Pimsleur Usage: An Unofficial Instruction Guide
Techniques to get more mileage
out of your Pimsleur sets
Dr. Paul Pimsleur already did most of the grunt work when it
came to figuring out how best to teach us new languages. He came up with
innovations such as 30 minute lessons, graduated interval recall, and the
challenge-response format that makes his courses so famous.
But do you stop souping up your Toyota Supra even though you
know it will outgun your neighbor’s Camry at the stoplight? No, you add that
turbocharger to make sure you add a few more feet of dust between you and your
neighbor. Likewise, here are three techniques that you can use to help
turbocharge your Pimsleur experience.
Stop the tape or CD before responding
The first thing one can do to improve retention is to stop
the tape before responding. Especially at the beginning of a new phrase sequence
with new vocabulary, your response time will be slow. The gaps are not long
enough. Take your time, think of the response, and then speak it aloud. Then unpause
the tape. Over time, the neurons in your cerebellum will start to reorganize and
before you know it, your response will be as quick as a reflex!
Create mnemonics for new vocabulary words
Secondly, create a mnemonic for every new vocabulary word
you learn. This will help your short term recall. For example, let’s imagine you
are listening to Pimsleur Comprehensive Japanese from Catee’s Language World and
you hear the new word kuruma, which means car. Kuruma
sounds a little bit like “Cool Room Ah”. You can think of a car, perhaps from MTV’s
Pimp My Ride, as a “cool room, ah!” The inside of that car is a “cool
room” (especially with the air conditioner on). So next time the tape asks you
to say car in Japanese, you can think of your tricked out Toyota Supra
with spoilers, racing stripes, and embedded Playstation 2. It’s your “Cool
Room Ah” -- kuruma!
Don’t overdose on Pimsleur
The last piece of advice is for the overachievers in the audience
(you know who you are). I call it Pimsleur Overdose Syndrome. Symptoms
include high enthusiasm with consumption of ten or more Pimsleur lessons a day.
I commend your enthusiasm, as the author has also been diagnosed with Pimsleur
Overdose Syndrome many times. The prognosis of Pimsleur Overdose Syndrome is lack
of retention of newly learned material into long term memory. Remember that
the Pimsleur courses were designed for one 30-minute lesson a day. By going
over all the lessons in one day, you prevent reinforcement of material over a period
of days, which is essential for retention over the long term. The two treatment
options for Pimsleur Overdose Syndrome are 1) slow down the learning process
and 2) review older material.
I hope these three unofficial tips have been helpful to you.
Remember: 1) stop the tape 2) create mnemonics, and 3) don’t overdose. Good
luck on your linguistic journey!