you progress, it tracks the reading lessons and audio lessons you complete. When you fire up the application each day, it knows where you left off and starts you where you should be, which makes it easy to stay on track.
Another exercise, Speak Easy Conversations, follows the audio lessons so that you can practice the rhythms and melodies of spoken Spanish. Other teaching resources include flashcards and quick matching games, which work together to bring you closer to fluency. Another powerful resource Pimsleur provides is the included access to audio-based chat rooms to practice with other students. You can also register for Pimsleur Events, which let you talk to native speakers and explore Spanish culture and customs.
Customer support for Pimsleur Unlimited is available in the U.S. by toll-free telephone and email. The publisher hosts well-chosen FAQs, along with a description of the Pimsleur method. A detailed list of product features and the user manual are also online. However, the company does not offer live chat for technical support.
The Pimsleur method is critically acclaimed and deeply researched, but you still have to take the time to practice the lessons consistently to truly learn Spanish from Pimsleur Spanish Unlimited. Auditory learners can excel with this program, but others may have trouble staying in the game without any engaging activities or visuals.