The Pimsleur language learning system is an audio-based program ideally suited to beginners. It allows students to become accustomed to the sounds of a new language while picking up vocabulary and grammar rules.
Pimsleur courses are available in more than 40 languages. All languages are presented in a similar format: audio lessons which introduce core vocabulary and grammar concepts while reinforcing previously learned material with systematic repetition.
Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese
There are five Pimsleur Mandarin courses:
- Quick and Simple – 8 lessons which introduce the fundamentals of Mandarin pronunciation and vocabulary
- Instant Conversation – 16 lessons designed to get you speaking Mandarin as quickly as possible
- Comprehensive One – 30 lessons
- Comprehensive Two - 30 lessons
- Comprehensive Three - 30 lessons
All Pimsleur lessons are about 30 minutes long, and should be done at the rate of one per day. The lessons begin with a review of the previous day’s material and build on the knowledge you have already acquired.
Pimsleur courses are available on CD or cassette. There are no workbooks or written exercises – the learning material is strictly auditory. Since this is contrary to traditional teaching methods, some people may have difficulty making the switch from visual-based methods of reading and writing.
Nonetheless, Mandarin is ideally suited to this audio approach for several reasons:
- Mandarin tones must be mastered right at the beginning of study. This is best done with a listening / repeating approach.
- It is best to leave the study of Chinese characters until basic speaking skills have been mastered.
- Pinyin, which can serve as an intermediate step when learning to read and write Chinese, can actually hinder correct pronunciation in students who haven’t thoroughly learned Pinyin pronunciation.
Pimsleur lessons are built around a set of core vocabulary words which you practice in a question / answer structure. New vocabulary is introduced at regular intervals, and previously-learned words are re-introduced at set intervals.
The Mandarin course starts off with English explanations and prompts, but these are gradually phased out as the course progresses. You are prompted to say Mandarin words and phrases from memory, and after a short pause, a native Mandarin speaker says the correct words. This allows you to anticipate correct answers, a key principal of the Pimsleur method.
Each lesson begins with a dialogue. By the end of the 30-minute lesson you should have learned enough Mandarin to be able to participate in a similar conversation. There is plenty of repetition to enable you to master the pronunciation along with the proper tones.
Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese is presented in the Beijing dialect - the standard for Mainland China. This is a suitable choice for students who expect to visit China, and the Beijing accent will certainly be understood in other Chinese-speaking countries such as Taiwan and Singapore.
The Comprehensive One course has a short explanation of how Mandarin is spoken in Taiwan, but students who are planning to go to Taiwan should not get too hung up on the differences. The Pimsleur course is still excellent for acquiring basic vocabulary and pronunciation skills.