Reviews: Pimsleur’s European Portuguese

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Pimsleur’s European Portuguese Level 1 is a popular audio-based course (MP3s or CDs) 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.

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. Just as importantly, it gives you the confidence to do that too. A lot of other Portuguese courses, particularly the more traditional textbooks, don’t do that.

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It’s also a very flexible course to study: you can listen to it while you’re hoovering, at the gym, or driving.

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But, there are a lot of negatives to Pimsleur too.

Firstly, there’s no reading or writing involved [update: the Audible version of the course does include PDFs] and to learning to read and write in Portuguese are important skills too. It is true that reading is the skill must people will work on anyway, and very few self-taught language courses include a speaking element, but this definitely is a weakness.

There also isn’t a level 2 to Pimsleur’s European Portuguese, which means a lot of people finish the course and don’t know where to go to next. The Pimsleur Method is quite 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.

Those who finish the course also don’t quite know what level they’re at. It’s somewhere around A1, but there are definitely some gaps.

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)

Then there are also some minor issues with the course content, particularly around the way you use the word você. This isn’t a major issue in reality, and you’ll soon be corrected, but it’s one that a lot of people have commented on.

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 wasn’t so strong.

A similar course that solves a lot of these issues is Michel Thomas Portuguese. It’s also audio-based and so it shares some of the same weaknesses as Pimsleur’s European Portuguese, but it’s much, much more in-depth.

Costs

Pimsleur costs between $100 and $120 when purchased through Audible (depending on if you take advantage of the free trial for the first set of lessons) and $119.95 when purchased directly from Pimsleur.

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Comments

  1. If you believe that the best way to teach someone to swim is to push them into the deep end of the pool then this course is for you. At one point in the first lesson the moderator says "notice how the words run together." Yes, I do. That may be the way natives speak, but it was too fast, too soon for this beginner. I gave up in frustration.

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  2. It is only a beginner course for European português. No volume 2 exist.
    False advertising - Pimsleur advertised that you can have up to 5 volumes, but apparently only for Brazilian Português.
    I regret purchasing Pimsleur. It’s like buying a car without tires to drive.

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  3. This was the first course that I tried and I found it very helpful but it's definitely very basic. Not much in the way of grammer. Limited vocabulary. But you will know what it does teach you inside out.

    It got me through my first few months in Portugal and for that I'm very grateful but it is super limited. I would give the course 5 stars if it were half the price but I feel that it's too expensive for what it is.

    Others have recommended Michel Thomas as an alternative and maybe that's what I should have bought in the first place.

    Other downsides include the occassional use of voce and the lack of written material.

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  4. The course is good for someone who is coming to Portugal on vacation or at the very start of learning Portuguese. At the end of the course I could form basic sentences but it wasn't much more advanced that what a tourist might use. You will definitely need to study other material after this.

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  5. This did exactly what my wife and I needed and expected, namely provide just enough proficiency to be able to navigate Portugal as tourists for 2 weeks. We were just fine with this course, then we had Google Translate and our existing Spanish bases to fill in whatever vocabulary gaps we had as we went around the country. I was happy with it and liked the structure/approach. You have to keep expectations realistic because learning a new language is extremely difficult for an adult (or even children over say age 10). If you keep expectations in check, you're more likely to be happy with this course.

    We did this course via Audible over 1.5-2 months (4-5 lessons per week), where you can get all 30 lessons for I think it was 5 credits, so that really cuts down the price and also provides additional audio content with a PDF book for extra exercises (side note: it's also how I learned Audible has attachments that go with the main audio). I typically listened in the morning on my way to work (45ish minutes of easy highway driving; the car is also ideal to repeat phrases out loud since nobody else is around) and would do the reading material either before my commute, at night after work, or on weekends.

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  6. This course was great for getting me started in Portuguese (much better than the language course I took in Lisbon). It isn't enough though as you say. I feel like it needs a grammar component. I would also like if there was a book to go with it where I could go over the lessons. I know this isn't how Pimsleur does things but it would have helped me.

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