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Pimsleur vs Michel Thomas
Our comprehensive comparison pitting Michel Thomas vs Pimsleur after using both programs
The language learning programs from Michel Thomas and Pimsleur have as many similarities as differences, making it infuriatingly difficult to pick just one app. However, after using both programs for a few months, we can say that one definitely edges out the other. In this guide, we break down the core components of each program, highlighting where they differ, and offering some insight into which app is better.
To begin this comparison guide, let’s quickly compare and contrast the lessons from both companies. Starting with Michel Thomas, their lessons are shorter, and generally speaking, more basic than Pimsleur’s lessons. Each Michel Thomas lesson only takes around 5 to 15 minutes to complete.
For each Michel Thomas lesson, you essentially listen in on a conversation between a teacher and two beginner students. The teacher will introduce new words, phrases, and concepts, and then prompt the students to participate by asking questions. It’s kind of like listening to a pre-recorded tutoring session.
Then, when the students reply, you hear their answers, as well as the corresponding feedback from the instructor.
In other words, the lessons are designed for you to fill the role of one of the beginner students, pausing the audio for as long as you want in order to formulate your own response to the teacher’s questions, and then learning from your mistakes along with the students in the lesson.
Do keep in mind here, however, the Michel Thomas lessons are audio only. There videos, writing exercises, reinforcement drills, or anything of that nature following the lessons.
That brings us to Pimsleur. Their lessons are also centered around audio, but in a slightly different manner. Unlike the Michel Thomas lessons, in which you essentially eavesdrop on a pre-recorded session between a teacher and two students, the Pimsleur lessons make you the center of attention.
You’ll listen to fluent speakers converse in your target language, and every few sentences the host will pause to describe the situation and provide context. Then they will prompt you to participate in the conversation as well by asking you questions and having you repeat phrases.
Thus, the biggest difference between the audio lessons from both companies is that Pimsleur places the spotlight on you, rather than on two beginner students.
Not to mention, the other big difference is that following each Pimsleur audio lesson, you review what you just learned through a variety of drills and exercises, including digital flashcards, quizzes, pronunciation practice, and speed games. This is something missing from the Michel Thomas program.
Pricing & Subscription Options
Before we dive into what I liked and didn’t like about each program specifically, let’s briefly touch on pricing as that’s always an important decision factor.
Pimsleur offers two different subscription options: (1) the Pimsleur Premium plan, which costs $20 per month and includes access to one language course; and (2) the Pimsleur All Access plan, which costs $21 per month (yes, just a buck more) and grants you unlimited access to all of the different Pimsleur courses (50+ in total).
Michel Thomas, on the other hand, does things a little differently. They sell courses individually, which range from $12 all the way up to $100+.
For example, their intermediate Spanish course, which consists of 20 hours of content, costs $90. Or, you can purchase an entire Michel Thomas language bundle for around $275.
Overall, in looking at cost, it’s sort of like comparing apples to oranges between these two companies. Though I would say that Pimsleur is likely the more approachable option, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to take it month-by-month. Plus, Pimsleur sometimes runs sales and special promotions, so be sure to keep an eye out for those.
Advantages of Using Pimsleur
Next, let’s cover the main advantages of using Pimsleur over Michel Thomas, and then vice versa. And I want to start with Pimsleur because **spoiler alert** I liked their program better.
Better Audio Lessons
In my opinion, the Pimsleur audio lessons are simply better than those from Michel Thomas. To me, they’re just more comprehensive and interactive.
The Pimsleur audio lessons do a really nice job of holding your attention, whereas the Michel Thomas audio lessons can get boring and monotonous at times.
Frankly, I don’t really care for the way in which the Michel Thomas lessons are designed to put you in the place of somebody else. It kind of just feels like you’re getting recorded tutoring sessions after the fact. I much prefer the format of the Pimsleur audio exercises in which the lessons are specifically made for the learner themselves.
What’s more, the Michel Thomas audio lessons use far too much English. Don’t get me wrong, some English direction and translation is helpful, but Michel Thomas takes it too far.
The English-speaking teacher takes up well over half of each lesson, whereas with Pimsleur, the moderator is really just there to help guide you. So overall, if I had to choose between the audio lessons from both companies, I’d go with Pimsleur 10 times out of 10.
More Comprehensive Drills & Exercises
The next advantage is that the Pimsleur courses are more complete and well-rounded. While Michel Thomas only offers audio lessons, Pimsleur takes the learning process to a different level.
After each Pimsleur audio lesson, you’re prompted to complete a variety of practice drills encompassing reading, writing, speaking, and listening to help reinforce what you learned during the audio portion (somewhat similar to the drills from Babbel or Duolingo).
