I’ve used the Pimsleur Spanish course for around three months now and have really gotten to know the program inside and out. In this post, I’m going to break down for you how the Pimsleur Spanish program works, discuss how it compares to other apps, briefly touch on cost, and of course, cover what I like and don’t like about Pimsleur Spanish.
- Mobile App & Desktop
- Learn Online or Offline
- Very effective learning framework based on audio lessons
- Useful driving mode feature (no screen necessary)
- Very cool platform with modern U/I
- Fun and fast reinforcement drills
- Lessons can be long and slow-moving
- Not many visual elements
How Pimsleur Spanish Works
Let’s start with the basics—how the Pimsleur Spanish program works. From a structural perspective, there are five different levels in the course, ranging from beginner to advanced. Each level contains 30 lessons, meaning there are around 150 total lessons in the whole program.
Each lesson covers a different thematic topic, such as food, weather, or sports, and is comprised of a 30-minute audio exercise and a variety of review drills. Altogether, these take about an hour to complete from start to finish.
Therefore, if you look at it in terms of total duration, with each full lesson taking about an hour to complete and there being 150 total lessons, you’re looking at around 150 total hours for the program.
However, I would note that such figure doesn’t include some supplemental drills and resources, and a lot of times you will want to review and work lessons twice, so it doesn’t really paint the full picture in terms of time. It may be much longer than 150 hours.
Anyhow, as for the lessons themselves, they are fairly in-depth. To start each lesson, you complete a 30-minute audio exercise, where a moderator speaking in English walks you through a Spanish conversation step-by-step.
You’ll listen to a couple sentences in Spanish, then the moderator will stop to explain what you’re learning and what was said, and then ask you questions, as well as have you engage and participate. It’s basically a guided conversation with frequent voiceover and notes.
Also, just as a heads up, as you move up levels, the English-speaking moderator does start to phase out, and you’ll be expected to understand more of what’s being said in Spanish.
After each audio lesson, you then review what you just learned through a variety of reinforcement drills and exercises. This includes matching pairs, flashcards, quizzes, pronunciation training, and speed games.
Each separate reinforcement exercise takes around 5 to 10 minutes complete. Therefore, once more, for the entire lesson—audio portion plus drills—you’re looking at around an hour from start to finish.
However, that’s just the main lesson work, which makes up probably 90% of the program. Beyond this, there is some supplemental practice work as well, which focuses on the same type of reinforcement drills from the main lesson work.
Additionally, there are bonus packs that give you extra vocab, as well as skills badges. But honestly, that’s a pretty good high-level picture of what you can expect.
Pimsleur Spanish Cost
Next, we need to discuss cost and how Pimsleur compares to other apps. In short, Pimsleur offers two different subscription options.
The first option is Pimsleur Premium, which gives you access to their Spanish program for $20 per month. Then there’s Pimsleur All Access, which give you access to all 51 of their languages for only $1 more per month (i.e. $21 per month).
If you stack this cost up against other apps like Babbel and Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur is more expensive by around $5 to $10 or so per month on average. It is definitely not the cheapest Spanish program on the market, but big picture, it’s not a terrible price either.
Plus, I have to mention this. One unique thing that Pimsleur does, which I haven’t seen many other companies do, is that they allow you to account split with up to three other people.
This means if you’re learning with a friend or family member—which a lot of people do—you can cut that $20 monthly price tag in half, or even a third or a quarter. I split Pimsleur All Access with my sister and it only costs me $10 per month.
Finally, Pimsleur does have a 7-day free trial period, so you can test this program out before fully committing. I would definitely recommend doing just that if Pimsleur does end up sounding like a good fit for you.
The Pros of Pimsleur Spanish
Let’s get into the good stuff—what I like about Pimsleur, as well as what I don’t like. But I want to start with the positives, because I think there’s more good news here than bad.
Amazing Audio Lessons (Love Them!)
The first highlight of the Pimsleur Spanish course is the audio lessons I mentioned above. These audio lessons are the heart and soul of the Pimsleur course, and are simply fantastic.
The Pimsleur Method is all about organic learning within intervals. This means a couple things. For one, their belief is that you should learn new words and phrases within the context of a conversation. This helps your brain internalize the language because you’re hearing the words in context, with rhythm, tone and pronunciation that you can associate with them.
Secondly, it’s about spaced review. You need to hear words at spaced intervals in order to transfer them from your short term memory to your long term memory. The Pimsleur audio lesson are purposefully designed to do just this.
Bottom line, there’s only a couple Spanish language apps on the market that use audio lessons like this, and I’m a huge fan of how Pimsleur does it. These audio exercises are about as close as you can come to personalized classes without actually taking live classes or being immersed.
