Learning a foreign language in 10 days sounds like a linguistic crash diet. I, along with many of you, have been given the dreaded requirement of completing a certain amount of credits in a foreign language in order to graduate college. Luckily, I am finally done with my second language, but it would have been nice to know I could have “wired” my brain to pick up a new language in record time. This “wiring” method is known as the Pimsleur Approach – “a well known provider in audio-based language learning.” (SmarterLifestyles) Even the FBI purchased it and it was featured in Forbes!
Dr. Paul Pimsleur created this method based on the idea that it wasn’t the amount of words you know but rather the relevance of them. According to this article
, studies show native speakers only use about 2,500 “distinct words and phrases on a daily basis.”(SmarterLifestyles) The Pimsleur Approach uses these “language building blocks” to teach these specific 2,500 words.
He unfortunately died suddenly in 1976, at 48 years old, before his courses were even available to customers. It wasn’t until 1980 that a “listening booth” was used at the Harvard bookstore so “prospective learners could sample the lessons and understand how the Pimsleur Method worked”(Simon and Schuster’s) before they were convinced and committed.
Pimsleur’s methodology behind his method was based on several key concepts he deemed important in learning a language.
Pimsleur argued that “to repeat after an instructor” was a “passive way of learning.”
(wikipedia) Instead, he created a “challenge and response” technique.
The student would translate a phrase in his/her first language “into the target language.” Pimsleur said this was a more “active way of learning” forcing the student to “think before responding.”(wikipedia)
A way of learning language through retention by spaced repetition
. Vocabulary is tested based on Pimsleur’s “memory schedule” – 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, 2 years. To me, this is similar to using flash cards but for a longer period of timing (Pimsleur, P.; Modern Language Journal)
3) Core vocabulary
As stated above, studies have shown native speakers only use a specific set of 2,500 words regularly. Pimsleur says in the English language “2000 words composes about 80% of the total printed words.”(Nation, Paul; Waring, Robert)
4) Organic learning
This is his school of thought that “auditory speech…is different than reading and writing skill”(Charles A.S. Heinle)
I looked for any statistics of students using the Pimsleur Approach versus say Rosetta Stone. I did not find any. I also looked on statistics solely focused on results from using Pimsleur – also nothing. Until I see some data I am intrigued in learning a language in 10 days, but not convinced.
Pimsleur, P. (1967). A memory schedule. Modern Language Journal, 51, 73-75.