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Pimsleur Review

Monday, May 20th

2024 Chinese Lesson Reviews

Pimsleur Review 3.5 Star Rating


3.5 Star Rating
  • Price: $14.95 for audio-only, $19.95 for audio and text-based exercises
  • First week is free
  • Discounts available with the annual plan
  • Audio lessons can be convenient for multitasking
  • Can be used anytime, anywhere
  • Syncs progress across all devices
  • Multiple account members are allowed
  • Offers Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese
  • Starts with simple survival phrases and builds up to complex conversations

If you want to learn to speak a new language, Pimsleur thinks the best way to do that is to actually speak the language. In other words, Pimsleur's method relies on interactive speaking practices supported by techniques like Graduated Interval Recall for long-term memory retention, "mini-step challenges" to overcome conversational fear, focusing on core vocabulary to start speaking in as little as 30 days, and intuitive grammar learning through listening. This holistic approach is designed to make learning efficient, natural, and deeply ingrained, mimicking the way we naturally acquire language. After all, you've never seen a baby studying a sentence diagram, so why would you? Pimsleur offers Cantonese Chinese in addition to Mandarin Chinese.

Fit Chinese into your life easily

When you're starting any new habit, it's important that it fits into your lifestyle - the less friction there is, the easier the habit will be to maintain. For people who are short on time but who spend part of their day commuting or doing hands-on household chores, Pimsleur could be a great way to fit in some Chinese practice. The lessons are audio-only and therefore hands-free, meaning you can listen in the car, while you fold laundry, or while you're doing yard work. But it's probably best not to take your Pimsleur lessons at the gym or grocery store, unless you don't mind getting a few funny looks for talking to yourself.

Multiple account members allowed

Whether you're using the Pimsleur app on the move, engaging with Alexa in the comfort of your home, or sitting at your computer, your language learning can happen anytime, anywhere. What's more, your progress is seamlessly synced across all devices. And there's something for the whole household: one main account holder plus up to three additional members can track their individual learning journeys. So, if you're keen on navigating the streets of Beijing solo, or if your family dreams of a cultural deep-dive into the heart of China, each person gets a customized, in-sync learning experience

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$19.95 for audio and text-based exercises

The first week of Pimsleur is free. After that, it's $14.95/month for audio-only. If you want the visual tools such as the Speak Easy role-play tool, a vocabulary bank, and flashcards, you have to pay $19.95/month. By paying $20.95 per month, you also get access to all of Pimsleur's language courses. Unfortunately, they don't disclose all of this upfront, only when you start the checkout process. They're likely counting on your credit card already being out to have a better chance of getting more of your money. If you're interested in discounts, consider opting for an annual plan. You can save up to 34% this way - it's $134.95 for Audio Only, $149.95 for Premium, and $164.95 for All Access. You can also cancel your membership or switch from a monthly to an annual subscription at any time.

You won't learn the characters until later

The obvious drawback of using the entirely audio-based plan to learn Chinese is that you won't get practice with the writing systems - neither pinyin nor hanzi. That's why we think to get the most use out of Pimsleur, you'll need the Premium subscription. After signing up and taking the free 30 minute audio lesson, we had a decent grasp on what certain phrases sounded like, but they didn't really click into place until we played the Quick Match review game where we could see the words we'd learned written out. For any written exercise, you can toggle between pinyin and hanzi. However, unless you have a photographic memory, you can't count on retaining much of the hanzi you're shown - at least not early on.

Pronunciation Practice is hit-or-miss

Pimsleur recently introduced a new feature where you listen to a phrase in English, then in Chinese, and then record yourself pronouncing it to be graded. However, we think their system could be a little tougher with its grading. For example, we didn't really know how to say the last word of "wo hui shuo yi dianr" (" I can speak a little" ), and while the playback of our best guess sounded wrong to even our untrained ear, the AI still told us it was "Excellent" (just to make sure it doesn't give a positive result every time, we spoke some English into the mic and were appropriately asked if we'd like to try again).

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Reading Chinese characters at the end of the course

How far can Pimsleur take you? The great news is that they have 150 of those 30-minute lessons across 5 levels of Mandarin proficiency. That's about 15 hours of audio for each level. You'll start with simple survival phrases and build up to confidently discussing complex topics, including your personal and emotional experiences. By the end, you'll understand fast-paced conversations and be able to express yourself in depth. Alongside speaking and listening, you'll also learn to read. Starting with Hanyu Pinyin, the phonetic system for Mandarin, and progressing to Hanzi, the Chinese characters, by Level 5. You'll finish feeling confident in your ability to communicate and with a deeper insight into the Chinese language and culture.

Great for audio learners, but try it first

We'd say Pimsleur is great - for a specific category of people, namely, the audio learners among us. There are plenty of testimonials from everyday people and celebrities alike to be found on Pimsleur's website for whom the method works great. Lots of users say they never thought they could learn a second language until they found Pimsleur. On the other hand, others who are used to and comfortable with more text-based, go-at-your-own-pace language learning methods might find themselves frustrated by having to ask Ms. Wang how she likes her tea fifteen times, word by word. So, we'd recommend you sign up to try out the free lesson and see if Pimsleur works for you.

Where Can You Get the Best Chinese Lessons Online?

