Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pimsleur Language Tapes

When we ditched Rosetta Stone we picked up the Pimsleur Language Tapes. These tapes are available for many languages, come in tape, cd, and even mp3 format, and are carried by most public libraries. Pimsleur works by listening to a 30 minute lesson everyday. The lessons involve you listening to and repeating sentences that get more and more complex as you go along, repetition of earlier material is built into each lesson to help you remember, and the last few minutes are spent in a mock conversation. To make sure your pronunciation is correct, the first time you hear a new word it is repeated broken down into syllables and assembled again. The first ten lessons are very helpful for getting a grounding in the pronunciation and learning key phrases like: I don't understand, where is this street, I'd like some water, etc. As the tapes progress they start to lose their initial charm, however. The sentences grow very complex, as they should, but they are no longer key phrases, and without seeing them written out the breaks between words and particles become confusing. This makes it difficult to substitute in other words you know to try to say a different sentence with the same structure. In addition, the vocab is only explained in English the first time you hear it, which is great, but it means that sometimes five lessons from now a word you don't quite remember will come up and you have no real way of back tracking to figure it out. For me, a grammar book, even something explaining Kana (Japanese phonetic alphabet,) would be extremely helpful when used with the Pimsleur tapes to heighten your ability to identify sounds and particles in sentences. Unfortunately, Pimsleur loves its audio learning technique, and has no print material of its own, so it would be difficult to find a book that covers the same ground as the tapes.