If you’ve shopped around for foreign language courses you’ve probably heard of Pimsleur. PImsleur courses are known for focusing on speaking, listening, and pronunciation.
They have a bittersweet reputation for being effective, but expensive. You can read our full review of Pimsleur’s courses and method here.
This post is about the unique features of Pimsleur’s Russian courses. We’ll take a look how the courses can help or hinder your Russian learning and help you decide if they’re a worthy investment.
Summary of Pimsleur Method
Review of: Pimsleur
Use: Audio courses for learning foreign languages
With Pimsleur you will be able to speak at a functional level
Each lesson is 30 minutes
Ease of Use
Lesson are simple: just listen and repeat when prompted
Pimsleur courses are well designed and structured to teach you a foreign language
- Actually gets you speaking & listening
- Functional vocabulary
- Emphasizes pronunciation
- Easy to use
- You can switch between languages
I Don't Like
- Very formal language
- Little reading and no writing
Summary: Pimsleur courses are known as some of the best audio courses for learning to speak a foreign language. Their method includes a question/recall/response technique that is very effective for helping you internalize the basics of a new language. Many people who use Pimsleur cite a marked improvement in their speaking abilities.
Pimsleur is also one of the few language courses that focuses heavily on correct pronunciation. This helps a lot when trying to remember new words in a foreign language.
However Pimsleur courses also have their drawbacks. They tend to use highly formal language that is too respectful for most day to day situations. The courses are also sometimes criticized for teaching limited vocabulary.
Pimsleur now offers full access to all of their Russian courses for a monthly subscription of $19.95 per month. They also offer a 1 week free trial so you can try out their courses before pay for anything.
Starting at $19.95/moth subscription
Is Pimsleur Russian right for you?
If you're a beginner who wants to develop their conversation skills or an intermediate who wants to refine their speaking and listening then Pimsleur Russian may be right for you.
Advanced students of Russian won't find as much value in the course. Also if you really want to focus on reading and writing in Russian then Pimsleur isn't a great fit either.
Formal Вы vs informal Ты
Russian has two pronouns for the English “you”: “Вы” (formal) and “Ты” (informal). In true Pimsleur fashion Pimsleur Russian primarily uses the formal Вы versus the informal Ты. In fact, if I remember right, you won’t hear Ты until the 3rd course.
A brief explanation on the difference between "Вы" and "Ты"
This is a bit problematic if you’re planning on using Russian in informal situations. Pimsleur was originally aimed at traveling businessmen, so most dialogues involve talking with a stranger saying hello, asking for directions, or inviting them over for dinner.
The formal setting is like one where a very polite English speaker would use the words “sir” or “ma’am”
If you use only the Russian you learn from Pimsleur to talk with your friends you will be understood but you’ll come across as super polite. It’s important to note that each pronoun is used with a different set of verb conjugations, which means you'll need to practice using both pronouns alongside verbs before you master them.
So the verbs you use with Вы will conjugate differently than the ones you use with Ты.
Pronunciation & Audio
Pronunciation is an important part of the Pimsleur method. Each word is broken down by syllable. You repeat each one until you can say the entire word.
This comes in handy because Russian has a lot of long words with unfamiliar sounds. Without breaking them up like this I can’t imagine even trying to say them as a beginning Russian student.
My only qualm about the pronunciation in the course is that I wish Pimsleur would do a better job of explaining some of the unfamiliar sounds in the Russian language.
The narrator will point out that a particular sound is different, but he doesn’t tell you much about how to pronounce it correctly. A short phonetics lesson would go a long way toward improving the course.
For example, right form lesson 1 you’re introduced to the vowel “ы”, one of the most difficult Russian sounds for English speakers. There is little to no information on where to place your tongue. You have to figure it out on your own.
Here's a visual representation of the Russian "ы" sound compared to the "и" sound. The "и" is similar to English.
Pimsleur Russian features quality voice actors who do an excellent job of pacing their speech so that it’s not so fast that beginners can’t understand it, but it is still fast enough that it’s challenging. Overall the dialogues sound pretty natural and flow well. This isn’t always the case Pimsleur with courses, but here the Russian ones stand out.
Only 3 Levels
Pimsleur only offers Russian in 3 levels. Other Pimsleur courses like Latin American Spanish and Mandarin have up to 5 levels. Russian probably has less because it’s a less popular language to learn.
A Pimsleur course with 5 levels can help you reach an intermediate ability in a language, but with only 3 levels Pimsleur you can expect an upper beginner level of proficiency.
Pimsleur Russian does provide you with an introduction to the Cyrillic alphabet. Each Russian course comes with a selection of reading exercises.
In this exercise you a native speaker reads the text out loud while you follow along with the text booklet or pdf. Level 1 readings will start with single words and by level 3 you’ll be reading short sentences.
The readings are okay, but they’re not the best. Russian doesn't always sound the way its spelled so it can be confusing if you’re new to the language. You may see a vowel pronounced two or three different ways with no explanation as to why.
If you have the patience to work through the readings there’s no doubt you’ll learn something, but to truly get a grasp on reading Russian you should check out a different course.
What other people are saying about Pimsleur Russian
I've heard a few posts speak negatively of the Pimsleur course, but I have really enjoyed it. I know not all the translations and words are correct, and I have minor issues, but I look past that. It is a huge foundation of listening to people speak the language, and trying to repeat what they say.
That is something very few other resources are offering. Listening to full sentences with proper grammar and pronunciation, and trying to respond or repeat.
I am a little worried as well when I complete the Pimsleur course because I will lose my "daily conversation" tool, and just memorizing words and rules I don't seem to progress as quickly. Only Pimsleur gives me full sentences to speak and think about word order/grammar.
Alternatives to Pimsleur Russian
20+ minutes a day
Rocket Russian is built around recorded audio in the form of dialogues. The dialogues have English explanations and usually teach the language in "chunks" or phrases versus individual words (this is great for conversational Russian).
Rocket Russian isn't as focused on getting you primed for Russian conversations as Pimsleur, but it is well balanced and provides plenty of content on reading and writing in Russian.
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Russianpod101 isn't as structured as Pimsleur but it comes at much cheaper price. The site features audio lessons in a podcast format. Each lessons is design around a recorded conversation between two native Russian speakers. Lessons are great for grammar and vocabulary, and the teachers to a great job of keeping things engaging.
There are a lot of lesson available on the site, and depending on your subscription level there a lot of extra resources like in-site flashcards and lesson transcripts in Russian and English.
Starts at $15 per month
5+ minutes a day
Fluentu is a site that helps you learn a language through native videos. Use in site flashcards, captions, and games to learn new words in context while watching Russian TV shows, movies, commercials, and more. It's a great way to push your listening skills and vocabulary.
At the end of the day Pimsleur’s Russian courses are great for developing your speaking, listening, and Russian accent. They a offer little help with reading Russian, and no help with writing it. Even though there are 3 levels offered, their quality is high by Pimsleur standards.
Pimsleur offers the first lesson of their Russian 1 course for free on their site. If you’re considering purchasing one of their courses it’s a great way to try out their method.