Monthly Archives: September 2012

Learning Mandarin with Pimsleur

I’ve been interviewing Mandarin Chinese learners (and learning a lot about Mandarin) since it is our most popular language on Mightyverse. While I learned a few phrases of Cantonese many years ago from friends, I had never spoken Mandarin before last week. I spent a couple of hours with my friend Antun who has been learning Mandarin for the last year and a half. I enjoyed his stories of how he approached independent language learning and was drawn in by his enthusiasm.

When he offered to lend me his introductory Pimsleur CDs, I was skeptical that I could learn this challenging tonal language without some heroic act of will. However, out of three people I have interviewed who tried the Pimsleur method, all three have said it was very effective, so I thought I would try it out.

After 5 days and 4 lessons (one lesson took me two days), I felt confident enough to say something to my Mandarin-speaking friend. “I can speak a little Mandarin.” 我会说普通话. Her reply was too fast for me to understand, but then she told me (in English) that I had a Beijing accent! I later did some reading about the Pimsleur method and learned a bit more about different accents and dialects. From what I’ve learned, the Beijing accent is considered standard Chinese, so that is what Pimsleur (and most language schools) teach. The problem is that if you go to Shanghai or try to speak with Mandarin speakers in the US, it can be really hard to understand what they are saying. I really enjoyed Benny Lewis’ critique that the popular audio course should be named “Pimsleur-for-married-businessmen.”

We’ve been working to add multiple speakers for more phrases (male and female and various accents) and creating phrase lists around specific themes, so perhaps, Mightyverse could be a nice complement for people who are learning with the Pimsleur method