Pimsleur vs Babbel: Which One Takes You Closer to Fluency?

Maria Claudia Alvarado Published on July 27, 2023
Pimsleur vs Babbel

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Finding the right resource for you can be hard, especially if this is the first time you are trying to learn a new language. If you are looking for the best app or online course to improve your language skills, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard about these apps. Pimsleur and Babbel are two of the most well-known language learning platforms available with popular language learning apps. In this article, we’ll compare Pimsleur and Babbel, giving you the pros and cons of each one to help you decide which one is better for you.

Editor’s Choice

Babbel Overview
Babbel is the winner because it has quick lessons and interactive tools that can help you learn a language from the start. You can follow Babbel’s structured plan or choose what you want to study next.
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Price $14.95 / month
Free trial 1 Lesson
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Because its language courses have features to help you work on all the areas of language learning, Babbel is the clear winner compared to Pimsleur. You can start as a complete beginner and learn grammar through practice. The lessons are flexible, and you can choose what you want to study next.

Pimsleur vs Babbel: A Quick Breakdown

Pimsleur has podcast-style lessons that teach you to speak like a native speaker through repetition. It doesn’t provide written practice, and the lessons are longer than regular audio lessons, but the grammar explanations are very thorough. Babbel lessons have dynamic exercises that start with the basics and help you learn vocabulary and grammar through practice. Even though you can choose what you want to study next, some content might be too basic for intermediate and advanced students.

You can see the differences between Pimsleur and Babbel in the chart below:

14 languages51 languages
1 free lesson7-day free trial

Babbel vs Pimsleur: Cost Comparison

A one-language subscription to Pimsleur costs $19.95 per month or you can get access to all the languages available for $20.95 per month. Pimsleur also offers Lifetime access to the first level of one language for $150, two levels for $300, and five levels for $575. Keep in mind that some languages have a one-level course. Pimsleur offers a 7-day free trial for its premium subscription once you create an account.

A subscription to Babbel costs $7.99 per month, $35.99 for 3 months, $47.94 for 6 months, and $95.88 per year. A Lifetime subscription to Babbel costs $499 and lets you switch and study all the languages available on the platform. The Babbel app has a limited trial, but you can try the first lesson of each language course for free.

Overall, Pimsleur is more expensive than Babbel. If you only want to focus on learning to speak like a native speaker and study on the go, Pimsleur can provide the most value to your language-learning journey. However, if you want a comprehensive language course that helps you develop all your skills, Babbel is a better choice. Its lessons aren’t focused on getting you to become conversational like Pimsleur’s, but it offers more tools, including speaking practice, for a cheaper price

If you are looking for other options, here are some similar alternatives:

Pimsleur or Babbel: How They Work

Babbel has comprehensive language courses that let you choose the order for your lessons. Babbel also has different tools to help you review what you learned, including writing and speaking practice, and games. Pimsleur focuses on teaching you to speak your target language from the start. Each lesson breaks down a dialogue between two native speakers and asks you to repeat after to help you develop your pronunciation skills. Overall, both are effective ways to start studying a new language, but Babbel has more complete language courses that cover more skills.

Take a look at how these two apps rate across the internet:

Apple Store4.84.7
Google Play4.14.5
Trust Pilot2.53.9
Average Score3.94.4

How Pimsleur Works

The Pimsleur method helps you to speak your target language from the start. This language learning program is completely audio-based and focuses on teaching you to speak the way native speakers do. In each 10 to 30-minute-long lesson, you can hear a conversation between two native speakers. Then, they break down the dialogue and explain the vocabulary and grammar used, and ask you to repeat each sound in a word to train your pronunciation. 

pimsleur lesson in progress

The Pimsleur program has a set lesson plan, so you need to complete each lesson before you can move to the next one. The app has tools like flashcards, speed rounds, and Speak Easy reviews to help you go over what you learned in each lesson. There are also cultural notes that you can use to begin exploring the culture of the language you are learning.

You can download the lessons to your mobile device and study while you are on the go or offline. If you want to learn more about the app, you can read this Pimsleur review.

How Babbel Works

Babbel is a language-learning platform and app with structured courses. They have content for students of all levels: from complete beginner to advanced. If you have previous knowledge of the language, you can take Babbel’s placement test to find the best spot to start your language course or skip ahead to the topics that interest you the most.

babbel portuguese lesson

The lessons are brief and help you develop all the skills you need to become fluent. They use the traditional fill-in-the-blank and mix-and-match exercises to introduce new vocabulary, but there are also voice recognition tools and high-quality audio to help you learn the right pronunciation for each word and phrase. Babbel also has integrated grammar lessons into its exercises to avoid interrupting your practice.

