Pimsleur vs Michel Thomas

Pimsleur vs Michel Thomas: How Useful Are They Really?

Maria Claudia Alvarado Published on February 2, 2024
Pimsleur vs Michel Thomas

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There are many ways to learn a language, but finding the right app for you can be tricky if you don’t have much time to sit around for classes or read extensive texts. Luckily, apps like Pimsleur and Michel Thomas allow you to take entire language courses on the go. Both of these popular language apps help you fit study time into a tight schedule. But only one has high-quality lessons that train your listening and speaking skills, and that’s Pimsleur. 

Editor’s Choice

Pimsleur Overview
Pimsleur’s audio-based lessons focus on helping you speak a language like a native speaker. With Pimsleur, you can listen to a conversation between two native speakers and repeat after each sound, word, and phrase to improve your conversational skills.
pimsleur logo
Price $14.95/month
Free trial 7 days
Try Pimsleur

Language learners compare Michel Thomas and Pimsleur because they use audio to teach a language from zero. Their lessons consist of listening to a conversation, so it makes sense that they might seem similar. However, their focus, approach, and execution are different. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of each app and help you make the best decision. 

Pimsleur vs Michel Thomas: A Quick Breakdown

With Pimsleur and Michel Thomas, you can study a new language with audio. Pimsleur breaks down a conversation between two native speakers so you can practice listening and pronouncing after them. The Michel Thomas language lessons simulate a class environment so you can learn from the feedback provided by the instructor. Pimsleur offers interactive features like a voice recognition tool and review modes you can use to review what you learned. With Michel Thomas, you can choose separate courses for different levels and language aspects.

The table below shows you a direct comparison between Pimsleur and Michel Thomas based on the languages they offer, their price, and free trials.

PrimsleurMichel Thomas
51 languages18 languages
$19.95/MonthStarts at $11.99
7-day free trial1 free lesson
Try NowTry Now

Michel Thomas vs Pimsleur: Prices and Subscriptions

With Michel Thomas, you buy the courses that you want to take. The Start Language course costs $11.99 and has a total duration of one hour. However, Michel Thomas has longer courses available that range from $50-$100 depending on the language, level, and duration. There are also course bundles available for some languages, with a price between $100-$273. You can try one lesson of Michel Thomas’ courses for free once you create an account.

A subscription to Pimsleur costs $19.95 per month to study one language and $20.95 per month to access all the languages on the app. If you want to keep your Pimsleur language course, you can also buy lifetime access to one level for $150, two levels for $300, and five levels for $575. Pimsleur also offers a 7-day free trial for all the languages on the app to help you try all its features.

While buying and keeping your language courses can seem like the best way to save money, a Michel Thomas course doesn’t have the same interactive tools you can find in Pimsleur. If we compare the cheapest Michel Thomas course to one month of Pimsleur, Pimsleur’s slightly higher price makes a lot more sense. With Pimsleur, you can take as many lessons a day as you like and listen to native speakers. The app has a voice recognition tool and cultural notes, so you do more than just listen to a pre-recorded lesson. In my opinion, Pimsleur is a much better investment if you plan to learn through audio.

If you’d like to see more options before buying a subscription, don’t worry. We have many more recommendations for you. Here are some similar alternatives:

Pimsleur vs Michel Thomas: How They Work

Pimsleur and Michel Thomas are audio-based language programs. They both aim to get you to become conversational as soon as possible, but they do so in very different ways. Michel Thomas has language courses for specific skills and uses English in its explanations. Pimsleur has complete language courses voiced by native speakers to immerse you. Each Michel Thomas lesson consists of listening to a pre-recorded tutoring lesson. With Pimsleur, you listen to a conversation between two native speakers and repeat after them to practice speaking.

Check out the table below to see how Pimsleur and Michel Thomas rate across the web in 2023.

ReviewsMichael ThomasPimsleur
Apple Store4.34.8
Google Play2.54.1
Average Score3.43.9

How Pimsleur Works

Pimsleur has podcast-style lessons that can get you to speak from the first lesson. The app has a structured lesson plan that follows a logical order and builds upon what you previously learned. All the audio is voiced by native speakers, so you can listen and learn the language in the most natural way.

With Pimsleur, you listen to a conversation between two native speakers. Then, the speaker breaks down each dialogue line into words and sounds so you can listen carefully and repeat after. The speaker also explains different grammar rules and the context in which you can use the phrases included in the lesson. Each lesson lasts 10-30 minutes and can be downloaded to your phone to study offline.

Pimsleur course

Additionally, you can learn more about the culture and history of the language you are studying with Pimsleur’s cultural notes. The app also includes flashcards, speed rounds, and a Speak Easy review to help you refresh your knowledge. 

If you want to learn more about the app, read our complete Pimsleur review.

How Michel Thomas Works

Michel Thomas is a language learning platform with complete audio-based lessons that simulate a classroom environment. There are 18 languages available for learners from the complete beginner to the intermediate level. You can choose a lesson plan tailored to your specific needs, like increasing your vocabulary, building a foundation, using colloquial language, etc.

Each Michel Thomas lesson lasts 10-15 minutes and covers new vocabulary, phrases, and grammar. The speakers use English to introduce and discuss the language so you won’t have issues understanding. You listen to a conversation between a tutor and two students. Then, the tutor prompts his students to answer a couple of questions and provides feedback for their responses. This way, you learn from their mistakes.

