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Fluenz vs Pimsleur
Trying to decide between Pimsleur and Fluenz? Don't worry, we've used both programs
For over a month we used the language programs from both Pimsleur and Fluenz. While these two language apps are similar in some ways (e.g. post-lesson drills), there are also some major differences (e.g. video vs audio) that you need to know about. In this detailed post, we discuss these key differences and similarities. This should help you to figure out which program is better for your learning style, schedule, and budget.
To open, let’s start with a comparison of the lesson lengths and formats from each program.
In terms of length, Pimsleur and Fluenz are pretty similar. Both companies’ lessons take around 45 minutes to an hour to fully complete. This puts them both on the longer side of lesson duration among language apps.
In terms of format, however, the two companies differ quite a bit. The bulk of the Pimsleur lessons take the form an interactive audio exercise in which a moderator speaking in English guides you through a mock conversation in your target language step-by-step.
I discuss these audio exercises in more detail below in the section covering Pimsleur’s highlights, but just know that they are very effective. They do a really good job of developing your listening and verbal skills. Tis format is for all courses, including Pimsleur Spanish, Pimsleur Japanese, and Pimsleur French.
Fluenz’s lessons, on the other hand, take a more traditional approach to learning in which you watch an instructor on screen as they introduce a new topic or concept, before completing a variety of drills and exercises to reinforce the material.
That’s the key difference here: Pimsleur’s lessons are rooted more in conversational, audio-based practice, while Fluenz’s lessons are a little more traditional like you’d get in an online classroom.
Personally, I prefer the conversational aspect of Pimsleur’s lessons over Fluenz’s, as I just found them more engaging and insightful; however, I realize everyone is different in this respect.
Cost & Subscription Options
Now that we’ve covered what the lessons from both companies are like, let’s quickly compare pricing, starting with Pimsleur.
They offer two different subscription options, including a Premium plan which costs $20 per month and includes access to one language, or for $1 more per month (i.e., $21/month), you can upgrade to the Pimsleur All Access plan, which includes access to the 50+ languages that Pimsleur covers.
Fluenz, on the other hand, does not offer any monthly subscription options. You either have to purchase access to each level for a specific language individually or you can purchase an all-level package.
For example, let’s look at Fluenz Spanish. You can purchase Level 1 for around $190 or all five levels of the Spanish course at once for around $400.
Thus, in terms of cost, it’s sort of like comparing apples to oranges with Pimsleur and Fluenz. Though, obviously, Pimsleur is the more affordable option when you’re first starting out.
Plus, Pimsleur also offers a free 7-day trial period so you can test out their program before fully committing.
Why Pimsleur Is Better Than Fluenz
Having covered pricing and an overview of what the lessons from both companies are like, let’s move on to the main reasons why I think Pimsleur is better than Fluenz, and why Fluenz is better than Pimsleur.
The Pimsleur Method Works
The biggest advantage for Pimsleur in my opinion is that their learning framework is more effective than Fluenz’s for enhancing your conversational skills.
For one, I like that their interactive audio lessons prompt you to listen and respond to a fluent speaker within the context of a simulated conversation.
You have to be actively involved in following the conversation and understand the situation, as the program will frequently ask you respond at the proper times when the moderator directs you to.
In my opinion, this active participation is super effective for getting you to recall and use the target language under pressure just as you would in actual, real life situations.
With Pimsleur, one of their biggest selling points is that you’re getting simulated real world experience. This is otherwise known as the Pimsleur Method, and in my opinion, is about the best practice for learning to speak a new language.
Faster Language Acquisition
Building on my last point, I think that because Pimsleur’s core curriculum places a heavy emphasis on conversational practice, they are better than Fluenz for people looking to pick up a language and start holding basic conversations quickly.
If you have an upcoming trip that’s fast approaching and you want to be able to converse with locals, or you want to better understand your friends or in-laws, I think Pimsleur is the way to go.
Their in-depth audio and verbal practice is going to get you up and speaking faster. At least it did for me.
More Flexibility In Where You Can Learn
As the core Pimsleur lessons are audio-based, I like the fact you can complete these lessons while you’re exercising, washing dishes, taking your dog for a walk, whatever.
