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At gbarto.com, we've been interested in languages and language learning for a long time. Unfortunately, there's a lot of stuff out there that isn't particularly useful. Too often, programs simply ask you to listen and repeat words and phrases, but you don’t really learn to use the language. This is our objection to Language 30, Berlitz one cassette programs and Barron’s. Living Language is a little better, but far from perfect. On the other hand, the programs below make you use the language, so that it is learned more naturally. Because similar programs are available for different languages, we’ll offer descriptions for the programs. You can order the program for the language you’re interested in. Additionally, you can visit our language pages and see if we have anything for your language yet.
Pimsleur and Michel Thomas sets are featured on this page. Because the programs use the same format for all languages, we've put descriptions of each type of program after the item listings. Scroll down to learn about these programs.
Pimsleur Quick and Simple French. Eight introductory lessons. Very basic communication.
Pimsleur Instant Conversation: French. Sixteen lessons. Basic communication.
French I: Pimsleur Comprehensive. Large program. Everyday conversation possible at end.
Michel Thomas Introduction to French. Two CDs.
Michel Thomas Deluxe French set. Eight CDs.
Pimsleur Quick and Simple Spanish. Eight introductory lessons. Very basic communication.
Pimsleur Instant Conversation: Spanish. Sixteen lessons. Basic communication.
Spanish I: Pimsleur Comprehensive. Large program. Everyday conversation possible at end.
Michel Thomas Introduction to Spanish. Two CDs.
Michel Thomas Deluxe Spanish set. Eight CDs.
Pimsleur Quick and Simple Italian. Eight introductory lessons. Very basic communication.
Pimsleur Instant Conversation: Italian. Sixteen lessons. Basic communication.
Italian I: Pimsleur Comprehensive. Large program. Everyday conversation possible at end.
Michel Thomas Introduction to Italian. Two CDs.
Michel Thomas Deluxe Italian set. Eight CDs.
Pimsleur Quick and Simple German. Eight introductory lessons. Very basic communication.
Pimsleur Instant Conversation: German. Sixteen lessons. Basic communication.
German I: Pimsleur Comprehensive. Large program. Everyday conversation possible at end.
Michel Thomas Introduction to German. Two CDs.
Michel Thomas Deluxe German set. Eight CDs.
The Pimsleur sets are formulated upon the principle that we typically learn best in half hour chunks. The typical lesson is just under half an hour. In the lesson, the learner hears a conversation, learns to play the parts in that conversation and learns to plug new information into the conversation. This is accomplished not only by listening and repeating but also by filling in blanks, providing information based on earlier lessons and being asked to recall individual words and phrases. The effect of the lesson is to make the learner concentrate on producing (as opposed to simply repeating) snippets of the language and putting snippets together. At the end, the learner participates in a similar conversation. Pimsleur sets cover less ground per lesson than many other programs, but they do so far more effectively. Other sets may offer more vocabulary or grammar, but it is gone as quickly as it is learned. When the user finishes a Pimsleur set, by contrast, he or she usually has a very thorough command of everything covered in the lessons.
Our book pages offer direct links to three kinds of Pimsleur sets:
Quick and simple programs teach you to introduce yourself, order a drink and other very basic skills. If you’re going to Rome for the weekend and will have English speakers to help you with the big stuff, this is a great way to get just enough to manage when you’ve got a little spare time to kill and want to see the sights.
Instant conversation programs begin with the lessons in the Quick and simple sets, then move on to basic grammar, more possibilities for improvisation and the first steps into having a conversation with a native.
Comprehensive programs build from the Instant conversation pack and get you up to speed on everyday conversation so that you can not only get what you need but can participate (to a limited degree) in the local culture. We haven’t had the chance to use one of these so are relying in part on the reviews of other users. However, the principles of the programs are sound.
Pimsleur sets come in a variety of sizes and languages not listed here. If you’re looking for a different language or different size set, you might try the search box at the bottom and see what’s available.
If you’ve seen these in the bookstores, you know that Michel Thomas is language teacher to the stars. But for once the celebrity endorsements seem to be warranted. In these sets, Thomas has two pupils whom he teaches in his introductory class. You’re the third pupil, though he won’t correct you (he does correct the other two). Like the Pimsleur sets, these require the learner to come up with his or her own responses, thus learning to use the language, not just repeat without understanding. As to the lesson structures, Thomas goes grammar point by grammar point, interspersing with lessons in vocabulary and explanations as to how the languages relate to English. Best of all, he gives tricks for guessing what a word might be in the new language based on what it is in English. These and other tips aren’t infallible but they give the user a way of progressing faster and relating more easily to the new language.
Michel Thomas sets come in two sizes. The introductory sets have two CDs and teach you just enough to be dangerous. The large sets are 8 CDs and will leave the user reasonably comfortable talking about a variety of situations in the past, present and future tenses.
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