Pimsleur language learning system

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The Pimsleur language learning system is a language acquisition method developed by Paul Pimsleur. According to its website, the system is based on four main ideas: anticipation, graduated interval recall, core vocabulary, and organic learning.[1] The Pimsleur method is an audio-based system, in which the listener constructs phrases or repeats from memory along with a recording. A series of audiobooks based on the Pimsleur method has been developed by publishing company Simon & Schuster. The system, as currently packaged by Simon & Schuster, is made up of multiple thirty-minute lessons, which are repeated until 80% comprehension is attained, at which point the user may advance to the next lesson. The Pimsleur website claims that because the lessons repeat themselves and add new material,[1] they do not demand 100% mastery before moving on. Pimsleur courses focus on proficiency in speaking as well as reading proficiency.



  • The student listens to a recording on which native speakers speak phrases in both the foreign language and the language used for teaching (usually English).
  • At varying intervals, the student is prompted to repeat a phrase after the speaker finishes it
  • The student is then introduced to a new phrase and the meaning is explained.
  • After repeating several times, the student is asked to repeat a previous phrase, along with integrating vocabulary from the new one.
  • More new phrases are introduced, while old phrases are prompted at random. The random recall is designed to associate words with meanings.

Pimsleur learning principles

Pimsleur developed his system using four principles he regarded as important to forming memory associations and language recall.


The following languages are available as of August 2010:


Paul Nation's review of vocabulary learning, Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, concluded that Pimsleur's "memory schedule" has been validated by research subsequent to Pimsleur's paper. According to Nation's summary of the research, "effective retention of vocabulary requires a certain amount of repetition over spaced intervals".[6]

The Pimsleur method brings together a number of well known behavioral principles—gradual shaping of behavior, immediate reinforcement of response, stimulus (cue) control of the verbal response, systematically interweaving new and old material, focusing on the most common words in a language, and limiting the amount of new material to bite size portions. Simon & Schuster produces publicly available courses based on the Pimsleur method consisting of up to 4 courses (so 100 or 120 lessons total per language) as audio tapes, CDs, and digital downloads. Pimsleur's daughter, Julia Pimsleur, designed a video teaching series for young children loosely based on his teaching principles, called "Little Pim."

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