So…how is my Pimsleur Hungarian? :)

May 24, 2012 by 24 Comments

You picked Hungarian for me to study for one month to try out the Pimsleur method. I finished the 30-day level one Pimsleur Hungarian course and the results are in! 🙂

On 15th April I started my 30-day Pimsleur Hungarian challenge. The course I used was from my local library. It came with a booklet with some words to read halfway through the course. Every day I listened to a new lesson and went through the study programme as prescribed by Pimsleur.

My struggles with the course…

My plan was to have a month where I would have uninterrupted time to go through the course at a set time each day. Life does kick in though and I ended up going to the US and Canada, which meant I started my challenge there and not at home as planned. The other issues I faced were my general commitments for work, study and family. We all know those problems right?

One of the most important things in language is keeping it fun so you stay motivated. It’s always best not to stress. I often changed the times and locations of my lesson to listen to the course, so that it fitted around my life. It’s best to keep encouraging yourself during your study, so you stay pumped and learn more when you’re able. 🙂

So what do I think of the course?

I was surprised by how much I could learn in each lesson. The lessons are well thought-out in that you feel that you are getting quite far in the language with relatively few words and little grammar. Hungarian is described by The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK as a Class 2 language.


I was also aware of the type of grammatical structures in the language from studies of language families. So my expectations were that it would be tough to teach it in the way you can teach other languages. Languages with complicated case systems or agglutinative languages often need more sample sentences to build up meaning for more varied conversations. Then the exceptions can kick in to throw a spanner in the works!

I did on occasion find it tough to concentrate on just listening, I have to admit. But that was not a deal breaker for me with Pimsleur. My main real gripe was the lack of writing…I LOVE to write things out when I study a language! 🙂

OK, so what level can you expect from Pimsleur’s level 1 course?

Pimsleur say that their course takes you to around an A1 level (when you do the comparisons online). This level is definitely opened to interpretation. After the 30-day course you cannot expect to sit an A1 exam and get 100%, you may not even get near the 60% required for a pass. There would not be enough vocabulary or grammar to use all of the necessary structures for success at that level. You do have a nice introduction to the language though and I feel more confident going back to Hungary in the future now! 🙂

What do you achieve after 30 days on Pimsleur?

You get a good grounding in how the language is pronounced. They use a great tried and tested method of teaching how to make the sounds by starting from the end of the word and working back to the front. Then they put them all together, so you can make all of the sounds and then put the sounds together to make the word or phrase and say it in an understandable way.

The fab community on the Speaking Fluently Facebook page seems to agree that clear pronunciation is key to language learning. Whilst a native-like accent is a lovely extra, it is not the be all and end all of the learning process. I agree that speaking in a way that is easily understandable to other speakers of the language is the most important thing. We all know what it’s like to ask people to repeat things 100 times and to be asked to repeat things 100 times just to communicate a basic idea or need. Sometimes we are in situations where the message is important, so it is worth putting in a bit of effort to ensure that is possible.

Pimsleur will help you to get those basics down in an easily understandable way. You do still need to make the effort and not worry about sounding “funny”. The sounds in a new language will always sound a bit strange at first and they can make us feel self-conscious. Those new sounds are part of the language and they are as important, if not more important, that getting the grammar down pat. Even Tarzan gets his point across, right? 😉

Pimsleur also teaches you some good basic phrases, which you can re-use and substitute for different words to change meaning. This is a handy tool for travel to the country or for a gentle introduction to the language.

So how well do I speak Hungarian after my challenge?

Honestly, I speak it as well as I would expect to speak a language after only listening to it for about 30 minutes a day for a month…not very well! 😀 It has been a useful and enriching experience though. When I go back to Hungary again, I feel that I can say some basic things and make myself understood more than before. Here is a video of me saying some very basic things in Hungarian with the words, structures and themes presented in the course.

