How Pimsleur Helped Me Learn Dari and French

In 2017, I was sent to Afghanistan to work as an advisor to an Afghan police unit.

During my first few weeks in country, I couldn’t help but feel flustered. Trapped by my inability to communicate, and suffocated by the intense sweltering heat of the unrelenting desert sun, I desperately wanted to get my point across to those I was trying to help. The only problem was, they weren’t getting it.

With my background in languages, I wasn’t sure if it was a problem with the translators (some great, some whose English proficiency level was impressive but– far from fluent by native standards), the policemen, or myself. So I decided I would learn the language in order to find out.

US Advisors conducting joint planning with their Afghan counterparts (Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justin T. Updegraff)

Desperate for language learning resources, I turned to Amazon and bought a book titled “Dari As A Second Language” by Sayed Naqibullah (a great resource/start for anyone looking to learn Dari). The only downside was, the book lacked an accompanying cd or audio program. Online Dari audio resources are scarce and difficult to find– although they do exist in some areas. But I frankly didn’t have the time to scoure the web and cobble together resources. I needed to learn to speak and understand the language as quickly as possible.

This great foundational book can be found on amazon.com, but there are no accompanying CDs or audio recordings for it.

Although far from optimal, these handmade flashcards helped me expand my vocab.

That’s when I found out that one of my peers was using a Dari Pimsleur program he bought off audible.com. A long-time suscriber to audible myself, I thought I would give it a shot. After a few short lessons, I learned to introduce myself and survive in basic situations without a translator. After finishing the second program in the series, I was having full-blown conversations with native speakers in broken Dari. I received compliments on my pronunciation, but was often prodded to pay more attention to my grammar.

After returning home, I took an official proficiency test and receive a 1+ rating on the ILR scale (Interagency Language Roundtable, the system the US government uses to measure language ability). The CEFR (the Common European Framework for measuring language proficiency) equivalent for an ILR 1+ is about a B1. For those unfamiliar with language standards, this is a low intermediate proficiency.

I didn’t use Pimsleur as my sole resource to help me get to this level, but it certainly helped. With an audible subscription, each Pimsleur series (30 lessons a piece for 15 hours of learning) costs around $80 bucks. When you compare that to the average costs of private lessons– I think Pimsleur is fairly cost effective.

Since then, I’ve used Pimsleur series 1 through 5 to teach myself French. Granted, I didn’t use Pimsleur as my sole resource for learning French either.  The program was very helpful in getting me acquainted with the spoken version of French. Native French speakers often compliment me on my pronunciation, and I thank Pimsleur for that.

After finishing the first three series in Pimsleur (90 lessons), I picked up a copy of Assimil French for Spanish speakers (another language I speak fluently), and went through each lesson front to back. The benefit of the Assimil textbook and CD were its focus on colloquial French, and its basic explanations of French grammar– something missing entirely from the Pimsleur method.

Assimil French for Spanish speakers. I got my copy on amazon.es. Although a great resource it can be pricey. I paid a bit over $100 for mine.

When used in conjunction with other resources, Pimsleur can help you reach your language goals. And while some of you may opt to create your own do it yourself audio programs, I’d rather just buy a program that works.

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