At the end of each lesson, you can use different interactive tools like flashcards, speaking practice, and games to help you review what you learned. Babbel also offers live lessons with native speakers on Zoom. You can read more in this Babbel review.

Pimsleur: Pros and Cons

While starting to learn a language using only audio can sound like a crazy idea, Pimsleur’s courses begin by teaching you the basics of each language. In the first lesson, you can hear a dialogue between two native speakers that uses basic phrases like greetings, introductions, and talking about the weather. Pimsleur’s courses use native speakers for all the audio to make sure you learn accurate pronunciation for each sound in your target language. 

Since Pimsleur has audio-based courses, you can listen to your lessons hands-free. Pimsleur lessons take between 10 and 30 minutes, so you can do other tasks while you learn, like going to the gym, walking the dog, or cooking. Pimsleur lets you download the audio tracks to your mobile device to let you study even when you are offline. 

main features of a pimsleur lesson

However, some of the longer Pimsleur lessons can be too long and tedious to listen to casually. Pimsleur doesn’t have interactive exercises, but its value relies on repeating after the speakers and correcting your pronunciation to match theirs. You can’t just play Pimsleur on the back without engaging with the audio.

Pimsleur doesn’t include any kind of written exercises, which can be a problem for languages with different alphabets (like Chinese and Hind). While Pimsleur’s goal is very clear, I think that it’s still sad that it doesn’t at least include an alphabet chart to help you associate the sounds with the letters. Pimsleur’s subscription and Lifetime access to the course is overall more expensive than other apps. Of course, it is effective in doing what it promises, but it’s important to note that you can only use Pimsleur to practice listening and speaking.

Babbel: Pros and Cons

Babbel courses have shorter lessons that start you with the basics. However, you can also skip topics or jump to a different level. Instead of using huge chunks of text to attempt to teach you grammar, Babbel briefly explains how to use it and asks you to apply it to its exercises. This way you can make the most of your study time.

Each lesson has fill-in-the-blank exercises, but you can also find writing practices to help you review what you learned. The written review has exercises that ask you to write sentences in the correct order and apply the right grammar rules. Babbel considers punctuation, so you can accurately learn how to write languages that require accents.

babbel spanish course

It’s important to note that some review tools, like games, voice recognition, and writing and speaking practice are not available for all the courses. I tried the French, German, and Italian courses on Babbel and noticed that the French course had fewer features than the other courses. Remember that the subscription price is the same for all the languages on Babbel.

Even though Babbel is well-known for its courses, it has a shorter list of languages. If you want to learn an endangered language like Navajo, Guaraní, or Irish, you will also need to look for other apps. Babbel’s live classes are also limited to Spanish, French, Italian, and German, so I’d recommend you check what’s available before you purchase a subscription. 

Babbel or Pimsleur: Which is Better?

Babbel and Pimsleur have different goals when it comes to language learning. They both have structured lesson plans, but they focus on different skills. In this Pimsleur vs Babbel comparison, if you’re only looking to use one app, Babbel is the best choice for you.

While Pimsleur can help you speak a language like a native speaker, Babbel centers around learning grammar and vocabulary. Pimsleur is very effective at what it does, whereas Babbel can help you develop more skills for a lower price. Pimsleur is still worth it if you only want to focus on speaking, but I wouldn’t recommend it to people who want to tackle different language areas like grammar or writing.

Pimsleur vs Babbel: FAQ

What is the difference between Babbel and Pimsleur?

The difference between Babbel and Pimsleur is their area of focus. Babbel courses target vocabulary and grammar, while Pimsleur’s lessons center around speaking and listening. Pimsleur also doesn’t include any written practice, while Babbel has a variety of tools to help you work on all language areas.

What language app is better than Babbel?

Depending on the skill on which you want to focus, there might be better apps for you than Babbel. For example, Pimsleur is a better option for those who want to focus only on practicing speaking and listening. If you want a more intensive way to practice a language, Rosetta Stone has language courses without English translations.  

How is Pimsleur different?

Pimsleur is different in that it relies only on audio to teach you a new language. The lessons are like podcasts, and you can study while doing other things. Native speakers voice all the audio tracks, which helps you learn to speak your target language the way it’s spoken in the real world.

Is Pimsleur worth it?

Pimsleur is worth it if you want to become conversational quickly. The lesson breaks down a dialogue between two native speakers and lets you listen to the pronunciation of each word and sound. You can repeat after the speakers to become familiar with the language.

Maria Claudia Alvarado

Maria Alvarado is a content writer and translator from Lima, Peru. She graduated from the Savannah College of Arts and Design in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Writing. She is fluent in Spanish and English, has intermediate knowledge of French and German, and is learning Japanese. She hopes to bring consciousness about the importance of language learning through her articles and aspires to learn as many languages as possible.

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