Test Prep Insight is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
Busuu vs Pimsleur
Find out which language learning app is better in this detailed Pimsleur vs Busuu comparison
Busuu and Pimsleur are two of the most popular and widely-used language learning programs in the world. However, as you might imagine, the two companies differ quite a bit in terms of lesson format, learning framework, and pricing. As such, people often have a challenging time deciding whether to go with Busuu or Pimsleur to learn a new language. Luckily for you, we break down everything you need to know in order to arrive at a final decision in this detailed comparison.
Given that this is a long, detailed comparison, we’ve included jump-to links above for your convenience.
Video Guide: Busuu or Pimsleur?
In the above video, team member John breaks down everything you need to know about the language apps from Busuu and Pimsleur, including how they stack up against one anther. For more detail, please continue reading below.
How The Busuu And Pimsleur Lessons Compare
To start this comparison, let’s take a look at how the lessons from both companies stack up against one another.
The Pimsleur lessons are rooted in listening and conversational practice. To start each lesson, you complete a 30-minute audio exercise, in which a moderator speaking in English gradually walks you through a native conversation. You will listen to a few sentences in your target language, the moderator will then stop to describe the situation to you, and then he or she will ask you questions to keep you engaged and interested.
Therefore, you can sort of think of these exercises as guided conversations. Following the audio lesson, you then review what you just learned through an assortment of drills and exercises, including digital flashcards, quizzes, and speed games.
The Busuu lessons are similar to the second half of the Pimsleur lessons. In other words, there are no guided conversations. Each overarching Busuu lesson takes anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to complete and involves three or four mini-lessons.
The first mini-lesson will introduce the topic or target words so you become familiar with them. Then the subsequent mini-lessons will have you practice what you just learned through a variety of drills, exercises and quizzes that stretch across listening, reading, writing and speaking.
Overall, the Busuu exercises are a little more diverse than Pimsleur’s. For example, the Busuu lessons contain video clips of native speakers, and in some cases, you’ll even record yourself answering a question or responding to a prompt, and then the recording gets sent to the Busuu community for feedback (more on that later in this comparison).
Pricing & Subscription Options
Now that you have an idea of what the lessons from both companies are all about, let’s cover pricing and the different subscription options you have to choose from.
Pimsleur: There are two different subscription options to choose from. The first is the Pimsleur Premium Plan, which costs $20 per month and includes access to one language. Alternatively, for $1 more per month, there is the Pimsleur All Access Plan, which includes access to the 50+ language courses that Pimsleur offers.
Busuu: First, you should know that Busuu actually offers consumers a free plan; however, before you get too excited, as you might expect with anything that is free, this plan does come with restrictions in terms of features and content. Therefore, as a result, a lot of customers choose to upgrade to either the Busuu Premium Plan or the Busuu Premium Plus Plan. These two subscription plans cost anywhere from $3 to $14 per month, depending on whether you commit to the 1-month, 1-year or 2-year option.
Pricing Verdict: There’s really no debating that Busuu is more affordable than Pimsleur by a pretty good margin. I should add though that Pimsleur does offer a free 7-day trial period, so like Busuu’s free version, you can always test the waters before fully committing.
Why Pimsleur Is Better Than Busuu
Now that you have some context regarding lesson format and pricing, let’s talk about the strengths of the Pimsleur language courses.
Interactive Audio Lessons
The first thing I like about Pimsleur is that their lessons are more effective than Busuu’s for developing your conversational skills. Instead of occasionally recording yourself responding to a short prompt and then receiving feedback from other users like you do with Busuu, the Pimsleur audio lessons are much more comprehensive.
The Pimsleur interactive lessons prompt you to respond to a native speaker using words, phrases and sentences in the context of a detailed mock conversation. You’re actively involved in tracking the conversation since you need to understand the situation and respond at the proper times when the moderator directs you to.
In my opinion, this active participation is powerful at getting you to recall and use the target language under pressure just as you would in real life situations. I suppose that’s the key point here – you’re getting simulated real world experience with Pimsleur, which I believe is about the best practice for truly learning a new language.
Better Suited For Advanced Learners
I found Pimsleur’s lessons, language content and overall learning framework to be better suited for people looking to gain an advanced to mastery understanding of a new language (C1+).
With Busuu, because their lessons primarily revolve around new vocabulary and quick-hit drills and exercises, there’s really no opportunity for spontaneous language usage that mimics or simulates full conversations (which as you now know is an area where Pimsleur shines).
