23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2013
I own the complete Pimsleur Comprehensive series (I, II, III, III+ or IV) for German, Italian, and Spanish, as well as the Comprehensive-I lessons for French, DUTCH, Portuguese, and Polish. So, I must like the programme! Nonetheless, I have put off commenting on this method for quite some time. It seems that people either love it or hate it, and I didn't want to be drawn into the raucous debate. Now for my review:
THE PIMSLEUR EXPERIENCE:
Imagine that you're learning to swim. Mom and dad take you to a wading pool. The water temperature is simply ideal! There are no boisterous children in the pool. Mom and dad help you don a flotation device that looks and feels like your favourite stuffed toy. They guide you through the basic techniques of "treading water" and the "dog paddle" and, even though they treat you like an adult, they never let you go. You exit the pool feeling refreshed and self-confident. Despite the fact that you're NOT a "natural floater", you KNOW that you're going to learn to swim and you LOOK FORWARD to the next session with GENUINE ENTHUSIASM! You have just experienced the Pimsleur Approach.
THE PIMSLEUR APPROACH:
1. Paul Pimsleur incorporated the concepts of "GRADUATED INTERVAL RECALL" and "ANTICIPATION" into his language learning method. These concepts are at the very core of his approach to language learning and they account for its success; hence its popularity.
2. This is an all "AUDIO" programme that is directed at the basic communication needs of a business traveller. It is built around a limited "core vocabulary" that one would most likely encounter in common situations.
3. Grammar is not specifically discussed and, although not so-stated, students are expected to deduce the essential structure of the target language through the thoughtful absorption of the examples.
4. The only written material is a so-called "Reading Guide" that does not correlate well, if at all, to the audio lessons.
1. It works! You really WILL learn to manipulate the "core vocabulary" of the target language and you will RETAIN what you learn.
2. You will ENJOY the learning experience and you will develop a sense of SELF-CONFIDENCE with the basics of the target language.
3. The Pimsleur is an EXCELLENT STARTING POINT for learning the phonetics of a new language. In my experience, the method works well for languages that are reasonably close to English; that is, the Romance and Germanic languages. As these languages share numerous cognates, have similar sound systems, and have comparable -- but not identical -- rules of grammar, one can deduce much of the target language's structure through thoughtful analysis.
1. Comprehensive Dutch does not contain very much vocbulary. In order to acquire a functional vocabulary, even only that required by a traveller, you will have to purchase some other language learning method and continue your learning. See LIFE AFTER PIMSLEUR, below.
2. The lack of any meaningful written material or any substantive discussion of grammar means that you will have to buy a separate dictionary, a book of verbs, and a grammar, and derive your own glossary and your own course notes. See PRO/CON, below.
3. Comprehensive Dutch comprises some 16 CDs. The material runs like one long, uninterrupted lesson. Since there is no recapitulation, reviewing the material is something of a challenge. I adopted various techniques such as: (a) working with the introductory dialogues only, or (b) reviewing every third lesson completely. It would be much easier if the Pimsleur course included one final lesson per Comprehensive Level that recapitulated everything up to that point.
1. I'm repeating myself here because the Pimsleur Approach may hold a HIDDEN advantage. You will have to buy a separate dictionary, a book of verbs, and a grammar, and derive your own glossary and your own course notes. PERHAPS this is a hidden strength of the method! Is it possible that Paul Pimsleur INTENDED for students to use the books just mentioned, to work backwards through the English audio to derive their own glossary as means of REINFORCING the learning experience?
2. Which brings me to the matter of TRANSCRIPTS of Pimsleur courses:
(a) Simon & Schuster does not and will not provide transcripts. Don't bother requesting them.
(b) You might find some bootleg transcripts on the internet. Be aware that Simon & Schuster considers the "publication" of transcripts (which includes even circulating links to transcripts) as an infringement of their copyright. They have vastly more legal resources than you or I will ever have, and they are prepared to use those resources to protect their rights. So, here's a word of advice: don't set yourself up as an "example" to be used "to encourage compliance" by others ... go ahead, punk, make my day!
(c) Mea culpa! A couple of years ago, I prepared transcripts for the complete Comprehensive I, II, III, III+ series of one of the courses. I know that you're going find this hard to believe, but here is what I learned from the experience: (i) I found that the very nature of the course, which is something akin to an extended conversation, meant that the transcripts made for truly excruciating reading and that they were very difficult to follow while listening to the audio, (ii) they did NOT, in any appreciable sense, advance my learning of the target language, (iii) if I had had access to the transcripts during the period that I studied the course, they would have been more of a distraction than anything else, (iv) preparing the transcripts was a colossal waste of my time; time that would have been better spent pursuing other learning activities. Ultimately, I never consulted the transcripts and I eventually put them in the recycling bin.
