All posts by Rohan Hartley

My experiences using the Pimsleur method

I recently penned a comprehensive review of the Pimsleur language learning system and deliberately left out my own personal experiences using their courses to keep it somewhat objective. In this post then, I will share a few stories of how I have used this program in this past.

For the record, I don’t consider myself to be anything special in terms of having an aptitude for languages or foreign accents. People put far too much emphasis on ability. In reality, anyone can master a foreign language. Language is a natural activity for human beings that adult learners simply need to unlock.

What does actually matter then? When it comes to learning languages, your results will overwhelmingly come from a combination of working hard, implementing efficient study techniques and using the best tools available. On the last measure, Pimsleur ranks among the very best language learning tools out there.

Italian: The language that started it all

My first experience with Pimsleur was learning Italian as a teenager. Having found out about Pimsleur via Barry Farber’s fantastic book on language learning, I casually mentioned it to my Mum. My Mum being the amazing person that she is then went and researched it and got me the full Italian course as a surprise.

I was 18 years old at the time so my memory is hazy, but I made rapid progress in a matter of weeks. I remember testing out my new knowledge on an Italian acquaintance and he complimented me on my accent. When I said I’d been learning for just a few weeks, he looked pretty amazed.

I completed all 90 lessons of the course and eventually visited Italy where I attended a language school and worked in a restaurant as a waiter. Fun times for a fresh British teenager! Pimsleur gave me enough to ask directions (important at the time with no smartphones!), engage in basic conversations and generally break the ice with locals. While it wasn’t enough to master the language, Pimsleur gave me a solid foundation from which to build.

Japanese: A strong first impression

I still remember the day well. It was March 2005. The weather was bleak outside. It was one of those cold and dark winter days that England is infamous for. I was feeling nervous because I had a telephone interview that day for a teaching job in Japan. At the appointed time, I made the call and after a few rings, a gruff-sounding voice answered the phone in Japanese:

“Hai. Moshimoshi.” (Hello?)
Oops. Wasn’t expecting this! I wonder if this the right number? I mustered all the Japanese knowledge I had after a month of Pimsleur Japanese.
“S..sumimasen. Shimada san wa irrashaimasuka?” (Erm. Excuse me, is Mr Shimada there?)
“Hai. Watashi desu.” (Yes. Speaking.)
“Watashi wa Rohan desu.” (My name is Rohan.)

Luckily for me, Mr Shimada switched back to speaking English with me after that. With hindsight, however, I must have made a strong first impression because I got the job after an extremely short conversation.

When I arrived in Japan, Mr Shimada warmly greeted me in Japanese. He was surprised to find that my Japanese was, in fact, quite basic. My little bit of Pimsleur knowledge had tricked him! He’d even told my fellow teachers (including Justin, the co-founder of Perapera) that I spoke Japanese very well! We all had a good laugh about that. Of course, I did later go on to become fluent and I now translate Japanese professionally. But Pimsleur gave me my start and I’ll always be thankful for that.

Chinese: Pimsleur made it bearable

Many years later, I also used Pimsleur Chinese when I was starting out in the language. Following the Pimsleur course to get a grasp of the basics destroyed any remaining notion that Chinese is somehow difficult to learn. Once you get past the hype of those “impossible” tones, the spoken language is actually quite easy. My Chinese is still no match for my Japanese, but I can dabble a fair bit in it. You could do worse than giving the Chinese a course a go.

Korean: Where is the third volume?

Korean is a difficult language to pronounce for native speakers of English. I might even argue that it’s harder than Chinese in that respect. The Pimsleur Korean course certainly helps in this aspect. As I mentioned in my full review of Pimsleur, it’s a nice tool for getting the hang of the rudimentary intonation of a foreign language and this applies to Korean too. However, I definitely found myself pausing the tape and rewinding it more often. This probably has more to do with the inherent difficulty of Korean sounds rather than there being anything wrong with the course itself.

