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The Pimsleur Method

   Why Pimsleur?
   How Does the Pimsleur Method Work?
   What Course is Right for Me?
   Who is Dr. Pimsleur?
   How do You Achieve Spoken Language Proficiency Levels?
   How Long Does it Take to Learn a Language?
   What is Graduated Interval Recall?
   What is Principle of Anticipation?
   What is Core Vocabulary?
   How do I Use the Pimsleur Language Programs?

   Pimsleur Courses are available in the following languages:  

Why Pimsleur?
Pimsleur Language Courses are audio courses. Since there are no books included, the Pimsleur courses are great way to learn while driving, exercising, etc.

The Pimsleur language courses teach you to both speak and understand a new language. You're not just learning "phrases" with the Pimsleur method, you're acquiring essential, conversational language skills! You'll be thrilled to discover you can hold real conversations in your new language when you have finished the course.

Dr. Paul Pimsleur's original and unique method enables you to acquire new language ability as effortlessly as children absorb their native language. You will succeed because the Pimsleur program makes sure that you learn vocabulary and grammar correctly and easily in conversational settings without mindless repetition. Pimsleur is the only language program that includes exclusive, copyrighted memory training that ensures you will always remember what you have learned.

The Pimsleur audio programs use a natural mode of interactive communication -- questions and answers; statements and rejoinder; give and take -- beginning with the most-frequently-utilized vocabulary native speakers use in their everyday conversations with each other. These are the most useful words and structures every language learner needs to insure communication. It is like having a personal tutor. This along with the Graduated Interval Recall theory and the Principle of Anticipation, makes the Pimsleur language courses the most effective courses on the market today.

One of our customers told us he learned more from the Pimsleur language courses than he did from his personal tutor. Another customer told us she learned to speak better French from the first 30 lessons of the Pimsleur course than she did in 4 years of college where she minored in the French language.

Order today and be on your way to communicating in a new language!

How does the Pimsleur Method Work?
The Pimsleur System is built around our natural language learning capabilities. When we were children, we seemed to absorb language, as we age, that learning process tends to becomes more difficult. Dr. Pimsleur studied the way that language skills are developed as we grow up and applied those techniques to his revolutionary system.

What is the secret of the Pimsleur programs that makes this happen?

Pimsleur takes advantage of the way the human brain acquires language as speech and creates its methodology around the single fact that there is a central way everyone acquires the ability to communicate in any language.

It is well known from studies of the brain that human beings recognize, identify and capture patterns of speech. This is how human infants learn their mother tongue over the first six years of life.

With that task accomplished, everyone has the necessary physical and mental equipment to go on and acquire additional means of communication (languages)! But-and this is the singular and highly complex factor that allows or prevents adults from doing what comes naturally-it is all in the selection and organization of the language materials which are created to manage second-language acquisition.

It is no longer efficient for an adult to learn by simply being exposed to other languages (as happens as a baby) because, being in possession of a fine first language which enables an adult to survive handsomely, there now has to be a different motivating factor as well as a second-language program which is especially prepared to recapitulate-in a special way-the original process of language acquisition for the adult mentality.

It was Dr. Paul Pimsleur who, through many years of research and development, discovered how to select and organize the materials of the second language to fit the one way that the stream of speech of an unknown language can enter the consciousness of the adult and be processed through the language learning power of the human brain.

The Pimsleur methodology, which makes language acquisition happen, looks singularly easy and transparent, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The science and skill (art, if you will) of creating a Pimsleur program requires, nay demands, some 2,000 person-hours of three trained individuals to prepare thirty lessons of a Pimsleur Program.

The fine art of asking questions which will encourage the learner to induce the grammatical basis for answering the question, not only correctly, but also with the appropriate sounds of the new language as it delivers the meaning involved, is what enables the programmed Pimsleur course to make language acquisition happen whenever the audio is heard.

This is the highly significant difference between Pimsleur programs and all other sets of published language materials. It is the secret to why Pimsleur works and creates in the learner a significant and measurable set of communication skills provided they follow the scheduled learning activities as prescribed by the Pimsleur methodology.