It’s just nice that you don’t have to be glued to your computer screen or phone at all times like with other apps I’ve used.
Personally, I think that when you’re learning something completely new, sometimes it’s just nice to switch things up and get a change of scenery to break up the monotony.
I hate staring at a screen for long periods of time. I get enough of that at work. And the Pimsleur lessons definitely allow for getting less screen time.
Their mobile app even comes with a special driving mode so you can learn and complete lessons during your commute or a long road trip. So overall, the flexibility of the Pimsleur lessons definitely deserves a shout-out.
Pimsleur is More Affordable!
Lastly, I like that Pimsleur’s subscription optionality is a little easier on the wallet and make things more flexible. If you ever need to pause your account for a few months, or you want to switch to a different language platform, you always can.
You’re not out hundreds of dollars for a lifetime product you might not need any longer. However, this is maybe a personal preference, as I tend to jump around a bit between language apps.
Let’s flip the script now and cover the major reasons to choose Fluenz. After all, they do have a few nice positives.
Videos For Visual People
The first reason to go with Fluenz is that their lessons mix in a lot of videos. This is something that Pimsleur simply does not offer. As I’ve referenced several times now, the Pimsleur lessons are more audio-based (Duolingo and Rosetta Stone are decent choices for visual learners too).
With Fluenz, each session starts with an intro video, where an instructor introduces the topics and lays the groundwork for the upcoming lesson. You then complete a series of practice drills, or “workouts” as Fluenz calls them.
Then between these different workouts, you’re asked to watch additional videos that further explain and illustrate the material you’re learning. Overall, I just found this type of lesson format where you switch back and forth between video instruction and drills to be super effective.
Now, the videos do feel a little over-choreographed and business-y at times, but still it never hurts to have an instructor on screen guiding you through a lesson. I do think it really helps with language retention.
My other major reason in favor of Fluenz (and this sort of piggy-backs on my last point), is that because their lessons incorporate videos with instructors on screen, their program overall just has more of a traditional classroom type feel to it (almost as if you are studying for a French exam). It doesn’t have that DIY app-like feel you get with most other language programs.
And that seems to be by design. Fluenz even states on their website that their lessons are designed to simulate a 1-on-1 tutoring session. I mean, to be clear, I don’t know if I would go that far. After all, these are just pre-recorded videos.
It’s not like you’re actually watching and conversing with a live person. Nonetheless, I have to give credit where credit is due. The Fluenz program overall definitely has a different feel to it than most of the language learning apps out there.
So bottom line, if you’re the type of learner who flourishes in a classroom setting as opposed to self-study, then I think Fluenz is an excellent option.
That about covers all the detail in this comparison, so let’s get to the final verdict: should you choose Fluenz or Pimsleur to help you learn a new language?
After testing each program, I have to give the win to Pimsleur. Although I do like that Fluenz uses video content throughout their lessons and that their program overall has an interactive, classroom type feel to it, I still think Pimsleur offers the more effective language learning course overall.
I appreciate how the Pimsleur lessons develop your listening and verbal skills by simulating real world conversations with fluent speakers, as well as the reinforcement drills they provide post-audio lesson.
It’s just tough to beat that type of experience and in-depth practice. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Pimsleur is more affordable than Fluenz.
Which is better to learn Spanish, Pimsleur or Fluenz?
Although these programs may be better suited for different types of learners, we see Pimsleur as being a better overall choice than Fluenz for learning to speak Spanish.
Is Pimsleur cheaper than Fluenz?
Because Fluenz only offers lifetime subscription plans (which each range in the hundreds of dollars), while Pimsleur offers monthly subscription plans, Pimsleur is generally a cheaper option. That said, if you plan to use the product for years, Fluenz could end up being more affordable.
Is Fluenz worth it over Pimsleur?
Honestly, although we do we like the Fluenz program overall, we don’t see it as being worth it over Pimsleur. If you’re only going to choose one language app to study with, we give Pimsleur a much higher grade. Plus, it’s more affordable.
What is the main difference between Fluenz and Pimsleur?
The primary difference between Pimsleur and Fluenz is that the lessons from Pimsleur are geared more towards simulated fluent conversations that promote listening comprehension and verbal practice, whereas the lessons from Fluenz take a more basic approach.