Hate me if you must, but I travel to Paris once or twice a year for work and for pleasure every so often, when I can swing it. The shopping, the light, the food, museums, the architecture, blah blah blah, everyone likes Paris, but for me, there is one unpleasant facet to every trip- not knowing French. Yes, I took five years in school, yes, I have been visiting for years, but yes, I cringe and grimace my way through every interaction. Having struggled through my junior high and high school French classes (once my teacher asked jokingly in French if I was on drugs and I promptly answered “Oui!”) I have never considered myself to have an aptitude for languages, but the awkward entitlement of repeatedly visiting a country without more than “merci” haunted every trip. So, when my friend Emily (does everyone have that friend who always has the freshest ideas leaving you wondering both, why didn’t I think of that? and why don’t we start a company together?) told me how much she was loving the Pimsleur Method, I hoarded my audible credits, purchased French Level 1 (30 lessons!) and got started.
Unlike middle school French class (bless Mme. Finkle and her endless patience, she saw so much black lipstick those years) the Pimsleur audio lessons teach the foundation of conversation, not of formal language; the first lesson covers how to have a conversation that includes “I understand/don’t understand French/English” and “are you American?” (lesson two covers, “I understand French, not very well.” Phew).
You’d be surprised how far you can get in Paris with just the first lesson and a little local pity, but the confidence you gain in comprehension and pronunciation in the bite-size first installment is totally addictive. The magic is in method, which they describe as “a set of principles designed to take a learner directly to the heart of the language, eliminating noise, confusion, and information overload.” Sign me up! right?
Here’s the Pimsleur Method low-down: 1 lesson per day, 30 minutes (perfect for commuting) and I leave every lesson glowing with accomplishment (take that career, chores and life goals!). I’m only just starting lesson three and I’ve already 1. shown off to my husband (close your eyes and it’s a slightly slow French maid asking you “do you understand English? No, I don’t speak French very well, thank you Madame”), 2. Longed for a French friend to practice with and 3. Mastered “do you understand English?” with a charming apology in my voice: wins all around.
Thank you, Emily, for always inspiring me with new ideas. In reality, we should all be taking Pimsleur Method Spanish instead, and maybe after mastering my baguette and wine order without curling into a tourist-loathing ball, I will.