Paul Pimsleur

Paul Pimsleur (1928 – 1976) was an authority in the field of applied linguistics. He taught French phonetics and phonemics at the University of California, Los Angeles after obtaining his Ph.D. in French and a master's degree in psychological statistics from Columbia University. After leaving UCLA, Pimsleur went on to faculty positions at Ohio State University, where he taught French. There he created and was Director of the first Listening Center in America. He was later a Professor of Education and Romance Languages at The State University of New York at Albany, where he held dual professorships in Education and French. He was also a Fulbright lecturer at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, and a founding member of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. He did research on the psychology of language learning and in 1969 was Section Head of Psychology of Second Languages Learning at the International Congress of Applied Linguistics.

His research was focused into understanding the language acquisition process, especially the organic learning of children who speak a language without knowing its formal structure. For this, he studied the learning process of groups made of children, adults, and multilingual adults. The result of this research was the Pimsleur language learning system. His many books and articles revolutionized theories of language learning and teaching.

In the years 1958-1966, Pimsleur also conducted a review of 30 years of published studies regarding a variety of linguistic and psychological factors involved in language learning. Through this extensive review, Pimsleur identified three factors that could be measured to calculate language aptitude: verbal intelligence, auditory ability and motivation. Pimsleur and his associates developed the Pimsleur Language Aptitude Battery based on these three factors to assess language aptitude.