- Hardcover: 141 pages
- Publisher: Pimsleur (1 Oct. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1442369027
- ISBN-13: 978-1442369023
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 18.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 603,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
How to Learn a Foreign Language Hardcover – 1 Oct 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
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
If there’s one principle that every person learning a foreign language should learn from Day One, it’s that language is contextually functional. We learn to use it because it has a satisfying effect on our environment, given our particular situation. Part of the problem with most foreign-language classrooms is that teachers frequently ignore this principle and get sidetracked in rational-theoretical analyses of the *structure* of language. What they end up teaching is, in fact, how to talk about Spanish grammar *in English*, not how to actually talk in Spanish.
It doesn’t really come across very well in the audio tracks Paul Pimsleur ultimately produced; but upon reading this book, it is crystal clear to me that he understood the principle of functional contextualism. Those of you who have sampled the Pimsleur Method will know that it basically consists of three techniques: (1) presenting phrases and sentences in the student’s native language, then asking the student to translate orally within a few seconds; (2) practicing new phrases and sentences en masse; and (3) spaced repetition, the technique of reviewing previously taught targets according to a schedule that systematically increases the time until the next review. The biggest criticisms I’ve ever had with that method are that (a) it trains the student to translate rather than think in the foreign language, and (b) it doesn’t help the student very much in roleplaying the actual social situations in which the language must be used. Knowing that, I expected to be disappointed with what I would read. What I found instead was a concise handbook of maxims that acknowledges those weaknesses and encourages the student to take steps to counteract them.
Where others waste pages of type trying to explain psychological theory and trying to oversell you on the effectiveness of the techniques advised, Pimsleur is straight and to the point. He briefly critiques traditional methods, tells a short story illustrating the problems they create, makes his argument for what works instead (sometimes with only a single simple graph or table), and then tells you in practical terms what to do to direct your own learning. You may get this book and think, as I did initially, “Wow. Twenty dollars retail for 100 pages of advice and a dinky little appendix? This looks like hero worship on the scale of a preface to an L. Ron Hubbard book.” However, you’d be wrong. There is more packed into those 100 pages than I have been able to extract out of the entirety of the 282-page “An Introduction to Applied Linguistics” (Norbert Schmitt, ed.), and it’s infinitely more readable. It comes across very clearly that Pimsleur was a compassionate teacher who believed that ANYBODY could learn a foreign language, who wanted everybody to have the tools to do it. The book has really renewed my respect for him as one of the greats, probably second only to B. F. Skinner in terms of the level of insight for this field. I highly recommend it.
Plus, it's a quick, entertaining read. Author is very personable.
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.