The Parable of the "Building-Block-of-a-Language Theory"

There are those who believe that languages are composed of what they call the "building-blocks"- of a language. These consist of neat rows of verb conjugation tables, grammatical rules, vocabulary lists with translations, and other bricks, sand and cement, nails and associated building materials such as men piled together when they plan to mass-produce houses.

Obviously, when a house is being built, the clever logistics of the supplies makes it efficient and effective in reducing the time required to produce a number of houses.

Language builders overlooked the fact that the building blocks of language cannot be arranged and taught as spoken communication skills because the missing ingredient is the way human beings string together language in the form of meaningful speech acts, over the axis of time, which accounts for the way the human brain evolved to both create and understand language.

The critical point is that unless a learner has learned instances of language-in-use, he has not learned them as language.

If learning to understand and to speak a language were simply a matter of memorizing and storing words and sentences, an infinite number of sentences would have to be over learned (memorized), which is obviously an impossible and useless task since an infinite variety of sentence patterns is used in ordinary speech.

The complexity of an internalized grammar is such that no linguist has yet succeeded in making it explicit, or in solving the problem of how a learner can consciously apply the academic rules of grammar during actual conversation.

The Pimsleur I program will take a learner from zero spoken proficiency to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Intermediate-Low level in thirty lessons; Pimsleur II will take a learner who has completed the I and II (sixty lessons) to the Intermediate-Mid level; and the Pimsleur III will take a learner who has completed Pimsleur I, II and III (ninety lessons) to the Intermediate-High level of spoken proficiency on the ACTFL Scale.

Dr. Pimsleur selected the one universal feature of human language and, using it with great skill and art, reduced the problem of spoken-language acquisition through making it possible for adult learners to recapitulate the learning of additional languages within 15 to 45 hours of programmed instruction.

What Course is Right for Me?
Basic Course (10 lessons): The first 10 lessons of the Comprehensive I course, the Basic course starts at the beginning level and is a great way to try out the Pimsleur courses and be on your way to learning a new language.

Compact Course (10 lessons): Designed for those who wish to learn one of the less commonly studied languages, the Compact course starts at the beginning level.

Conversational Course (16 lessons): The first 16 lessons of the Level I course. It starts at a beginning level and will take you half way to the intermediate-low level of communication.

Comprehensive I (30 lessons): This course takes you from the beginning to the intermediate-low level of communication. Upon completion of the Comprehensive Level I Program, the learner will have achieved spoken-language communication skills at the Intermediate-Low Level. This level is characterized by the ability to participate in simple, direct conversations on everyday topics, in everyday situations; by being able to satisfy immediate needs, such as ordering food and making simple purchases; and by being able to establish rapport with strangers in a foreign country. Upon completion of a Level 1, you will have functional spoken proficiency with the most-frequently-used vocabulary and grammatical structures. You will be able to:

  • initiate and maintain face-to-face conversations,
  • deal with every day situations -- ask for information, directions, and give basic information about yourself and family,
  • communicate basic information on informal topics and participate in casual conversations,
  • avoid basic cultural errors and handle minimum courtesy and travel requirements,
  • satisfy personal needs and limited social demands,
  • establish rapport with strangers in foreign countries,
  • begin reading and sounding out items with native-like pronunciation.

Comprehensive II (30 lessons): This course takes you from the intermediate-low to the intermediate-mid level of communication. Upon completion of the Comprehensive Level I and Level II (60 lessons total), the learner will have achieved the Intermediate-Mid Level. This level is characterized by creative ability in the target language and by being able to communicate personal meaning to native speakers by combining and recombining known elements and conversational input to correctly form sentences of increasing length. Level 2 will double your vocabulary and grammatical structures while increasing your spoken proficiency exponentially. Upon completion of a Level 2, you will be albe to:

  • engage in fuller conversations involving yourself, your family, daily activities, interests and personal preferences,
  • combine known elemnts into increasingly longer sentences and strings of sentences,
  • create with language and function in informal situations,
  • deal with concrete topics in the past, present, and future,
  • meet social demands and limited job requirements,
  • begin reading for meaning.

