If you are serious about learning Brazilian Portuguese you are probably looking for a course to help you reach fluency faster. Naturally you may be wondering if Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese is a good option for you to consider. Pimsleur is all over the place, at bookstores, at airports and with ads that follow you around on the internet. You may be wondering if Pimsleur Portuguese can stack up to all of the hype. On this page you’ll find my Pimsleur review as I attempt to answer whether Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese really works for Portuguese learners.
Overview of Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese
Pimsleur is among the most popular language learning programs in the world. It has been around for about 50 years and is distributed by Simon & Schuster, thus it has become somewhat of a worldwide phenomenon. Given the high price point, it is wise to carefully consider whether or not the Pimsleur approach is right for you before making a purchase.
Pimsleur is an audio-based approach that generally includes 90 daily 30-minute audio lessons. The idea is that you can become conversationally fluent in a language in 3 months with just 30 minutes of Pimsleur a day. Sound too good to be true? Keep reading and get the Brazilian Gringo’s thoughts on this product.
Price: Complete 3 Unit Course—$350
Individual Unit: $150
Buy Pimsleur Online – Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese Download
Watch this video to get my thoughts on Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese
Strengths of Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese
One aspect that I like about Pimsleur is it takes a very active listening based approach. I’ve heard far too many language learners say they are just going to ‘soak up’ the language by listening to a lot of content. While I support listening to as much native content as possible, it is irrelevant if you cannot produce it yourself.
This is where Pimsleur excels. It requires you to listen carefully and then repeat. Not only do you have to pay close attention to pronunciation and intonation, but more importantly, you have to always pay close attention. This keeps student actively engaged, and the 30-minute sessions are short enough where students can maintain focus everyday.
Gets your mouth moving
One weakness of many language courses is that students do not have enough opportunities to actually speak the language. Pimsleur does relatively well in this regard. It has you repeating phrases from day one. Even if you are learning somewhat irrelevant phrases, the process of producing Portuguese sounds with your mouth will increase your comfort and confidence in the language.
Lack of context
The audio lessons present words and phrases to you, and then give you a brief pause so you can repeat them. I am a fan of repetition, but not in complete isolation. It is difficult for me (and imagine most everyone else) to really commit a phrase to memory when it is completely out of context of learning the language.
Occasionally, Pimsleur attempts to remedy this problem by providing suggested contexts. For example, they will say, “Imagine you are sitting next to a Brazilian woman” or “Imagine you are the center of São Paulo.”
It is my hunch that if you are using Pimsleur, you are not sitting next to a Brazilian woman in São Paulo, thus it will prove very difficult to imagine that situation. It is somewhat laughable that one of the largest language companies in the world would think that learners could simply imagining a situation would provide sufficient cultural context. Pimsleur could do a much better job of providing more context for its students.
I used to listen to Pimsleur everyday when I first got to Brazil. The process of hearing and repeating Portuguese would boost my confidence before going out into social settings. I would learn phrases like “O senhor fica no Hotel Orla?” Not only did I not find opportunity the opportunity to talk about the Orla Hotel with my friends, but I also realized that the Portuguese taught in Pimsleur was overly formal and irrelevant in Brazilian contexts.
I can’t tell you how many times I confidently attempted to incorporate a word or phrase that I learn from Pimsleur into my actual Portuguese classes, where my friends and even business associates pretty much just shut it down, claiming “No one in Brazil actually says that.”
Brazilians, for the most part, are pretty laid-back and informal people, and this is apparent in the language as well. Rarely, will you refer to someone as ‘senhor’ or ‘doutor,’ yet Pimsleur was telling me to do it all the time. Pimsleur would be much more effective if it was tailored to more everyday speech rather than somewhat arcane, overly formal Portuguese that nobody actually speaks.
If you want to see the exact phrases that are used in Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese, you can check out the transcripts that Erikspen shared.
Inefficient use of time
One of the selling points is that you can learn Portuguese in 90 days, with just 30 minutes of Pimsleur a day. It’s a hell of a pitch, but if you think about it 45 hours is a pretty solid chunk of time. And with Pimsleur, because lessons build upon themselves, you have to listen to all 45 hours in the correct order. So there is no skipping around if you find a section boring or irrelevant. Finally, for 45 hours, you learn a surprisingly little amount of vocabulary. Apart from overly formal greetings, ordering in a restaurant, and weird business encounters, your vocabulary will be very limited for the amount of time and effort you put in the course.
Not only is there a huge lack of context for the most part, the little context they provide is highly irrelevant for my wants and needs. In Brazil, I am usually trying to make friends, explore cities, listen to music, and hang out on the beach. I am not in a suit in tie on a two-week business assignment abroad. Granted, if that is what you are going to Brazil for, this course might be more helpful for you than it was for me. Nevertheless, language courses have to be tailored to the needs of the student, not the other way around, and Pimsleur does a very poor job in this regard.
Reliance of Self Corrections
Pronunciation is one of the hardest aspects of Brazilian Portuguese learners to master, or even just manage at a basic level. There are a lot of subtleties to the sounds of Brazilian Portuguese that can get drowned out if you’re don’t have a background in phonetics or music.
While you can get pretty close to authentic Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation by listening and repeating to the Pimsleur Portuguese audio lessons, you will have some difficulties in truly speaking like a Brazilian.
Convenience of using Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese
Despite my many criticisms of Pimsleur, I have to admit the format is pretty convenient. I would go on a walk in the morning and listen to Pimsleur for 30 minutes. I was done in 45 days. In terms of convenience, I endorse their structured approach.
Cultural Relevance and Authenticity
As you can probably already deduced from the weaknesses section of the course, I am not a huge proponent of the authenticity and cultural relevance of Pimsleur. In short, unless you are an overly formal business executive who only be needs to express pleasantries with complete strangers, much of the course will be irrelevant for you.
Is Pimsleur Effective for Connecting With Brazilians?
Minimally. It will help in the sense that you may slightly improve your pronunciation, learn some new vocabulary, and maybe the names of a new city or two. Apart from that, Brazilians will most likely think the way you speak is really strange.
Can you rely entirely on this course or should you use it in combination with another course?
I would strongly recommend against using Pimsleur as a stand alone product. At best, it could be used as an audio supplement to a textbook or other resources. But with a $350 price tag, I find it to be a pretty pricey audio supplement.
I used Pimsleur before I got to Brazil, but I ditched it a few days after I got here in favor of a more self guided approach. I figured out what I wanted to be able to say to people, found out how to say it, then kept repeating it and using it until it became second nature.
If I went back in time and was learning Portuguese again, and I wanted to rely on only one language program to help me get fluent, I would use Semantica Portuguese. Semantica teaches Portuguese through the use of an entertaining video series, almost like a novela that teaches Portuguese. It was made uniquely for Brazilian Portuguese learners by Portuguese learners who know the specific challenges that foreigners face when learning Portuguese in Brazil.
The advantage of Semantica over Pimsleur is that you learn Brazilian Portuguese as it is spoken by real Brazilians today. With Semantica, grammar and vocab are learned as a result of understanding what is going on in the story, which makes it easier to absorb and understand. You’ll learn colloquial expressions, local slangs and how to pronounce words like a Brazilian.
Semantica has my highest recommendation, though I may be a little bit biased because I was an actor in some of the videos. Before I worked with Semantica though, I used their material to learn Portuguese.
If you want to learn more about Semantica you can read a more in depth review here, or you can check out their homepage. Alternatively if you haven’t found what you’re looking for you can check out this page with more recommendations and resources for learning Brazilian Portuguese.