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"Expensive, but still a solid audio-based course."

Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese Review

Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese - The ReviewWith over 1.2 billion native speakers, Mandarin Chinese is the most common language in the world. However for many non native speakers learning to converse in Mandarin can be a challenge. One language course that claims it can teach you to speak Mandarin much faster than traditional methods is Pimsleur Chinese. Pimsleur Mandarin uses Dr. Paul Pimsleur's patented method which focuses on active participation by the student over rote memorization.

In this review I will be examining the Pimsleur Chinese language course in depth. I will look at how effective the Pimsleur method is and some of its limitations. I will also describe those things about the Pimsleur Chinese language course which set it apart from the competition. You will also find a description of the course material and how much it will cost you to purchase. At the end of the review I provide a recommendation as to whether you should buy Pimsleur Chinese or opt for another one.


The course comes in either a 16 set of Audio CDs or as MP3 files, depending on which version you decide to buy.

The course consists of 30 lessons, which is approximately 16 hours of recorded material. By the end of the course you should be able to conduct yourself in Mandarin in basic travel based scenarios. The course also includes a booklet which contains cultural information about China.

The first 10 lessons cover basic conversation skills such as greetings and making simple requests. The following 10 lessons expand on what you learned previously and teach you how to deal with more complicated conversational topics such as those involving currency. The last 10 lessons build on what you know and move on to more advanced topics, such as talking about your family and making travel plans.

How much does it cost?

There are two versions of Pimsleur Chinese with differing price tags. Firstly there is the Audio CD version which is priced at $345.00. This course comes packaged on 16 individual CDs and comes with a cultural notebook. There is also an MP3 version which is priced at $119.95 and comes with a PDF user guide. Both versions of the course contain the same material, the difference being that one has the physical CDs and the other does not.


  • Perfect for portable learning - Because Pimsleur doesn't require any textbooks or computer software it is perfect for on the go learning. You can listen to the Pimsleur Chinese audios in your car or on your MP3 player. You do need to concentrate though, so if you are multitasking it needs to be something where the other task is not mentally demanding, like doing the housework or running on a treadmill.
  • Very easy to use - Unlike some software language learning courses, Pimsleur Chinese is very simple to use. All that is required is speaking when told to do so. This means that you don't need to spend any time trying to work out how the course works or reading through instructions.
  • Proven method - The Pimsleur method was first developed in the 1960's. It has a long track record of success, with many advocates for the learning method. Provided that you follow the method as prescribed and use it consistently, you can be confident that you will see the results.
  • Good for travel - The Pimsleur Chinese course is very focused on teaching conversational Mandarin for travel. Almost all of the content relates to travel based scenarios. And because there is no reading or writing taught, the course can fully focus on teaching you how to converse in Mandarin. All of the basic scenarios you are likely to encounter when traveling in Mandarin speaking countries are covered including at the hotel, transportation, dining and meeting new people.


  • Not good for visual learners - We all have different ways that I like to study a new language. Some of us are audio learners and prefer to listen to the material. Others are more visual learners and like to see things written down. While Pimsleur can be used by anyone, it is better suited to people who like to learn by listening.
  • Can become boring - Compared to many of the multimedia language learning courses such as Rosetta, Fluenz and Rocket, the Pimsleur course can become boring after you have used it for sometime. If you prefer variety in your study, then you may dislike the Pimsleur method. A language learning course is only effective if you use it, and some learners give up on Pimsleur before they see results.
  • Its expensive - Pimsleur Chinese is not cheap. At $345 for the CD version it is the same price as many software based courses. At this price you would expect more than an audio based course. While a language learning course should be judged by how effective it is, and not how many features it has, many believe that Pimsleur does not offer good value for money.
  • Doesn't teach Chinese characters - Pimsleur Chinese has no tuition on how to read or write in Chinese characters. If the course was less expensive, then this might not be considered a major issue. But at over almost $400 not including any material on the written language seems like poor value for money.


  • Very user friendly
  • Old and proven method
  • Audio lessons make it great for travel
  • A slight pricey (at $300 for the basic version)
  • Lack of multimedia can make it boring
  • Doesn't cover the writing part that well


The Pimsleur Chinese course is effective at what it promotes itself as, which is a course which teaches you basic conversational Mandarin for travel. Because the focus on Pimsleur is very limited, it is more effective than many other language courses which try and teach all aspects of Mandarin.

However this is also Pimsluer Chinese main flaw. It's expensive when compared to other language courses, but includes no information on the written language. It also teaches only up to a fairly basic level of Mandarin. Other language courses such as Rocket Chinese, cover everything that Pimsleur Chinese does and more. Overall Pimsleur Chinese does what it promises, but in my opinion there are other courses which provide better value for the money.