Reviews: Pimsleur’s European Portuguese

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Written by: | Last updated on July 24, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes
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Pimsleur’s European Portuguese is a popular audio-based course that covers the very basics of Portuguese. It’s ideal for dedicated tourists or those who are just getting started in European Portuguese and want something to build their confidence.

Previously Pimsleur was sold in MP3 or CD-format, but now all of their courses are accessible through the Pimsleur app (available on both iOS and Android as well as online). As well as European Portuguese, Pimsleur also offers Brazilian Portuguese and a huge number of other languages including French, German, and Spanish.

Format

If you’ve previously listened to a Pimsleur course on MP3 or a CD, you may be familiar with the format. In a typical lesson you will hear a short audio extract, typically a conversation, and then it’ll be broken down for you. Then, the narrator will ask you questions based on the audio. For example, if the conversation is about booking a hotel room, you might be asked, “how do you say, do you have a hotel room for two people” or “is the room smoking or non-smoking?”

The app goes a little further than the audio CDs and includes reading lessons, flashcards, quizzes, and other games.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Pimsleur has a lot of strengths, but the biggest one is that it gives you tools to start creating your own (very basic) sentences and, just as importantly, the confidence to do that too. Even if the sentences are ultimately quite basic, there’s a lot to be said to gaining the confidence to attempt to speak Portuguese. It’s also a very flexible course to study: you can listen to it while you’re walking the dog, at the gym, or driving.

You won’t develop a huge vocabulary or develop great grammar abilities. Instead, Pimsleur focuses on a very small number of important words and phrases and uses them in multiple conversations so that you really memorise them.

The app is also a big improvement on the audio CDs as it includes useful features like vocabulary flash cards and quizzes. These are really helpful for ingraining what you’ve learnt, and practicing when you have a free moment — for example, when you’re on the metro.

But, there are some negatives to Pimsleur too.

Firstly, there’s very little reading and no writing involved. While speaking and listening are definitely the hardest parts of learning Portuguese, it definitely feels like there’s a big language element missing here.

Secondly, Pimsleur only goes as far as Level 2, which means a lot of people finish the course and don’t know where to go to next. The Pimsleur Method is both unique and enjoyable, and most people don’t want to jump from that to a traditional language course. Pimsleur’s Brazilian Portuguese course, in comparison, goes up to level 5.

The Pimsleur was great, and I think the speaking-only format will help me communicate better and more confidently than if I just studied a traditional method. But where should I go to pick up where Pimsleur leaves off?

Duane (Portugalist reader)

Ultimately, Pimsleur will give you the foundational tools and confidence to get started but you’re going to need a few other resources to take you to the next level and to pick up the slack where Pimsleur isn’t so strong. However, if you really like the Pimsleur approach, you could start off with this course and then find something else when you’ve completed all of the lessons.

Another alternative would be Michel Thomas’ European Portuguese, which is similar but not identical, and goes to a slightly more advanced level than Pimsleur does.

Costs

Pimsleur works on a subscription basis and costs around $20.95 per month. A 7-day free trial is available.

This makes it slightly more expensive than Practice Portuguese, another popular language learning tool for European Portuguese, but more affordable than many other courses, many of which charge a flat fee.

Your Pimsleur membership gives you access to all of Pimsleur’s other languages, however, it’s likely that most people will mainly use the European Portuguese content.

Verdict

Pimsleur is a great tool for getting started and gaining that all-important confidence in the beginning. The fact that it’s subscription based means that you could work through all of these lessons in a few months and then move onto something a little more advanced.

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.