Pimsleur Korean

5 Korean, Audio Lessons

March 10, 2013

Series  Pimsleur
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.

I Wish There Were More Pimsleur Korean Lessons
I Wish There Were More Pimsleur Korean Lessons

Comments (17)

David • Posted on Fri, June 28, 2013 - 3:42 pm EST

What do you do after using Pimsleur I and II?  I’m using them right now and trying to figure out what to do next.  Thanks

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, June 28, 2013 - 9:37 pm EST

David, that is a great question. One of my goals after I finish phase 1 of this project (which will be at the end of the summer) is to revisit languages I have studied over the past four years and research additional resources for them. I am hoping to outline a strategy for each language, a kind of syllabus, for people who are studying on their own. That will take a while, though.

In the meantime, how about looking for a conversation partner on a site like Or watching Korean TV online or through cable? Or looking on YouTube for Korean videos (really not sure what’s there, though)? I like VocabuLearn for vocabulary acquisition, by the way. None of these options is like Pimsleur, but they could help.

Do you know how to write Korean and do you have a grammar book to supplement the oral work? Or are you focusing entirely on oral skills?

I review a number of Korean resources here: I can tell you, though, that Korean was one of the hardest languages to date to find good self-study resources for. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, of course! I hope you will let me know if you discover something wonderful, and I hope to provide more options here myself in the future.

David • Posted on Fri, June 28, 2013 - 10:56 pm EST

Thanks for the response. I’ve known how to read and write Korean for a while. Learning the alphabet is very easy. And I’ve studied grammar a little, but I find conversation the most challenging part, so I’m focusing on that now. My wife is Korean, so I have a native speaker at home.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, June 28, 2013 - 11:21 pm EST

Easy, huh? ;)

I didn’t find the writing system so easy. I mean, it is systematic, but it is quite a change from English! It’s very pretty in any case.

I think for most people it is hard to speak to a spouse in anything but the language that allows for the best possible communication and where skills are evenly matched. It is of course up to the people involved, but in your position, I would probably find it easier to trade lessons with a stranger whose English skills were comparable to my Korean skills.

theczechexperiment • Posted on Wed, July 24, 2013 - 12:37 pm EST

“compared to the 19 days it took me to do 90 Italian Pimsleur lessons!”

Thank you very much for sharing this experience. I’ve be looking for this kind of info.


Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, July 24, 2013 - 12:51 pm EST

Igor, I just took a look at your website. Fun experiment! I wish you luck!

Minkyoung Kim • Posted on Fri, November 21, 2014 - 1:25 am EST

Hey glad to read your posts! I am Korean, and luckily I found your post while searching about pimsleur. It’s good to see you are (or were) focusing on learning Korean. I’m gonna get pimsleur English or French. But I have a question. Now I have bit high-quality English grammar skills, but have weak points on listening or speaking. If I get a pimsleur English, I could feel it’s too easy for me? Does pimsleur only suit to the people who is a beginner?
My question would be hard to answer it, but please let me know and determine. Thanks :)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, November 21, 2014 - 1:29 am EST

Hello, Minkyoung! Here’s the thing about Pimsleur: I think it could help you refine little errors you’re not currently aware you’re making and also really help you with pronunciation. The content itself you will probably find very easy, I am going to guess. Do you enjoy refining and tweaking small problems, or do you want to get significant new blocks of information fast?

Keira • Posted on Mon, September 12, 2016 - 4:34 pm EST

Hi Ellen! i was looking at the speakers and agenda of this year’s Polyglot Conference and found your website! I am Korean working at Ohio University as a faculty member. I learned modern Greek using Pimsleur and found it very useful. But when my boyfriend (he is Greek) started learning Korean with Pimsleur I found the Korean used in it very absurd. It is teaching you in the highest deferential level, which is okay but several sentences were very absurd to me. For example, it teaches you “어떠십니까?” as how are you but it is a bit hard for me to take it as how are you if I hear it alone. It is more like “how do you like….” or “how do you feel about ....” -요 is way more frequently used in Korean and I wish Pimleur were teaching Korean in -요 forms rather than -ㅂ니다 forms.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, September 14, 2016 - 1:20 pm EST

Hi Keira!

Thank you so much for writing about this issue. Can you tell me how far your boyfriend went with Pimsleur? In general they start out with the most formal language and then introduce at least somewhat more casual material later. They have 60 lessons for Korean, so I’m curious how far he went. Korean really remains the language that was hardest for me with Pimsleur, out of the 21 or so I’ve completed with them.

Hey, you know what? Since I wrote this review, Glossika has come out with Korean materials. I haven’t used Glossika Korean yet, but I love Glossika for Greek. Your boyfriend would need to have some foundation in Korean to get the most out of the material, but in general I think Glossika focuses on more colloquial language. Here’s the link:

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, September 14, 2016 - 1:25 pm EST

P.S. for Keira: One of my biggest challenges in terms of language learning involves different formality levels, especially highly formal ones. It is hard for my low-hierarchy American-born brain to process. So it is kind of a relief to hear you say this. :)

P.P.S. I think it’s so nice that you and your boyfriend are trading language studies in this way—especially for languages so different from each other. That is very romantic!

Steve • Posted on Mon, June 12, 2017 - 4:15 pm EST

I have been using the Pimsleur Korean set and found it really great to practice as I drive, and feel that I have progressed well. I felt confident until I tried it.
The feedback from a Korean speaker that I work with, was that it is incredibly formal, which I don’t mind, but she also said that some of the sentences don’t make sense.
The word for “something” is not used correctly for example and so if I follow the Pimsleur way, I will end up not being being well understood.
Small things like this make me lose confidence in the other parts of the language that I have now memorised and practised. I need something better, can you recommend anything?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, June 20, 2017 - 10:55 am EST

Steve, do you know how old the set you used was? I know that Pimsleur recently updated Korean I and II for precisely this reason.

Steve Bloem • Posted on Tue, June 20, 2017 - 5:12 pm EST

Hi Ellen, thanks for the reply. Yes I think it is 2005/2006.

guy • Posted on Sun, September 24, 2017 - 7:01 pm EST

I’m learning Pimsleur Korean atm and I find it extremely difficult compared to the others. I can’t remember sh_t.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, September 24, 2017 - 7:07 pm EST

Guy, are you using the latest version? They have recently updated both levels. I am going to do the revised levels one of these days.

Richard Bull • Posted on Fri, November 23, 2018 - 2:34 pm EST

Hi Ellen
I am interested to learn Korean as I work for a Korean company. I am a little concerned at some of the negative feedback here for Pimsleur. Do you have any updates or do you still consider Pimsleur one of the best?

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