Well, here is a video of me using some of what I learnt…what do




Did you do a challenge too? How did you get on? Or are you planning a challenge in the future? If you speak Hungarian, please do let me know how effective and understandable my Hungarian is after the challenge? Can you understand me?

If you sign up for italki and buy a coupon for language lessons through them, you can use the Promo Code below at checkout to get $5 OFF your order! So a $10 coupon costs you just $5! Use Promo Code: RICHARD

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This post was written by Richard


  • Ryan says:

    I’ve done the Pimsleur Swiss-German course and the Danish course, which only have 15 lessons each. I think your assessment of the course is fair. I think it would be neat if you continued with the language though. Any plans?

    • Alexa says:

      I live in Denmark now. what do you think about the danish course Primsleur? Is it useful?

      • Ryan says:

        Hello Alexa,

        I didn’t really find the Pimsleur Danish too helpful. It could be nice if you’ve never studied a foreign language before but I have. I like the Teach Yourself series and they have a Danish course that will get you on your feet in the language. Assimil and Colloquial are similar and also good. I would start there. Make sure you get the accompanying CDs.

      • If you live in Denmark, the Pimsleur level 1 that I did may be basic for you, as Ryan suggests. Still you can always listen to it and see if you can find it in your local library. How are you getting on with Danish since you wrote? 🙂

    • Thanks, Ryan! 🙂 Definitely got plans to continue in the future. Right now though, I just have too many other things going on to give it the attention it deserves. 🙂

  • Alexa says:

    Hi Richard,
    I’m a hungarian woman, and congrats for your challenge 🙂 you speak hungarian better like you think 🙂

    • Alexa, Thanks for your feedback. I could definitely say more than I thought I would be able to say after the course. Sorry for taking so long to reply to this comment, but in the time between making this video and now I think I can still string together a sentence in Hungarian. I do feel that I will need to revise it sometime soon though. 🙂

  • Erzsebet says:

    I am a native speaker of Hungarian living in Hungary. I could understand you really well! It was good to hear a non-Hungarian speaking my language. Keep up the good work! If you need help in Hungarian, feel free to let me know. I am a language teacher. Greetings from Hungary. 🙂

  • Rick says:

    Hi Richard,

    Early last year I had gone through the Turkish 30 lesson course. It was my first exposure to the language. At the time I thought it was a great introduction to Turkish. After completing it, I went on to other materials, but about 8 or 9 months later I was cleaning house and found the course again, so I let it play straight through, throughout the day and for about a week.

    THAT was when I realized how useful the course was. On my second listening, there were all sorts of “Oh! So that’s why they taught it that way!” moments, since by then I had something a little more advanced to compare to.

    If you choose to continue on with Hungarian, it’d be interesting to see if, at a later date, you went back and re-listened to it, and whether you found it helpful or not or if you had a similar experience.

  • Hi Richard,

    I’m also a native Hungarian and was really looking forward to this video. Well, congratulations! To my big surprise you had no difficulty to pronounce the dreaded “gy” sound – I think I’ve never heard someone non-native pronounce it that clearly. Well done!

    As for fluency: I’m a big fan of the Pimsleur courses but I know that they don’t give you fluency at all – but in the video you demonstrated some great skills to string sentences together! Will you keep studying the language or that was it?

    • Thanks for the feedback on my pronunciation. I am pleased that it made an impression on you. Given the focus of Pimsleur is very much on speaking the language is a natural way, it seems like it does the job in that respect. I would love to continue with Hungarian, but it will have to be after a bit of a pause in studies because of my other commitments. Doing Pimsleur definitely gave me a better feel for the language and my desire to learn it is a LOT stronger than it was before. 🙂

    • Larissa says:

      How come you guys never offer anything in Bengali? Bengali is 5th or 6th most spkeon language in the world with over 200 million native speakers. Furthermore, the Bengali font on Google (in default computers without any font support) is too small where we have to zoom in a lot to actually read it.