Without extensive speaking drills for Busuu, it will be easier for users to achieve total fluency with Pimsleur in my opinion. So overall, I have to give the edge to Pimsleur if you’re main goal is to master your target language with complete fluency.
Complete Lessons While You’re Driving
As a good portion of the Pimsleur lessons are audio-based, I like that you can complete a lot of your coursework while you’re washing dishes, doing laundry, on the treadmill, whatever. It’s just nice you don’t have to be joined at the hip with your computer screen or phone at all times like you do with Busuu.
I think I can speak for most people here when I say that while you’re learning something new, sometimes it’s just nice to switch things up and get a change of scenery. And the Pimsleur lessons definitely allow for that.
Their mobile app even comes with a special driving mode so you can learn and knock out lessons during your commute. Thus, I have to hand it to Pimsleur for how flexible their lessons are.
More Language Options
My fourth reason to go with Pimsleur is the simple fact that Pimsleur covers more languages than Busuu (over 50 of them to be more specific). This is in contrast with Busuu, which only offers courses for 12 languages.
Since we don’t play favorites here at Test Prep Insight, let’s now discuss the major strengths of the Busuu language courses.
Diverse Lesson Structure
The first reason in Busuu’s favor is that their lessons are a little more diverse than Pimsleur’s. In other words, there is less repetition and more variety in terms of the types of drills and exercises that you complete.
For example, Busuu integrates video clips of native speakers into their lesson plan, which is something missing from the Pimsleur curriculum. This is a perfect example because I think video can be a game changer when you’re trying to learn a new language. Being able to visually see a local speak and observe their body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture is super valuable.
I think the nonverbal aspects of communication really help you pick up the language quicker. So overall, I have to give Busuu credit for how diverse and engaging their lessons are.
Helpful Feedback System
I’m a big fan of the feedback system Busuu has integrated into its courses. This really helps to promote a community-like feel among the millions of Busuu users out there. As you complete lessons, some of your practice exercises (either written or verbal), are sent to the Busuu community for feedback.
For example, if you’re learning German, you may be presented with a picture of two people enjoying a beer. You’ll then record yourself describing what’s happening in the image, submit the recording, and within an hour or so, one or two fluent German speakers will respond with feedback regarding your description and pronunciation.
It’s pretty amazing to be honest. Busuu really makes it easy to be social and make new friends. Not to mention, you can return the favor by providing feedback for people learning English. Overall, it’s just a really supportive ecosystem that Busuu has created.
Detailed Grammar Instruction
One thing I noticed is that the Busuu courses contain super helpful grammar instruction and cultural insights, which is something Pimsleur doesn’t really emphasize that heavily.
With Busuu, every few lessons, the topic will focus strictly on an important grammar principle or rule like definite articles or possessive pronouns. And while that may sound awful with bad memories of school coming back to you, the awesome part is that the Busuu lessons don’t slow you down with long, dense explanations.
It’s not a textbook-style lesson like you probably experienced in high school. Rather, Busuu typically just provides a simple two- or three-sentence explanation, followed by a couple obvious examples, and then a few drills and exercises to ensure you understand the concept. Overall, it’s just a very streamlined and efficient way of delivering grammar instruction.
We’ve finally reached the end, so let’s get to the final verdict: should you choose Busuu or Pimsleur to learn a new language? Well, after testing each program, I think it’s a very close call. Honestly, I really like the language courses from both companies.
In the end though, I have to give the win to Pimsleur, mainly for their interactive audio lessons. I just think Pimsleur is going to better prepare you to speak your target language quicker, and ultimately, at a higher level of fluency. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Pimsleur covers more languages than Busuu as well.
Although our team thinks the language apps from both companies are quite effective, our team gives Pimsleur the win over Busuu primarily due to their interactive audio lessons and comprehensive reinforcement exercises.
Is Busuu cheaper than Pimsleur?
Yes, the Busuu Premium Plans are more affordable than the Pimsleur subscription options. However, Pimsleur does offer a free 7-day trial period.
How many languages do Busuu and Pimsleur cover?
Pimsleur offers courses for over 50 different languages, whereas Busuu only covers 12 languages. Thus, for many less widely-spoken languages like Finnish, Persian, and Dutch, Pimsleur might be your only option.
What is the difference between Busuu and Pimsleur?
The primary difference between the two companies is that the lessons from Pimsleur are longer, more in-depth and focus on simulated fluent conversations, whereas the lessons from Busuu are shorter and focus more on quick-hit drills and exercises.