The motivations for learning Chinese are as diverse and compelling as the language itself. Perhaps you're fascinated by the rich history and culture of China, eager to read its classical poetry or modern literature in its original form. Maybe you're looking to expand your business skills and communicate directly with the vast Chinese market. Or, you might dream of traveling through China, exploring everything from bustling cities to serene landscapes, all while engaging with locals in their native tongue.

Learning Chinese, however, presents a unique set of challenges unlike those found in learning languages like Spanish or French. For one, there's the intricate system of Chinese characters, each carrying its own meaning and pronunciation, which can seem daunting at first glance. Then, there's the tonal nature of Mandarin Chinese, where the meaning of a word can change dramatically with the pitch of your voice.

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Chinese Lesson FAQ

With China being the most populated country in the world, it will come as no surprise that an estimated 1.31 billion people speak Chinese - approximately 16% of everyone on the planet! And, that only includes those whose first or native language is Chinese, not those who are learning it as a second (or third!) language.
There are seven primary dialect groups in Chinese: Mandarin, Yue (or Cantonese), Min, Kejia, Gan, Xiang and Wu. Mandarin is the most widely used and is the dialect you'll most likely use if you travel to Taiwan, Singapore, or China, particularly in the northern regions. Most Chinese lessons are based on Mandarin.
Chinese is one of four languages ranked as a Category IV by the State Department's Foreign Service Institute: a designation that means that, for native English speakers, Chinese is "exceptionally difficult" (along with Arabic, Japanese, and Korean). However, if you're patient and hard-working, you can learn to speak and write in Chinese!
Many experts recommend focusing first on learning how to speak Chinese. The written language is extremely complex, because it's based on pictographs and not a phonetic alphabet, and most learners have a bigger need to communicate orally than in writing. Chinese is a tonal language, where shifting the "shape" of one's voice can change a syllable into a different word. (In Mandarin, for example, the syllable "ma" can mean everything from "mother" to "horse" and even "to scold" depending on the tone!) That can be very tricky for non-Asian learners to master, making it a great place to start.
There's no way to study Chinese that's more convenient than online lessons. You don't have to worry about making it to class on time, being able to register for a course, or turning in homework! Studying Chinese online is also much more affordable, and it lets you take things at your own pace.
Depending on whether you're using a Mac or PC (or an iPhone or Android), there are different steps you can take to enable a Chinese keyboard. Your best bet is to do a search based on the operating system you've got and follow the steps to turn on the Chinese language functionality.
No! You can choose classes with one-time fees for a complete course or a monthly subscription for continuous access, but both types of Chinese lessons are very affordable. For example, one popular program has a 12-month membership for just $16.66 per month, and another offers two levels of Chinese lessons for $249.90. You'll have a hard time finding an in-person class for less than that!
Sometimes. If you've subscribed to a monthly plan, you'll probably be able to cancel future recurring payments. If you've paid for a package of Chinese lessons, some platforms will allow you to request a refund within the first 30-60 days of use. However, your best option is to use any free lessons or resources that the language program offers prior to purchase: many sites have partial or full lessons you can try before you buy, or a 7-day trial you can use before your payments kick in. That's a great way to find out if the Chinese lessons you're considering are a good match for how you learn and what you want to get out of your studies.
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But don't let these hurdles deter you. With commitment and the right resources, you're on your way to fluency. Mastering Chinese opens up a universe of cultural, professional, and social opportunities, allowing you to connect with over a billion speakers worldwide.

Online Chinese lessons offer a variety of approaches to suit different learning preferences. For auditory learners, there are programs focused on immersive listening practices, helping you attune your ear to the nuances of the language. If you're game for a challenge, gamified learning platforms make acquiring new vocabulary and grammar points engaging, rewarding your progress with points and badges.

For those who prefer a more structured learning path, comprehensive courses provide a blend of video lessons, interactive quizzes, and writing exercises, ensuring you develop a well-rounded skill set, from character recognition and writing to speaking and listening.

And if personal interaction is what drives your learning, tutoring services connect you with native Chinese speakers for real-time conversation and cultural exchange, enriching your study with authentic experiences.

Feeling overwhelmed by the options? Here's what to consider as you begin your journey to learn Chinese:

  • Current fluency level. Assess whether you're starting from scratch or if you have some knowledge of Chinese. Choose lessons that align with your starting point.
  • Learning medium. Determine whether you prefer app-based lessons, audio files, desktop platforms, or another format that fits your lifestyle and learning habits.
  • Skill focus. Decide if you want to concentrate on listening and speaking, reading and writing, or a combination. Remember, Chinese characters are essential for reading and writing, and tone practice is critical for understanding and being understood.
  • Pinyin vs. characters. Consider if the app emphasizes learning through pinyin (the Romanization of Chinese sounds) or focuses more on teaching Chinese characters. Some learners may prefer starting with pinyin to master pronunciation before moving on to characters, while others might want to dive directly into character recognition and writing.
  • Cost. Evaluate whether the lessons are priced as a one-time payment or require a subscription. Consider the value of free options and the benefits of paid upgrades.
  • Learner reviews. Look for feedback from other learners. Their experiences can provide insight into the effectiveness of the platform and the time it may take to see progress.

To guide you to the best Chinese lessons for your goals and preferred learning style, our team at Top Consumer Reviews has tested today's leading options and provided honest feedback on what each one offers. So, what are you waiting for? Embark on your Chinese learning adventure today!

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