The Inverted Pyramid
of Spoken Language Proficiency
Nine out of ten Pimsleur users report they have acquired specific, measurable spoken foreign-language communication skills when they have completed the first thirty lessons of a Level I Comprehensive Program. This means that even with as little as 15 hours of Pimsleur language training, ninety percent of Pimsleur learners are able to converse comfortably with native speakers.
This is the Intermediate-Low Level of proficiency on the ACTFL Spoken Language Proficiency Scale.
The next level of proficiency is reached in another 30 days, in only 15 more hours, at the completion of a Comprehensive Level II program. At this level the learner will be proficient at the Intermediate-Mid Spoken Proficiency Level.
Then, in another 30 days, after completing the Level III Comprehensive program, in another 15 hours, the learner will be proficient at the ACTFL Intermediate-High Proficiency level.
At this ACTFL proficiency level - achieved at the rate of one, half-hour lesson per day, in 90 days, having completed all three levels, the Pimsleur learner will be proficient in the spoken language at the level required to survive and cope in the foreign country, and will be able to:
· Ask and answer questions dealing with everyday situations,
· Give and get information and directions,
· Participate in casual conversations,
· Give basic information about himself, his family, or associates,
· Avoid basic culture errors.
This level of spoken language proficiency is achieved by Pimsleur adult learners entirely on the basis of 90 self-teaching, interactive lessons without ever having to put up with the inconvenience of having to attend a formal language class!
As a matter of fact, and contrary to popular opinion, this level of spoken proficiency cannot be achieved by adults in a typical academic language language classroom. Why? Think about it! Surely there must be a compelling reason why the method of choice for teaching spoken language communication skills to adults who are required by their work to be fluent in speaking foreign languages is a total immersion program!
It is now well established -- from years of failure on the part of students to gain any measurable level of spoken proficiency in a typical language course in school or college -- that adults can only acquire spoken-language communication skills in a foreign language when there is sufficient time for daily practice in productive interchanges in the target language.
There are many reasons why you will enjoy learning to speak another language with Pimsleur, but there is ONE essential reason why you will insist on learning the Pimsleur way, and this is because only Pimsleur programs guarantee that you will rapidly -- within a specific time-period -- acquire the ability to understand what native-speakers say, and that at the same time, you will acquire the spoken-language communication skills -- at specific, measurable proficiency levels -- to use the language to communicate what you want to say!
Are there specific features learners should look for in the language learning programs they buy?
In comparison to the typical adult learner who cannot influence the selection of a school text, the do-it-yourself learner has the choice to select materials that respect the way spoken-language skills training can be acquired. If you wish to learn to speak the language the first thing to look for in a foreign-language program is that the teaching/learning materials must be totally based on the spoken conversational language. The second thing to make certain of is that the program is designed so you will spend most of your time working in the spoken language. This is necessary for you to understand the meaning of what you hear, because you will be hearing -- not reading -- when communicating with speakers of the target language. At the same time, you will need to be developing your ability to speak the language.
In order to accomplish these two essential tasks, a language learner must use a program based on an INPUT - OUTPUT basis of spoken instruction. And simply, the most effective language teaching which implements this methodology is the Pimsleur Program! However, since the producers of self-teaching language programs all claim their product is the best, each adult learner will need to justify his selection of a course. What sets Pimsleur off from all of the others is the Pimsleur guarantee of a specific level of spoken proficiency within a specific time period. For the language learner this is as specific as it gets.
You owe it to yourself to test drive a Pimsleur and prove that for spoken-language proficiency, Pimsleur is also cost-effective as well as delivering the highest spoken proficiency in the shortest amount of time. One half-hour per day for 90 days equals an Intermediate-HIGH speaking level at a cost of no more than $9.00 per lesson. We challenge you to test drive a Pimsleur!
Only Pimsleur Programs offer this Guarantee!
When you accept the Pimsleur challenge and select Pimsleur as your method of learning to speak a language, you leave behind the typical school classroom and/or language laboratory activities of terribly dull drills and rote-repeating of vocabulary words according to stimulus-response psychology, with its long history of failure.
You enter into a new and exciting world of applied linguistics which is based upon relevant studies of how the brain acquires general knowledge and, in the case of language acquisition, how the brain acquires language as speech.
The Pimsleur instructional process is based on a method which teaches language as the integrated entity that it is. This is implemented by presenting the essential sound system of the target language in the optimal way to reveal, via recorded native speakers, the spoken patterns of the language. This, combined with the corpus of most frequently used structures and everyday vocabulary, with daily measured spoken practice by the learner in simulated conversations, provides the complete instructional process. Pimsleur teaches the spoken language first, then builds on that basis to show the relationship of letters to sounds through a gradual introduction of reading. And by the end of the program you will understand what you hear, speak the language with confidence, and read with a natural skill.
The Pimsleur Method is designed to replicate the way the brain acquires language as speech. Pimsleur spoken language proficiency does not happen by accident. It is planned and created with the express purpose of taking you, the learner, to the proficiency levels indicated on the ACTFL Proficiency Scale. Please refer to the Inverted Pyramid of Spoken Language Proficiency Chart for additional details.