Not only does this make the Pimsleur courses more effective in my opinion, but these various drills and games also make the learning process more fun. As such, I have to tip my hat to Pimsleur for going the extra mile.
Voice Coach Feature
Something else to keep in mind here is that Pimsleur utilizes speech recognition technology, while Michel Thomas does not. This is a fairly new feature for Pimsleur called Voice Coach and as you might guess, it provides instant feedback on your pronunciation during drills and exercises.
To be fair, it’s not a perfect system (no speech recognition technology is), but it’s still really helpful. This is especially true considering Michel Thomas provides no feedback on your pronunciation.
With Michel Thomas, it’s basically up to you to figure out whether you’re pronouncing words and phrases correctly. So at the end of the day, this is another easy win for Pimsleur.
Superior Digital Experience
Finally, I believe that Pimsleur provides a better digital experience for learners. As noted above, the Michel Thomas language programs are all audio-based. There are no special features or dashboards to help keep you organized, track your progress, or visually see what you’re completing.
Pimsleur, on the other hand, excels in this department. Their digital platform and user experience across both their desktop and mobile app is awesome. It’s modern, sleek, and extremely intuitive.
Pimsleur makes it incredibly easy to navigate through audio lessons; you can pause at anytime and practice what you’ve already learned; you can track the skills you’ve gained; and perhaps most importantly, you can keep track of your progress and streaks.
So from a pure user experience standpoint, Pimsleur blows Michel Thomas out of the water.
Next, let’s turn the tables and cover the major advantages in favor of Michel Thomas, as despite Pimsleur’s strengths, there are a few areas where Michel Thomas wins.
The first advantage in favor of Michel Thomas is that their lessons are shorter than Pimsleur’s, generally just taking 10 to 15 minutes to fully complete.
Michel Thomas does this on purpose. The course is designed so that you never feel pressure or anxiety, including with lesson length.
The Michel Thomas method is intended to keep you relaxed, positive, and moving forward. Therefore, if you get frustrated easily or you’re a busy person that simply doesn’t have 45 minutes a day to dedicate to language learning, then the Michel Thomas language programs may be a better choice for you.
That way you can knock out lessons easily and feel like you’re constantly making progress.
Easily Digestible Grammar
Another advantage is that while the English-speaking teachers within the Michel Thomas lessons talk far too much in my opinion, I have to admit that they do a very good job breaking grammar down into easily understandable chunks.
They don’t hit you over the head with overly-detailed or complex explanations. For example, instead of giving a long lecture about verb conjugation, the teacher instead quickly defines a verb form and then verbally illustrates how to use that particular verb in a sentence.
It’s very quick and painless. They give you some brief context, then right into an example. As such, I have to give Michel Thomas credit. They do a good job of making grammar easy to digest.
Unique Tutoring Perspective
Although I personally prefer the Pimsleur structural setup of focusing the lessons around you as the learner, there is something to be said for the Michel Thomas method of having you listen in on other learners.
For one, it removes pressure from you, as you can essentially eavesdrop, and you don’t feel put on the spot. Plus, the lessons do have a tendency to feel more personalized.
Because the sessions feature an instructor working with just two students, they are very intimate. They don’t have the more general approach of teaching to all.
So here’s the big question: should you choose Michel Thomas or Pimsleur to learn a new language? Well, after using and testing each program, I don’t think it’s even close. In my opinion, Pimsleur is by far the winner.
To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed by the Michel Thomas method. There was a lot of hype around it and I was very excited to work their lessons, but it just fell flat. There are probably six or seven other language apps and programs that I would recommend ahead of Michel Thomas, with Pimsleur being near the top of the list.
Frankly, I really like the Pimsleur language programs. Between their interactive audio lessons, diverse set of reinforcement drills, and top-notch mobile app, I think Pimsleur is superior to Michel Thomas when it comes to learning a new language.
After using and testing out each of these language programs, it is my opinion that Pimsleur is better than Michel Thomas. Though both are based on the methods of their respective linguist founders, the Pimsleur program on the whole is more comprehensive, and frankly, more effective.
Michel Thomas vs Pimsleur, how are they different?
Though both programs are rooted in audio lessons and conversational practice, Pimsleur backstops their program with sequential reinforcement drills, making their app overall more effective.
Which program is cheaper, Pimsleur or Michel Thomas?
Pimsleur retails for around $20 per month under a subscription model, while the Michel Thomas programs can be purchased in various bundles, ranging from just $12 to $100+.
Michel Thomas vs Pimsleur Spanish, which one is better?
For learning Spanish, I much prefer Pimsleur to Michel Thomas. I think both language programs’ audio lessons are effective, but the Pimsleur exercises that backstop their Spanish audio sessions add a ton of value.