The Pitfalls of Pimsleur/Los Escollos de Pimsleur

The writer and commentator David Sedaris always makes me laugh. He has written several times about the challenges of learning another language when you are of a certain age. For example, his book Me Talk Pretty One Day chronicles his attempts to learn French. The essay Jesus Shaves describes how Sedaris and his classmates in a beginning French class tried to explain Easter to a Muslim student (warning: there are a couple of four-letter words here).

Recently in an article in The New Yorker, Sedaris described using the Pimsleur audio method to learn Japanese. This reminded me of my earliest efforts to learn Spanish from Pimsleur CDs. As he demonstrates in this short passage, the Pimsleur programs are helpful, provided you have need of the specific vocabulary provided:

Thanks to Japanese I and II, I’m able to buy train tickets, count to nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, and say, whenever someone is giving me change, “Now you are giving me change.” I can manage in a restaurant, take a cab, and even make small talk with the driver. “Do you have children?” I ask. “Will you take a vacation this year?” “Where to?” When he turns it around, as Japanese cabdrivers are inclined to do, I tell him that I have three children, a big boy and two little girls. If Pimsleur included “I am a middle-aged homosexual and thus make do with a niece I never see and a very small godson,” I’d say that. In the meantime, I work with what I have.

Sometimes when I was using the Pimsleur CDs to learn Spanish, I found myself saying something that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to say but rather something I was able to say. Nothing as extreme as Mr. Sedaris’s experience but still. The other major limitation of using the Pimsleur method is that it provides neither grammar nor written text, so you have no idea of how tenses are formed or how words are spelled. Being of a certain age, I had to take notes to remember vocabulary, and it always made The Kid chuckle to see the word “cuando” written as “quando.” For someone as “quisquillosa” as I am, of course, this experience proved quite frustrating, and I was glad to move on to a class with a flesh-and-blood teacher and other students.

El autor y comentarista David Sedaris siempre me da risa. Ha escrito algunas veces de los desafíos de aprender un nuevo idioma como adulto. En un articulo en la revista The New Yorker, describió sus experiencias usando el método audio de Pimsleur para aprender japonés. Esto me recordó de mis esfuerzos más tempranos aprender español usando los CDs Pimsleur. Como Sedaris cuenta, el programa es útil si necesita un vocabulario especifico y limitado.

Gracias al programa Japonés 1 y 2, soy capaz de comprar billetes de tren, contar a novecientos y noventa y nueve mil, y siempre que alguien me da el cambio decir “Ahora usted está dándome el cambio.” Puedo pedir en un restaurante, tomar un taxi e incluso platicar con el conductor. “¿Tiene hijos?” le pregunto. “¿Tiene planes de vacaciones este ano?” “¿A donde?” Cuando se da la vuelta (como hacen los taxistas japoneses) le digo que tengo tres hijos — un niño grande y dos niñas pequeñas. Si Pimsleur incluyó “Soy un homosexual de mediana edad y por lo tanto tengo que apañarme con una sobrina que nunca la veo y un ahijado pequeñito” diría eso. Entretanto, uso lo que tengo.

Cuando usaba los CDs Pimsleur para aprender español, me encontró diciendo algo que no quise decir. Pero era algo que pude decir. También Pimsleur tiene una limitación fatal. No provee ni gramática ni texto escrito y por eso, uno no tiene ninguna idea como deletrear las palabras. Como yo era de un edad mayor, tomaba apuntes para recordar el vocabulario. Siempre La Flaquita se echaba a reír cuando veía la palabra ‘cuando’ escrito como ‘quando’. Era muy frustrante para alguien tan quisquillosa como yo. Me sentí un alivio cuando comencé las clases con una maestra real y otros estudiantes.

One response to “The Pitfalls of Pimsleur/Los Escollos de Pimsleur

  1. Pingback: The Perils of Language CDs, Part 2/Los Peligros de los CDs de Idioma, Parte 2 | Un Poco Quisquillosa

Whadya think? ¿Qué pienses?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s