The Pimsleur Language Teaching Methodology
As noted earlier these FSI learning rates and achievement levels for easy and hard languages are based on learners being trained with a particular FSI Intensive Language Training Program. It is revealing to compare these results with results based on learners using the Pimsleur Self–instructional Language Comprehensive Programs, which consist of three coordinated levels containing 30 audio lessons in each level. Under the Pimsleur Methodology, learners accomplish one 30–minute lesson each and every day.
The Pimsleur method of language training is based upon the assumption that every natural language contains within itself all of the keys to unlock the code of that language. Therefore Pimsleur introduces the learner to any new language by exposing him to spoken language in use i.e. in actual communication. This practice permits the learner to actually "hear" precisely what he needs to hear in order to identify and to understand who is doing what to whom, when, why, and how. In this type of training the learner gains the most powerful aspect of language, which is to be able to hear statements, to understand the situation, and eventually to respond with his own choices.
In short, he will be using all of the meaning–carrying elements human languages have developed over generations to become the incredible tool it has become! What more does a learner of a language need in order to behave as a normal human being and engage in spoken communication with his language community? Teaching him the rules of grammar in English is not an asset he can afford to waste his time on at this stage of his language learning!
All of this essential learning can happen — and be acquired as language–in–use only if the learner is allowed to concentrate on being "exposed" directly to the target language while it is actually–in–use! This means the adult learner can "do his own thing" and having previously developed his linguistic skills, will acquire gradual control of this new language as he did his mother tongue. It will be as natural as talking! And we have made no mention here of the part that learning to re–apply and re–use the same sort of previously acquired linguistic skills will mean to learners. It will also mean they will learn faster and easier and their success will give them the confidence and assurance they need to stay the course of learning!
The important principle in the development of adult spoken–language communication skills training is that learners progress from a compound linguistic system, in which the items of the second language are added to the native language to form a coordinate system. In this coordinate system the two languages can function independently, as appears to be the case with pure bilinguals.
Concerning language acquisition itself, with the exception of those with severe pathologies, everyone who has acquired his native tongue, can, under appropriate conditions, learn to understand, to speak and communicate effectively in additional languages.
A second language will be acquired by a normal human being if and only if particular, whole instances of the language are modeled for him and if his own particular acts of using the language are selectively reinforced. The critical point is that unless a learner has learned them as language–in–use, he has not learned them as language, and that if he has learned enough such instances, he will be able to understand and to effectively communicate in the foreign language.
In second language learning, instructional procedures have a considerable effect in determining the way in which the two languages coexist psychologically. The objective of spoken proficiency levels — effective communication — depends upon the instructional methodology of the teaching/learning Program.
In the space of each Pimsleur lesson of approximately 30 intensive minutes a day, the adult learner will experience real–language use. As he does this, each individual learner builds his own tapestry of language, whether it be in one, or several additional languages, after the first one. Pimsleur learners know they have the power to use languages in real life!
Pimsleur learner’s who follow the schedule of Pimsleur training, will test out as follows, on the ACTFL as well as the FSI Proficiency Scales. The ACTFL (The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) has developed their own official Proficiency Scale as a statement of the general aims and goals for the foreign language teaching profession. ACTFL and the FSI have published equivalencies between the two Scales.
Level I Pimsleur Instruction 30–lessons, after only 15 cumulative hours, you will be at the ACTFL Intermediate–low spoken proficiency, (a FSI –1 rating), able to survive and cope in country; able to ask and answer questions dealing with everyday situations, and as well earn respect and cooperation for your fluency, your pronunciation, and courtesy.
Level II Pimsleur Instruction 30 more lessons, after the second 15 cumulative hours, you will be at the ACTFL Intermediate–mid spoken proficiency, (a FSI –1 rating), able to exchange information about yourself, your family, or associates, and avoid basic cultural errors .
Level III Pimsleur Instruction 30 more Lessons, after the final 15 hours of the Comprehensive Program — for a total of 45 hours of training, you will be at the ACTFL Intermediate–high proficiency, (a FSI –1+ rating), able to participate in casual conversations and conduct everyday transactions with success and pleasure in your achievements.
The use of the ACTFL Proficiency Scale in this publication does not constitute endorsement of any private Enterprise or product by The American Counsel On the Teaching of Foreign Language.