Michel Thomas courses

Since Michel Thomas focuses on learning through listening, you won’t find any additional material in its courses. Depending on the language and the level you choose, your course can last 1-30 hours. You can download the content to your phone through the Michel Thomas Method Library app.

Pimsleur: What We Like (and Don’t Like)

Pimsleur is a convenient way to study if you have a busy schedule. Its lessons consist of listening and speaking, so you don’t need to use your hands at all. You can download the audio tracks to your phone and play them offline or while you complete other tasks like jogging, riding the bus, or shopping for groceries. Even though Pimsleur has a structured lesson plan, I think it offers much more flexibility for learners who have difficulty fitting their study time into a set schedule.

If you can’t afford to hire a tutor or don’t feel ready for online group classes just yet, Pimsleur is a great way to practice speaking on your own. Native speakers voice all Pimsleur courses, so you can practice listening and speaking everyday language. You are prompted to repeat after the speaker, which not only helps you remember the phrases but also improves your pronunciation. I tried Pimsleur’s Japanese course and found it easy to use basic communication after taking a couple of lessons. Overall, I think the app has an effective method to get you conversational quickly.

Pimsleur German lesson

While Pimsleur’s brief grammatical explanations save you the work of reading through chunks of text, they might not be enough to get their point across. All explanations are integrated into the lessons, so you can’t access them quickly if you want to review or reference what you learned. I think the short descriptions might work well with essential grammatical topics but not so much with advanced content. 

With that in mind, Pimsleur’s lessons might be too long for you to listen to more than one in a row. Its content offers detailed explanations and keeps you engaged by asking you to repeat each line, so you are not just playing the audio on the back while you do something else. I found that, while the lessons were very effective in helping me speak in Japanese, I could only complete a couple before I started to feel tired. Overall, Pimsleur’s language courses are thorough, but a 30-minute lesson might be too long if you can’t devote your complete attention.

Michel Thomas: What We Like (and Don’t Like)

Michel Thomas has quick audio lessons you can complete in 10-15 minutes. You can listen to them casually and replay them as many times as you need to fully understand the content. Michel Thomas’ lessons have short grammar explanations and clear examples to help you understand the concepts, so they are a great way to tackle the basics during your work break or while you do other tasks. 

Regardless of the language you are studying, its courses use English to explain the vocabulary, phrases, and grammar. While some people may like a more immersive experience, I think Michel Thomas provides the right amount of challenge for a complete beginner. If you are studying a new language for the first time, you might feel overwhelmed by the difference between your native and second language. But, with Michel Thomas, you can be sure you understand what’s happening and focus on practicing.

Michel Thomas audio lesson

On the other hand, the Michel Thomas courses might not be the best for you if you are an intermediate or advanced student trying to immerse yourself in the language. The lessons are supposed to help you learn to think in the language so you can easily communicate, but they use too much English to get their points across. You might actually need another resource to ensure you aren’t just memorizing phrases.

You can find booklets to accompany your lessons, but you won’t find any additional features to help you practice language skills like reading and writing. I think this is Michel Thomas’ biggest area of improvement. Now, many mobile apps include a lot of interactive features to help their students test or review what they learned. Some apps even use videos and cultural notes to introduce you to the cultural aspects of the language you are studying. For the price of some of its extensive lesson plans, it’d be good to see Michel Thomas include more types of practice material.

Pimsleur or Michel Thomas: Which is better?

Pimsleur and Michel Thomas might seem like fairly similar apps. They are both audio-based and aim to get you to become conversational quickly. However, they work best for different types of students of different levels. 

To me, Michel Thomas serves more as an introductory language course. If this is your first time studying a new language and you’d like to try an audio course, Michel Thomas’ Start Language courses can introduce you to the basics without overwhelming you. On the other hand, it doesn’t provide any interactive additional material to help you practice the rest of your skills, so I don’t recommend Michel Thomas for intermediate or advanced students.

Pimsleur has a more complete approach. Its lessons are longer, and the app is a bit more expensive, but it makes up for that with its features and immersive style. Because all of Pimsleur’s lessons have conversations with a native speaker, you can listen and learn to speak the language how it’s spoken in the real world. The speaker provides grammar and context explanations to help you understand when to use each phrase. It’s clear that Pimsleur is better quality-wise and has the best value if you want to become conversational quickly.

Michel Thomas or Pimsleur: FAQ

What is better than Pimsleur?

Depending on your learning needs and language goals, there might be better resources for you than Pimsleur. If you are looking for more traditional study methods, a textbook can provide more extensive grammatical explanations. There are also many authentic language resources available for free online, like news articles and videos.

Which is better, Pimsleur or Michel Thomas?

Pimsleur and Michel Thomas have podcast-style lessons, but one might be better for you, depending on your language level and needs. Michel Thomas mimics a classroom environment and introduces words, phrases, and grammar topics in English. Pimsleur is more immersive and asks you to repeat after the speakers to improve your pronunciation.

Is Pimsleur legitimate?

Pimsleur is a legitimate way to learn a new language through audio. Its method has proven effective and convenient for students who want to practice speaking from the comfort of their homes. You can use Pimsleur to develop your speaking and listening skills and learn more about culture and history through its cultural section.

Is Michel Thomas free?

No, Michel Thomas isn’t free. Michel Thomas offers the first lesson of every course for free, but you need to buy each course to unlock all the content. Michel Thomas also has bundles to help you save money.

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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