Post-Audio Drills For Retention
The second highlight for me are all the drills and exercises that follow the audio lessons. In a way, it’s almost like class followed by homework. While that might not sound fun, there’s a reason you get homework in school—it’s because it helps you to review and reinforce what you learn in class.
And Pimsleur’s drills are great for this. They’re diverse, fun, fast moving, and the interface is very good. The combination of the audio lessons being followed directly by the drills is powerful, and gives the program a very deep and comprehensive feel.
New Speech Software
Another major pro of this Spanish program is Pimsleur’s new Voice Coach feature, their speech recognition software. For some context, historically, Pimsleur never had any speech recognition software. Going back to when I first played around with Pimsleur a couple years ago, they didn’t have any software tools for speech analysis.
This past year, however, they’ve rolled out this new feature called Voice Coach, which so far seems very good. The software is very accurate and provides some helpful feedback. When you screw your pronunciation up, it will tell you as much based on a star system.
Plus, one feature that I especially like about it is the challenge mode. When you turn this on, you’ll be prompted in English to say a phrase in Spanish with no hint as to how to say it in Spanish. This in turn makes you think critically about what to say in addition to needing to nail your pronunciation. It’s difficult, but very helpful.
Learn While Driving
One last thing I absolutely need to note here is Pimsleur’s driving mode. They have a cool driving mode feature where you can do the audio lessons during your commute or while on a road trip, which I love.
This feature allows you to make use of your downtime and be productive when you can’t afford to look at a screen. I mean, it’s not even limited to just driving—you can do audio lessons while doing yoga, taking a walk, cleaning the house, whatever you want. The flexibility of not having to look at your phone to do a lesson is a nice value add.
The Cons of Pimsleur Spanish
Although there are a lot of pros above, there are some cons to go with them. So let’s discuss the things I don’t like about Pimsleur Spanish.
Audio Lessons Aren’t Perfect
Although I’ve done nothing but hype the Pimsleur audio lessons to this point, there are a couple negatives. For one, they are a little long. With each lesson taking 30 minutes to complete, it can be hard to find the time to sit down and bang out a whole lesson, especially when you pause it from time to time to think about something or rewind a few seconds back. They are just lengthy.
Plus, even beyond the length, they move a little slow. These lessons don’t give you that dopamine rush that Duolingo exercises do with all their game-like features. These Pimsleur Spanish audio lessons are slower developing and are more academic in nature. I don’t mean this in the school sense, but they are more professionalized and serious than other apps. I just don’t want people thinking they’re getting some ultra-fun game-like experience.
Not Many Visual Elements
Another downside of this program is that because the Pimsleur lessons are so audio-heavy, they might not be the best option for visual learners. Besides the drills after the core lessons, there’s really no visuals or graphics at all.
For that matter, until you get to the reinforcement drills, there’s really not even a chance for you to see or read the words or phrases in the lessons. The audio lessons have no transcript (unlike Rocket Languages’ lessons).
This can be problematic for visual learners. There are those people out there who make mental associations between new words they learn and a contextual image or graphic. If you are one of these people, you might want to consider a more graphic- and text-heavy program, like Babbel Spanish or Rosetta Stone.
Little Light On Grammar
Lastly, because of how much emphasis Pimsleur places on listening and speaking, their lessons are a little light on the grammar. Some other courses, like Rocket Spanish, give much more attention to grammar instruction in the body of their coursework.
Now, which approach is better is totally up for debate. Obviously, you need to learn grammar and understand structural differences between English and Spanish, but I will say that sometimes when there is too much emphasis on grammar during the early stages of language acquisition, it can do more harm than good.
It’s sometimes more important to focus on what you hear first, and then worry about rules later. Clearly, Pimsleur is in this camp.
For me personally, I’d like to see Pimsleur incorporate a little more grammar into their program, maybe with a short supplemental lesson as part of each unit.
Verdict: Is Pimsleur Spanish Worth It?
Here are my final thoughts about whether Pimsleur Spanish is worth it.
I’ve learned with close to two dozen Spanish apps at this point, and Pimsleur still ranks up near the top of my list. This is especially true after the updates they’ve made with their new Voice Coach feature in the last year or so. Between the in-depth audio lessons, reinforcement drills, new speech software, and learning flexibility, there is a ton to like about this program, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use Pimsleur for learning Spanish.
There are five levels in Pimsleur Spanish, each containing about 30 lessons. That makes for about 150 lessons in total.
Yes, Pimsleur is one of the better Spanish apps that I have used. The audio lessons are effective and the reinforcement drills are fun and quick. It’s a very good program that should help you achieve intermediate fluency fairly quick.
Yes, Pimsleur offers one of the better online Spanish language programs. Their audio lessons are particularly effective.