Life after Pimsleur and the Marmite of Language Courses

I finally finished all 5 levels of Pimsleur Russian. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and loved being able to use my commute to work in a productive way.

Part of me wanted to move on to another language just so I could keep using Pimsleur. But I am going to keep going with Russian, for now anyway.

Pimsleur is an amazing course that I would highly recommend. It is a fantastic way to build basic vocabulary, develop good pronunciation skills and develop an ear for a language. That said, it does have its limitations.

At the suggestion of someone in a Facebook group, I began the Michel Thomas Russian course. I have read so many mixed reviews on MT language courses that I have decided it is the Marmite of language courses. People seem to either love it or absolutely hate it. Some reviewers whose opinions I respect even go as far as to say they wouldn’t use it even if it was free.

I started it last week and am about 5 hours into the course now. My first impression is that it is really good, which surprised me. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Word order. I went into the course expecting it to be essentially review of what I had already learned in Pimsleur. And so far, I’ve learned only a handful of words that weren’t covered in the Pimsleur course. However, the MT course taught me that Russian word order is incredibly flexible, and constantly gives examples of this. I never picked up on this from Pimsleur. This is very valuable in terms of learning to speak Russian.
  2. Constructing sentences. Pimsleur taught me to memorize words, phrases and sentences. And to connect these. But the MT course does a much better job of using words and phrases in a wider variety of contexts and putting these together in new and interesting ways. It will strengthen my ability to create my own sentences a lot (rather than just re-call memorized ones).
  3. Engagement. I actually find the course to be very engaging. This surprised me the most as a lot of reviews talk about how annoying the student’s mistakes and the teacher’s corrections are in the audio. I understand why people might not like it, but I have found the pace of the course and the variety of examples to be interesting and engaging.
  4. It explains why. Pimsleur doesn’t give a lot of explanation for grammar or why things are said in a certain way. The MT course is much better for people who like to ask why. I am not really this kind of person, but after the Pimsleur course, I do think that I am ready to get a better grasp of Russian grammar.

Final thoughts? I would still choose or recommend Pimsleur over Michel Thomas to start with and if I had to choose just one. But neither course is going to be enough on its own, so why not use both if you can?

6 thoughts on “Life after Pimsleur and the Marmite of Language Courses

  1. There are many online language courses. I found your experiences interesting, coming as they do from someone with plenty of previous experience with language learning.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting thank you. I’ve spent some time recently using Duolingo and I found it great for revising language skills but less so for learning from scratch. For me at least, a formal explanation of the grammar is far more useful than trying to work it out from examples each time. However the success of these tools seems to indicate that not everybody thinks like me – which is probably a good thing!

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  3. I have not tried any of the online programs yet. My friend and co-editor of my blog, Jim, found Duolinguo useful for reviewing his Italian, which he studied on a junior year abroad. Jim’s an accomplished linguist. Born American, he is now a Canadian, a Québécois by choice, and speaks French fluently, as well as Spanish. He knows Moroccan dialectical Arabic, and MSA to some degree. When he retired, he went back to school and got a degree in translation, and translated some of John Wesley’s journals. The latter was a compulsive journalist and close observer of the society in which he traveled. Jim is definitely someone you wouldn’t want to mess with in Scrabble!

    I am about to start studying Italian, though not sure what to use, but I will let you know what my experience is.

    Liked by 2 people

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