Comprehensive III (30 lessons): This course takes you from the intermediate-mid to the intermediate-high level of communication. Upon completion of the Comprehensive Level I, Level II, and Level III (90 lessons total), the learner will have achieved the Intermediate-High Level. This level is characterized by the ability to obtain, sustain and bring to a close a number of basic communicative exchanges, to satisfy personal needs and social demands, and to survive and cope in the target language and culture. The learner can converse with growing ease and confidence, narrate and describe in terms of past, present and future using connected discourse of considerable conversational length. Level 3 will increase your vocabulary and grammatical structures and triple your spken proficiency. Upon completion of a level 3, you will be able to:

  • participate in most informal and some formal discussions on practical, social, and some semi-professional topics,
  • form longer sentences while maintaining the target language syntax,
  • be understood even by native speakers unused to dealing with foreigners,
  • handle increasingly difficult grammatical structures,
  • enjoy fluent conversations with a variety of strangers,
  • have a new-native accent, and the subtleties of the language will be apparent in your speech,
  • read at the same level at which you speak.

Plus Course -- Level 4 (10 lessons): Available only in German and Spanish, this course is a 10 lesson follow-up to the Comprehensive III course. Plus Programs will:

  • build upon the language corpus acquired in Level I, II, and III,
  • include real-life situations (working in a publishing company and attending a trade fair),
  • include a more interpersonal exchange of language at a higher level, using diverse language strategies.

Please feel free to contact us at info@speakalanguage.com if you have any specific questions on what course is best for you.

Who is Dr. Pimsleur?
Dr. Pimsleur devoted his life to language teaching and was one of the world's leading experts in applied linguistics. After obtaining his Ph.D. in French from Columbia University, he taught French Phonetics and Phonemics, and supervised the language laboratory at UCLA. He went on to become Professor of Romance Languages and Language Education, and Director of The Listening Center at Ohio State University; Professor of Education and Romance Languages at the State University of New York at Albany; and a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Heidelberg.

Dr. Pimsleur was a member of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), American Educational Research Association (AERA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and a founding member of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). His many books and articles revolutionized theories of language learning and teaching.

After years of research and development, including field studies of spoken language training with adults, Dr. Pimsleur created a new method for self-instruction in spoken languages that is based on the way the human brain takes in language as speech. Of the several unique features of the Method, two key principles: the Principle of Anticipation and a scientific principle of memory that he called Graduated Interval Recall This is the only language teaching program which incorporates these essential principles to provide you with the most easy-to-do, amazingly rapid, and highly cost-effective learning method available.

"Language, as Delattre says, is above all speech, not writing; a language that is not spoken is called "dead." If you will trust your ear, you are almost certain to speak with a good accent. Conversely, if you trust your eye alone, your accent may be a poor one."

How do You Achieve Spoken Language Proficiency Levels?
The Intermediate-Low Spoken Proficiency Level

Upon completion of the Pimsleur Comprehensive Level I Program (30 lessons), the learner will have achieved spoken-language communication skills at the Intermediate-Low Level. This level is characterized by the ability to participate in simple, direct conversations on everyday topics, in everyday situations; by being able to satisfy immediate needs, such as ordering food and making simple purchases; and by being able to establish rapport with strangers in a foreign country.

The Intermediate-Mid spoken Proficiency Level

Upon completion of the Pimsleur Comprehensive Level I and Level II (60 lessons), the learner will have achieved the Intermediate-Mid Level. This level is characterized by creative ability in the target language and by being able to communicate personal meaning to native speakers by combining and recombining known elements and conversational input to correctly form sentences of increasing length.

The Intermediate-High Spoken Proficiency Level

Upon completion of the Pimsleur Comprehensive Level I, Level II, and Level III (90 lessons), the learner will have achieved the Intermediate-High Level. This level is characterized by the ability to obtain, sustain and bring to a close a number of basic communicative exchanges, to satisfy personal needs and social demands, and to survive and cope in the target language and culture. The learner can converse with growing ease and confidence, narrate and describe in terms of past, present and future using connected discourse of considerable conversational length.

Pimsleur Method Operational Requirements

Pimsleur customers are advised that there are specific requirements for purchasers intending to obtain these levels of spoken language proficiency.

