The Principle of Anticipation
The Principle of Anticipation requires you to "anticipate" a correct answer. Practically, what this means is that you must retrieve the answer from your own memory before it is confirmed in the lesson. It works as follows:
The lesson will pose a challenge -- perhaps by asking you, in the new language:
"Are you going to the movies today?"
There will be a pause, and, drawing on information given previously, you will say:
"No, I went yesterday."
The instructor will then confirm your answer: "No, I went yesterday."
Before Dr. Pimsleur created his teaching method, language courses were based instead on the principle of repetition. Teachers drummed words into the students' minds over and over, as if the mind were a record whose grooves wore deeper with repetition. However, neurophysiologists tell us that, on the contrary, simple and unchallenging repetition has a hypnotic, even dulling effect on the learning process. Eventually, the words being repeated will lose their meaning. Dr. Pimsleur discovered that learning accelerates when there is an "input/output" system of interaction, in which students receive information and then are asked to retrieve and use it.
Graduated Interval Recall
Graduated Interval Recall is a complex name for a very simple theory about memory. No aspect of learning a foreign language is more important than memory, yet before Dr. Pimsleur's work, no one had explored more effective ways for building language memory.
In his research, Dr. Pimsleur discovered how long students remembered new information and at what intervals they needed to be reminded of it. If reminded too soon or too late, they failed to retain the information. This discovery enabled him to create a schedule of exactly when and how the information should be reintroduced.
Suppose you learn a new word. You tell yourself to remember it, but after five minutes you can't recall it. If you'd been reminded of it after five seconds, you probably would have remembered it for maybe a minute -- then you would have needed another reminder. Each time you are reminded, you remember the word longer than you did the time before. The intervals between reminders become longer and longer, until you eventually remember the word without being reminded at all.
This program is designed to remind you of new information at the exact intervals where maximum retention takes place. Each time your memory begins to fade, you will be asked to recall the word. Through this powerful method, you progress from short-term to long-term memory without being aware of it, while avoiding the monotonous rote repetition used in traditional language courses.
The Principle of Anticipation and Graduated Interval Recall are the foundation of the Pimsleur Method, but there are other unique components that are also important. One is the theory of a core vocabulary. We have all been intimidated, when approaching a new language, by the sheer number of new words we must learn. But extensive research has shown that we actually need a comparatively limited number of words to be able to communicate effectively in any language.
Language can be divided into two distinct categories: grammatical structures (function words) and concrete vocabulary (content words). By focusing on function words and enabling the student to comprehend and employ the structure of a new language, Dr. Pimsleur found that language learners were able to more readily put new knowledge to use. There are very few content words that are used every day. The essential core of a language involves function words, which tend to relate to human activities.
The Pimsleur Method centers around teaching, in the shortest time possible, functional mastery in understanding and speaking a language. You will be working on your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation all at once, while also learning phrases that have practical use in daily life. It has been said that language is primarily speech. With this concept in mind, Dr. Pimsleur created his language programs on audio because he knew that students of languages would learn better with their ears, not their eyes. This is achieved through what Dr. Pimsleur called "organic learning," which entails learning on several fronts at once. His system enables the student to learn grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation in a natural and exciting way.
This course is designed to teach you to understand and to speak the essential elements of your new language in a relatively short time. During each half-hour lesson, you will actually converse with two people, using the type of language spoken by educated citizens in their everyday business and social life. The program's unique method for presenting dialogue relieves you of most common learning problems.
To get the full benefit of each lesson, try to create the best learning conditions. Choose a quiet place where you can practice without interruption and a time of day when your mind is most alert and your body least fatigued. You might study in your car, listening to the program while you commute or travel.
Each lesson is approximately 30 minutes long. Dr. Pimsleur's research shows this to be the optimum period for learning, after which the mind loses its ability to retain new information. Try your best to work through one lesson each and every day. Whether you move on to the next lesson daily or repeat those you feel unsure about, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the language on a daily basis.
Once you've started the program, simply follow the tutor's instructions. The most important instruction is to respond aloud when the tutor tells you to do so. There will be a pause after this instruction, giving you time to reply. It is essential to your progress that you speak out in a normal conversational voice when asked to respond. Your active participation in thinking and speaking is required for your success in mastering this course.
Do not have a paper and pen nearby during the lessons, and do not refer to dictionaries or other books. The Pimsleur Method works with the language-learning portion of your mind, requiring language to be processed in its spoken form. You will only interrupt the learning process if you try to write the words you hear.
Check your progress
. Complete the lesson units in strict consecutive order -- don't skip around! -- doing no more than one lesson unit per day, although you can repeat the lesson unit for the day. Daily contact with the language is critical to successful learning.
. Listen carefully to each lesson unit. Always follow the directions of the instructor.
. Speak out loud when directed by the tutor and answer questions within the pauses provided. Do this prior to hearing the confirmation which is provided as reinforcement.
. Do all required activities according to instructions, without reference to any outside persons, book, or course.
Guidelines for success
The simple test for mastery is whether you are able to respond quickly and accurately when your tutor asks a question. If you are responding correctly about eighty percent of the time, then you're ready to proceed to the next lesson. It is important to keep moving forward, but also not to set unreasonable standards of perfection that will keep you from progressing, which is why we recommend using the eighty percent figure as a guide.
You'll notice that each lesson contains both new and familiar material, so that just when you may be worrying about forgetting something, you will be reminded of it. Another helpful feature of the Pimsleur Language Program is its rate of saturation; you will be responding many times per minute. This saturation enables you to make substantial progress within a short amount of time.
A note on regional language differences
In any large country, and even in many smaller countries, regional differences in language are common. In the United States, for example, a person from Maine can sound very different than someone from Texas. Pronunciations ("accents") vary, and there are also minor differences in vocabulary. For example, what is called a "drinking fountain" in New York or Arizona is known as a "bubbler" in Wisconsin, and a "soft drink" in one part of America will be called a "soda" elsewhere. The differences in English are even more distinct between North Americans and Britons, or between Britons and Australians. But all are native speakers of English; all can communicate with spoken English, read the same newspapers, and watch the same television programs, essentially without difficulty.
Native speakers of a language can often tell where someone is from by listening to him or her speak. In addition to regional differences, there are social differences. Pimsleur Language Programs use a standard "educated" speech, which will generally carry you throughout the country without difficulty.