Pimsleur Japanese: My experience and an overview

In today’s article, I am going to talk about my personal experience using the Pimsleur Japanese audio course. I plan to write a full review of the program in a future article, but today I just want to tell my story. I will also give an overview of this useful resource for beginners.

My story with Pimsleur Japanese

When I started learning Japanese in 2005, Pimsleur was the very first tool I used. I started learning the language at 19 years old. It had always been my dream to live and work in Japan. When I first sat down with the first Pimsleur CD, I knew nothing about Japanese (now that CDs seem to be going out of fashion, you can download the lessons digitally too!).

After I went through the first lesson, I remember feeling excited and encouraged. The method teaches you a limited number of phrases that you can remember, even after the first lesson, and I could see it worked. A few months later, when I arrived in Japan for the Working Holiday program, I had completed all 90 lessons and it wasn’t too hard getting into speaking Japanese.

How the method works

Japanese Level I has 30 lessons, each lasting about 30 minutes. Each lesson includes a short conversation, a question and answer session, and some vocabulary words.

The format is simple enough for any beginner to follow. You hear the phrase in English, then Japanese, and then you repeat it. Then you are prompted to say the previous phrase in combination with another one and so on. Over time, you remember the various words and phrases automatically.

The audio is clear, but the speakers do speak quite quickly. You may want to repeat lessons if you miss a lot of the content. In fact, Pimsleur suggests doing so if you’re answering correctly less than 80% of the time.

The lessons

The lessons are interesting, though most of the conversations are pretty basic. A typical level I lesson might go something like this:

Excuse me! Do you speak English?

No, I don’t. Can you help me?

Yes I can. Do you speak Japanese?

A little bit.

Yes, the dialogues are a bit weird at times, but the point is to get you using these combinations over and over until they become second nature. Over time, the content becomes more advanced, building upon past lessons.

The beauty of it is that all of this method is built into the program. No special effort is required from the learner other than just doing one 30-minute lesson a day.

Why I recommend Pimsleur to Japanese learners

For me, the most valuable feature of Pimsleur is how it focuses on teaching you to hear and understand Japanese rather than just learning vocabulary words. This approach makes sense considering how different Japanese is from other languages.

Pimsleur also focuses on pronunciation. I remember that people frequently complimented my accent when I was in Japan soon after finishing Pimsleur. Based on my rendering of some simple phrases, my Japanese boss was initially fooled into thinking I already spoke the language well!

The other reason I recommend Pimsleur is that it truly works for everyone. Many people sadly lack confidence learning foreign languages, but Pimsleur makes the process simple and even quite fun. As you progress and start to remember more, you will build up belief that you can go further.

The method behind the courses

The Pimsleur method is a language-learning technique developed by Dr. Paul Pimsleur in which people learn to pronounce words and phrases correctly, using clear pronunciation. The company claims that students are able to speak new languages with native-like fluency* in half the time of traditional methods. The Pimsleur Japanese method teaches English speakers how to transition from their native language into Japanese without hesitation.

The Pimsleur method is a learning program that uses spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is a highly effective way of increasing long-term memory retention. In the original Pimsleur courses, words and sentences were repeated seconds apart, over and over. This allowed the learner to solidify words into long-term memory without cramming or rote memorization. In addition, Pimsleur provides physical flashcards for users to test themselves during language study.

The Pimsleur method is unique amongst language education programs for its successful application of spaced repetition theory to language learning. Spaced repetition is an effective way to increase memory retention. The core philosophy behind the Pimsleur method is that people can recognize words and repeat them seconds later without cramming.

Is it enough to just use Pimsleur?

In short, no it’s not. Pimsleur is great for beginners, but I would recommend getting some other materials as you progress through the levels. It’s a good idea to eventually check out some textbooks too if you want to move past beginner-level Japanese.


I am happy with my decision to try Pimsleur Japanese all those years ago. 16 years later, I am a professional Japanese translator, something I never even dreamed of.

All in all, Pimsleur was a great first step in learning the language. It introduced me to some of the most essential words and phrases that are necessary for survival in Japan. Whether you’re just starting out or have been studying Japanese for a while I highly recommend giving it a shot!

Interested? Try out Pimsleur for free here by signing up for an Audible trial.

*Everyone says this, but no one course will get you anywhere near “native-like fluency”. Period.