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Pimsleur French Review
An honest guide to and review of the Pimsleur French program
Along with Rosetta Stone and Babbel, Pimsleur is one of the most popular language learning platforms in the world for learning French. With an in-depth approach to teaching French based on audio lessons, Pimsleur tends to be one of those polarizing apps where people love or hate it. In this review, we explain all of the strengths and weaknesses of this French app, so you can decide whether Pimsleur French might work for you.
Use the jump-to links above to quickly navigate through this article.
Video Review: Pimsleur French
In the above video, team member John breaks down how the Pimsleur French lessons are styled and structured, provides a quick cost comparison against other French apps, and delivers our verdict on whether Pimsleur French is worth it. Please keep reading for more in-depth analysis.
Pimsleur French Program Structure
To help set the stage, let’s cover how the Pimsleur French program is organized from a high level before moving into what the actual lessons are like. Starting from the top, there are five total levels to complete within the course, each increasing in complexity and difficulty.
In a way, these five levels sort of build up from the newcomer level to advanced, though Pimsleur doesn’t specifically say that. They just call them levels 1 through 5.
In any event, within each of these levels, there are around 30 full-length lessons to complete, each of which is comprised of multiple lesson components (which I cover directly below). But honestly, that’s it from a bird’s eye view. You’ve got five levels (1 though 5), and 30 lessons per level. It’s a fairly basic structure in terms of how the course is organized.
What the Pimsleur French Lessons are Like
Next, let’s dive into what the Pimsleur French lessons themselves are actually like. To begin each lesson, you complete a 30-minute audio exercise, in which a moderator speaking in English gradually guides you through a simulated French conversation.
You’ll listen to a short exchange between two fluent French speakers, then the moderator will stop to explain what you’re hearing, provide some insights and tips, and finally ask you questions in order to have you engage and participate.
In a way, you can think of this exercise as a supportive, guided conversation. That’s probably the best way to describe it. In addition, as you advance levels, the moderator will slowly start speaking less English as you become more fluent in French, forcing you to rely on what you’ve learned.
Next, following the audio portion of each lesson, you review what you just learned through an array of drills and exercises. These include short reading drills, flashcards, quizzes, pronunciation training, and speed games, just to name a few.
Each drill or exercise takes right around 3 to 8 minutes complete. Thus, in total, with a half dozen or so of these drills per lesson, you’re looking at around an hour to complete the full Pimsleur lesson – that is, the audio portion plus all the reinforcement drills.
Plus, one of the cool things with Pimsleur is that you can skip around from lesson to lesson, or even level to level if you want. You’re not forced to follow a rigid agenda like with other apps we’ve reviewed. That way, if you come across a topic that totally bores you (like tennis or politics), you can just skip ahead.
Additionally, as you complete each lesson, you gain these “skills badges” which help you track what you’ve learned. You can check out the badges you’ve earned anytime under the skills section of the dashboard if you want a quick refresher.
Pimsleur French Subscription Options & Cost
With that overview covered, let’s quickly touch on pricing and subscription options, especially as to how Pimsleur stacks up against other apps. In short, Pimsleur offers two different plans. The first plan is their Pimsleur Premium, which gives you access to the French course for $20 per month. Then the second available package is Pimsleur All Access, which unlocks all 50+ of their languages for only $1 more per month (i.e. $21/month).
Now, if you stack this pricing up against competitors like Babbel, Busuu or Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur is more expensive by around $5 to $10 per month on average. So Pimsleur is definitely not the cheapest French program on the market, but also not outrageous either if we’re being honest.
And in fact, if you’re learning with a spouse, family member or friend (which a lot of people do), you can actually account split with Pimsleur, effectively making the price $10/month, which is right in line with competitors and incredibly reasonable in my opinion.
In addition, it’s definitely worth mentioning that Pimsleur does offer a 7-day free trial period, so you can always try this program out and see if you like it first before taking the plunge, which is pretty nice. Not all French apps do that (in fact, very few that we’ve reviewed do – maybe just FluentU). With that offer on the table, I’d suggest at least kicking the tires on this app before diving in and buying.
What We Like About Pimsleur French
Now that we’ve covered pricing, program structure, and what the lessons are like, let’s get into what I like about the Pimsleur French program (before covering my negatives).
Love The Audio Lessons
First off, I’m a big fan of the Pimsleur learning framework and how their lessons prepare you to hold conversations. And this all starts with the Pimsleur audio lessons. I like how instead of listening to and repeating individual words and phrases in a vacuum like you do with other French learning apps on the market, the Pimsleur audio lessons are more practical and comprehensive.
These interactive lessons prompt you to respond to fluent French speakers using phrases and sentences in the context of a detailed mock conversation. You have to be actively involved in tracking the conversation as you need to understand the situation and respond at the proper intervals when the moderator directs you to.
In my opinion, this active participation is highly effective getting you to recall and use the French language under pressure just as you would in real life situations. That’s perhaps the important point I’m trying to make: you get simulated real world experience with Pimsleur. And in my humble opinion, that is about the best practice when trying to learn French.
Unlike Duolingo, Great For Advanced Learners
My second pro somewhat piggybacks on my last point. I think the Pimsleur French course is ideal for all learning levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced. And I say that in large part because Pimsleur has that all-important conversational speaking component that I just covered.
