Learning a new language isn’t easy, and it takes real commitment. To be successful, you have to find educational material that keeps you coming back, day after day, year after year. The Pimsleur line of language-learning tools, made by Simon Schuster, is far and away the one I’ve used the most over the years. Although its origins are firmly rooted in the old days of audio cassettes and workbooks, Pimsleur has finally dipped its toe into the high-tech pool with Pimsleur Unlimited ($150 for level 1, $350 for levels 1-3). While most of the program is rock solid, the package needs to make a few more leaps forward into the digital age to be considered a real contender among language-learning software.
Pimsleur Unlimited is a desktop application that contains the familiar audio files I’ve come to know and love, but adds interactive tests, flashcards, and other simple but well thought-out exercises for learning a new language. Despite it being desktop software, Pimsleur Unlimited does require a broadband connection to set up and use all the features. Online extras, like Web-conference style lectures and chats, could add a little more value to the moderately priced package if they were offered more often. While the program isn’t as sexy as Editors’ Choice Rosetta Stone version 4 TOTALe ($249 for Level 1, direct, 4 stars), which excels in design, nor as interactive as the online Rocket Languages ($99.95 lifetime membership, 4 stars), our other Editors’ Choice, Pimsleur Unlimited is tried and true. It’s a straightforward and well structured language-learning system that audio-intensive learners will return to again and again, but it’s still not the most advanced option on the market.
Despite its name, the Unlimited version of Pimsluer does have some unfortunate limits—foremost among them that it’s only available in four languages: French, Spanish, German, and Italian. This small selection is easily the software line’s biggest drawback.
Other Pimsleur products, such as Pimsleur Comprehensive ($119.95 via digital download, 3.5 stars), have a wider array of options—dozens of other languages, including English for speakers of 14 other languages. However, these other Pimsleur products tend to include audio files and PDFs only, with no interactive components. They contain great content, and some are extremely inexpensive, but you won’t get online chats, interactive quizzes, or other high-tech features, which you do get with Pimsleur’s Unlimited package.
You’ll find more language options in Rocket Languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, and American Sign Language (Brazilian Portuguese coming soon). If you’re looking to learn a more unusual language, try Transparent Language’s Byki (free) which has around 70 languages, although Byki is not nearly as thorough in terms of what you can learn.