(d) I found that, in the long run, preparing a simple glossary of new vocabulary, by lesson unit, in a notebook (for my own use, of course), was far more useful. Furthermore, as I pursued my studies, I eventually discarded the notebook.
LIFE AFTER PIMSLEUR:
1. If you start learning a language with the Pimsleur programme and then move on to some other programme, be prepared for a SHOCK! Mom and dad are nowhere to be seen! Compared to the Pimsleur Approach, virtually all other self-study language methods will make you feel as if you've been thrown into the DEEP END ... of the North Atlantic ... in winter ... and you're all alone! In a very real sense, you will find yourself wondering what happened ... hey, what's going on here, I thought you were going to teach me to speak a foreign language! I have found that, with only the rarest of exceptions, all other self-study language courses are well-designed. They all provide the information you need to progress. However, what is not so evident is that you will have to develop your own strategy for learning the material ... your KEY to success will be how you PRACTICE the material. The Pimsleur method does this for you directly within their programme. Oh well, we've all gotta grow up sometime!
2. The world is awash with good self-study language courses for travellers. If your goal is only basic "tourist-speak", without much grammar, and you have no intention of going beyond this level, you might consider the ROUTLEDGE COLLOQUIAL DUTCH (not to be confused with Routledge Intensive Dutch). Some reviewers of this series are quite harsh with their comments. In my opinion, they misunderstand the deliberately limited scope of the Colloquial series.
3. If you want to understand the structure of a language and develop even greater competence, LIVING LANGUAGE "SPOKEN WORLD DUTCH" is, in my opinion, the best "commercial" package available. This is a truly excellent course that takes a traditional grammar-based approach. It is accompanied by 6 CDs. If you work hard, you'll have a thorough knowledge of how the language is structured and you will have acquired sufficient vocabulary to deal with most situations that a traveller to the Netherlands would face.
4. If you want to expand your vocabulary, you might consider the LINGUAPHONE COMPLETE DUTCH COURSE (BEGINNER - INTERMEDIATE). Although the teaching method can seem a little quirky at times, the dialogues, exercises, and the 8 audio CDs make it worthy of consideration. It is sold in North America through an agent (Elite Commerce) and you can find them on the internet most easily as LINGUAPHONE U.S.A.. The regular price for this course is, in my view, too expensive at about four hundred dollars. However, the company offers reductions of 50% or greater about four times a year and, at these prices, the courses become more attractive. Ask them to put you on their Email list for sales announcements. They also offer "refurbished" packages at significant discounts that are, apprently, like new. Oh, by the way, many users of the Linguaphone Complete courses, including myself, find them extremely challenging for absolute beginners. My advice would be to start with some other method and view the Linguaphone course as operating at the intermediate level.
5. To push yourself to new heights, you could try the DLI (Defense Language Institute) DUTCH REFRESHER COURSE. It is a true intermediate course and it is FREE as pdf/mp3 downloadable files that would be the equivalent of 50 audio CDs or more! You can find it on the internet. Since Amazon seems to automatically delete website addresses from reviews, I have listed it as SEPARATE COMPONENTS in the hopes that you can RECOMBINE it. By the way, the source for this is the DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, JOINT LANGUAGE UNIVERSITY (JLU). Here goes:
If you're looking to expand your vocabulary beyond all of the material listed above, you might consider working with the FREE TEXTS and AUDIO FILES that are available at the internet sites listed below. Note that these texts are drawn from literary "classics" and, in some cases, the language might seem a little stilted. Bear in mind that these texts were written for "native speakers" and should be considered as "advanced" material. However, since there isn't a great deal of material available for learning Dutch, these FREE files provide an excellent opportunity for both ear-training and vocabulary-building. Here are the NAMES of the sites:
Contains the text of numerous literary classics as downloadable files.
BOOKS SHOULD BE FREE
Contains the text of numerous literary classics as downloadable E-files and mp3 files.
Contains the AUDIO of numerous literary classics as downloadable mp3 files.
You might have to work with two of, or with all three of, the sites in order to collect the texts and the audio files
There is probably NO BETTER PLACE TO START learning a foreign language than the Pimsleur Approach. Even if you find yourself agreeing with my CONS, you WILL AGREE with my PROS and you'll ENJOY the EXPERIENCE!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2010
I keep my boat in Holland and want to equip myself initially with some basic Dutch.
I started with Bruce Donald's Conversational Dutch and CD - but concluded that, while this might be useful for some, it would not do what I was looking for (see my review on this).
