Pimsleur Chinese Review (2021) – Everything’s Changed!

This is a review of Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin edition.

I’ll admit, when it comes to learning something, I much prefer watching a video. There’s something with being able to focus in on the visuals, along with what a person is saying, and be able to better learn the material. But, Pimsleur approaches this from a different angle, suggesting that focusing solely on an audio-first experience will help listeners not only remember more but also develop a stronger sense of listening to and in turn speaking the language.

The result?

Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese is an audio-first Mandarin learning experience that surpassed my expectations. The simple structure of just listening to a 30-minute track every day was easy to remember and build a habit for. Additionally, after having taken the course myself, I do think that having it be audio-only did force me to focus more on the tones of the language and enhance my overall listening skill as it relates to Mandarin. And, with all the incredible improvements they have made to their Pimsleur platform, including new pricing plans that are more affordable, even offering a free trial, there has never been a better time for someone to try Pimsleur.

In this guide, I will evaluate Pimsleur based on my experience with their audio-only version. They have recently been evolving their platform with new mobile apps and a new pricing model, and I will talk on that briefly, but the focus of this will be on their core audio lessons.

Pimsleur Review Summary

Pimsleur is the best audio-first Mandarin Chinese course on the market. With their bite-sized 30-minute audio lessons and daily schedule, it’s relatively easy to adhere to the program and see tremendous success and growth in just 30 days. Their new learning platform makes practicing and remember material easier than ever and the mobile app makes keeping track of your progress simple.

Pros of Pimsleur

5 levels of Pimsleur covers a range of Chinese learning from beginner to upper-intermediate
Audio-only instruction simplifies learning
Easy to remember what you need to practice each day (just listen to the next lesson)
30 minutes per day is very doable and adhere to from a student’s perspective
Perfect for those with a commute to make better use of time
Mobile app works really well

Cons of Pimsleur

Would love to see a level 6 of Pimsleur
Material can be boring at times

Now, let’s take a deeper look into Pimsleur and see what they have to offer and if it is the right solution for you. For your convenience, use the table of contents to navigate to different sections of the review.

What is Pimsleur?

Pimsleur is an online language-learning platform that focuses on using audio as the primary form of instruction. More recently, Pimsleur has been evolving in a very positive direction with the inclusion of flashcards, reading practice, quizzes, and more. In short, they have really upgraded their learning overall and if you were a past customer of Pimsleur and feel like it didn’t stick with you before, it is worth a re-visit because of their changes.

Can I just take a second to appreciate that logo? It looks so nice – great colors, nice typeface choice… I love it.

Pimsleur takes the guesswork out of learning a new language by providing you with a simple strategy: listen to 1 30-minute audio recording a day, every day, for 30 days to complete one of their lessons. After 30 days, you will have gained a large amount of proficiency in that language of choice.

Here are the benefits you can expect by taking a Pimsleur course:

Learn a wide-range of Chinese
Take the guesswork out of studying Chinese
Greatly improved listening abilities
Clean pronunciation skills
Test your retention with built-in quizzes
Learn from a structured, all-in-one course system

Mandarin Courses Offered by Pimsleur

As of 2021, Pimsleur offers Chinese levels from Level 1 to Level 5. This covers a range of learners from absolute beginner to ~upper intermediate. They offer both Mandarin and Cantonese versions of Chinese instruction (I took the Mandarin versions). I personally have finished levels 4 and 5 (I skipped the first 3 since I had been learning Chinese prior to starting Pimsleur) and believe that someone will be able to hold daily conversations with little issues after completing the 5th level.

Pimsleur Mandarin Course Content Style

As mentioned, Pimsler is audio-focused. On a learning day, it is as simple as opening up your app, pressing play, and staying focused for 30 minutes. I have tried to play video games while listening, cleaning, and playing guitar – but, to get the most out of the lessons, it’s best to sit/lay down and focus in. Well, maybe it’s just because I’m not a great multi-tasker, but the lessons do get progressively more challenging, and taking the time to intentionally remember the words is worth it.

The presenter will set the scene with a situation and provide you with useful prompts, indicating tones and explaining concepts in English. He will regularly ask you to repeat or say a word/phrase to test your skills and I found this to be ultra helpful when learning. And, the feeling you get when you answer the speaker’s question successfully is great. I totally mean it, too. It feels like you are really making progress and (at least in my case) I had mini celebrations when I was able to remember what I learned.

So, what is actually covered in the materials? It changes level to level but they do build upon each other. All of the vocabulary and phrases learned during the lessons felt useful and meaningful, even though sometimes I felt like they would not be useful.

What do I mean, exactly?

Well, I remember learning about Macau’s egg tarts in one early lesson and thinking, “Who is ever actually going to say that particular phrase?” As if the Pimsleur gods were listening, later that day, someone just had to talk about Macau and their delightful egg tarts.

I will never doubt you again, Pimsleur.

Joking aside, it does seem like the material isn’t useful at times or you may wonder why you are learning a particular thing. But, the content is verifiably useful.

I did want to point out, though, the one major hurdle people may encounter when trying Pimsleur – the boring factor.

I get it – as I grinded through level 4 and level 5 of Pimsleur, there are times when it feels like it lasts forever. Like, doing a plank at the gym for 1 minute feels like 1 hour forever. To this, I say – you got this. Or, at least that’s what I told myself to get through it. Language learning isn’t always explosions and entertainment. But, I can confirm that the payoff and feeling of achievement you will feel after finishing each lesson – it’s well worth it. This isn’t to say that their lessons are boring. In fact, they are really mentally engaging and challenging and fun. It can just be tough, sometimes, as all studying can be. Stick with it and you will see results.

The Future of Pimsleur Mandarin is Here

The Pimsleur platform has evolved since it was first released to the world. Nowadays, with a Pimsleur subscription, you have access to additional reading lessons, challenges, flash cards, games, and expansion moments that connect what you learn to the real-world.

To be honest, even just having a Pimsleur app is a huge upgrade. I remember having to try to remember which of the lessons I was on every time I loaded it up on my computer (and later my phone) and am thankful they have an app now that works great and is easy to use.

The Power of Pimsleur Chinese’s structure

I feel like language-learning is like working out. Sometimes, you just need someone to tell you exactly what to do and follow a very particular structure. I personally found the predictable nature of listening to an audio recording every day for 30 minutes a day (for 30 days) to be an extremely welcome change to my Chinese learning. Not much more to say here.

The Verdict for Pimsleur Chinese

Rating: 5 out of 5.

So, with other courses like Yoyo Chinese and Chinese Zero to Hero, where does Pimsleur fit in to the learning equation?

For those that want to learn/practice Mandarin and have a daily commute in their car, this is a great option to pass the time. Or, if you are taking Yoyo Chinese and Chinese Zero to Hero and just want something to break up the pattern a bit, Pimsleur is a great addition there too. For me, I did something somewhere in the middle. I had just completed HSK 4 and wanted to jump into learning from Pimsleur before starting HSK 5. And, at that time, I had an hour commute in the morning when I was able to get my Pimsleur in.

In short, Pimsleur is another great option to add to the list if you want to learn or practice Mandarin. Since they have a free trial, the best recommendation I can give is to simply sign up for that and see if it works for you.

Happy learning and I hope this review was helpful for you!