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 Reader

This 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, 2010
Regarding 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

Kevin says: 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, 2010
The 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

Add your Comments on this Michel Thomas French Language Course Review and Language Learning

Share your opinions on this!

[ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]


Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

  •  submission guidelines.

(You can preview and edit on the next page)

What Other Language Learners & Teachers Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

I learned french with the MT course – first the 8 hour beginner course, then the advanced. I didn't find MT's pronunciation a problem and I'd imagine that …

Why did Michel Thomas neglect the woman student on his Total French course? 
Before I criticise Michel Thomas, I would like to emphasise how much I learned from his latest "Total French" course for beginners. Thomas had an amazing …

terrible students 
The two people learning french on the cd's have absolutely no clue whatsoever. It's as though they are not even listening to the teacher. Especially the …

Language is hard, he makes it as simple as possible  Not rated yet
Thanks for your review, I feel the key thing is the level at which you wish to acheive. (as you have mentioned) For someone wishing to take a holiday …

English Accent Not rated yet
I struggled to understand his English accent/pronunciation on the first Spanish CD! He was trying to say something along the lines of "words ending …

teach to pass for a native? Not rated yet
I very much get why there is no 'beware, non native' warning. Why people, who live 40 years in immersion do not lose their accent? It is silly of you to …

Michel Thomas was a genius! Not rated yet
Michel Thomas was a genius, and whatever his defects, he makes learning a language easy,and will put you ahead in that task,no matter what other method …

The dutch and Russian courses are taught by native speakers Not rated yet
I have taken both courses, all the way through basic and advanced. The teachers are native speakers and in the dutch one, there even 2 different teachers …

Incredible method Not rated yet
Honestly, Michel Thomas is fantastic. Regardless of accents which will differ in any area or region, I picked up to intermediate French in a record time. …

Michel Thomas Spanish course Not rated yet
His Spanish course is good, but his Polish/German accent is obvious in the recording. So I would say, along with the French program, you should have a …

Memorization: I think you missed the point.... Not rated yet
- "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 …

Accent Engages The Minds of Idealists Only  Not rated yet
I am using some of the MT series. Russian, French, Spanish, Italian are among the ones I tried. They are excellent. Accent is the least important thing …

Accents Not rated yet
Hello, It is not the first time that I have heard/read comments about his accent. He created a method, now the MT method is applied to many languages …

One of the best ever Not rated yet
With the Michel Thomas' approach students start speaking early on because they understand how the language works and what it takes to start using it from …

Start with Michel Thomas to gain confidence speaking! Not rated yet
Yes I probably speak with a Polish-German accent, but now I am confident to have a go at speaking out loud in class because I have more confidence with …

Michel Thomas' courses  Not rated yet
In factMichel Thomas' courses are excellent for anyone getting started in any foreign language, but of course, you must start reading books, magazines …

Why the confusion? Not rated yet
I find it staggering that people seriously thought that he would be a "native" speaker in 4 languages. Surely when for example buying his French CD someone …

He teaches real conversational french not an academic exercise Not rated yet
Michel Thomas simplifies learning enormously. Anyone can learn the structure and vocabulary almost effortlessly due to his extraordinary methods - making …

Italian accent Not rated yet
I listened to many of the CDs using the Michel Thomas method for Italian. I really enjoyed the method and learnt a lot from it. I would not say that his …

Thats what i discovered.in most schools teachers will tell you how to pronounce but does not have capacity of making grammar rules understandable.so even …

Michel Thomas French Not rated yet
I am using the Michel Thomas French course. I think that it is fantastic, and my boyfriend, a native French speaker, is greatly impressed.

Belgian accent more than French accent. Not rated yet
I'm a French native speaker and I listened to some French Michel Thomas courses, just to make sure of the quality of his lessons. His accent his very good, …

Brilliant method with one small catch... Not rated yet
Michel Thomas method should not be underestimated! It is a VERY GOOD system that will get you talking in the language effortlessly. As someone who has …

About Michel Thomas Polish accent and about accent in general Not rated yet
I am a native Polish speaker living in English speaking country for 25 years and I think I know English well. I just read Michel Thomas biography and …

Click here to write your own.

Really? Not rated yet
The issue with his accent is completely overblown. Any idiot can hear his accent and differentiate it from the core teaching. After I did the Spanish …

Review on Michel Thomas Spanish Course Not rated yet
Hi, I'm a native spanish speaker and from my point of view Michel Thomas Spanish course is excellent;All I can say it's just excellent;Very recomended. …

Michel Thomas students Not rated yet
The two student helpers are false as #*"& and the same ones seem to crop up in different courses across the range - and even on the Hodder introduction …

Michel Thomas French Not rated yet
I spent many years trying to learn French,started in school, then several years at evening classes. kept trying but to no avail, because everyone taught …

Great but... (Dutch) Not rated yet
I've been using the Dutch cd and I have to say, I am extremely happy with the way the content is structured and presented by the teachers (two native speaker …

Michel Thomas French and German courses Not rated yet
I have the three German courses, have completed them all as well as the French course-but not the Language Builder or Advanced French courses which I would …

Challenge on Memorization Not rated yet
I've just started learning Portuguese using the Michel Thomas method. There is a British teacher (I think the course was made after Michel died) but there …

Michel Thomas Portuguese Not rated yet
I can thoroughly recommend the Portuguese course. Having listened to Michel teach Spanish (and I do speak Spanish already), I was disappointed on two counts; …

