Assimil consists of a pocket sized book and 4 audio CDs and promises an intuitive method. I bought it for Romanian and read through a few chapters each day as each chapter is quite short. The book is based on a series of short bilingual dialogues. I bought the French version as there was no English version to learn the Romanian language.
I also recorded myself reading the dialogues aloud and then sent them to a native speaker for review and feedback. I would recommend doing this as the course does not have any in-built method for reviewing your pronunciation and prosody.
According to the Assimil, their courses apply the same natural process adapting it to the abilities of adults, young and old that allowed you to learn your native tongue. This is that you will absorb – or assimilate – the meanings of the word associations, and will begin to link words and form your own sentences.
So how does Assimil shape up to their claims?
1. Bolded letters for stress – The letters which are stressed in each word are in bold. This is great as it allows you to avoid developing the bad habit of stressing the wrong syllable in the new words
2. Intuitive – The bilingual dialogues are effective as they allow you to absorb the vocabulary and patterns of the new language (i.e. grammar) without huge effort as they are quite intuitive
1. Obsolete spelling – Out-of-date version for Romanian (1989) and possibly other languages and this impacts a lot on the course as there was a major spelling reform in 1993 and thus, certain frequent words are now not only spelt differently but also pronounced using slightly different vowel sounds
2. Dull content – I did not find the dialogues very engaging and they became a little dull after the first 20 or so
3. Inadequate cultural information – There was some but not many cultural references to either Romania or Moldova in the course I chose and thus, Assimil lacked the adequate cultural information specific to the target language
So would I recommend using Assimil?
Assimil is certainly a useful product to supplement your language learning. I found it particularly effective for learning where to stress lies on new words and for noticing patterns in the language’s grammar. However, it comes with the following qualifications:
1. Assimil will only get you to a very basic level in the target language with an equally limited range of vocabulary – it no substitute for ‘learning through lifestyle’
2. The content was not sufficiently gripping to me personally and predominantly text based (audio CDs were also not captivating)
3. It is important to have an up-to-date version which was not the case for Romanian (more than 20 years old)
Update: Assimil contacted me immediately after I published this review to say that a new version of Assimil Romanian is to be published in the spring of 2014 so I suggest that you choose this version if you are considering learning Romanian and would like to try Assimil.
If you would like to purchase an Assimil course as a result of or in spite of my review, you can do so below in your local Amazon store.