March 11, 2014 | Review Period

The Pimsleur Diet

A plan to tour some languages and lose the winter pounds.

I have gained about 12 pounds over the past year, the majority of them during this unusually cold, precipitation-filled winter. This is not an acceptable development for me, and I am running out of zippable pants. Leggings keep working because they are stretchy, but even those have their limits.

My mind works better when the rest of me feels good.

Ducks on the Lake in Central Park, Favoring Ice Over Ice Water

Ducks on the Lake in Central Park, Favoring Ice Over Ice Water

To remedy this problem, I have decided to merge language-learning and fitness goals. A key objective here is to avoid having to shop for new clothes; the money I save can instead go to language products. 

When I first started this language project in 2009, I immediately and inadvertently lost 10 pounds by doing gobs of Pimsleur on walks and runs. So here’s the plan: I am going to try it again. Do a bunch of Pimsleur lessons, ones I haven’t tried before, while getting off my bottom and exercising.

I have completed about 20 of Pimsleur’s available languages and dialects, but the company offers more than 50. So there are plenty to choose from, and I will see what I can get through while also removing myself from my language-learning sofa (yeah, I kind of have one!) and spending more time outdoors.

More vegetables, no ice cream, and languages from around the world—what could be better? And it’s nearly spring! 

I have downloaded their Ukrainian and Cantonese lessons, but I haven’t yet decided what will be first. I am envisioning this as a delightful selection of appetizers rather than an intensive three-month binge per language. I am not suggesting this is a practical strategy for retention, but I think it will be fun for me and give me exposure to more languages that I really want to know at least something about.

So many languages possible! Ojibwe! Lithuanian! Finnish! Armenian! Twi! Vietnamese!

The list is long.

If anyone else would like to try the Pimsleur Diet, you are very welcome to join me. One language will suffice! The goal date for me to unload the weight is Tax Day: April 15th.

Comments (10)

Alex • Posted on Thu, March 13, 2014 - 10:48 am EST

As much as I’ve tried to get off my patootie and lose a few pounds, I’ve recently become distracted from French. Unacceptable in my view, really. At least I retain it much better this time, having done all 120 lessons consecutively this time around. (Having to spend 120 days straight doing something will really test your limits and teach you things about yourself you never knew before.)

I’ve had some success with watching movies I’ve already seen with French dubbing and English soundtrack options, but I think I should do something more like the 501 French Verbs software, just to stay sharp.

But for me it seems I have to pick one or the other for a given moment, I can’t do both. I can juggle both objectives over a sustained period of time but I can’t, say, do Pimsleur on a treadmill or something like that.

I don’t know how you do it, Ellen! XD

Shannon K • Posted on Fri, March 14, 2014 - 3:15 pm EST

I’ll join you!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, March 14, 2014 - 8:01 pm EST

Shannon! This is so AWESOME!! Now I’m happy. I will confess here that there have been some, um, small difficulties in the first 72 hours, but I am mentally back on course. I have had to amend my plan. I tried Tagalog on my last run and my brain started frying. It was overwhelming. I have too many partly digested language bits floating around up there, so I am converting my Pimsleur diet to a Pimsleur REVIEW diet, where I redo lessons from the past several years. I am going to try Russian tomorrow. I have almost finished the last few of the 90 Pimsleur Levantine lessons. (Those were begun a while ago, just to be clear. I don’t mean that I redid them in the three days since this blog entry!)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, March 14, 2014 - 8:03 pm EST

Alex, ha ha, patootie sounds almost French. What a cute word that is! :) I was greatly attracted to your reference to the 501 French Verbs software. I haven’t used that and I need something like that at present. Do you know it already? What’s it like?

Alex • Posted on Sat, March 15, 2014 - 10:31 am EST

I haven’t actually used it yet, but I can tell you this: Installing it on your computer is _not_ sufficient. Keep that little disc handy - you’re still going to need it. I feel like an idiot after the fiasco I went through the first time :O

I’ll report back when I’ve given it a spin for reals this time!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sat, March 15, 2014 - 11:38 am EST

Thank you, Alex. And thank you for the tech tip. I get so frustrated with any technological obstacles. Like iTunes is making me crazy right now. It has eaten some Pimsleur lessons and I want them back…

Alex • Posted on Thu, March 20, 2014 - 8:25 pm EST

To followup on my previous post, the software is… rather disappointing. I would prefer a more robust selection of things to do, but I blew through over half the disc in less than ten minutes and it doesn’t appear that the exercises would change the next time I used it. I suppose it’s useful for a quick brush-up but there’s relatively little to offer, with fewer exercises than you might expect and not terribly challenging ones either (if you actually know the material at all, and I mean, _at all_). I don’t know why a program this limited couldn’t be on Barron’s official website as opposed to being packed-in with one of their books.

Robert • Posted on Wed, March 26, 2014 - 10:54 pm EST

Hi Ellen!  So happy to see you are continuing your language blog and studies.  I have not been on here in a while due to starting a new job (I wanted to learn sales skills, so went into sales with TWC).  I haven’t studied any languages for a while, but I am downloading the Big Ten from Pimsleur now.  I agree with the Pimsleur cud-chewing method (for the farming-challenged [not saying you’re farming challenged Ellen, but I don’t know who else may read this], cows have 4 stomachs and so they eat something, puke it back up a little, rechew it [called cud] and then finish digesting it).  I think I am going to start with a review of Japanese (the first language I studied for reals as a kid at Governor’s Scholars Program in Kentucky).  I will try to be less of a stranger on here and keep more abreast of of the wonderful work you’re doing.

James • Posted on Tue, January 06, 2015 - 3:20 pm EST

I had a number of Pimsleur courses purchased through iTunes, and they disappeared after my hard drive crashed and was replaced. There’s no record of my courses in the cloud, so I can’t get them back from there. I did save them to an external hard drive but they will not download to my mobile device. I understand that there are licensing issues, but is there any possibility of regaining my lost lessons? Have you had any success in your case? I’d be grateful for any information you might have.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, January 09, 2015 - 8:59 pm EST

Agh. iTunes, James, is the bane of my existence. I cannot understand it. Do you not have email receipts for the courses?

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