Comments on the Spanish version of Michel Thomas Not rated yet
I have been previewing this for a student, and I would say it is abysmal, especially in terms of the phonetics. The main speaker sounds like a German/Polish …

Michel Thomas isn't the teacher speaking on the discs Not rated yet
This may not be relevant, but Michel Thomas is not the person who is doing the teaching on his discs. It is other teachers teaching but using his method. …

Everything everyone has said is correct, BUT ... Not rated yet
I think the way he breaks down the language it makes it much easier to learn the essentials and start to think in the language. All those other things …

I like Michel Not rated yet
I've used several of Michel Thomas's courses and found them useful. I think the review above misses out why they're good: they provide an excellent TEMPLATE …

Chinese Mandarin Not rated yet
I have just finished the Foundation Course in Mandarin,this I found very interesting. It was at the right pace and there was a young lady from Beijing …

Michel Thomas' accent Not rated yet
I have done the beginning and advanced French and Portuguese courses, intend to get the German and Japanese Advanced. I have a good ear for accents and …

Michel's French Not rated yet
I am French and I listened to a few of MT's French courses out of curiosity and found his accent quite all right. I think the MT method is a great shortcut …

Native Speakers Not rated yet
There is a native speaker for the Japanese courses which is very helpful. I did learn hiragana and katakana and created my own written lessons based on …

Cross purposes Not rated yet
The author of this article is correct when he says you need to learn from a variety of sources. But the Michel Thomas method is about learning the basics …

Michel Thomas for the first time learner Not rated yet
I have tried many times to learn French over the years and always become bored with the courses - both class courses and home study - NOT so with Michel …

Someone who learnt french using michel tomas's CDs Not rated yet
I think that if you already know the language, then you will not be impressed by the CDs, but if you are new to the language (especially if you tried and …

I Live in France and...  Not rated yet
Hi, My Wife and I have lived in France for a good portion of each year (around half) for the last 10 years. Prior to that, I had studied a year of …

Who remembers the critic? Not rated yet
As a native English speaker, the opportunities to speak another language are greatly diminished as every foreign person I meet is trying to learn English! …

Interesting if misguided review Not rated yet
The memorisation point you make shows a lack of attention to what is being said. He is specifically taking the responsibility for you building the memories. …

Spanish with Michel Thomas Not rated yet
I used the Spanish language CD's basic and advanced before traveling to Salamanca in Castile Leon Spain. Not only was congratulated on my understanding …

So what!! Accent who cares, Speak- that's what counts!! Not rated yet
Michel Thomas method is a great intro to learning a language and that is what it is meant to be. I have the course as an iPhone app which is great …

Italian and French courses Not rated yet
I've been listening to the French course, and yes, his accent is noticeable and the fact you'll struggle to read and write anything clearly suggests that …

Click here to write your own.

Michiel Thomas Spanish Courses are Excellent Tools for the Spanish Student  Not rated yet
My experience with Michel Thomas Spanish cources has been excellent. His teaching techniques are excellent for learning while you are driving. Also, …

His Spanish accent is dreadful. Not rated yet
I'm Polish myself, and after 4 years of intensively learning Spanish I can safely say my accent is much better than his. Even though it's a language similar …

Regarding Michel Thomas' Accent. Not rated yet
You advised against Michel Thomas' accent in his French Program. The accent is a none issue as long as one understands what is being said. Even people …

Michel Thomas Course is great Not rated yet
I have studied many courses. Thomas's is great for any beginner. Living language is also good and inexpensive, buy the course under 20. You can buy virtually …

Michel's accent Not rated yet
I just wanted to say that Michel's accent was nowhere near Polish. I can tell that because I'm Polish. His accent is a mix between american-english and …

Mickey T's accent Not rated yet
I agree with the comment that Michel Thomas' French and Spanish accents leave a lot to be desired. As for this requiring a "Severe Language Health …

Michel Thomas`s Accent Not rated yet
Hi, I'm English learning Spanish, and while I'm unable to talk about Michel Thomas`s Spanish accent, I can speak about his English accent, which is very …

Regarding your Michel Thomas Review Not rated yet
I think you've focused rather heavily on the fact that he has a foreign accent when speaking English and French, and perhaps not enough on how effective …

How your mind works and Michel Thomas Not rated yet
I haven't tried Michel Thomas's course. I'm conscious that my learning and therefore how my mind is structured is very classical. I'm Italian and I studied …

What sore puss comments Not rated yet
This was obviously written by a teacher who thinks they are the only people who can teach. We have lived in Chile for 15 years and despite working quite …

He ain't all that bad! Not rated yet
I think that one of the advantages of the M. Thomas approach is that he triggers the learner into speaking in a way that other courses ( that I have used …

Love Michel Thomas Not rated yet
I've always wanted to study French, but with working forty hours a week found I couldn't devote enough time to the language. With his course I've been …

Click here to write your own.

Still searching for more Language Learning info...

SEARCH OUR SITE. Type your search query here...

Boost your Michel Thomas language learning with 200 Words a Day!

200 Words a Day! Excelerated Language Learning Software

200 Words a Day! and Exceltra 
©Copyright 2004-2023 All Rights Reserved 

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave us a comment in the box below.

IMAGINE how you'd
seeing yourself learning at a rate of 200 words a day ... the ideal companion course that complements any language course.











View all Courses