October 2, 2009 | Arabic

Pimsleur Marathon

An all-Pimsleur kind of day.

It is 10:24 p.m., and I have just completed a Pimsleur marathon—the most Pimsleur I’ve ever done in a day. I redid lessons 1 and 2 (Level II), which I had already done multiple times yesterday. Then I ran. I would have liked to take Pimsleur with me, but I left it behind, because the sentences I have to construct now are too long and complicated for me to be able to run, breathe, and respond to Pimsleur prompts.

Midtown Manhattan

I met a friend for lunch in midtown, then came home and immediately began doing Pimsleur again. I redid lesson 2, again, successfully this time, and then did lesson 3 satisfactorily, and lesson 4, less satisfactorily. Instead of stopping to redo 4, though, I just kept going. I did 5, 6, and 7, then tried to do 8 (which track was missing for some reason), then 9, then 10. It felt like a real immersion experience. Much of it I did in bed with the lights down. Without falling asleep, though.

In spite of the avalanche of information, I wasn’t actually doing all that badly until I got to lesson 10. Lesson 10 did not go well. Tomorrow I will go back to 4 and redo everything from there.

One thing that surprised me today: I am feeling as though Arabic is suddenly a lot easier than Russian. At least what I’ve been exposed to so far. The cases are so much easier, i.e., there don’t seem to be any. Maybe there are cases, I don’t know yet, but in places where they popped up in the Russian at this point, I haven’t seen any in Arabic. Everything is simple. Words seem to be reused for all kinds of purposes, even where in English or Russian different ones would have popped up. Patterns repeat in simple and obvious ways—the ak at the ends of nouns, for example, indicating possession by a masculine “you.” Things strike my brain as very logical.

There were constructs in Russian, on the other hand, that drove me nuts. All those noun and adjective cases made certain basic concepts very complicated. The words seem a lot shorter in Arabic, too. What confuses me is, how can they get enough meaning out of such short words? Will the words get longer? Since I am not doing much besides Pimsleur, I am not learning as much about the language from a second, complementary source as I did with Russian, where I had two solid sources, one oral and one written, that I used regularly.

Comments (3)

Abdul • Posted on Tue, August 13, 2013 - 2:28 pm EST

Hello Ellen,

I don’t know how often you update your blog, but I had just come across it today and I find it inspiring, interesting and quite helpful.

Can you elaborate some more or make another post detailing your marathon and immersion experience with Pimsleur? This blog post really caught my interest. I am already at Intermediate level in Modern Standard Arabic and Syrian Arabic is one of the two spoken dialects I am looking to learn, the other being Iraqi dialect. But Pimselur has a very strong and well known reputation considering the patented Pimsleur approach. Ease of use and user friendliness are features that will get my attention any day and because of this it is more likely that I will go with Syrian/Eastern Arabic just because of Pimsleur’s approach.

I really hope you can share a little more with your readers your experiences and results of doing a Pimsleur Marathon.

Ma’a Salaame,

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, August 18, 2013 - 12:02 pm EST

Greetings, Abdul.

Thank you for the nice comments. There is so much I can say about Pimsleur (and have, throughout this site, probably to the annoyance of some readers) that I’m not sure what I should add here.

It was because Pimsleur was so good and had a full 90 lessons’ worth of Eastern Arabic that I went with Eastern Arabic over another dialect. I would do it again, too. Although if they end up with 90 lessons of Modern Standard as well, I would perhaps reconsider next go-around…

My Arabic Pimsleur marathon was nothing compared to my Italian Pimsleur marathon, when I did 90 lessons in 19 days. I should emphasize that I have never done ONLY Pimsleur in my studies; I always use books on the side, to reinforce the written form of the language I am studying. But nothing has worked as well as Pimsleur to get me speaking. Of course, I haven’t tried all the products of the world, but I am working on it! ;)

Ease of use is critical to me, too. I like running over other sports, for example, because you put on your shoes and go out the door. Easy as pie. Pimsleur is like that. I don’t have to worry about logging in, changing speaker settings, getting stuck sitting at a computer, etc. How far I have gotten with a language in a short period of time is highly correlated to how many Pimsleur lessons are available for that language. Right now I am studying Yiddish, my first totally Pimsleurless language, and my oral skills are virtually nonexistent. Sad. I am focusing instead on reading and writing.

Anyway, there is a lot of mindlessness in many language-learning products. Designers get bogged down in creating cute features that aren’t actually making you think. Thinking is critical to language-learning, and with Pimsleur you have to think nonstop, in a very active and sometimes exhausting way, but in any case in a way that is always rewarding to me.

Conversation with native speakers is ideal, so I am not suggesting Pimsleur is a replacement for that. However, I generally find that 90 lessons of Pimsleur, accompanied by grammar books and vocabulary work, help get me to the point where I can do something meaningful in conversation. When people say that to learn a language you should just start talking to people, that’s fine if you are in a country where the target language is spoken natively around you at all times, but it is less useful advice when you are not. And no matter what, the reality is that people are going to be more interested in talking to you when you can say something more advanced than “hi” and “thank you.”

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have other questions.


Abdul • Posted on Thu, August 22, 2013 - 2:26 pm EST

Shukran Jazilan for your very helpful advice Ellen.

Ma’a Salame

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