I Take It Back, S&S

Pimsleur 50th Anniversary

Back in the ’60s, in grade school, in Central Illinois, none of my classmates were anything but Caucasian. Fortunately, our tiny town’s school principal was a forward-thinking woman devoted to exposing us to the larger world. Somehow she found enough money to erect a TV tower tall enough to capture the distant signal from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign station. Then she gave us an “option” on Thursday afternoons: either remedial spelling classes, or (if your spelling was okay) kids’ Spanish via TV.

Being a good speller, and having a low tolerance for the boredom of repetition, I chose Spanish. And I loved it! During middle school and high school, I took Spanish again every year. I carried a Spanish Bible to church to practice further. Much later, during my thirties, in college, I gained a Spanish minor (along with a semester of French). And I continue to practice Spanish today (via Duolingo.com), convinced of Charlemagne’s statement that “He who has a second language has a second soul.”

A couple of years ago, largely from interest in haiku and tanka, I decided to tackle Japanese as well. Among the various options, Pimsleur seemed the best approach: It focuses on aural learning rather than writing, simulating the way people learn languages natively, and each lesson is roughly the duration of my drive from home to work.

Now that I’m nearly done with the three levels of Pimsleur Japanese (ninety lessons in total), I’ll continue pursuing that language through some extension courses at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, along with watching anime, supporting Japanese game Kickstarters, and so on. But I’ve also agreed to tackle Russian next, with an old college buddy. And again, we’re using Pimsleur.

So last night, I went to download the Pimseur app for my Nexus 7, to manage my subscription, and this one-star review popped up at the very top:

Takes Ridiculous to a New Level!
Pimsleur courses are great! But the download process has always been frustratingly arcane. It would have seemed nothing could be more clumsy than their old, broken Java system, but this app takes ridiculousness to a whole new level. NOTE: You have to sign into the app with a different username and password for each file you want to download. Nor do you choose that combination; apparently it’s set by the system at time of purchase and sent in an email. Or you can skip this nonsensical app altogether, visit the Web site, login to your account once, and download zipped copies of each file in your library. I’ve never been able to understand why Simon & Schuster puts customers through such rigorous steps just to access DRM-free MP3 files. Is there some withered old Luddite on the Board of Directors who doesn’t understand the term “DRM-free MP3” and who’s terrified that customers will steal him blind? Frankly, I wish I could rate this app zero stars. It’s that worthless.

I’m keeping that review here for posterity, but I’ve deleted it from the Android app store, because Simon & Schuster has updated the app, and the new version is an entirely different experience. One user name and password (the same as for your Web site account) gets you complete access to your online library. Download and play are utterly painless. There’s even a feature that lets you stop a file mid play and add a text note to that specific time signature.

So thank you, Simon & Schuster! I’ll be posting a new, replacement review sometime soon. And I’ll definitely be pursuing your Russian course (and then tackling your Irish Gaelic and Czech, already purchased). Anybody else care to join me?

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