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How to Learn a Foreign Language [Hardcover]

Paul Pimsleur

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Wonderful! Stupendous! Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! 3 Sep 2013
By t00lman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
A hearty thanks to the publishers and Pimsleur.com for resurrecting this wonderful book and making it available to the masses via the Kindle. A print copy, if you could find one, could set you back $2400+ up till now.

And a special thanks to Paul Pimsleurs wife, Beverly, and their daughter Julia, for their vision, tenacity, and determination to republish this book. Their selfless commitment to improve the human condition is now plain for all to see.

This book tells you clearly and concisely how to learn a foreign language. I know of no other book or teaching method surpassing this method of learning ... and I've tried about all of them over the past 40 years. Every tactic Pimsleur talks about in this book, I learned on my own --- the hard way. I wish this book had been around when I began learning foreign languages. It would have made my studies a lot easier.

Pimsleur says that our standard approach teaching foreign languages through rote drills is silly. He's right.

I signed up for a French course in community college in 1968. Within a week I was bored and I dropped the course. Why? The instructor began the course by speaking in French never uttering a word in English. That would have been okay if her emphasis had been on engaging the students in short, conversational stimulus responses rather than rote drills of pronouns and vocabulary none of us understood. She violated the number one rule of language teaching: get the students to listen and talk. Instead, she focused on her knowledge and her power over the classroom mindlessly talking at us until we tuned out. This is one of the faulty teaching approaches Pimsleur cites in his book. Sadly, this continues today. I still shudder at the notion of learning French. But this is a psychological condition. My case is a great example -- and I'm sure there are millions of people like me --turned off learning a particular language because of the teaching method and the teacher. My teacher used a method that she was taught to use. She simply didn't know any better.

Everything Pimsleur talks about is essential to know. For example, I learned long ago to parrot the intonation and speaking styles of foreign speakers by listening to the mistakes they make in English. Their overlay of their native language grammatical patterns into English provided me with vital clues on how to learn their language. For example, my wife and I now teach graduate school courses. She received a paper from a student born and raised in Nepal. The student was intelligent and understood the concepts of the technology course we taught. Her grammar was atrocious and her paper a beacon of errors on how to not write a paper in English. I've saved this paper as a great tutor for me -- when I decide to learn her language -- Tibetan I presume.

I learned Russian in college and improved my abilities through a brief foreign-exchange stint in 1970. But the truth is I learned the language through sheer perseverance, strong interest, hard work, and by inventing methods that I now know Pimsleur invented long before then.

Ironic, isn't it? I can learn Russian, a harder language to learn than French, because I created learning methods, all of which, are mentioned in this book. This, is another one of Pimsleur's points.

Later, I learned Greek fluently with no foreign accent. I also learned a dialect of ancient Greek to an elementary level. Why? Strong interest, desire, perseverance, and so on. I married a Greek and when her parents lived-in our home with us we spoke Greek all the time. I bought the Berlitz and Cortina methods at first. After I gained enough "listen and response" skill, I then bought the three volume, 90-tape cassette course from the foreign service language Institute. I could absorb the course easily once I had the basic listen and response ability down pat.

I report this because learning to listen and speak is the best way to learn a language. Learning to do so with short crisp sentences on matters essential to daily living is the key using between 800 to 1500 keywords in any language. This is what Pimsleur champions. I wish I'd known have of him then.

If you want to learn a foreign language, do this:

1) Buy your courses from pimsleur.com and download them in MP3 format and put them on an iPod so you can take with you everywhere.

2) Don't succumb to the temptation to buy or follow another learning method that focuses on reading and writing until you've learned to speak and respond fluently at an elementary level by ear. There's a big difference between learning to speak and respond extemporaneously than there is to reading and writing a foreign language.

3) Watch out for Pimsleur.com "look-alike" vendors. Many of them use Pimsleur's name but add extra words into their brand. They may be authorized resellers. But you'll find they charge a lot more for what you get. For example, unless you need CDs don't buy them. They cost a lot more to produce and ship and the costs are passed on to you. A level I Pimsleur course, new, costs about $119. Don't get misled by "gold, silver, and platinum programs" offered by some sellers. These folks sell CD's in fancy boxes charging you a lot more for fewer of the same programs you could've downloaded as MP3 files.

4) Once you've mastered the listen and respond process, then buy or follow another method to learn to read and write that language. If you reverse this approach, chances are you will not learn to speak and understand fluently. Trust your ear, not your brain.

5) The visual link language method is good as a follow on method ... but has limited offerings. See: [...]

6) Rosetta Stone is the least effective method, but can be useful for learning to write and troubleshoot grammar AFTER you've learned by the listen and response method. Only you can decide whether it's worth the extra money for the redundancy.

I now have the Pimsleur courses for Swedish, Portuguese, Dutch, and 10 other languages. I'm already fluent in Spanish, thanks to Pimsleur. And I'm having a great time with Japanese - it's a lot easier than you think.

Many thanks again to the Pimsleur family and the publishers for bringing this wonderful book to all of us. I wish Paul Pimsleur were here now so I could thank him personally.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Encouragement for every language learner 21 Jan 2014
By Firelight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a true gem for anyone interested in learning a language. Dr Pimsleur takes out the fear factor in learning a language. In the book Dr Pimsleur explains why 90 % of American high school language learners give up the language they pursued in less than 2 years; and why that is such an unnecessary tragedy. Dr Pimsleur breaks down how people learn language best and explains various aspects of language learning, including what kind of teacher/method you should look for.

I personally have gone through the Russian Pimsleur system and can attest it is better than any other language system out there; at least for me and many others. Every Pimsleur website or brochure you read will explain to some degree why the Pimsleur system works. This book goes beyond the brochures to teach the reader how it can be enjoyable to learn language and how one can go about it; with or without the Pimsleur system.

This book is a quick read, with short easy to understand chapters. If you have ever been discouraged by language learning, please read this book. In it Dr Pimsleur admits that there may be people out there who theoretically cannot learn a language, but from his experience any student with some motivation to learn can and should learn a language; for the simple reason that it will be an enjoyable journey with a pleasant reward.

Short easy read
Real life stories
Easy to understand statistics

None found
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very practical. 18 Feb 2014
By Ryan C. Nagy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am reading the Kindle version of this book after doing all four levels of Pimsleur Spanish. I am an American living in Mexico and bought this book because I feel like my language learnings has slowed. Pimsleur gives all kinds of good practical advice, advice that fits well with a person-centered, holistic world view. The book will help you work with your own strengths and desires and will help you to pick a good language learning strategy and modify it as needed. It will also help you pick a good language teacher and language school.

What I am finding fascinating are the instructions for how to record and create your own language drills and exercises similar to what he does in the Pimsleur audio series. I am very excited to try this out.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesing?, yes... Practical? meh... 30 July 2014
By Rahlan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was a bit disappointed in this. I am a fan of the Pimsleur Method and was hoping that there would be an outline of the method so that one could formulate a Pimsleur-type program using most any language. My fault for having unrealistic expectations, I guess. It WAS an interesting read, but nothing like I expected. Even without my expectations, it was just OK. Lots of overviews of world languages and such. Informative yes, but not as practical as I'd hoped.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old, but Good Info 2 Mar 2014
By A. Gift For You - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have been using Pimsleur CDs to learn Arabic, but I wanted to see what Dr. Pimsleur had written on this subject. Although the writing is a few decades old, it is still applicable and relevant to today. A short, but concise book.
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