The Comprehensive Pimsleur Program comprises three Levels (90 lessons), which contain the core-of-the-language based upon the frequency-of-use of grammatical structures and everyday vocabulary by native speakers of the target language. This language corpus is divided into three discrete parts: Levels I, II and III. To achieve the proficiency levels described above, students are advised to complete all Levels in numerical order, starting with Level I.

Keep in mind that a little learning is a dangerous thing - especially for Foreign Language students! New Pimsleur students who previously have not been able to communicate with native speakers, but who still feel, because of some school language classes, that they are past the beginning level and make the decision to skip Level I actually will miss the most important basic language elements in terms of usage, that is, a full one-third of the core-of-the-language taught in the program. This amount of missing language information and the essential spoken language practice caused as a result of this deficiency is enough to cause the learner to fail to reach the Intermediate Proficiency Level goal.

Another of the important basic requirements to be able to achieve these proficiency goals is for the learner to complete one (and only one) new lesson every day in each level, in strict numerical order. The limit of one new lesson a day is necessary to allow the built-in practice in the program to be in-put and the new sounds of the foreign language to be retained in the learner's brain. It is also essential to proceed to the next lesson, the next day, only if you are correctly answering the questions in the lesson at about an 80% rate. The Method is designed to have the learner proceed through the Program with a minimum of frustration and a maximum of enjoyment and a sense of fun!

Effective Foreign Language Memory Training as Well as Effective Sound Discrimination Ability

The Pimsleur method solves the all-important problem by introducing every foreign word - both those hard to pronounce as well as the less difficult - in a meaningful context, with an effective backwards build-up. There is a built-in memory-training sequence designed to provide "successive approximation" repeats which enables the learner to arrive at effective pronunciation of hard-to-say foreign words. In addition to solving pronunciation problems, the Pimsleur Method automatically enters each item in a memory-building module call Graduated Interval Recall. This schedule guarantees that, by the end of each level, everything you have learned will have been processed into the language learning portion of your brain, which will have effectively "stored" the structures and vocabulary from your short-term to your long-term memory, making it available for your use when you are speaking in the target language!

And, You are Introduced to Reading the foreign Language

Students who do not participate in doing the important Introduction to Reading, in those Pimsleur programs in which we teach reading, often find themselves unable to correctly pronounce words in the target language when they see them. However, learning to sight-read a language is a subsidiary skill, which can only be effectively learned AFTER a learner has acquired basic spoken-language skills. This is why we teach these skills in the precise order - speaking first and reading second - as it is done in acquiring your mother tongue.

Pimsleur students need to be reminded of this skill when they reach the particular stage of foreign-language learning when some students begin to feel a desire to see the written forms of the spoken language. Linguistic specialists. As well as reading specialists, agree that intelligent and meaningful reading of language requires the spoken-language base such as Pimsleur provides.

Learning to "read" a foreign language, which you do not speak, is the primary reason why students who approach a language from a textbook do not gain the ability to become proficient in the spoken language, or for that matter in truly reading for meaning, as opposed to word-for-word dictionary translations. This also sums up why the Pimsleur Method does not provide printed texts of that reserved for the practice of spoken language only! Having a printed script of a language you cannot speak effectively defeats your wish to be able to understand and speak the target language in a way that allows you to engage in real and proficient conversation.

Simply follow these wonderfully uncomplicated guidelines and you will be delighted with the results you will accomplish by investing 15, 30, or 45 hours of your time - spread out over only a half-hour each day. You will be able to talk with interesting individuals in whatever part of the world you plan to visit.

How Long Does it Take to Learn a Language?
The question of how long it takes to learn a language is not asked as frequently as the question, Can I really learn to speak a language? Some people would be very glad if they could say even a few phrases in a foreign language with a passable accent. Others mainly want to read great works of literature. And still others may aspire to speak and write another language as fluently as their mother tongue.

Before travel abroad became common, foreign languages were associated in this country with educated people and immigrants. The former were often interested only in reading and writing a particular language, while the latter could speak their native language, but had little occasion to read or write it after coming to the United States. Some educated people resembled the upper class British gentlemen of the nineteenth century, who typically "knew" French, but were disinclined to imitate the "peculiar" sounds a Frenchman makes when speaking.

