Michel Thomas Language Learning Review
BEFORE buying - know these facts! Check this Review!Michel Thomas
was one of the world's most famous language teachers when he died in 2005.
And for his private sessions he was one of the most expensive
, with his website advertising his week long sessions (well five days actually) at the bargain basement price of a mere $30,000
for the training. He built a long list of well heeled celebrity clients and eventually released versions of his courses on audio CD. His star-studded cast included Princess Grace of Monaco! Wow!
The Michel Thomas audio CD's
are available in numerous languages and give one some good practical methods
to grab the basics of a language
and to build confidence in speaking
a new foreign language.
Overall however with their emphasis on being purely audio
they are very much one dimensional and while useful for some aspects of language learning, they need to be supplemented with other forms of language tuition. Very easy to make from a manufacturer's viewpoint! No complex multimedia stuff, but great for learning a language in the car, or on your iPods.
I listened to the Michel Thomas French CD Audio Course 1
, and rated it as worth having
as a part of you language learning stable of tools
and can say that it had some very good points.
However I should firstly issue a....
Word of Caution about the Michel Thomas French Audio CD Language Course
Listen to some native speakers
For the Michel Thomas French audio course
I do also add a word of caution
Despite Michel studying at the Sorbonne University in Paris, and his ability to speak French, his accent
is not a native French accent. And for any French student to adopt as good an accent as possible, one needs to listen to native speakers. One can also watch French speakers (TV, films, videos, etc), and watch and mimic their mouthes, facial expressions and actions when they talk.
It is therefore important to add a component of your learning which includes extensive tracts from native speakers.
According to Wikipedia
Mr Thomas was Polish and spent some of his youth in Germany, going to France in his twenties. This comes clearly through in his accent.
Michel Thomas speaks French with a Polish accent
(with possibly some German into the mix - but I don't know). Like his strong personality the Polish accent emerges strongly with his French, and his English. So if you want to speak French with a Polish/German accent then mimic Michel Thomas's accent.
It would be like learning English with a Polish/English accent. Would you want this? If a friend of yours was learning English would you get him to practise his/her accent with a teacher with a heavy Polish accent? When most courses out there use native speakers!?
OK, so how do you get around this?
What is somewhat disconcerting
is that nowhere
on the Michel Thomas French CD, nowhere on the packaging, nowhere in the audio course do his publishers make this clear. Nowhere do the publishers state "The teacher speaks French but is not a native speaker. . ." or words to that effect. Furthermore, on the course I listened to there was no native speaker to back him up, or to put the students on the right track.
I cannot comment on the accent on the Michel Thomas Spanish course, Michel Thomas Italian, Michel Thomas Portuguese, Michel Thomas German
course or the Michael Thomas anything else. [See Addendum
below - ed]
I would be interested in any feedback!
But if you are considering one of these courses I would strongly recommend that you get a native speaker
to have a listen to somebody else's copy of the course to give him a rating on his accent.
Use his teachings for practical conversation
and learning some structure
, and some handy hints about conversing in the language, but get a native speaker to teach you how to pronounce words. Do not
use his French course as your only learning material.
Addendum: Michel Thomas German course
I got some native German speakers to listen to Michel Thomas's German
course and they rate him as a native German speaker
. You can therefore use his German lessons in the full confidence of knowing that he has a native German accent.
Michel Thomas Language Learning Techniques
The Thomas technique concentrates heavily on cognates
, that is using words that are similar in French and in English. This is great for giving students a level of confidence, and some useful tricks.
He covers the modal verbs heavily, these being very useful for practical everyday situations. These are the verbs like would, should, could, can etc. Good stuff.
Are the Michel Thomas Language courses good for the serious student?
For the serious student of modern foreign languages however you will need much more than a Michel Thomas language audio CD course to learn a language and become fluent. Perhaps his institute provides more advanced courses.
The audio CD courses are great for the basics, but the student that is genuinely interested in becoming fluent needs to spend around 750 to 1,000 hours of study to learn a language according to the experts like the Foreign Service Institute who train the US diplomats in language learning.