What makes Pimsleur method so successful?
|The Graduated Interval Recall Schedule||The Principle of Anticipation|
|If a teacher could review a student on all vocabulary words learned everyday, then all the students would remember most of the words. As learning a language involves learning at least 2000 words, this becomes next to impossible. If I told you that the Hebrew word for fork is “MAZLEG”, and asked you one second later, then you could remember it. But if I wait 15 minutes and ask you again, you might have already forgot it. Basically, as time passes, the greater the likelihood that you will forget this word. The key to the “graduated interval recall schedule” is to force you to come in contact with a word again at the proper interval. |
Research came up with the concept that the time between reviewing a word can increase geometrically. For example, suppose you learn a word, then the first review interval comes 5 seconds later. The next review interval is 52 (squared) (25) seconds later. The next review interval should be at 53 (cubed) (125) seconds (or two minutes, five seconds) later. The next at 54 seconds (10 minutes 25 seconds later) and so on.This process continues until the 10th recall of the word MAZLEG need not come until 510 seconds after the first recall (or 9,765,625 seconds or about four months later).The Pimsleur method is based on the generally accepted principle that a language will be learned by a normal human being if, and only if, particular, whole instances of spoken language are modeled for him, and if, in addition, his own particular acts of using that spoken language are selectively reinforced.
In the audio-programmed training method, semantic information is framed in a “word-picture”, a situational context understood in the mind, rather than provided by the learner’s native language. Thus, the person is taught to think in the target language, rather than to simply translate word-by-word. In the audio-programmed method, the problem of a mistake is reduced since the learned is not introduced to the written language until AFTER the sound system of the target language has been acquired by the learn entirely through his ears, and the acoustic images of the target language are established in his brain.
NOTE: the purpose of high-school and college-language course is usually NOT spoken-proficiency! Have you ever been disappointed that you took Spanish or French in high-school, and yet never learned to speak it. Or, that you have totally forgot the language?
|The Principle of Anticipation requires you to "anticipate" a correct answer. Practically, what this means is that you must retrieve the answer from your own memory before it is confirmed in the lesson. It works as follows: |
The lesson will pose a challenge -- perhaps by asking you, in the new language:
"Are you going to the movies today?"
There will be a pause, and, drawing on information given previously, you will say:
"No, I went yesterday."
The instructor will then confirm your answer: "No, I went yesterday."
Before Dr. Pimsleur created his teaching method, language courses were based instead on the principle of repetition. Teachers drummed words into the students' minds over and over, as if the mind were a record whose grooves wore deeper with repetition. However, neurophysiologists tell us that, on the contrary, simple and unchallenging repetition has a hypnotic, even dulling effect on the learning process. Eventually, the words being repeated will lose their meaning. Dr. Pimsleur discovered that learning accelerates when there is an "input/output" system of interaction, in which students receive information and then are asked to retrieve and use it.
|Core Vocabulary||Organic Learning|
|The Principle of Anticipation and Graduated Interval Recall are the foundation of the Pimsleur Method, but there are other unique components that are also important. One is the theory of a core vocabulary. We have all been intimidated, when approaching a new language, by the sheer number of new words we must learn. But extensive research has shown that we actually need a comparatively limited number of words to be able to communicate effectively in any language. |
Language can be divided into two distinct categories: grammatical structures (function words) and concrete vocabulary (content words). By focusing on function words and enabling the student to comprehend and employ the structure of a new language, Dr. Pimsleur found that language learners were able to more readily put new knowledge to use. There are very few content words that are used every day. The essential core of a language involves function words, which tend to relate to human activities.
|The Pimsleur Method centers around teaching, in the shortest time possible, functional mastery in understanding and speaking a language. You will be working on your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation all at once, while also learning phrases that have practical use in daily life. It has been said that language is primarily speech. With this concept in mind, Dr. Pimsleur created his language programs on audio because he knew that students of languages would learn better with their ears, not their eyes. This is achieved through what Dr. Pimsleur called "organic learning," which entails learning on several fronts at once. His system enables the student to learn grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation in a natural and exciting way. |
This course is designed to teach you to understand and to speak the essential elements of your new language in a relatively short time. During each half-hour lesson, you will actually converse with two people, using the type of language spoken by educated citizens in their everyday business and social life. The program's unique method for presenting dialogue relieves you of most common learning problems.
|Short Daily Practice|
Applied linguists all agree that DAILY PRACTICE in the target language is essential for learners to gain useful proficiency in speech.This is accomplished from the first to final Pimsleur lesson by having the learner communicate in the foreign language by means of strategically useful and meaningful questions and answers which are exchanged between the learner and the two native speakers and the master teacher on the tape. The Pimsleur Method is based upon the interactive spoken participation on the part of each learner and the unique power of the confirmation of correct answers which insures immediate feed-back and the retention of the acoustic images of the target language in the long-term memory of each individual learner. The audio-programmed method guarantees that the learner is not forced to struggle to try and invent his own foreign-language method of instruction! The tried and proven method is fully provided to the learner in every line that is spoken by the native speakers and the tutor. (About 2000 hours - one man-year - goes into the creation of each Pimsleur language course.)
The length of each lesson - just under 30 minutes - is that recommended by teaching specialists for a concentrated learning task. Since all questions (on the tape or CD) require answers in the target language, the learn never speaks any language but the target language during each half-hour lesson, each and every-day. This kind of intensive instruction with real-life interchanges quickly builds the confidence of the learner both in himself and in the program, which encourages the learner to look forward to the challenge of each day’s lesson.
and Customer Satisfaction:
The Twelve Most Widely Spoken Languages
(as of 1980, approximate numbers, in millions of users)
- 85% reported satisfaction with the Pimsleur System
- 25% purchased 2 or more courses
- 50% were considering additional courses after completing the course at hand
- 74% reported that Pimsleur is the only course they will purchase in the future
- 29% purchased for vacations, 71% for professional reasons
- 61% who purchased were between age 35 and 54
1) Mandarin Chinese 820
2) English 450
3) Russian 270
4) Spanish 260
5) Hindi 165
6) Arabic 160
7) Portuguese 132
8) Bengali 130
9) German 120
10) Japanese 115
11) Indonesian-Malay 85
12) French 82