March 10, 2013
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication Date 2005
Price $230.00 for all 60 lessons; $119.95 for 30 lessons; $21.95 for 5 lessons
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate
Pimsleur offers extremely high-quality interactive audio lessons for many different languages spoken around the world. Unlike some of the more commonly studied languages in the U.S., for which Pimsleur offers 90-120 lessons, the Pimsleur Korean product stops at 60.
Nonetheless, that works out to roughly 30 hours of oral practice, and I strongly recommend it. You learn basic conversational skills, including things like how to order beer, talk about money, talk about what your husband or wife would like to drink, count, etc. That may not sound super-exciting, but Pimsleur Korean is a witty and intelligent product.
A cautionary note when you are beginning: especially with difficult languages, of which Korean is surely an example, Pimsleur can often seem impossible at first listen. These lessons are really hard, perhaps a little too hard. Pimsleur Korean is not for people who are unwilling to suffer for the sake of language skills.
If you are, though, Pimsleur is scrupulously edited—unlike many other language-learning products—with the needs of the learner firmly in mind, and it consistently takes care of those needs. You may have to do each lesson multiple times; I often did. It took me 42 days to complete just the first level (30 lessons), compared to the 19 days it took me to do 90 Italian Pimsleur lessons! (You are actually supposed to do just one lesson a day, according to the Pimsleur people.)
With Korean, there was no language precedent in my brain for the syllables to glue onto; the structure and the sounds are very different from English. I often had to replicate sounds without being sure exactly what the sounds even were, and also without knowing where the word boundaries were, creating a language glop in my head.
Korean sentence structure added to the challenge. Instead of saying, as you would in English, something like “My husband would like to drink water,” you end up in Korean, according to Pimsleur, with something like, “My husband as for, water drink would like.” Words and phrases relating to time (i.e., “this morning,” “yesterday afternoon,” “tomorrow,” etc.) were challenging, because they tended to show up at the ends of the English sentences I was asked to translate into Korean, but at the beginning of the Korean versions. It was hard to make the verbal relocations fast enough.
Still, Pimsleur Korean was way better than anything else I used for this language, and it would have gone even better if I had found a grammar book I really liked, to use alongside the oral lessons.
The products available to English speakers wishing to learn Korean as a foreign language are not great, and it would be wonderful if more were published.