From my look at Mr Thomas's French language course 1, his language audio courses available down at your bookstore simply do not provide this level of teaching. (But you have to decide on what level you are aiming at!). Nevertheless his courses are a great starting point.
Be careful of purely audio courses
Being a purely audio
method of teaching means that one does not get to see any written text. This is a serious drawback
because a person that can read language learning material can learn much more effectively. Reading words and text increases and solidifies
the language learning experience immensely and allows the reader to more accurately identify and learn a word or phrase.
Something heard is often not quite clear to the listener, whereas if one can listen and read then one has a better learning experience.
If we look at the brain's method of learning
we know that the more stimulus and input from the more different senses
that we use, the greater are the number of neural pathways that are laid in the brain as each brain cell, neuron connects to loads of other neurons.
So by adding reading, writing, video, animation, acting and other things one is incorporating all the senses that audio courses like Mr Thomas's language courses neglect
, and in fact take some pride in scoffing at, you will improve the quality and depth of your learning experience.
Overall the Michel Thomas language courses do have a place in your language learning stable
of products, but I do not recommend them as the sole learning methodology. Include a good, qualified language teacher, books, TV, films, DVD, verb drills etc.
And for the best foreign language vocabulary learning and gender recognition techniques use the 200 Words a Day! language learning systems
. These are the perfect complement to any language learning course for Spanish, French, German, Italian, Welsh.
Learning a Language with No Memorization? ... as Mr Thomas claims
Mr Thomas claims that his techniques require no memorization, and he makes quite a point of this. Well you can call the process what you like, but you still have to memorize things in some way to get them into your brain.
You can call an elephant a donkey if you want, but it is still an elephant. You can call it an aeroplane (... a jumbo maybe...) or can call it a gillywolkawilbydidliackadoondom, but it is also still an elephant.
My point is that you do have to try and remember things. This process is called memorization! Just because the teacher says it requires no memorization does not mean it is so. If you don't remember something you will never learn it! If you have not memorized something it is not in your brain!
But this is of course a great sales pitch from one of the greatest ever sellers of language courses! No memorization!
Overall - a good thing to have in the language learning stable... Just go in with your eyes open.
And here is a reply from a ReaderThis reply is from Jared on 05 January 2008.I read your review of Michel Thomas's French. The thick accent is indeed a pitfall, although the Russian, Arabic, and Mandarin courses all use native speakers.
I pretty much agree with everything you've written about Michel Thomas, but I think you failed to mention the strongest area of the program; and for this I will take an excerpt from a language learning forum:
The central underlying secret to Michel Thomas's technique existed in two parts -
1. Firstly, a system for breaking down language into its core essence, and then ...
2. secondly putting it together in a way the students could understand. - Jared
Susan reckons his Italian accent is pretty close ...September 09, 2010Regarding your comments on Michel Thomas' language learning techniques and accents. I have undertaken the Italian courses and have found Michel's accent to be very close to native Italian - and I can say that with confidence as my father is Italian and I practised what I learnt with him.
The course is aimed at people who want to SPEAK as opposed to read. That is why it does not use diagrams etc. But all the courses have accompanying booklets containing the course contents i.e. the dialogue. So if someone really wants to see how what they are saying is written, it is provided for them.
If you read who they say each course is intended for you will see that they never state it is a substitute for serious academic study. I cannot comment about any other of the languages on offer, but I am much more confident with my Italian and and am now at Year 4 GCSE level having been 'bumped up' from year 1 after doing the Michel Thomas method - and my Italian teacher is a native speaker also. - Susan
That is great to hear. I wonder how he could manage an Italian accent, but not lose the Polish brogue with his English and his French. Amazing given his 'world's greatest language teacher' label.
More on Michel Thomas's Italian accent...September 10, 2010The reason is simple. Italian phonology is relatively easier than English or French phonology. It is a phonetic language.
I don't speak Italian, and my native language is very distant from European languages, but when I try to read Italian (without understanding of course) native speakers say that I sound like an immigrant who has lived in Italy for more than 40 years. On the other hand, my father is an English language professor, specializing in Phonetics and Phonology, and yet his accent is far from native.
English is very difficult phonetically and phonologically! - Sky Comet
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