Biography on Dr Paul Pimsleur

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about Dr. Paul Pimsleur. His work was and still is pretty revolutionary in the realm of language learning. I used his language course to jump start my German journey and will continue to use it for any language that I decide to learn in the future. Here is a short Biography on Dr. Paul Pimsleur, covering his early life, education, career life, and death in 1976.

Dr. Paul Pimsleur, a renowned expert in the world of applied linguistics has been quite influential as far as learning, teaching, and research on different languages of the world is concerned. He and his partner Charles Heinle were the founders of Pimsleur, one of the most effective language-learning software in the world that offers a platform through which people can easily learn new languages on their own. Pimsleur has studied, researched, and taught a wide range of languages in addition to holding various professional positions as a professor and expert in linguistics.

Early Life and Education

Born in New York City, the US on October 17th, 1927 to a French immigrant Mr. Solomon Pimsleur and mother Miera Pimsleur, Dr. Paul M. Pimsleur, was and remains one of the most popular linguistic experts in the world. His father was a music composer while his mother was a librarian at the Columbia University. With most of his early education in New York, Dr. Pimsleur took his first degree and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York, later advancing his studies from the Columbia University and earning a psychological statistics master’s degree from the same university. He also did his doctorate degree in French from the Columbia University.

Life and Career after Studies

After completing his studies, Dr. Pimsleur would then secure a job as a French Phonetics and phonemics teacher at LA’s University of California (UCLA). He also supervised the UCLA’s language laboratory. He later moved to the Ohio State University where he taught foreign language education and French language. It is at the OSU where Pimsleur together with the Ohio Bell Telephone, formed and supervised the largest language laboratory in the United States, then known as the Listening Center. From the learning center, language students would learn at their own pace through a series of automated recordings and prompts delivered through the telephone.

After the OSU, Pimsleur joined the State University of New York, Albany, where he became a professor of education and romance linguistics. Dr. Pimsleur also lectured at the Ruprecht Karls University, Heidelberg in the late nineteen sixties and was also among the founder members of the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL). This might be the main reason behind ACTFL’s Paul Pimsleur Award.


pimsleur-germanPimsleur was an amazing researcher in the field of linguistics, whose studies mainly focused on the understanding the process of language acquisition. He also published many books and articles about the theories of language learning and language teaching. Some of his most popular works include the monograph published in 1963 by the Modern Language Association of America, which was titled “Underachievement in Foreign Language Learning”. This was part of what resulted from his independent studies. His research also established the 3 major variables that would be used to calculate the language learning aptitude as motivation, verbal intelligence, and auditory ability.

Death and Legacy

It is in 1976 that Pimsleur unexpectedly died of a heart attack during one of his visits to France. Dr. Pimsleur’s work and dedication are remembered through the Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in Foreign Language, which was established in 1977 by the ACTFL-MLJ. He is also well remembered through his numerous publications as well as the online language learning program, which is based on four major principles:

  • Anticipation
  • Core Vocabulary
  • Graduated Interval Recall
  • Organic Learning