Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin --- The Pimsleur Method

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What is it about the Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin courses that make them effective? How are the lessons structured for your learning?

Each Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin lesson is approximately 30 minutes long. Apparently, Dr. Pimsleur's long-time research shows this to be the optimum period for learning, after which one's mind loses its ability to retain new information.

Following the course, you'll work through one lesson each and every day. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of the Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin process. Whether you move on to the next lesson daily or repeat those you feel unsure about, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the language on a daily basis.

The Pimsleur method of learning is based on two key principles: the Principle of Anticipation and a scientific principle of memory that is called Graduated Interval Recall. This method also incorporates two other unique components that are also important: Core Vocabulary Acquisition, and the Organic Learning Method.

Principle of Anticipation

The Principle of Anticipation requires you to "anticipate" a correct answer. In the course, what this means is that you must extract the answer from your own memory before it is confirmed in the lesson. It works as follows:

The Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin lesson will ask a question in Mandarin, and there'll be a pause. Drawing on information given previously, you will provide answer. The instructor will then confirm your answer, and you can compare how accurate you were.

Conventional language courses are based instead on the principle of repetition. Teachers drummed words into the students' minds over and over, as if the mind were a record whose grooves wore deeper with repetition. We all know what this is like.

However, neurophysiologists tell us that, on the contrary, simple and unchallenging repetition has a hypnotic, even dulling effect on the learning process. Eventually, the words being repeated will lose their meaning.

Dr. Pimsleur discovered that learning accelerates when there is an "input/output" system of interaction, in which students receive information and then are asked to retrieve and use it.

Graduated Interval Recall

Graduated Interval Recall is a complex name for a very simple theory about memory. No aspect of learning Chinese or any foreign language is more important than memory.

In his research, Dr. Pimsleur discovered how long students remembered new information and at what intervals they needed to be reminded of it.

If reminded too soon or too late, they failed to retain the information. This discovery enabled him to create a schedule of exactly when and how the information should be reintroduced.

Suppose you learn a new word in Mandarin. You tell yourself to remember it, but after five minutes you can't recall it. If you'd been reminded of it after five seconds, you probably would have remembered it for maybe a minute -- then you would have needed another reminder.

Each time you are reminded, you remember the word longer than you did the time before. The intervals between reminders become longer and longer, until you eventually remember the word without being reminded at all.

The Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin program is designed to remind you of new information at the exact intervals where maximum retention takes place. Each time your memory begins to fade, you will be asked to recall the word.

Through this powerful method, you progress from short-term to long-term memory without being aware of it, while avoiding the monotonous rote repetition used in traditional language courses.

Core Vocabulary

When approaching the Chinese language, we've all been intimidated by the sheer number of new vocabulary words we must learn.

But in reality we actually need only a rather limited number of words to be able to communicate effectively in any language.

Language can be divided into two distinct categories: grammatical structures (function words) and concrete vocabulary (content words).

The Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin course focuses on function words which enable the student to comprehend and employ the structure of a new language. This way, Dr. Pimsleur found that language learners were able to more readily put new knowledge to use.

There are very few content words that are used every day. The essential core of a language involves function words, which tend to relate to human activities.

Organic Learning

The Pimsleur Method centers around teaching, in the shortest time possible, functional mastery in understanding and speaking Mandarin.

You will be working on your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation all at once, while also learning phrases that have practical use in daily life. (It has been said that language is primarily speech.) This is what I like most about Pimsleur.

With this concept in mind, Dr. Pimsleur created his language programs on audio because he knew that students of languages would learn better with their ears, not their eyes.

This is achieved through what Dr. Pimsleur called "organic learning," which entails learning on several fronts at once.

What this system achives rather remarably is that it enables the student to learn grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation in a natural and exciting way.

Summary of Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin

The Pimsleur Chinese Mandarin course is designed to teach you to understand and to speak the essential elements of Mandarin in a relatively short time.

During each half-hour lesson, you will actually converse with two people, using the type of language spoken by educated citizens in their everyday business and social life.

The program's unique method for presenting dialogue has been proven to relieve you of most common learning problems.