Shopping for anything can be tough.
There’s the actual task of tracking down what you want, and then the added stress of making sure you get a good deal.
And shopping for an online language learning course can be especially complicated.
Each student must navigate through a nearly infinite universe of options.
They shine brightly, but there are so many of them that it can get overwhelming.
Choosing which foreign language to learn was hard enough.
How can you ever possibly decide which online course is right for you?
In the universe of online language courses, some shine brighter than others. Pimsleur is one of those brilliant options. And since it fuses well-researched methods with diverse and varied activities, it’s not surprising that Pimsleur enjoys a good reputation.
But wait a minute… what if you’d prefer an out-of-this-world learning option other than Pimsleur but still want to enjoy some of the best aspects of that classic program?
Well, you’re in luck. In the language learning universe, anything is possible. And in this post, we’re giving you the power to choose for yourself.
Consider the 14 Pimsleur alternatives below for a whole new world of learning!
Why Consider an Alternative to Pimsleur?
One reason you might consider a Pimsleur alternative is to enhance and build on your Pimsleur experience. If you’ve been using Pimsleur, you might have enjoyed its features but be interested in trying something new. Luckily, you don’t have to choose between Pimsleur and a Pimsleur alternative. You can use both simultaneously, and they can actually work together to push you forward towards fluency.
You might also consider a Pimsleur alternative because Pimsleur isn’t quite right for you. There’s more than one best way to learn a foreign language, so it’s possible that Pimsleur just doesn’t meet your needs. Maybe it’s the format. Maybe it’s the method. Maybe it’s the activities. Regardless of why you’re not vibing with Pimsleur, you might find an alternative that better meets your needs.
Finally, using a Pimsleur alternative might give you a better bang for your buck. If you’re budget-minded, you might not be up for forking over the dough to use Pimsleur, or you might be interested in whether that same amount of money could get you a better deal for your own personal needs elsewhere. Luckily, Pimsleur alternatives are available at a variety of price points.
How to Get the Most Out of a Pimsleur Alternative
Consider which of Pimsleur’s features you like most.
Pimsleur has an array of features, so think about which you like or are most interested in. For instance, is the spaced repetition learning a big factor? Is there one particular activity you enjoy best? Knowing what parts of the Pimsleur program are the biggest draw can help you find the ideal Pimsleur alternative for you.
Consider which of Pimsleur’s features you would benefit from the most.
What areas of your language skills do you feel least confident about? For instance, do you feel unsure of your speaking skills? Once you’ve decided what skills you need to work on, consider which Pimsleur features target these skills. Then, you can look for similar features in your potential alternative.
Pair multiple Pimsleur alternatives for more well-rounded learning.
You don’t have to limit yourself to just one Pimsleur alternative, or to count out Pimsleur altogether. In fact, since each program offers different features, they can work nicely together to round out your learning experience. Variety is the spice of life, after all!
Don’t hesitate to try new and innovative products.
New language education products are introduced regularly. Since many of these products are founded on science and research, like Pimsleur is, they can also be tremendously useful, so don’t hesitate to try any new and innovative products if there’s a free trial period offered. Your next favorite language learning app or product may be something you’ve never even heard of!
Power to the People! 14 Mighty Pimsleur Alternatives
This list of alternatives is organized by learning principle. The Pimsleur method makes use of four main principles: organic learning, graduated interval recall, anticipation and core vocabulary. However, other programs also make use of similar principles. Here are 14 possible Pimsleur alternatives.
The principle of organic learning ties into the idea of learning material in context. In summation, Pimsleur focuses on introducing new information in the context of a realistic conversation. For Pimsleur, this means using scripted audio dialogues that replicate actual conversations.
The general idea behind organic learning is that learning in context is thought to improve retention and make learners more prepared to use the skills they’ve learned. Here are some other programs that use a similar principle.
For a fun and multifaceted organic learning experience, FluentU is hard to beat.
