Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese — a Long Review
So, you’ve stumbled upon Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese on some language learning forums or a friend recommended it to you. And now you can’t get it out of your head — is it good? Is it not good?
As a teacher and a student, I can tell you that it’s good. But you must ponder whether it’s for you now.
What is Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese?
Pimsleur is a completely audio-based language learning program. This means that you don’t have any textbooks, worksheets, anything — everything is based on audio.
Who is this for?
So, if you are an auditory learner — if you prefer to talk instead of reading — then this is the program for you.
It won’t much help you if you already speak Portuguese. But if you’re starting out, you might want to consider it. Seriously.
How does it work?
It’s different from the other programs that rely on reading matter to help you internalize the vocabulary and acquire new expressions.
As I said, Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese is an audio-based program. It’s 30 lessons, 30 minutes each (they really like the number 30), and the most important thing is that it’s interactive.
You might just listen to it but you do have to respond when the speakers ask you to respond.
You have to repeat when the speakers ask you to repeat. If you don’t do that you are not going to learn Portuguese.
And they kind of sandwich the language. They give you a question, you answer it, they repeat the answer, and then you should repeat it again.
In this way, you can acquire good pronunciation. But…
It’s quite repetitive.
And it can get boring…
It’s quite boring and that’s one big criticism. It’s quite boring because the dialogue is very short and simple. You can see more on the structure below.
I remember the excruciating tedium I felt when I was studying Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese.
Sometimes I would run around the house while taking a lesson. And I was screaming in between phrases.
But when the speaker said “that’s the end of today’s lesson” I would just jump and giggle and run around and be simply glad to be alive.
How is it structured?
Pimsleur is divided into levels. For Brazilian Portuguese, there are five levels of 30 units each. So those 30 files are meant to be listened to once a day. Each one of them is 30 minutes more or less.
And it means that it’s going to take you half an hour to finish them.
The Brazilian Portuguese version has five levels and it amounts to 150 lessons. The European Portuguese has 30 units or only one level and it won’t take you very far but it’s quite good.
Pimsleur uses Graduated Interval Recall to help you learn.
Graduated interval recall is the idea that you have to review a piece of information every so often, but with increased intervals.
It means that you first see a new word now and then 25 seconds later, then one minute later, and then five minutes later, and so on until you don’t need to review that anymore.
It works incredibly well with language learning, and the implementation of this technique by Pimsleur is masterful.
You don’t really need to worry about reviewing some lessons or listening to the same lesson twice, because the next day, you’re likely to practice some of the vocabularies you’ve seen in the previous lesson.
Also, after 15, 20 lessons, you will be asked a very simple question, something that has to do with the content you studied 15 lessons ago.
In this way, you can make sure that you are going to retain all the words that you learn from Pimsleur.
When to review a lesson.
I said that you don’t need to review the same lesson, but if you think you are getting distracted or you’re not getting anything from a specific lesson — perhaps you don’t get at least 80% of the content — you might want to consider reviewing the same lesson on the following day.
But I don’t suggest you spend too long on the same lesson to get 100% of it. If you made some mistakes, that’s expected. We make mistakes. But if you want to get it 100% correct, you’re not going to have a nice experience.
The first lesson is only one dialogue and it’s usually like that:
(the first lesson is available for free; you can download it here — account needed)
You start with a dialogue and then the program breaks it down for you.
Here’s the dialog of the first lesson:
- Com licença, senhora. A senhora entende inglês? Excuse me, madam. Do you understand English?
- Não senhor, eu não entendo. No, sir. I don’t understand.
- Eu falo um pouco de português. I speak a little Portuguese.
- O senhor é americano? Are you American?
- Eu sou, senhora. I am, madam.
You start working on the vocabulary part by part and then when you finish the lesson you’re going to listen to the dialogue again but this time *magically* you can understand every word because that’s what you’ve been practicing for the last 30 minutes.
It’s actually very good and it’s very effective. I’ve used that personally for mandarin Chinese, the three first levels, and I can tell you that the approach does work.
What can you tell me about this dialogue?
It’s quite formal.
Pimsleur sticks to a very formal language. It’s good, but it’s a business Portuguese we don’t speak much in Brazil.
You’ll not really speak informal Brazilian Portuguese, at least not by listening to Pimsleur and doing the exercises.
How about reading? Will I learn how to read with Pimsleur Portuguese?
There is a reading component in Pimsleur but it’s not the main focus of the program. So, you won’t be able to “read” but you’ll be able to learn how to read much faster.
Some languages do not have the reading component.
Portuguese does have it but I think it’s dispensable. You don’t really need it if you want to have success studying and learning Portuguese from Pimsleur.
Brazilian or European?
And since we are talking about Portuguese, there are two versions of the program: one for Brazilian Portuguese and there is a version for European Portuguese, which they call Continental Portuguese.
I don’t really know why since Brazil is also a country that is in a continent but…
As for the accent of the Brazilian version, it’s quite neutral.
I tried to pinpoint where it comes from. I couldn’t. It’s kind of from São Paulo — the capital — but it’s not quite as strong. I would say it’s something that you’ll find on soap operas produced by Globo.
As for the European Portuguese course, it sounds quite *European* but I cannot really say that it’s a natural accent. I have never lived in Portugal and I do not claim to have knowledge of the whole country.
What I hear in Brazil is just a watered-down version I get through TV.
Will I speak and understand Portuguese by the end of the course?