In today's world, many people who study a foreign language chiefly desire to speak it. It is important, therefore, to estimate how well a person can expect to speak a language after studying it for a certain number of hours - and conversely, how many hours it may take him to reach the fluency he has in mind. Several estimates follow on how long it takes to achieve various sorts of mastery, based on FSI data, and personal research.

The FSI (Foreign Service Institute) Rating Scale

Most U.S. government agencies use the FSI Absolute Language Proficiency Ratings to measure a prospective employee's ability to use a foreign language in his work. Once employed, he periodically undergoes the same type of rating as a basis for promotion. The person to be rated is interviewed by one or more trained testers, who are always native speakers. They converse with him for ten to twenty minutes, probing his command of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Then they pool their judgments to assign him a rating. The lowest rating is 1, the highest 5, and any rating can be modified by a plus or minus.

Each rating designates a particular degree of mastery of the language for business and social purposes:

  1. Elementary proficiency. The person is able to satisfy routine travel needs and minimum courtesy requirements.
  2. Limited working proficiency. The person is able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements.
  3. Minimum professional proficiency. The person can speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, and professional topics.
  4. Full professional proficiency. The person uses the language fluently and accurately on all levels normally pertinent to professional needs.
  5. Native or bilingual proficiency. The person has speaking proficiency equivalent to that of an educated native speaker.

How long, one wonders, does it take a person to achieve the minimum 1, and how much longer after that to reach a 2 or a 3?

FSI researchers studied the performance of all their students during a three-year period, noting the ratings they received after various periods of training. Table 1 shows the results for the "easy" languages and for the "hard" languages. Incidentally, the definition of "easy" and "hard" were arrived at by including only Group 1 languages - for the most part the "Romance" languages -under the "easy" languages, while "hard" languages included Groups 2,3, and 4.languages - all other languages - as listed in the second part of the Table below. Whether this is the most valid, or even useful definition of easy and hard to learn languages, depends to a large degree upon whether one feels that language instruction, regardless of learner or teacher preference, must start with each individual learner gradually acquiring an increasing control of the spoken language, before adding written skills, or with the current standard academic approach to avoid language as a spoken skill at first, and work with an eclectic, mixed approach using a written grammar- translation and oral-drill combination, perhaps with a language laboratory, or combinations of film, CD-ROM and/or other equipment. There are advocates on both sides.

"Easy" Languages: (Ratings of FSI students speaking a Group 1 language after specified Periods of training.)

8 weeks (240 hours) 1/1+
16 weeks (480 hours) 2
24 weeks (720 hours) 2+

"Hard" Languages: (Ratings of FSI students speaking a Group 2-4 language after specified Periods of training.)

12 weeks (360 hours) 1/1+
24 weeks (720 hours) 1+ /2
44 weeks (1320 hours) 2/2+ /3

Which Are the "Easy" and "Hard" Languages?

Group 1: French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili

Group 2: Bulgarian, Burmese, Greek, Hindi, Persian, Urdu

Group 3: Amharic, Cambodian, Czech, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Lao, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese

Group 4: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean

In reality, these time estimates are a little lower than they at first appear; holidays and other lost time reduce them by about 10 percent. Nevertheless, the meaning is clear. If you are a language learner of average ability, and you undertake an "easy" language, it will probably take you about 240 hours to get to the first level of mastery in speaking it, and double that to get to Level 2. If you are slower than average at learning languages, allow 50 percent more time, if faster, 50 percent less.

These figures are based on a particular type of instruction: the FSI intensive course where one studies a language for six hours a day, five days a week, in a class of no more than 10 students, led by an experienced linguist and a well-trained native drillmaster. The school is a language-learning paradise, the students are highly motivated, and optimum results are achieved. Yet these estimates are reasonably valid for people who, like most of us, have no choice but to attend a conventional course that meets forty-five minutes a day or a couple of evenings a week.

Human attention is limited. No one can absorb knowledge steadily for six hours a day, week after week; some of the time in intensive courses is necessarily "wasted" in relaxing, clearing one's mind, or plain daydreaming. Moreover, things that seem confusing one day sometimes clear up by the next, after they have settled into place in one's mind. This "incubation" factor favors a non-intensive learning schedule. In short, it is not certain that people who spread their language learning over a longer period necessarily require more total hours than those who concentrate. They may even require fewer.

