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Pimsleur Chinese review: 100% Focus on Speaking So You Can Learn to Speak Mandarin

Pimsleur Review Chinese

Pimsleur Chinese

Rating 4.0


Pimsleur Chinese is one of the most popular and longest-standing resources out there for learning the Chinese language. Its courses place a strong emphasis on aural and verbal communication skills, paying less attention to grammar explanations and reading or writing skills. 

Quality 4.5

The platform is extremely well designed and easy to use. The content seems to be of high quality at all levels.

Thoroughness 4.0

Timely repetition and active practice work well, and lessons build on each other nicely, but the “intermediate fluency in 30 days” claim may be a stretch.

Value 3.5

The subscription option provides good value for some, but there may be more efficient ways to learn some languages.

I Like
  • The lessons are structured well and are an appropriate length.
  • There are both male and female native speakers.
  • Lessons build on each other nicely.
  • The platform is easy to navigate and visually appealing.
I Don’t Like
  • There’s very little visual content.
  • Lesson speed isn’t customizable.

Subscriptions of either $14.95/month or $19.95/month are available for courses with at least 60 lessons. Prices otherwise range from around $20 to over $500. All purchases come with a 7-day free trial.

The Pimsleur Chinese course is a language learning program that uses an audio-based approach to teach Mandarin Chinese. The course was developed by Dr. Paul Pimsleur, an expert in the field of language acquisition, and has been used by millions of people around the world to learn Chinese. The Pimsleur Chinese course is designed to help learners develop their listening and speaking skills through a series of interactive audio lessons. Each lesson focuses on a specific topic or situation, such as ordering food in a restaurant or asking for directions and includes a variety of language exercises to reinforce the material covered.

Before using the Pimsleur app for learning Chinese, there are several things you should consider:

  • Your learning style: Pimsleur Chinese course primarily focuses on developing listening and speaking skills through audio lessons. If you prefer to learn through visual aids or reading, this course may not be the best fit for you.
  • Your focus: Because Pimsleur Chinese is an audio-based course, you need to be able to focus on audio content for up to thirty minutes. While you might be tempted to multitask during this time, you will get the best results if you can remain focused.
  • Time commitment: The Pimsleur Chinese course is designed to be completed in 30-minute daily sessions. If you do not have the time or discipline to commit to this schedule, you may find it difficult to make progress with the course.
  • The Chinese dialect you want to learn: The Pimsleur Chinese course teaches Mandarin and Cantonese, which are the official languages of areas such as China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. If you are interested in learning another Chinese dialect, such as Hokkien, this course may not be the best choice for you.
  • Learning goals: The Pimsleur Chinese course is primarily focused on developing conversational skills for everyday situations. If you have more specific learning goals, such as learning Chinese for business or academic purposes, you may need to supplement this course with additional resources.
  • Price: The Pimsleur Chinese course is a paid program, and the cost may be a consideration for some learners. Before committing to the program, consider your budget and whether the investment is worth it for your language learning goals.

There are several benefits to using the Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese course to learn Chinese:

  • Audio-based approach: The Pimsleur Chinese course uses an audio-based approach to language learning, which is highly effective for developing listening and speaking skills. By immersing yourself in the language through audio lessons, you can improve your pronunciation, comprehension, and overall fluency.
  • Spaced repetition: One of the unique features of the Pimsleur method is the use of spaced repetition, which is a technique that involves repeating information at increasing intervals to help commit it to memory. This means that the course gradually introduces new vocabulary and grammar structures over time, and constantly reviews previously learned material to ensure that learners retain the information.
  • Real-world context: The Pimsleur Chinese course focuses on teaching language skills in real-world contexts, such as ordering food in a restaurant or asking for directions. This can help learners feel more confident using the language in everyday situations.
  • Comprehensive: The Pimsleur Chinese course covers a wide range of language skills, including vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. This can help learners develop a strong foundation in the language and progress to more advanced levels.
  • Professional guidance: Pimsleur has been in the language-learning business for over 50 years, and the course was developed by experienced language educators. This ensures that learners receive a high-quality, professional language-learning experience.

Alternatives to the Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese Online Course

StoryLearning Chinese Uncovered

However, if you feel like the auditory focus of Pimsleur is not for you, you might want to check out Chinese Uncovered by StoryLearning.  The Story Learning website allows you to learn Mandarin Chinese through stories or narratives. Unfortunately, Story Learning only offers a Mandarin course, but there is a blog post with tips for learning Cantonese. There are several reasons why story learning can be particularly effective for learning Chinese:

  • Contextual learning: Stories provide a context for language learning, which can make it easier to understand and remember new words and grammar structures. By learning Chinese through stories, learners can see how words and grammar are used in context, making it easier to apply the language to real-life situations.
  • Immersion: Stories provide an immersive language-learning experience, which can help learners develop their listening and comprehension skills. By listening to stories in Chinese, learners can become more familiar with the sound and rhythm of the language.
  • Engagement: Stories can be engaging and entertaining, which can help motivate learners to continue learning. By connecting with characters and plotlines, learners may be more likely to remember new words and grammar structures.
  • Cultural learning: Stories can also provide insights into Chinese culture and history, helping learners develop a deeper understanding of the language and its context.
  • Focus on reading and writing: Learning Chinese characters can prove to be challenging and so you can use Story Learning to associate the characters with both the sound and meaning of the words you learn.


If you like the sound of Pimsleur’s audio format but require a more structured, course-like approach, then you might enjoy ChineseClass101. ChineseClass101 is an online language learning platform that provides audio and video lessons, as well as other resources, to help learners of all levels improve their Chinese language skills. Overall, ChineseClass101 can be a good tool for learning Chinese for several reasons:

  • Comprehensive content: ChineseClass101 provides a wide range of audio and video lessons that cover different aspects of the Chinese language, including vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and culture. The lessons are designed to be accessible to learners of all levels, from beginners to advanced learners.
  • Engaging approach: The lessons are designed to be engaging and interactive, with a focus on conversational skills and real-life scenarios. This can help learners feel more confident using the language in everyday situations.
  • Variety of learning materials: In addition to audio and video lessons, ChineseClass101 also provides a variety of other learning materials, including flashcards, grammar guides, and quizzes. This can help learners reinforce their knowledge and build their language skills.
  • User-friendly platform: ChineseClass101 is easy to use and navigate, with a clear and intuitive interface. Learners can access the lessons from their desktop or mobile device, making it convenient to study anywhere and at any time.

Chinese Zero to Hero

If you’re focusing on taking an HSK exam, then you might consider Chinese Zero to Hero.  The courses offered by this language learning platform focus on enabling students to use the language for real-world tasks from the beginning. They use engaging instructional design principles and multimedia learning guidelines to create fun and effective lessons. The courses also prioritize communication and function, providing plenty of opportunities for practice, both written and oral, and encouraging students to practice with language exchange partners. All courses follow the standardized HSK curriculum, allowing students to measure their progress and prove their ability, and they use the HSK Standard Course textbook by Jiang Liping.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Pimsleur can be a useful tool for learning Chinese, especially for those who prefer an audio-based approach to language learning. However, it’s important to note that the Pimsleur method may not be suitable for everyone, as some learners may prefer a more visual or interactive approach to language learning.

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