The important thing is to know that you will be able to understand quite a bit and speak very fairly well, at a good speed, I would say.
And that might give other people the impression that you do speak the language.
Naturally, the good thing is that because of so much repetition, and because they make no concessions – they don’t slow down the language for you to repeat it, you just have to repeat it the way we speak – you will be speaking quite a bit.
I wouldn’t say you can have deep conversations about that if Pimsleur is your only source of language.
But when it comes to understanding, you’ll have a much easier time picking up what people say. You must. You’ve been accustomed to the normal speed of speech through so much repetition. And this is quite a perk — in real life, there’s no distorted, unnaturally slowed down language when people are talking to you.
But will I speak when I finish the 150 days?
Probably not. But you’ll have an edge.
(this is to the shiny-object seekers out there):
And if you think that 150 days of studying 30 minutes is enough for you to speak a language well, change your mind, baby.
We are in a world where people spend maybe five years learning a language to speak it fairly well. Be used to the fact that we do have something called “long-term learning”.
So, and how can you get it?
Well, the easiest way is to go to Amazon and download the whole thing. You can buy it five lessons at a time, or you can buy the whole thing directly from the company Pimsleur. (I have no experience with them directly.)
The programs are very costly. So, I would suggest you invest in it only if you have another source of speaking practice to go with it.
Maybe you have some friends or online friends that you’ve met on HelloTalk or some other app that you might download and get in touch with Brazilians through. And since there are lots of Brazilians out there who want to practice English, you can exchange your languages.
But you can download the first lesson for free on their official website (must open an account), which is a very good thing.
And you can also find scattered lessons on YouTube.
I don’t recommend you use everything that is on YouTube. They might be outdated. And it’s not really good for the company – they want to have more incentive to produce new courses.
But if you’re on a budget, I suggest you try the first lesson before all else. The lessons follow the same structure. They get slightly more challenging, but if you do the first lesson, you’ll be familiar with the 150 lessons of the course.
You can decide whether the investment is worth it. If it is, then save the money and buy it.
I would say it’s worth it — for me, Chinese was. But would I do that again? No. It’s too expensive, especially for a Brazilian.
Does Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese solve all my problems?
I can tell you that it’s quite good. With the sheer repetition that you have, you’ll pick up lots of sounds and your pronunciation will be more accurate.
That’s one thing that I noticed with my students who claimed to have used Pimsleur in the past.
And you will be more at ease with speaking after 90 days, or the first three levels. The 30 days might not be enough for you to reap all the benefits.
You’d have a good time if you finished the 30 days (level I), but at least 90 days (levels I, II, III) are necessary if you really want to feel that you’ve progressed.
Will I learn grammar?
No, you will not learn the grammar.
Pimsleur doesn’t teach you grammar. You get structures and your brain is going to make sense of all information that you get.
(Believe me, your brain is very much capable of doing good things. It can also mess things up.)
But you will probably understand the grammar without having to have an explicit explanation of why you have this and not that.
Michel Thomas, for example, uses his proprietary language (“no is-ing, no are-ing…” to say the progressive tenses aren’t as common). But when you have to talk with teachers, it’s not the lingo you need.
But that’s a different ball game, only for grammar aficionados.
With Pimsleur, though, you have no terminology at all. So, you will not learn grammar, but you will be able to use it.
And how big will my vocabulary be after I finish the five levels?
You will have a quite sizable vocabulary for someone who studied only 30 minutes a day for 150 days. It will be small, though, much smaller than you would have with a program like Rosetta Stone.
But I would say that it gets much easier to pick up vocabulary after 150 days with Brazilian Portuguese Pimsleur. You will have the framework. You don’t need to think too much to use a specific structure.
It’s like you have some toy blocks, and then you know where to put them already. If you get a new block, you just know where to put it. You don’t really have to spend a lot of time thinking about that.
Okay, and how does it compare to other programs?
I think it’s better than Rosetta Stone (official website). Pimsleur’s more interactive speaking-wise. It forces you to speak — if you follow these directions of the speakers.
And Rosetta Stone has the disadvantage (at least for me) that you have to turn your computer on and use it.
It’s not always very convenient, especially if you have a life to get on with. Rosetta Stone has a mobile app, but holding a mobile phone for long is painful for me With Pimsleur, it’s simple: put on your earphones and listen to it. No need to click or pause. It’s bliss for someone who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome like me.
And I would say that Rosetta Stone is far inferior. It’s much slower.
In 90 days, if you’re studying Rosetta Stone 30 minutes a day, you wouldn’t be quite at the same level as you would with Pimsleur speaking-wise.
With Pimsleur, you wouldn’t have a more solid understanding of the basic structure of the language. With Michel Thomas (official website), you will.
But there are two problems here:
First, Michel Thomas is only for European Portuguese, not for Brazilian Portuguese.
That’s the first caveat.
And the second problem is that you would be able to form sentences with Michel Thomas, but you wouldn’t probably understand when you are spoken to, a skill that you would probably have with Pimsleur.
Pimsleur doesn’t really compare to Teach Yourself and stuff like that, because it’s not the same platform (books vs. audio files). But I would say that Pimsleur beats them too.
Other Resources to learn Portuguese on my own?
If you’re just starting out but are on a budget, you might want to consider these.
And if you’re more into textbooks, we’ve got a review for you.
Have you had any experience with Pimsleur? Share it with us 🙂