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Pimsleur German Review
After using the Pimsleur German program for several weeks, we provide our full thoughts and analysis
German is a tough language to learn, and a lot of times people will try out two or three different apps before they land on the one that works for them. And one common path is trying Duolingo first (hey, it’s free), before stalling out and moving on to more intensive apps like Pimsleur and Babbel. In this review, we reveal our thoughts on the Pimsleur German program after having used it for close to a month. We discuss how this app stacks up against its competitors and whether we think it works.
As this is a pretty long and detailed review, above find handy jump-to links for convenience.
Video Review: Learning German With Pimsleur
In the above video, team member John (who speaks German) breaks down everything you need to know about this language app from Pimsleur. He provides a high level overview of how the program works, as well as our team’s thoughts.
How The Pimsleur German Program Works
Let’s start this review at the top and discuss how the Pimsleur German program is structured from a high level. So essentially there are five different levels to complete within the German program, each increasing in complexity and difficulty. Though not explicit, they sort of build up from beginner level to advanced.
Within each of these levels, there are roughly 30 full-length lessons to complete, each of which is comprised of multiple components.
And honestly, from a bird’s eye view, that’s it. There’s nothing really too fancy with the structure of the Pimsleur German program. It’s pretty straightforward – you’ve got 5 levels, 30 lessons per level, and each lesson takes around an hour to fully complete.
As for the lessons themselves, as you might imagine, they are pretty robust given that there are only 150 of them. Let’s discuss. To start each Pimsleur lesson, you complete a 30-minute audio exercise, where a moderator speaking in English guides you through a German conversation step-by-step.
You’ll listen to a short conversation or snippet in German, then the moderator will stop to explain what you’re hearing. He’ll break down the conversation, ask you questions, and have you engage. Thus, the best way to think of this exercise is as a slow-moving, guided conversation. That’s the best way to describe it.
Also, as you level up, the moderator will slowly start speaking less English as you become more fluent in German, forcing you to rely on what you’ve learned.
Then after the audio lesson, you review what you just learned through a variety of drills and exercises. These include short reading drills, flashcards, quizzes, matching exercises, and speed games, just to name a few.
Each drill or exercise takes around 2 to 8 minutes complete. So in total, with a half dozen or so of these exercises, you’re looking at around an hour to complete the full Pimsleur lesson (that is, the audio portion plus all the drills).
Additionally, in terms of the content that each lesson covers, they tend to tackle different thematic topics, such as food, sports, travel, and family.
This provides a nice chance to expand your vocabulary. Plus, the nice thing with Pimsleur is that you can jump around from lesson to lesson, or even level to level if you want. You’re not forced to follow a strict learning sequence like with other German apps we’ve reviewed.
Lastly, 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 at anytime under the ‘skills’ section from the dashboard if you want a quick refresher.
That’s about in terms of how the course works and what the lessons look like. All told, the lessons are very robust – much more so than other apps we’ve evaluated (like Duolingo and Memrise). But more on this below.
Pimsleur German Subscription Options
Before we dive into my personal thoughts on this German app, let’s quickly cover pricing, as it’s an important topic. Pimsleur offers two different subscription options:
Pimsleur Premium, which gives you access to their German program for $20 per month
Pimsleur All Access, which gives you access all 50+ of their languages for $21 per month (i.e., only $1 more per month)
Now if you stack this up against competitors like Rosetta Stone and Babbel, Pimsleur is more expensive by around $5 to $10 per month on average. Thus, Pimsleur is definitely not the cheapest German app out there, but it’s also not terrible from a cost perspective.
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 highly reasonable in my opinion).
Additionally, Pimsleur does offer a 7-day free trial period, so you can always try this program out and see if you like it before fully committing, which is pretty nice (not all apps do that).
What We Like About Pimsleur German
Now that we’ve covered pricing, program structure, and what the lessons are all about, let’s get into what I like and what I don’t like about Pimsleur German after using this program. And let’s start with the positives.
The “Pimsleur Method”
The first highlight of the Pimsleur German program is the learning framework, which I found to be super effective. This is what the company calls the “Pimsleur Method,” and is a language learning framework developed by linguist and company founder Paul Pimsleur years ago.
It essentially turns on two primary components: (1) in-depth exposure to fluent speakers, and (2) spaced repetition. On that first point, the Pimsleur program is somewhat unique among language apps through their use of guided audio lessons.
These guided conversations put pressure on you to recall the language and participate in an actual exchange (similar to the Rocket German lessons).
Instead of just listening to or reading a word or phrase, and then repeating it, the Pimsleur audio lessons teach you words and phrases in the context of real conversations. Plus, the great thing about these Pimsleur audio lessons is that they don’t allow you to just be a passive listener.
You’re actively involved in what you’re listening to, and the moderator of the lessons keep engaged since you need to respond at various intervals. In my opinion, this active participation is powerful at getting you to actually learn and use the language just as you would in real life situations.
Then the other component of this Pimsleur Method which I like is their spin on the popular spaced repetition system. For those unfamiliar with spaced repetition, this learning method is all about intervals – the periods between when you’re asked to recall words and phrases.
It starts with high frequency recall (think seconds and minutes), and then gradually moves to low frequency recall (days and weeks).
In essence, as you complete Pimsleur lessons, you’ll hear a German word or phrase introduced for the first time in an audio lesson, then you’ll hear it again seconds later, then minutes later, then days later, etc.
However, the cool thing with Pimsleur is that whereas the traditional spaced repetition learning system primarily relies on straight memorization within this spaced framework, Pimsleur is unique by weaving the recall into their audio lessons.
