December 7, 2017 | Review Period

2017: Bad for Politics, Good for Pimsleur

The company has introduced more lessons for many languages, and I am happy.

Dear Pimsleur-loving friends, I have noticed new and newish additions to the Pimsleur audio-language-lesson inventory that I feel merit mention.

Every time I look on the Pimsleur website, I see lessons that weren’t there before. I notice them right away, because I know their inventory by heart. Here are the latest developments:

Pimsleur Languages

  1. There are now 150 half-hour lessons each for Chinese and Japanese (60 new ones apiece), as well as 150 each for German, French, Spanish, and Italian.
  2. There are also 90 lessons for Modern Standard Arabic (60 more than when I first studied MSA, and now the exact same number that Pimsleur has for Levantine Arabic).
  3. For Iranian Persian (frequently referred to as Farsi), there are now 60 lessons, double what Pimsleur had before. Yay! There were already 60 lessons for Dari, which is the Persian spoken in Afghanistan.
  4. I see another 30 Brazilian Portuguese lessons, bringing the total to 120.
  5. Hindi lessons have doubled, from 30 to 60.
  6. There are 30 Icelandic lessons. Unfortunately I ran out of time to do more than two of them before I went to Iceland this fall! Oops.
  7. The 60 Korean lessons have been redone and improved to better match modern Korean speech.
  8. Norwegian lessons have doubled from 30 to 60.
  9. There are 30 more Russian lessons, bringing the total to 120.
  10. Tagalog has doubled too, from 30 to 60 lessons.

I am extremely excited about these developments. This means I will have company for a lot of long walks. In tough times, Pimsleur serves as excellent political-stress-reduction therapy. 

Now, not to be greedy, but for 2018 I wish for 30 more Swedish lessons, 30 more Polish lessons, and one new American president.

Comments (6)

Alex • Posted on Fri, December 08, 2017 - 1:36 am EST

Been awhile since I’ve been here, hasn’t it?

I was thinking about all the new inventory they’ve added, and I realized something. I’m sure you know about all the politeness levels of Japanese, a system so crazy even Richard Feynman gave up on learning the language because it was so difficult.

But what if they make more lessons for Japanese than for other languages? I think Japanese would need that if it’s really that difficult. Romance languages like French and Spanish might stop at 150 or so, they’re a lot more linear and understandable in that respect but Japanese could take quite a bit of time to learn if they also want to teach the more informal registers (I’d think they’d teach the most polite stuff first so you don’t offend anyone in Japan if you head straight there after studying). Japanese might not even be the only language that needs it, either, but it’s the most obvious candidate I can think of.

By the way, there’s a post-WWII story that says an American sergeant was trying to command a Japanese crew on their way to Hawaii. But he was getting frustrated because nothing he told them to do was sinking in, and he soon learned why: The Japanese his translators were using was only the most polite stuff. He was basically bellowing polite requests to get things done, so he wasn’t being taken as seriously as he wanted. His helpers had only learned from elderly Japanese-Americans who only imparted the most polite grammar to them.

Also, I couldn’t resist:
“There are 30 Icelandic lessons. Unfortunately I ran out of time to do more than two of them before I went to Iceland this fall! Oops.”
For shame, Ellen, for shame… ;)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, December 08, 2017 - 1:42 am EST

Hi Alex, I know! It’s terrible! The Icelandic was so nice, too. I am so ashamed.

Okay, I’m not THAT ashamed. But really, that would kind of have been the moment to get those lessons done.

I have trouble with the politeness levels, so yeah, I hear you on the Japanese. I need lots of extra handholding.

Also, you know what’s weird? Before studying Japanese I did not know that it was as hard as it was, and before studying Chinese I thought it was harder than it was. Are their reputations distorted in oppositely wrong directions?

Andy Roberts • Posted on Sun, December 10, 2017 - 2:10 pm EST

Ellen, Japanese is easier for beginners (mostly because of its easy pronunciation and its many borrowed words from English and other European languages) and gets much harder at the intermediate level because of its grammar, writing system, formality levels, and cultural assumptions. What I mean by cultural assumptions is, it’s not uncommon for a Japanese speaker to say half a sentence (or even one word) and let the hearer figure out the rest. It’s a lot easier to figure out the rest if you share the same culture.

Mandarin Chinese is harder for most beginners (mostly because of its pronunciation/pinyin spelling, because of tonal changes, and because there’s almost no shared vocabulary with English and other European languages) but its grammar is usually pretty easy—at least for beginners.

It’s too bad that Pimsleur doesn’t teach Slovene (the language of the next Polyglot Conference). Are you planning to learn a little bit of it? If so, from what course?

Alex, Glossika makes a good follow-up to Pimsleur. Otherwise, there are plenty of beginner textbook series like “Elementary Japanese” and “Genki” which can review what Pimsleur taught and go deeper into grammatical and cultural explanations (such as politeness levels). A weakness of Pimsleur is that different languages tend to be taught more or less the same way, so that some of the intricacies of a language are left out. Glossika, actually, has the same weakness—or at least, it used to. It was recently redesigned.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, December 10, 2017 - 4:43 pm EST

Andy, I don’t know whether I will prepare linguistically for Slovenia. Do you have any suggestions? I think I have a dictionary—if so, that’s it!

Andy Roberts • Posted on Mon, December 11, 2017 - 9:54 am EST

Colloquial, Teach Yourself, Glossika, and Book2 all have Slovene courses. With Book2, you can download free audio (sentences spoken in Slovene with English translations) in groups of 50 sentences per MP3 file. It then becomes a spoken phrasebook that you can listen to/repeat after as you walk. Since you’ve studied other Slavic languages, that should be enough. You can always buy one of the books I mentioned if you want to read about its grammar (which I know you enjoy doing).

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Mon, December 11, 2017 - 10:57 am EST

Thank you, Andy! Super helpful!

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