Pinsleur, however, completely fills the bill.
The course is made up of 30 half hour sessions (apparently the optimal learning period) entirely based on listening, repeating and participating in conversations using vocabulary and expressions that you have been introduced to. Initially, you repeat what you have heard, then you use it to answer questions; new material is introduced but the material you have already learned is also used again. Speaking aloud appears to hard wire into your brain what you have learned. Grammar is not taught formally, the Pimsleur method assumes that adults learn as children do - by usage.
This is predominantly a "listening and speaking" approach - you need to reach lesson 12 before any reading material appears! The course notes urge you NOT to use dictionaries etc or to write anything down while listening and participating in the lessons. Only Dutch speakers are used, and the words initially are broken down by syllable to ensure that you have every chance of acquiring a near native accent. The Dutch speakers are well chosen. Many courses use speakers that are so gutteral that it is very difficult for beginners to follow. The woman has a particularly clear speaking voice; the man is more gutteral but it is still completely possible to follow him.
And it works!
After the first couple of lessons, I found I could say confidently a few words that were actually useful. (Good morning. Excuse me. I don't speak Dutch. Do you speak English. etc). And the hardwiring worked - they came automatically, I didn't really have to think at all.
I am nearing the end of the course (30 lessons) and continue to be delighted. Right from the beginning, I have spoken confidently and have used what I have learnt (not true of my French, even though I have a much better command of French grammar and a bigger vocabulary). Dutch speakers tell me that they have been pleasantly surprised by my accent - I have not been taken automatically for English. I've also found Pimsleur's vocabulary and situations relate well to everyday usage.
But fairly early on, I slightly departed from Pimsleur principles. After about lesson 6, I got a small dictionary - but I only use it AFTER lessons. I find that difficult words and phrases are better locked if I can see them as well as hear them.
From about lesson 10, I have consciously started to acquire some additional relevant vocabulary using phrase books etc (but ignoring their suggestions for phonetic pronounciation)and a better dictionary. And as my vocabulary improves using the course, I feel more confident that anything else that I acquire will also have a "good" accent - though I do check with native speakers where I am doubtful about stress etc.
Yes, there are a couple of problems about this approach.
Initially, I could speak a little but when confronted with written Dutch, street names, supermarket labels, I had absolutely no idea what the words should sound like. Nor could I write down what I COULD say!! But this is a shortlived problem - and the advantages for me completely outweighed the initial difficulty.
The lack of formal grammar will be also be a bit of a problem for some people. But this is something that I plan to address separately when I get to the end of this course.
And that's the third problem. So far, there is only this one introductory basic course as Dutch is seen as a minority language - and, of course, it is. The more mainstream languages go automatically to 3 courses - 90 lessons. And Italian further still.Please, please Pimsleur, get cracking on an Intermediate Dutch Course!
If what you want to do is to start SPEAKING, I couldn't recommend it more highly than I do. It's given me confidence and a desire to move on.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2012
I had my doubts about the Pimsleur method. I'm a visual learner, so the idea of no visual aids--no textbook, no flashcards, no dialogs or vocal lists--made me a little nervous.
But after a month of daily study, I can easily speak and understand simple Dutch. My fears were totally unfounded. In fact, I think I learned faster by listening and speaking, as opposed to reading. (There is a reading guide, but it doesn't kick in until after the first 10 lessons.)
I didn't work hard at all. Sometimes I repeated a lesson when I didn't feel confident in my understanding. I do know other languages, but only in the most rudimentary way; I would say I have below-average linguistic ability. But with this method, that didn't matter a bit.
What did matter is consistency. I did a 30-minute lesson (or repeated a lesson) every day. Real life did intervene a couple of times, and I missed maybe 2 days during the month. If you can't commit to regular learning, it's still ok, but your retention may suffer.
I had a few minor quibbles:
* There were several words i just couldn't hear well enough. I cheated and went to Google translate to figure them out. In general, the speakers are extremely clear.
* It's a little boring in the beginning. Sorry, but there's no way around this. My brain definitely soaked up more via all the repetition. Things ease up in this regard as you advance.
* The speakers have slightly different accents. This is never explained, but I think it's on purpose. One of the hallmarks of Pimsleur is that the quality of students' accents from the get-go. I think my Dutch accent is pretty good.
* The Dutch language program stops after 30 lessons. Pimsleur, give us more already! If we've gotten this far, how can you abandon us now?
I actually used the MP3's (via Audible.com, which is owned by Amazon) but decided to post here as well, because the content is the same. Technically, everything worked well. When I had a question about the reading guide, I received an answer from Audible customer service promptly.