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Pimsleur advertisement

Written By: markkaiser on May 23, 2012 2 Comments

I ran across this ad for the Pimsleur language learning audio materials on an electronic Japanese dictionary (denshijisho.org). As  a Language Center administrator, I interact with dozens of language professors, lecturers, and graduate student instructors here at Berkeley as well as at other institutions. I can’t remember ever hearing any disparaging remarks about Dr. Pimsleur or the Pimsleur method, although I must admit to having some negative thoughts about the marketing department at Simon and Schuster for running this ad and its denigration of language instruction at the university level. I suppose we could engage in some nitpicking: could the “sneaky linguistic secret” referred to in the ad be the audio lingual method? After all, the Pimsleur method is basically listen and repeat, which is hardly a secret and hardly sneaky. And while one might be free from the computer, one will still be tethered to some kind of audio production device. And just what is meant by  “speaking another language” in 10 days leaves volumes unsaid. At the college level we have students speaking after the first 50 minutes in the classroom, so take that!

I suppose I’m disheartened by the attack on one part of the language learning profession by another. Simon and Schuster publishes dozens of language textbooks written by those same language professors now ridiculed by Simon and Schuster, but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone, as long as they make money from both enterprises.

Perhaps if universities focused language instruction on analysis of text and development of communicative cultural competence, those who specialize in how to order a cup of coffee will feel less threatened. And, in the interests of full disclosure, I admit to occasionally using Pimsleur materials in my study of Japanese. I definitely benefit from those materials, just as I benefit in other ways from the university language classroom.



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2 Responses to “Pimsleur advertisement”

  1. Usree Bhattacharya on: 25 May 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for posting this. The ad has been popping up often when I visit websites, and I get irritated every time I see it. I was kind of curious to click the link, but thought it might be spammy. Did you ever check out the site itself?

  2. Youki on: 4 June 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Interesting stuff. It does seem spammy, and uses a lot of the same hyped-up words you’d see on other ads. Feeling brave, I went to the website to look at the ad, but it wouldn’t show up. I even spammed “pimsleur language” on google and amazon.com to see if AdChoices would adjust the ads I see, but no luck. A quick google search did get me the ad, and when I clicked through, the website had a video for me. Here it is on youtube:


    After watching the video, I thought $10 would be reasonable. Pretty skeptical of learning a language in 10 days, but I’m interested in what their approach is. However, when you read the fine print:

    One month after you receive your Quick & Simple you’ll begin receiving 30 day trial copies of advanced Pimsleur courses in the language you selected. Each course is yours to try for 30 days. You’ll receive a new course once every 60 days. For each course you keep we’ll bill you in four monthly payments of $64. Remember, there’s never an immediate obligation to buy any course because of the 30-day trial period provided with each shipment. And you may cancel future shipments at any time by calling 1-877-802-5283. See Key Details

    So $256 for a course, which is actually more expensive than Rosetta Stone (contrary to what the video claims). Reminds me of the 90s when you had CD or book clubs sell you a CD/book for a penny, but then they keep sending you products and bill you for them.

    The video expands the attack on language professors. It argues that learning a language at a university is too hard, and not natural. Language classrooms focus too much on grammar rules, sentence construction, and vocabulary lists, and not enough on conversation. The video asks, “have you ever seen a two-year-old studying a vocabulary list?” which may be a compelling argument for many people. The ad definitely reminds me of the “lose weight fast!” type of ads that stress minimum effort for maximum results.

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