  • Hello Richard,
    Wow Great, your results are far better than mine, as I told you I tried Pimsleur Hungarian in the same period as you did, but my sense of activation for this language was not so good as it is used to be. So I decided to start the course again, but now as a reviewing course, and now with this second round, I am felling much more confident (not fluent) . Maybe this could be a good tip for those considering to use Pimsleur, maybe it cannot work well in the first round of studies, especially if the language has no connection with yours, a second round can do wonders for your memory activation. I hope to post a video soon.
    Best wishes,
    By the way, what and when would it be your next challenge?

    • Jimmy,

      I think it makes sense to be honest with yourself and there are times I have felt that I need to repeat things more too. There’s a lot of value in doing that too. How has it gone second time around? At the moment I am gearing up for my return to Poland and Polish. I will hopefully take it up from an A2 level to a solid B1 or possibly B2 (if I can manage it). I also have a few dates lined up with lady Mandarin! 😀 What’s on your language agenda? 🙂

  • Jim Wagner says:


    I have used Pimsleur to begin my language studies in several languages. I like to begin a new language with just listening as I think it is more natural. After at least the first 30 Pimsleur lessons, I move on to grammar and other resourses. I don’t always do a lesson a day. I listen to each lesson about 3 to 6 times before I move on. Pimsleur works as far as setting the ground work. I like the feeling of being able to speak meaningfully and Pimsleur accompllishes that on a basic level. It also eliminates pronunciation problems for the beginner in contrast to learning it from written sources. No one resource can teach a language, but Pimsleur accoplishes a lot for me when I start out.


    • You know, I can totally see why you’d want to re-listen to the lessons. I imagine you see quite a benefit for doing that. Which language(s) have you used the course for?

      • Jim Wagner says:


        Excuse me for failing to mention what an inspiration you are to many us language learners. In response to you question i have used Pimsleur courses for Spanish, German, Mandarin, and Arabic. I can speak German and Spanish. For German I started with Pimsleur I, II, and III. I used Pimsleur I, II, III, and IV for Spanish. I started with other resources after the first level in each language. I did only 30 lessons in Arabic and Mandarin. Thanks for all you do for the language learning world.


  • Ellen says:

    I found your video on the different classes of languages very interesting and helpful. Thanks!

  • Simon says:

    I used the Pimsleur Swedish and I must stay it was awesome. Now my main focus is to learn Spanish, but the Pimsleur method taught me some basics and more importantly some very good pronunciation. I have been always afraid to study Swedish just from books, because the ones I have here usually just compare the sounds between your native language and the target one. I won’t teach you the melody of words. I didn’t use solely Pimsleur though, but now I can go to Stockholm or Göteborg and order a beer, ask for directions and much more.

    So to sum it up. I think it’s a nice way to get you started in the language of your choice, but they really should construct more volumes for some languages. 10 lessons is nothing and 30 is nothing much. Haven’t bought any other courses, but I assume the 90 lesson languages can give you material to work with in your further studies.

    Lycka till

  • Teresa says:

    Sounds like a great way to learn basics of a language or two, and I’d like to try now that I have time off of work. I was raised bilingually
    (Spanish/English). It made learning French in school much easier. I knew nothing of grammar but my speaking and comprehension was leagues above my classmates. Non-latin languages make me feel completely stupid, though.
    Is the “10-day challenge” the same as the 30-day program?
    Are any of you willing to sell your used programs? I’d try just about any language to test this, but would really LOVE to learn Italian, Greek, Eastern Arabic, Mandarin, Portuguese or German!

  • Tamas says:

    I really enjoyed to hear you speak hungarian. Some of your words were much closer to native pronunciation, than guys who live in Hungary as forigner students or workers, for more then one year..
    please let us know if you come to Hungary. it seems like you have some fans here:).

  • So interesting to read all these neat facts. I would like to use this in a lesson for ELLs to illustrate the benefits of being proficient in more than one language!

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