With FluentU, you hear languages in real-world contexts—the way that native speakers actually use them. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of FluentU videos on offer:
FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you and organized them by level and topic. All you have to do is choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
You can use FluentU’s unique adaptive quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions and exercises. Just swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're studying.
The program even keeps track of what you’re learning and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you a 100% personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.
You can learn organically through reading your favorite websites, too, and Readlang makes that process even simpler.
Readlang is a downloadable web reader that can turn whatever you want to read into a language lesson. Readlang can instantly translate words and phrases on websites, allowing you to read material in your target language while picking up new vocabulary in an authentic, real-world context.
Not only that, all the words you translate are automatically saved, allowing you to practice them more later.
The free version allows you unlimited word translations and flashcards. However, you’ll be limited to 10 phrase translations per day. If you subscribe for the premium edition, all the services are unlimited.
And if you’re not sure what to read, Readlang can even help you with that. Readlang provides some articles through the website.
Available: iOS | Android
Clozemaster offers organic learning through realistic example sentences.
You’ll be presented with sentences and their translations and asked to fill in the blanks. Not only does this give you a realistic idea of how a word might be used, it gives you experience using that word, which also exercises one of the principles we’ll discuss later, anticipation. For some languages, some of the sentences also include audio.
In addition, if you sign up for a free account, you can access readings in your target language.
If you sign up for a “pro” account, you’ll have access to even more features. For instance, you can select if you want to work on vocabulary, listening or speaking and can choose between multiple choice and text input.
Plus, Clozemaster offers a huge array of languages, including some you may not even have heard of. For instance, you can study Breton, Occitan, Piedmontese and more.
Available: iOS | Android
One of the most natural ways to learn organically is to learn through interacting with native speakers, and Tandem allows you to do just that. However, Tandem also provides additional resources, so you won’t be in over your head.
Tandem allows you to search conversation partners and connect with them immediately for free. Afterwards, you and your partner can leave reviews of each other so you have a clearer idea of what you need to work on.
Premium memberships unlock a host of additional options, including unlimited translations, the ability to search for users near you and the removal of ads.
The translation features are particularly useful for organic learning. After all, you’ll be looking up the words you need to know when you need to use them, which is about as in-context as learning can get.
Graduated Interval Recall
Graduated interval recall has to do with the spacing with which learners are exposed to material. The logic is that spacing out material at increasingly distant intervals will improve a learner’s ability to remember a word. Pimsleur carefully spaces out the material you’ll be presented with in attempts to aid retention.
Graduated interval recall is much like the idea behind spaced repetition systems, which are used in the following programs.
Glossika is a language learning system that focuses primarily on listening and speaking. To help learners acquire these essential skills and build vocabulary, Glossika uses spaced repetition. Glossika refers to this as doing “reps,” so you can feel like your language skills are finally getting the workout they deserve. You can even adjust the audio speed so that it feels like an appropriate rate of speech for you.
Words and phrases are intended to be realistic, so Glossika also plays somewhat on the organic learning principle.
Plus, Glossika’s algorithm adjusts to you, making the learning experience more customized for each learner.
With over 50 language options, you’re likely to be able to find a Glossika program for your target language.
Available: iOS | Android
AnkiApp is all about spaced repetition. It’s kind of AnkiApp’s thing.
Rather than being focused exclusively on language education, AnkiApp is actually a flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to help users learn whatever material they’re studying.
The spaced repetition system is designed to make learning more efficient by analyzing how you’ve done and carefully selecting what you need to work on.
You can create your own flashcards that incorporate words, images and/or audio, but if you’d rather get started right away, there are also plenty of existing language learning sets you can enjoy.
Plus, AnkiApp is free!
Available: iOS | Android
SuperMemo has been optimizing spaced repetition intervals since the 1980s, so they’ve got mad experience in the field.
And guess what? SuperMemo already offers a collection of over 100 courses to help users learn more than 10 different languages.
Have a special set of vocabulary that you want to learn? You can also create your own course and use SuperMemo to optimize your learning with its spaced repetition.
