My experience with Assimil: I went through a quarter of Assimil Perfectionnement Allemand, all 109 lessons from Assimil Spanish with Ease and half from Assimil Hebrew.
I have seen many times people praising Assimil and their product, often saying that Assimil took them to B2. I found it very intriguing especially since, after all, it is just a textbook. Nothing else. A textbook with (approximately) 100 lessons and the same number of MP3s. Most of the time their textbooks are not very long (at least no longer than other Teach Yourself products), and the audio lessons are no longer than 5-6 minutes. Given that most people prefer online resources over textbooks, why everybody so excited about Assimil? Why Assimil and not Colloquial? Or Teach Yourself?
Before I start, I have to notice the weirdness of the site. It’s only in French! Although the packaging is in English, the site is only in French. The packaging is interesting again. For the ‘with Ease’ courses the packaging states that he will take you to B2, and for the ‘Advanced / Perfectionement’ he writes that he will take you to C1. Not at all. Not a single resource will get you to B2. Period. That being said, the course structure is divided into two categories: the ‘with Ease’ and the Advanced ones. And because I tried both types, I will briefly explain the differences between them.
1. X Language ‘with Ease’
Most Assimil users use only this first category of courses that this company offers. Most ‘with Ease’ textbooks have the following structure: The first 10-15 pages are dedicated to explaining the pronunciation and (if the target language is not written in a Latin alphabet) the alphabet. Then there are about 100 readings, with a few lines of dialogue or with two small paragraphs. On the left is the text in the foreign language and on the right the English translation or, if it is an older textbook (as in the case of L’hebreu sans peine), the French translation. As you progress, the dialogues become more and more complex, and the speed of the reader reading texts in MP3s becomes faster and faster. Audio lessons only include reading the text in the textbook, not the footnotes or the translation. Most lessons also have a funny image, and some texts have subtle and sometimes funny jokes (French humor).
2. X Language Advanced
This second category contains only a long text, with 5-6 paragraphs, plus an exercise with some requirements. No footnotes or explanations, just the text and a little exercise. The audio lessons have about the same structure as those in the first category, usually a gentleman with a calm voice reads the text in the lesson, and, after a short pause, reads the exercise requirements. Every seventh lesson is a review lesson, in which there is no exercise and the text is much smaller. Honestly, I never really understood the meaning of that lessons, they seem to review nothing at all. Within these lessons you can also find some funny jokes, a little more subtle and ironic.
The method works in the following way: Firstly, you listen to the first 50 lessons, without writing down anything at all and without focusing too hard on trying to understand the structure of the language. After you finish these 50 lessons, go back to lesson 1, then carefully write down all the unknown words, sentences and expressions. Then put these sentences and words in programs like Anki or Memrise and learn them until you memorize them.
4. My opinion?
Assimil is a good textbook, but in the end, it’s just a textbook. It should not be used in any form as a single resource, but in combination with other programs such as Pod101, Babbel or Mango Languages. I also have to emphasize something: Assimil has no value in the learning process without a SRS software (like Anki, Memrise etc.). Just by writing the unknown words from the lessons you won’t learn them.
I currently use German Assimil Perfectionnement to a certain extent. Of the 2 hours (approximately) I spend per day for German, I allocate about 30 minutes for Assimil.