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How to Learn a Foreign Language Hardcover – 1 Oct 2013
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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.
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
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.