This keeps you hearing the words and phrases within the context of how they’re actually used. In my opinion, this is super effective for ingraining vocabulary and grammar into your brain, and I do think the Pimsleur Method really works.
Lots of English Guidance
The second thing I liked (and this somewhat piggybacks on my first pro) is that within the audio lessons, there is an English-speaking moderator to keep you organized and engaged, and keep the lessons moving along in a timely manner.
I am aware that some companies out there, like Rosetta Stone, believe in 100% immersion, meaning no or very little English. However, in my experience, I’ve found that some use of English for directions and translations can definitely be helpful, especially when you’re just starting out. This is especially true for students studying for the AP German exam.
I do get the immersion argument and the benefits it can offer, but ultimately, German is a tough language to learn and I just appreciate the use of English to keep the lessons moving. This really prevents you from becoming annoyed and frustrated.
Learn On The Go
My third pro for the Pimsleur German course is that besides the learning method behind the audio lessons, I also really like the flexibility in their format. I like that you can complete these audio lessons while you’re on the treadmill, cleaning your house, taking your dog for a walk, whatever.
It’s just nice that you don’t have to be glued to your screen at all times. In fact, the Pimsleur mobile app even comes with a special driving mode that you can activate while you’re on the road, so you can learn and knock out audio lessons during your commute. I think that’s a major bonus for commuters.
New Speech Recognition Software
For the longest time, Pimsleur did not incorporate any speech recognition technology like Babbel or Rosetta Stone within their German language program. So in the past when you were practicing your verbal skills during Pimsleur lessons, there was no software listening to ensure you were pronouncing words and phrases correctly. This was one of our biggest knocks against Pimsleur in the past.
Luckily though, Pimsleur took note of what competitors were doing and developed a new tool called “Voice Coach” to provide feedback on your pronunciation during verbal practice drills. And so far, our team has been very impressed with Pimsleur’s voice recognition software. It’s quick, accurate, and definitely adds a new element to the Pimsleur lessons.
Overall, our team gives Voice Coach two thumbs up. Although, it’s not quite as good as Rocket’s speech tool.
Awesome Digital Experience
Lastly, I was just impressed with the Pimsleur digital platform and user experience across both their desktop and mobile app. It’s modern and sleek, as well as quick and snappy.
Everything is laid out in a really intuitive way, and it’s just super easy to use. Plus, it’s just plain pretty and easy on the eyes. I had no complaints whatsoever with this app, and think it’s one of the better interfaces in language learning. In fact, I think it’s only beaten out perhaps by Duolingo.
What We Dislike About Pimsleur German
Knowing now what I like about Pimsleur German, let’s switch sides to the things I don’t like about this program.
First off, while I really like the Pimsleur audio lessons that make up the heart of the Pimsleur Method, there are a couple negatives as well. And the first is that the lessons are long. 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 clip off lessons in clean chunks each day and you’re kind of limited on time (maybe you’re looking for quick-hit 10 or 15-minute lessons), then Pimsleur might not be a great fit.
Plus – this is other part – the lessons just move a little slowly. Yes, the moderator does keep you engaged by asking you questions and quizzing you, but around the 20-minute mark of each audio lesson, my mind did sometimes start to wander a little.
I personally think it would just be nice if Pimsleur would sprinkle in one or two quick-hit drills, or even rapid fire verbal exercises, during the middle of the audio lesson to switch things up and add a little variety.
Not Ideal For Visual Learners
Finally, since the lessons are so audio-heavy, they might not be the best option for visual learners. Besides the drills after the core lessons, there’s really no chance for you to see or read the words or phrases, which might be problematic for some types of learners.
Plus, the Pimsleur German lessons are sort of light on images, video and other visuals. Frankly, they’re just not that big on imagery. Rather, the Pimsleur lessons tend to rely more on mental imagery than visual imagery.
You’re asked to imagine these scenarios and situations, and you then learn words in the context of these situations being played out in your head (unlike Rosetta Stone lessons).
So it’s sort of the same concept, but just in a different way. Ultimately, this boils down to what type of learner you are and if you really need a bunch of visual elements.
Verdict: Pimsleur German App Review
That about does it for the detail in this review, so let’s get to my final verdict. All in all, I’m a big fan of the Pimsleur German program. I think the learning framework that forms the backbone of the program is highly effective. I love the audio lessons that track real German conversations, and the fact that it gets you to participate by quickly recalling words and phrases is super valuable.
Also, the drills and exercises that follow the audio lessons are pretty fun and do a good job of boosting language retention. Plus, the user interface is super modern and easy-to-use. Bottom line, there’s just a lot to like here.
Sure, I do have a few minor grievances with their program (like the lessons being a little lengthy), but all in all, I think Pimsleur is a really effective program that should get the job done for pretty much anyone looking to learn German and speak fluently.
Plus, at $20 per month, it’s pretty affordable. So all things considered, I have no problem recommending Pimsleur German, they receive very high marks from me.
The Pimsleur lessons primarily focus on audio practice. Each lesson begins with a 30-minute audio exercise, and is then followed by several short reinforcement drills.
How much is Pimsleur German?
Pimsleur offers two plans for their German program: the Premium plan (which gives you access to German materials) for $20 per month, or the All Access plan (which provides access to all Pimsleur languages) for $21 per month.
Is Pimsleur German worth it?
In our team’s opinion, after having used Pimsleur for close to a month, it is definitely worth it. Standing side-by-side with Duolingo, Rosetta Sone, and other major language apps, Pimsleur German is much more in-depth and effective.