I admittedly only tried a small sample of the Korean course as I’ve yet too get too deep into my Korean studies, but it did feel as helpful as the other materials I’d tried. Unfortunately, Pimsleur Korean only goes up to 60 lessons. With the recent increase in interest for learning Korean as a foreign language, I wonder if this situation will change in the future. Chinese now has 150 lessons so let’s hope for some development in this area.

That is all for my experiences using Pimsleur. Overall, it’s a useful resource for any language learner and I would recommend it to anyone starting out with a new foreign language.

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Pimsleur Approach Review: The easiest language method I’ve found

While many language courses bill themselves as being “effortless”, I’ve personally observed that this is rarely the case. Pimsleur is one of the rare exceptions that makes language learning very easy.

I’ve personally used the Pimsleur method for Italian, Japanese and Chinese. In each case, the method gave me some great results and I came out with a useful (if limited) command of the language. Overall, Pimsleur is a handy weapon to have in your language learning arsenal. In the review that follows, I break down the major advantages of the Pimsleur approach, as well as the downsides, so that you can grasp what it’s all about.

Dr. Paul Pimsleur – Linguistics scholar and creator of the Pimsleur language learning system.

Continue reading “Pimsleur Approach Review: The easiest language method I’ve found” »

Is Japanese hard to learn? Yes and no!

One question that I’m asked all the time is whether Japanese is a difficult language to learn. My instinctual answer would be to say that it’s easy, but I’m 11+ years invested in the language already. Well I would say that wouldn’t I? 😀 However, I do truly believe that anyone can learn Japanese with a little time and effort.
Continue reading “Is Japanese hard to learn? Yes and no!” »

What is the best Japanese dictionary?

Whether you are just starting out with learning Japanese or at a more advanced level, having a good dictionary available is vital. In this article, I will break down my favourite Japanese-English dictionaries for various purposes. Bear in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list nor is it intended as one. It simply represents my own personal experiences with studying Japanese and using it at work.
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JapanesePod101 – A full review

When I started out on my path to Japanese fluency in 2005, resources such as textbooks and audio courses on CD were the only realistic way to make progress with this challenging language. Happily, there are now a a lot more choices when it comes to studying Japanese online.

The problem that students of Japanese now face is one of quality rather than quantity. So which solutions give you the best bang for your buck? In my humble opinion, JapanesePod101 is one of the best online courses out there for people who are serious about making significant progress in the language. As promised, I’ve finally got around to writing a complete review so here goes!









Continue reading “JapanesePod101 – A full review” »

Please donate to support the Perapera plugins

Are you a regular user of our Chinese and/or Japanese plugins? Do you wish to see them continue to be updated into the future?

We get daily emails and messages from people requesting improvements and bug fixes. This is great and we are happy that many people still value our plugins. Unfortunately, we can’t continue development work without your support.

Without boring you with the details, we have hired freelancers for the last couple of updates. One way or another, development comes at a cost.

Please make a donation now to support our project.

What are the best podcasts for learning Japanese?

Podcasts can be a fantastic way of rapidly expanding your familiarity with a language. For Japanese, there is a multitude of resources available. In this post, I am going to list up the best Japanese podcasts that I have come across.

JapanesePod101: A great podcast for Japanese learners


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5 ways to reclaim your brain and master a foreign language

The more I study and reflect on my language studies, I have semi-regular realizations about myself and how things work. The most recent is a simple one: A lot of this language learning stuff is as much about what not to do, as what you actually do.

Continue reading “5 ways to reclaim your brain and master a foreign language” »

Learn in Your Car series currently available for free on Audible

Learn in Your Car is a cool series that I’ve been meaning to do a review of for a while. There’s no time for that tonight (I just finished work and it’s almost 3am). However, the other day I noticed that the complete Learn in Your Car audio courses for both Chinese and Japanese are currently available for free with a 30 day Audible trial.

Over 10 hours of quality audio for nothing. That’s a pretty good deal if I ever saw one.

You can download the Learn in Your Car programs from below:

Learn in Your Car Japanese
Learn in Your Car Chinese

And yes, we are still working on the next plugin updates…watch this space!