The Platiquemos and Pimsleur Spanish Programs Compared
The Foreign Service Institute Basic Course in Spanish, on which the Platiquemos program is based, was developed with serious diplomatic Spanish learners, and proven over decades of follow-up testing with diplomats who had used the program. It is unclear how much testing and follow-up has been done with the Pimsleur program, but it is highly unlikely that it has been tested and proven as effective in reaching high levels of proficiency as the original FSI program. The Platiquemos program carefully maintains the core content of the original FSI program, but has been extensively revised for "user friendliness", appropriateness and timeliness of content, and usefulness as a self-study program in the 21st century environment.
"I know of no method of teaching a foreign language that even approaches the quality of the Platiquemos program." Lawrence S. Eagleburger, former Secretary of State
The Platiquemos program is based on a complete approach, and contains audio-lingual, natural, and grammar/translation methods of learning, while the Pimsleur program is limited to the "natural" method, which assumes that adults should learn a foreign language the same way babies learn their mother's language. We believe that the Pimsleur extreme reliance on "listen and repeat" may have some benefits at the very beginning stages (which Platiquemos also has), but is not optimally efficient for adults to progress to real proficiency. Adults learning another language have already learned at least one language, and it is important to utilize their already extant language skills in transferring those skills to another language. Many people are also visually oriented, and we believe that the mutually-supporting audio and text of the Platiquemos program helps students utilize all of their skills and aptitudes.
The goal of the Platiquemos program is the same as that of the FSI original: to take students to or near the level of proficiency in which they can conduct all aspects of their life, personal and professional, in Spanish. (This is the "superior" or "advanced high" level on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages scale; or the 2+ or 3 level on the U.S. Government's proficiency scale.) While individual results will of course vary, students who thoroughly master the entire Platiquemos program will be at or near this very high level of proficiency. We have heard that Pimsleur claims to be able to take students to the "intermediate-mid" (ACTFL) or 1+ (government) level quickly. The difference is that the Platiquemos goal makes real interaction on a substantive level possible with Spanish speakers; the Pimsleur goal is limited to very basic social interaction and survival skills.
The complete Platiquemos program consists of eight levels, with almost 1400 pages of text and 54 audio cd's or cassettes. The complete Pimsleur program consists three levels, with a total of 48 cd's or cassettes with no text whatsoever.
The Platiquemos program has been carefully constructed for usefulness both as a self-study program, and for classroom use. The Platiquemos program is used by a growing number of language schools in Mexico, and is available in classes at an increasing number of locations in the U.S. An Instructor's Manual is available for teachers and language schools. The Platiquemos audio has been extensively augmented to make it easy to use in a car, with a portable CD or tape player while jogging or riding a bus, etc. The Pimsleur program is only, insofar as we are aware, useful as a self-study program.
The Platiquemos program has a list price of $99 per level, and $49 for Level 1, and the complete program of eight levels can be purchased for $375 or less; Pimsleur has a list price of $345 per level, although that price is often discounted; the three levels of the Pimsleur program can probably be found for about $750.