Some of SuperMemo’s materials are free, though others are only available with a premium membership.
Available: iOS | Android
If you’re looking for a vocabulary app designed specifically for language learners that uses a spaced repetition system, look no further! VocApp is intended to help language learners expand vocabulary quickly through spaced repetition.
This flashcard system allows you to access existing sets or create your own with texts, translations, images and audio.
The app itself is free, and you can create your own sets for free. While course samples are free, in-app purchases are available to enjoy the whole course.
The principle of anticipation asserts that having the opportunity to anticipate a correct response can trigger new connections. In the Pimsleur program, this means that learners are prompted, there’s a pause to allow learners to respond and then a correct response is provided. Similarly, these other programs give you an opportunity to respond.
Rocket Languages is a learning program that also uses the principle of anticipation.
Rocket Languages features hours upon hours of audio lessons. But rather than merely playing examples for you, these audio lessons are interactive, engaging you more actively and inviting you to anticipate responses.
But Rocket Languages is so much more than audio lessons alone. The program also offers grammar lessons, cultural lessons, voice recognition, flashcards and additional features.
Rocket Languages is available for the following languages:
Linguaphone offers a simple method that uses the principle of anticipation to the learner’s advantage.
The method is a simple sequence: listen, understand, speak.
First, a native speaker speaks a sentence slowly as you read along. As the course progresses, the speaker’s rate increases to a more natural pace.
Then, you begin to understand what you’re hearing and reading.
Finally, you’re invited to speak. Early in the course, this means trying to replicate what native speakers say, but later you’ll actually be invited to participate in simulated conversations.
Additionally, Linguaphone plays on the principle of organic learning by presenting material in a realistic context.
Michel Thomas courses feature audio-based learning.
In this system, you simply listen and repeat. The idea is that over time, you’ll build confidence and skills that you can use in real life. In fact, you’ll be saying complete sentences right off the bat.
An added benefit of the Michel Thomas course is that it’s audio-based, meaning you can listen to it on your commute, during your next boring meeting or even in the shower. Just be sure to whisper your responses if people are around or you may get some side-eye.
Focus on Core Vocabulary
It’s no secret that some words are much more common than others. Because of this, Pimsleur and many other programs focus on core vocabulary, which means focusing on a small number of high-frequency words before expanding on that vocabulary. Pimsleur purposely limits the total number of words you’re exposed to early on so as not to overwhelm you, aiming to give you a strong foundation. Other programs that provide a strong foundation in core vocabulary include the following.
Mango Languages is another program that focuses on building a strong foundation through relevant vocabulary.
Lessons feature realistic phrases that you’re likely to want to use in real life. Then, phrases are broken down into vocabulary and grammar rules. These basic phrases give you the foundations you need to start using your target language right away, but they also provide valuable skills you can build upon down the road.
And, because vocabulary is introduced in realistic conversations, Mango Languages also uses the principle of organic learning.
Living Language courses focus on all the essentials: the essential vocabulary, the essential grammar and the essential cultural information.
And when it comes to the principle of core vocabulary, focusing on these essentials is helpful. Beginning courses will introduce you to the basic words you need to start communicating, but Living Language courses also offer something special for more advanced students: There are specialty courses related to travel, business and particular professions, meaning you can also build a core vocabulary in a more specialized category.
LanguagePod101.com offers podcasts, audio and video for tons of different languages, and many of these materials focus on teaching core vocabulary.
One major benefit of the LanguagePod101.com series is that most vocabulary materials are grouped by theme, meaning you can easily learn core vocabulary based around your needs. For instance, you might find podcasts, audio and/or video covering things like airport vocabulary, phrases to introduce yourself and phrases to use in restaurants.
Additionally, the materials from LanguagePod101.com are usually short, so learners are less likely to get swamped down by massive vocabulary lists.
LanguagePod101 has programs available for the following languages:
So try these Pimsleur alternatives to shoot your language learning into the stratosphere!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.