The overriding message is that anyone can learn a foreign language, but some people are quicker at it than others. Still, language learning is a serious commitment, and if one's aim is to speak it comfortably (say, 2+ on the FSI scale), this is likely to take the equivalent of six months of full-time study.

If your objective is to master the language fully in speech and writing, then you may have to devote at least a year and a half, most of it spent in the foreign country, to reach this objective. A good plan would be to study the language for three to six months at home, and then go to the foreign country for at least a year, during which time you must speak only the foreign language. At the end of this time, you would understand most people and even television and movies, read almost any written matter without a dictionary, and perhaps write with a modicum of style. Adults who go abroad to live find that after several months of getting adjusted to speaking and understanding in everyday situations, they can then begin to penetrate the language and participate in the life of the country.

Some people are dismayed by time estimates that run to hundreds of hours. They feel that this is more time than they are willing to commit. They should reflect on the fact that one year from today they will be one year older whether they undertake this learning task or not. The only question is, whether on that day, they are going to be well along toward mastering the language they have dreamed of knowing, or whether it will still be only a dream.

The Pimsleur Language Teaching Methodology

As noted earlier these FSI learning rates and achievement levels for easy and hard languages are based on learners being trained with a particular FSI Intensive Language Training Program. It is revealing to compare these results with results based on learners using the Pimsleur Self-instructional Language Comprehensive Programs, which consist of three coordinated levels containing 30 audio lessons in each level. Under the Pimsleur Methodology, learners accomplish one 30-minute lesson each and every day.

The Pimsleur method of language training is based upon the assumption that every natural language contains within itself all of the keys to unlock the code of that language. Therefore Pimsleur introduces the learner to any new language by exposing him to spoken language in use i.e. in actual communication. This practice permits the learner to actually "hear" precisely what he needs to hear in order to identify and to understand who is doing what to whom, when, why, and how. In this type of training the learner gains the most powerful aspect of language, which is to be able to hear statements, to understand the situation, and eventually to respond with his own choices.

In short, he will be using all of the meaning-carrying elements human languages have developed over generations to become the incredible tool it has become! What more does a learner of a language need in order to behave as a normal human being and engage in spoken communication with his language community? Teaching him the rules of grammar in English is not an asset he can afford to waste his time on at this stage of his language learning!

All of this essential learning can happen - and be acquired as language-in-use only if the learner is allowed to concentrate on being "exposed" directly to the target language while it is actually-in-use! This means the adult learner can "do his own thing" and having previously developed his linguistic skills, will acquire gradual control of this new language as he did his mother tongue. It will be as natural as talking! And we have made no mention here of the part that learning to re-apply and re-use the same sort of previously acquired linguistic skills will mean to learners. It will also mean they will learn faster and easier and their success will give them the confidence and assurance they need to stay the course of learning!

The important principle in the development of adult spoken-language communication skills training is that learners progress from a compound linguistic system, in which the items of the second language are added to the native language to form a coordinate system. In this coordinate system the two languages can function independently, as appears to be the case with pure bilinguals.

Concerning language acquisition itself, with the exception of those with severe pathologies, everyone who has acquired his native tongue, can, under appropriate conditions, learn to understand, to speak and communicate effectively in additional languages.

A second language will be acquired by a normal human being if and only if particular, whole instances of the language are modeled for him and if his own particular acts of using the language are selectively reinforced. The critical point is that unless a learner has learned them as language-in-use, he has not learned them as language, and that if he has learned enough such instances, he will be able to understand and to effectively communicate in the foreign language.

In second language learning, instructional procedures have a considerable effect in determining the way in which the two languages coexist psychologically. The objective of spoken proficiency levels - effective communication - depends upon the instructional methodology of the teaching/learning Program.

In the space of each Pimsleur lesson of approximately 30 intensive minutes a day, the adult learner will experience real-language use. As he does this, each individual learner builds his own tapestry of language, whether it be in one, or several additional languages, after the first one. Pimsleur learners know they have the power to use languages in real life!

