A Review of Pimsleur Hebrew from a person who has weak memory skills

You want to visit Eilat, Israel – flights from Europe are dirt cheap now – and take a free spin at any of the amazing tourist attractions from desert treks to swimming with dolphins, but you want to learn some Hebrew before your trip.  Should you use Pimsleur Hebrew to learn some Hebrew for your trip or should you just use one of the free online programs?

Pimsleur is an audio-based foreign language learning program.  Its main focus is on conversational Hebrew. There is also a Hebrew reading program, but there is no direct grammar learning.  Grammar is taught indirectly through example conversation. If you want direct grammar instruction, you are going to have to use other resources.

The reading program is just physically learning how to read the Hebrew characters.  It is not reading comprehension.

How many levels are there in Pimsleur?

In some languages, Pimsleur has 5 levels, but currently, there are only 3 levels for Hebrew.  Hebrew also does not have any of the premium features (flashcards, etc.).

What CEFR or ACTFL level would you achieve after finishing Pimsleur Hebrew level 3?

 For CEFR, it would be A2/B1.

After the CEFR A2 level, you:

  • Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance: personal information, family, shopping, employment.
  • Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters
  • Can describe in simple terms aspects of their background, immediate environment, and matters of immediate need

At the CEFR B1 level, you:

  • Can understand the main point of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations likely to arise while traveling in an area where the language is spoken
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes, and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

After Level 3, you would reach an ACTFL Intermediate Mid/High Level 

The ACTFL guidelines are more complex than those of the CEFR.  Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking are all given their own guidelines.  

Pimsleur does include some basic reading lessons that teach you how to read the foreign language you are learning.  So you will learn how to read the Hebrew characters correctly. But the ACTFL guidelines are referring to reading comprehension.

The main focus of Pimsleur Hebrew is listening and speaking.   

“An ACTFL Novice can communicate short messages on highly predictable, every day topics that affect them directly.  They do so primarily through the use of isolated words and phrases that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled.  Novice level speakers may be difficult to understand even by the most sympathetic listeners accustomed to a non-native speaker.”

Pimsleur will definitely get the user through the novice level, including novice high.

ACTFL Intermediate speakers can create with the language when talking about familiar topics related to their daily life.  They are able to recombine learned material in order to express personal meaning. Intermediate level speakers can ask simple questions and can handle a straightforward survival situation.  They produce sentence-level language, ranging from discrete sentences to strings of sentences, typically in the present tense. Intermediate-level speakers are understood by listeners who are accustomed to dealing with non-native speakers.

I would describe Pimsleur as a “slow and steady wins the race” type of program.  It builds a foundation. By the time you finish, Pimsleur Level 3, you will definitely have a strong foundation in Hebrew.  In terms of learning grammar through examples, the student will be exposed to all tenses of verbs (past, present, and future).  This is higher than the ACTFL guidelines specify.  

As other reviewers have stated, Pimsleur lacks the amount of vocabulary you will learn in other programs.  This is specifically referring to more nouns and more adjectives.

But once you understand the foundations of the language, nouns and adjectives are just “plug and play”.

I have heard that Pimsleur is weak on vocabulary

There are other programs that claim to teach a lot more vocabulary than you will learn in the Pimsleur program, but the truth is that the amount of vocabulary that you need in order to start to begin to read websites, newspapers, podcasts, TV shows and movies, is around 1200 words families.  The key is learning the “right” words.

Pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, and major adverbs are on the must-learn list and definitely included in Pimsleur.  

You will learn how adjectives are used in context.  You will learn how nouns are used in context. There are other programs that will teach you a lot more words in both of those categories.  But, again, once you understand sentence structure through actual use examples in conversations, you can “plug and play” more adjectives and nouns to enrich your vocabulary.

How does Pimsleur handle Hebrew Verbs

I know that Pimsleur does cover past, present, and future tense in masculine and feminine and singular and plural.  

At the current time, I have completed Level 1, and I am just starting Level 2.  So I do not know the extent that Pimsleur handles the 7 verb categories in Hebrew at this time.  You are definitely exposed to verbs in the Pa’al, Pi’el, and Hif’el verb categories. Since you will be familiar with verbs in all three of these categories, it will make it easier to have this point of reference when you begin to formally study Hebrew grammar.

I heard that Pimsleur is slow

Pimsleur uses spaced repetition.  This means that a student is taught a word, then 30 seconds later, reexposed to the word, then again in 5 minutes, the next day, and in 5 days.  Pimsleur also says a phrase in English, you have to say the phrase (or response to a question) in the foreign language. The speaker then says the statement correctly.  If you are confident in the response, this may seem slow. But if you are not confident in the response, it is a great method for learning.  

You can accomplish the same thing by hitting rewind in other programs, but to just press play and then sit back and do the lesson is nice.  No distraction to learning by trying to pause the video or audio file and rewinding to exactly where you want to rewind to. This means more time actually learning and less time getting frustrated with the computer.

I head that Pimsleur is dated

The scenario of Pimsleur in Level 1 is a man visiting Israel and starting a conversation with an Israeli woman.  As my 12-year-old son joked, he learned how to say “I want a beer, please” 10 lessons before he learned how to say “I want water, please”.  

The target audience for the Pimsleur program was a businessman traveling in the 1960s.

Pimsleur builds a foundation.  Once you have that foundation, it is not going to matter if you are a female business person asking a male Israeli a question or a male business person asking a female Israeli a question.  

As a female, I was never offended by the program.  

On the other hand, there are plenty of online free audio files that have one person saying both sides of the conversation.  At least with Pimsleur, they have a female speaking the female lines and a male speaking the male lines. Two different people.  That makes a huge difference when you are just starting to train your ears to learn Hebrew. Not to mention the whole spaced repetition idea, the program actually has built into it.  

Should I buy a subscription to Pimsleur or just buy it?

As a person who is not a quick learner of a foreign language, I would recommend buying Pimsleur.  I had brought a subscription to Rosetta Stone, never completed it, and after 2 years I had nothing.  I didn’t learn the language, and I did not even have the software anymore to continue learning the language.

My personal opinion is that anybody who can honestly learn Pimsleur at a rate of 90 lessons in 90 days is probably a person who is very good at learning foreign languages and could probably be a success in learning the language using a wide variety of programs, including free ones online.

I have an issue with short term memory, so repetition of Pimsleur lessons is exactly what I need.  Since I brought the audio files, I don’t have to worry about not finishing the program before my subscription runs out.

But then, I hate the whole subscription model of selling software altogether.  So my opinion on this issue may be biased.  


If you want to learn Hebrew and you learn best through auditory means, then I would definitely recommend the Pimsleur method. Just keep in mind that you will need another source for the actual technical grammar learning, and additional noun and adjective learning.  But then there are a lot of free online websites that excel in those areas.