Are there any known advantage associated to follow an audio-only language course (like Pimsleur or Michael Thomas) instead a more traditional one?

With "more traditional one" I mean those courses with a book holding lessons and media as a supplement.

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    Which aspects are you concerned with? Audio-only courses will leave you illiterate in that language (for example, how would you learn any Chinese characters only through listening?). Apr 5 '16 at 22:08
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    That is one of its greatest faults. So, given that, in what other features those courses give you some sort of advantage. For instance, they could make you learn faster.
    – Nicolás
    Apr 5 '16 at 22:11

pros of audio only materials:

  • they are hands-free, you can study while jogging or driving
  • you learn the proper pronunciation of words because you are not misguided by how they are written (this is also relevant to languages where, unlike in English, the proper pronunciation can be inferred from the written form; learners are still tempted to pronounce words as they would pronounce them in their mother-tongue or in another language they know)
  • you are likely to develop your listening skills (and your confidence in your listening skills) much more quickly than with any other form of instruction
  • exposure to large amounts of audio materials is helpful for developing a natural accent
  • if you are only learning the language to be able to communicate orally (e.g., for travel), you save time that would otherwise be dedicated to learning the spelling and/or the script in which the language is written


  • seeing the written form of a word (or a transcription such as its pronunciation written in IPA) may actually help you to hear how it is pronounced and thus also pronounce it more accurately, especially if the word contains sounds that either do not exist or are not relevant to meaning in other languages you know and which you are thus unable to distinguish (e.g., many English speakers cannot distinguish between aspirated and unaspirated sounds of Tibetan (even though English has both kinds) or between rising and falling tones of Chinese because that difference is not relevant to meaning in English) (Erdener: Basic to applied research: the benefits of audio-visual speech perception research in teaching foreign languages, 2012)
  • audio only materials are not well suited for visual learners
  • audio only materials ignore the fact that literate people rely on writing in all sorts of ways (Cook: The Relationship between First and Second Language Learning Revisited, 2010); in other words, if you are literate in your mother tongue, your brain has developed structures to cope with the written word, and you can use those structures for learning another language, too
  • audio only materials do not provide other visual input that is typical of language situations in which people normally communicate (e.g. context clues such as objects in the environment or body language)

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