Pimsleur learner's who follow the schedule of Pimsleur training, will test out as follows, on the ACTFL as well as the FSI Proficiency Scales. The ACTFL (The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) has developed their own official Proficiency Scale as a statement of the general aims and goals for the foreign language teaching profession. ACTFL and the FSI have published equivalencies between the two Scales.

Level I Pimsleur Instruction 30-lessons, after only 15 cumulative hours, you will be at the ACTFL Intermediate-low spoken proficiency, (a FSI -1 rating), able to survive and cope in country; able to ask and answer questions dealing with everyday situations, and as well earn respect and cooperation for your fluency, your pronunciation, and courtesy.

Level II Pimsleur Instruction 30 more lessons, after the second 15 cumulative hours, you will be at the ACTFL Intermediate-mid spoken proficiency, (a FSI -1 rating), able to exchange information about yourself, your family, or associates, and avoid basic cultural errors.

Level III Pimsleur Instruction 30 more Lessons, after the final 15 hours of the Comprehensive Program - for a total of 45 hours of training, you will be at the ACTFL Intermediate-high proficiency, (a FSI -1+ rating), able to participate in casual conversations and conduct everyday transactions with success and pleasure in your achievements.

The use of the ACTFL Proficiency Scale in this publication does not constitute endorsement of any private Enterprise or product by The American Counsel On the Teaching of Foreign Language.

What is Graduated Interval Recall?
Graduated Interval Recall is a complex name for a very simple theory about memory. No aspect of learning a foreign language is more important than memory, yet before Dr. Pimsleur's work, no one had explored more effective ways for building language memory.

In his research, Dr. Pimsleur discovered how long students remembered new information and at what intervals they needed to be reminded of it. If reminded too soon or too late, they failed to retain the information. This discovery enabled him to create a schedule of exactly when and how the information should be reintroduced.

Suppose you learn a new word. You tell yourself to remember it, but after five minutes you can't recall it. If you'd been reminded of it after five seconds, you probably would have remembered it for maybe a minute-then you would have needed another reminder. Each time you are reminded, you remember the word longer than you did the time before. The intervals between reminders become longer and longer, until you eventually remember the word without being reminded at all.

This program is designed to remind you of new information at the exact intervals where maximum retention takes place. Each time your memory begins to fade, you will be asked to recall the word. Through this powerful method, you progress from short-term to long-term memory without being aware of it, while avoiding the monotonous rote repetition used in traditional language courses.

What is Principle of Anticipation?
The Principle of Anticipation requires you to "anticipate" a correct answer.

Practically, what this means is that you must think about the situation and retrieve the answer from your own memory before it is confirmed in the lesson. It works as follows: The lesson will pose a challenge-perhaps by asking you, in the new language: "Are you going to the movies today?" There will be a pause, and, drawing on information given previously, you will say: "No, I went yesterday." The instructor will then confirm your answer: "No, I went yesterday."

Before Dr. Pimsleur created his unique self-instructional teaching method, the attempt to teach spoken language was based instead on the principle of rote repetition, rote repetition, and then more rote repetition! Teachers drummed words into the students' minds over and over, as if the mind were a record whose grooves wore deeper with repetition. However, neurophysiologists tell us that, on the contrary, simple and unchallenging repetition has a hypnotic, even dulling effect on the learning. Eventually, the words being repeated as rote practice will lose their meaning. Dr. Pimsleur discovered that learning only takes place when there is a meaningful "input/output" system of interaction between learners and native speakers of the language, in which students receive genuine information and then are asked to retrieve and use it in meaningful exchanges between individuals involved in real-life or simulated spoken communication.

What is Core Vocabulary?
The Pimsleur Method builds upon the fact that in our daily communications in our mother tongues, people use a remarkably few vocabulary items. It has been frequently estimated that the ordinary routines of courtesy language may consist of between 1,500 to 2,000 items we use and re-use most of the time; frequently operating on an almost automatic basis, as we greet people, make a comment or two about the weather or a news event, and say goodbye at the end of a typical exchange. It is the lack of this level of native use of a language that separates the beginning language learner from a native speaker of a language. Because the content of Pimsleur Programs is based upon the most frequently used grammatical structures and everyday vocabulary items in the target language, Pimsleur learners are perfectly at home when conversing with native speakers. They have been using these items from the very first lessons in a Pimsleur Program; and everyone is comfortable and enjoying the interchange. Naturally, when you wish to communicate at more advanced levels of the language, the number of structures and the vocabulary levels-as they do in your own native language, will depend upon the amount of time you have invested in the three Comprehensive Levels of the Pimsleur Series.

