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Pimsleur vs Fluenz: Communication Focused vs Academic Learning

Pimsleur and Fluenz are two language learning programs that are quite different. Both offer learning of the same or similar languages, but their approach is not the same.

In short:

  • Pimsleur is mostly focused on speaking, whilst not including written language as much and ignoring grammar. Learners will need to participate and speak aloud often.
  • Fluenz simulates a one-on-one tutor experience with the focus on more passive learning. An academic approach is characteristic of Fluenz as it explains important aspects of the language well.

Although my personal preference would be Pimsleur, as it is much more practical for beginners who want to quickly be able to communicate, I can see how Fluenz can be useful for learners who want a more balanced approach to learning a language.

There are, of course, many more language learning resources, including apps, to consider besides these two options. You can find our favorites for the most popular languages from the table below.


POSITIVES ABOUT EACH PROGRAM

PIMSLEUR

  • Much cheaper than Fluenz.
  • A lot of activities focused on the practical – speaking.
  • Interesting app full of pictures and cultural notes.
  • Lessons build up well; repeating what you have learned so far in each lesson.
  • You are always prompted to think and speak.

FLUENZ

  • Works offline.
  • Instructions are very thorough.
  • In-depth learning experience.
  • Effective and easy to use activities.
  • Very helpful explanations and frequent video tutorials.

NEGATIVES ABOUT EACH PROGRAM

PIMSLEUR

  • Lessons are not too exciting.
  • Written language not included as much.
  • Learning grammar is mostly ignored.

FLUENZ

  • Pricey.
  • Activities are not too exciting.
  • Activities are a bit slow and repetitive.
  • Not as great for Mandarin, as it does not use characters at all.

COST

Pimsleur offers five levels for the most popular languages. In the past, the price was overly high – you would pay as much as $550 for five levels. Now, the basic subscription costs $14.95 per month and the premium subscription is $19.95 per month.

With Fluenz, the payments are one-off. It also offers five levels for most of the languages. For all the five levels, it’s $408 (currently discounted to $378). Mandarin Chinese has only three levels; the cost is $322 for all of them (currently $308).

Only Level 1 and 2 are $187, while with Mandarin, one level is $187.

THE TEACHING STYLE AND FEATURES OF EACH Platform

PIMSLEUR

Pimsleur is an oral language learning app. If you want to learn how to speak a foreign language as soon as possible, but you do not really want to spend too much time learning grammar, this platform will be right for you.

Lessons are very well structured; they help you remember what you learned in the ones you have already gone through. That is a big positive, as a lot of learning platforms have only a wrap of each lesson at the end.

You are also constantly prompted to answer and produce new language. There are different conversations in each lesson with questions, such as: “How do you say…?”. You can also hear it in the language you are learning.

Each of the conversations is led by a narrator who sets the scene, e.g. meeting a tour guide outside of the hotel and so on. It means, instead of just repeating what the narrator said, you are prompted to produce your own words.

The Pimsleur app looks good and is nicely designed. Activities are accompanied by beautiful pictures and cultural notes, that will give you an insight into the culture of the country. For example, if you are learning Chinese, you will find a lot of references of locations and activities, such as information about the use of bamboo during traditional Chinese celebrations, or mentions of particular rivers located in China.

If you decide to purchase the premium plan, you will be able to access a few extra features. Although these features could be improved, they’re still worth paying for, as they add exposure to the written language for a minimal price increase.

Pimsleur does a great job of preparing learners to become conversational faster than most other resources.

Read our full review of Pimsleur.

Visit Pimsleur

FLUENZ

If you prefer a serious, academic approach to learning, Fluenz might be just the one language learning software for you.

To help you learn a foreign language, Fluenz provides effective and easy to use activities, although these are not too exciting. Instructions are always very clear.

Frequent video tutorials are a helpful tool; these are, with podcasts, a great way to learn, if you prefer passive learning. While watching the tutorials, you might want to take notes and look for other speaking resources, as speaking is not the main focus of Fluenz.

Activities are a bit slow and repetitive, although, if you are this type of learner, you might appreciate listening over exercises.

Each level contains 30 sections; each of them is focused on a specific topic and dialogue. Following, you can watch a video tutorial’s explanations and even do some exercises. By the time you get to harder activities, you have already had a chance to familiarize yourself with the language, so the workflow is very well thought through. But you always have access to all the parts, so you can go back and forth between activities, in whichever way you like.

Although there are no points or limits set for you, you can always access a “My data” section, where you can see your achievements.

On top of the main features, you can also access some additional ones, such as a forum, flashcards or a blog.

Read our full review of Fluenz.

Visit Fluenz

FINAL THOUGHTS

As Pimsleur is now much cheaper than it used to be (over $400 difference), it is now worth the price and I would definitely recommend trying it. If your goal is to learn how to speak a foreign language as quickly as possible, do not hesitate, and try their 7-day trial to see, if the layout and lesson plan is suitable for you.

Fluenz is much more lengthy, in-depth and expensive. It’s not the most exciting platform to use, as the learning is fairly passive.

However, if that is your learning style and you prefer to learn a language as a whole – including writing and grammar, you might be interested in trying out Fluenz. Still, with the high price, I’d lean towards trying other resources instead. Our top recommendations can be found for various languages from the table below.

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