With other language companies out there like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, for example, their lessons primarily revolve around new vocabulary, quick-hit drills and repeating words and phrases in a vacuum.
With those courses, there’s really no opportunity for spontaneous language usage that mimics or simulates full conversations like you get with Pimsleur. So overall, I have to give Pimsleur two big thumbs up if you’re main goal is to pick up the French language quickly and start having conversations in French (all the way though fluency).
Flexibility In How You Learn
My third pro has to do with the flexibility of Pimsleur’s program. Because the core Pimsleur lessons are audio-based, I like the fact you can complete these lessons while you’re exercising, cleaning your home, taking your dog for a walk, whatever.
It’s just nice that you don’t have to be fixed to your computer screen or phone at all times like you do with other apps out there. Honestly, when you’re learning a new language, it’s just nice to switch up your routine and get a change of scenery to break up the monotony, which the Pimsleur lessons definitely allow for.
Their mobile app even comes with a special driving mode so you can learn and complete lessons while you’re on the road (a major bonus for commuters). So overall, the flexibility of the Pimsleur lessons definitely deserve a call-out.
Awesome User Experience
I was really impressed with the Pimsleur digital platform and user experience across both their desktop and mobile app. It has a modern feel and is very quick. Plus, everything is laid out in a really intuitive way and it’s easy to follow.
Frankly, it’s just super sleek and easy on the eyes, which is always nice. If I’m being honest, I think it’s one of the best digital interfaces in the entire language learning industry, being right up there with Babbel.
What We Don’t Like About Pimsleur French
With my warm and fuzzies about Pimsleur French covered, let’s switch sides to the things I see as weaknesses with Pimsleur French.
Lessons On The Longer Side
While I am a fan of the audio lessons that form the backbone of the Pimsleur learning framework, there are a couple negatives with them as well. And the first is that the lessons are somewhat lengthy. With a full lesson (audio portion plus follow-up exercises) taking a full hour to complete, they’re some of the longer lessons I’ve seen.
Of course, you can always pause a lesson and return to it later if you don’t have a full hour to complete one; however, if you want to complete full lessons in one go or you’re looking for quicker-hit lessons (maybe 10 or 15-minutes), then Pimsleur might not be a great fit.
In addition, the lessons just move a little slowly. True, the moderator does keep you engaged by asking you questions and quizzing you, but around the 20-minute mark of each audio lesson, my focus did start to wane.
I personally think it would just be nice if Pimsleur would mix in a couple quick-hit drills or rapid fire verbal exercises during the middle of the audio lesson just to switch things up and add a little diversity.
No Pronunciation Software
My second negative is that while I do like that Pimsleur places a heavy emphasis on speaking and verbal practice, the company doesn’t utilize any voice recognition technology like Babbel or Rocket French.
Basically, while you are practicing your verbal skills during the audio lessons, there’s no technology in the background analyzing your pronunciation. Thus, for all you know, you might be pronouncing some words incorrectly.
To be fair though, the moderator and the fluent French speakers within the lessons repeat themselves multiple times, so the chances of you mispronouncing words over and over again are slim.
Plus, it’s not like the voice recognition technology that other companies use is perfect anyways. The tech from those companies definitely has flaws at the end of the day.
Not Great For Visual Learners
My last con is that because the core Pimsleur lessons are rooted in audio-based practice, they might not be the best option for visual learners. Beyond the drills following the core lessons, there’s really no opportunity for you to read the words or phrases you’re learning, which might be an issue for some types of learners.
Plus, the Pimsleur French lessons are light on images, video and other graphics. Rather than employing tons of visual elements, the Pimsleur lessons tend to rely more on mental imagery than visual imagery.
You’re asked to imagine these various scenarios and situations, and you then learn words and phrases in the context of these situations being played out in your head. This, in a sense it’s sort of the same concept, but just in a different way. Ultimately, this comes down to what type of learner you are and whether you need a bunch of graphics to help you learn the material.
Verdict: Pimsleur French
All in all, I’m a big fan of the Pimsleur French course. I think the learning framework that forms the backbone of the program is highly effective. I love the audio lessons that mimic real French conversations, as well as the fact that it gets you to participate by quickly recalling words and phrases under pressure. Also, the drills and exercises that follow the audio lessons are pretty engaging and do a nice job of helping the material sink in. Plus, the Pimsleur digital platform is super modern and easy to use. There’s just a lot to like with Pimsleur.
Yes, I do have a few minor gripes with their program, like the lessons being a little long and the lack of speech recognition technology, but all things considered, I think Pimsleur is a highly effective program that should get the job done for pretty much anyone looking to learn French and start holding conversations. Not to mention, at around $20 per month, I think Pimsleur is pretty decent value (especially if you account split). So bottom line, I have no problem recommending Pimsleur French. Their course and overall program receives high marks from our team.
Pimsleur is all about audio-based lessons. Rather than feeding you vocab or reading exercises, Pimsleur immerses you in French with audio conversations between fluent speakers. A moderator then guides your learning.
Is Pimsleur good for French?
I do believe that Pimsleur is a good way to learn French. After using this program for a month, I honestly feel like their approach to language learning is effective, and I’ve been able to hold basic conversations just one month in.
Does Pimsleur have a mobile app?
Yes, Pimsleur has a mobile app for their French course. Although you can access the Pimsleur program multiple ways (online, CDs, desktop download, etc), the mobile app is one of my favorite means of doing so.