Dr. Pimsleur realized the importance of giving the learner a sufficient amount of "everyday spoken language" to give the learner enough useful content to achieve real-life spoken-language exchanges, at the very beginning of spoken language training-enough to undertake and complete several successful encounters to build the confidence of the learner that it is within his own power to achieve actual communicative exchanges with genuine eye-contact and satisfaction for the time invested in learning!! From this point on, language learners KNOW they can speak and understand by this kind of language training, and the limit is to acquire the basic core of the target language from Levels I, II, and III. Pimsleur takes the fear out of learning what-when approached in the "wrong way" seems an impossible task!

We have all been intimidated, when approaching a new language, by the sheer number of new words we have come to believe we must learn. And we partly believe this because we realize how many years we have been working in our own native tongues-and many of us hope there is a miracle cure-when in fact there is the gradual half-hour daily Pimsleur lesson! Extensive linguistic research has shown that we actually need a comparatively limited number of words to be able to communicate effectively in any language. The real trick is not how many words we learn, but rather which-the most frequently used words -THE ACTUAL CORE OF THE LANGUAGE we easily acquire and use with the appropriate structures

Language can be divided into two distinct categories: grammatical structures (function words) and concrete-everyday -vocabulary (content words). By focusing on function words and enabling the student to comprehend and employ the structures of a new language, Dr. Pimsleur found that language learners were able to more readily put new working vocabulary to use in conversations with native speakers of the language.

How do I Use the Pimsleur Language Program?
In order to gain the full benefits from the Pimsleur Language Programs, stick to the guidelines below.

  • Choose a quiet place where you can practice without interruption and a time of day when your mind is most alert and your body least fatigued. You might study in your car, listening to the program while you commute or travel.
  • Once you've started the program, simply follow the tutor's instructions.
  • Speak out loud when directed by the tutor and answer questions. There will be pauses after every instruction, giving you time to reply. It is essential to your progress that you speak out in a normal conversational voice when asked to respond. Your active participation in thinking and speaking is required for your success in mastering this course. After your response, a confirmation will be provided as reinforcement.
  • Do not have a paper and pen nearby during the lessons, and do not refer to dictionaries or other books. The Pimsleur Method works with the language-learning portion of your mind, requiring language to be processed in its spoken form. You will only interrupt the learning process if you try to write the words you hear.
  • Complete the lesson units in strict consecutive order-don't skip around!
  • Try your best to work through only one particular lesson (30 minutes long) each and every day. Dr. Pimsleur's research shows 30 minutes to be the optimum period for learning language, after which the mind loses its ability to retain new information. Although you should do no more than one particular lesson per day, you can repeat the same lesson unit any time during the day.
  • If you are responding correctly about eighty percent of the time, then you're ready to proceed to the next lesson on the following day. It is important to keep moving forward, but also not to set unreasonable standards of perfection that will keep you from progressing, which is why we recommend the eighty percent figure as a guide.
  • If you do not feel comfortable moving on to the next lesson, simply repeat the lesson. Daily contact with the language is critical to successful learning. As long as one lesson is completed each day, even if it is repeated, you will be making progress!

Note that in any large country, and even in many smaller countries, regional differences in language are common. In the United States, for example, a person from Maine can sound very different than someone from Texas. Pronunciations ("accents") vary, and there are also minor differences in vocabulary. For example, what is called a "drinking fountain" in New York or Arizona is known as a "bubbler" in Wisconsin, and a "soft drink" in one part of America will be called "pop" elsewhere. The differences in English are even more distinct between North Americans and Britons, or between Britons and Australians. But all are native speakers of English; all can communicate with spoken English, read the same newspapers, and watch the same television programs, essentially without difficulty.

In addition to regional differences, there are social differences. Pimsleur Language Programs use a standard "educated" speech, which will generally carry you throughout foreign countries without difficulty.


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