Michel Thomas Method
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Michel Thomas Method Review

Languages taught: Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Format: Audio-based course, include:

  • Audio lessons
  • Transcript booklet
  • Interactive software for reviewing
  • Mobile app

The core of the Michel Thomas method is the audio lessons. Students can learn well based solely theses lessons, without referring to the booklets or software.

Course names

For beginners

  • Total (~10 hours of audio)
  • Start (~1 hour of audio, contains the content from the first two hours of Total Course)

For more advanced learners

  • Perfect (~10 hours of audio)
  • Masterclass (~2 hours of audio)

Price:

  • Start: $13-16 (depending on each language)
  • Total: $70-130 (depending on each language)
  • Perfect: $70-130 (depending on each language)
  • Masterclass: $35-75 (depending on each language)

Website: http://www.michelthomas.com/

 

I. OVERVIEW

The current Michel Thomas program originates from Mr. Thomas’s private one-on-one tutoring lessons for Hollywood’s superstars such as Mel Gibson, Woody Allen, Emma Thompson and Barbara Streisand, which cost around $25,000 for five days lessons

Nowadays, millions of language learners are happy to have those lessons available to them for a small fee of about $100.

In the published courses, Michel Thomas himself teaches Spanish, French, Italian, and German, while his disciples teach other courses.

Before reading the review, I highly recommend you to listen to some sample minutes of the course. There are 2 ways to do this:

  • If you want to listen to a sample of 3-8 minutes: go to Michelthomas.com (do not have to register)
  • If you want to listen to a sample of 20 minutes: go to Audible.com (it takes 5 minutes to register)

II. HOW DOES MICHEL THOMAS TEACH?

A virtual classroom

A lesson is an audio recording of a class which has one or two instructor(s) and two students. You are presumed to be the third student. The other two students are just like you, novice in the language and did not receive any prior instructions.

The instructors break down the language; students are required to reconstruct it

The new language is broken down into small parts in order to make it easier for learner. Everything is introduced at a comfortable pace. There will be no vocabulary lists or lengthy grammar explanations.

Students are frequently asked to build phrases based on the knowledge they are given. Through those questions, students can solidify what they have learned and build more complex phrases.

Link to English

Other Latin languages have close relationships with English. Therefore in these languages courses, the instructors often use the similarities between English and the target languages to make learners learn quicker and feel more confident. For example, in the French course, it is really interesting to learn things such as English words ending with -ible and -able are the same in French, etc. In fact, sixty percent of all English words originate from French.

Use memory aid system

Michel Thomas uses some memory aid systems to help us feel more relaxed when learning and remember better.

Mnemonic: the instructors use kind of little jokes in their explanations.

Spaced repetition: Spaced repetition is effective to help memorize. Throughout the course, the program prompts us to recall what have been taught before. The prompting period is scheduled carefully to aid our memory.

Below is a short and exact statement about the courses.

“He breaks a language down to its component parts and enables learners to reconstruct the language themselves to form their own sentences, to say what they want, when they want. The experience of learning a language becomes so exciting and satisfying that it stimulates self-motivation and builds confidence”

– Excerpt from Michel Thomas’s French Language Builder booklet.

III. MICHEL THOMAS’S RECOMMENDATION ON USING THE PROGRAM

Reading the recommendation will help you know more about how you will learn a language with Michel Thomas .

  • Relax! Make yourself comfortable and try to let go of the tensions and anxieties traditionally associated with learning.
  • Do not write or take any notes. Remove notebooks, pens, dictionaries and anything else associated with learning at school.
  • Do not try to remember. While participating in the recording and afterwards, it is important that you do not try to memorize specific words or expressions. It is a basic principle of the Michel Thomas method that the responsibility for the student’s learning lies with the teacher. Your learning will be based on understanding, and what you understand you don’t forget.
  • Interact fully with the recordings. Use the pause button and respond out loud (or in a whisper, or in your head, if you are in a public place) before the students’ responses.
  • Give yourself time to think. The time for the students on the recordings to think was cut when the audio was edited. Thus, use the pause button to give you time to think.
  • Start at the beginning of the course. Whatever your level in the language is, it is important to follow the way that Michel builds up your knowledge of the language.
  • Do not get annoyed with yourself if you make a mistake.
  • Stop the recording whenever it suits you. This course is not divided into lessons; you are able to pick up from where you left off, without the need to review.

-Summarize from Michel Thomas user guide-

IV. HOW FAR CAN WE GO WITH MICHEL THOMAS METHOD?

The courses teach straight to the core of the language, therefore we can learn quickly. For instance, after 1 hours of the Spanish Start Course you can create sentences with these meanings:

  • I’m sorry.
  • I want to eat.
  • I want to buy something here.
  • Can you make a translation for me?
  • It is not logical but it is very practical that way.
  • Do you have the confirmation of the reservation for me for tonight?
  • What impression do you have of the political and economical situation in Spain right now?

After finishing 10 hours of the total course you will have good knowledge about the way the language works and you can create quite complex sentences. On the other hand, your vocabulary will not be large; instead it contains only common words/ phrases.

After the last level – Masterclass- you can express your thoughts in a relatively wide variety of daily situations, and, in addition, get the basic elements of writing and reading.

V. THE GOOD

1. The explanations is excellent

  • The course instructors explain complex ideas in simple ways. We will learn practical grammar structures easily and effectively.
  • In languages that are close to English (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.), we can build our vocabulary really fast base on what we already know in English.
  • Mnemonic technique is fun and good for remembering.

2. The program is encouraging

Michel Thomas lived a fascinating life. Born in 1914, he studied, and worked in many European countries. He was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Then he escaped, joined U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. When World War II ended, he worked as a language instructor. He taught for 50 years. Moreover he was a language learner, who was fluent in 11 languages. These experiences made Michel believe that people can achieve great things. They also equipped him with the ability to instruct and, more importantly, to motivate people to learn languages.

Throughout the courses, the students gradually develop their confidence and a will to learn more.

3. Convenient

  • Audio only
    • No book
    • No taking notes
    • No complex installations like some language software programs
  • Courses are not divided into lessons. Learners can pause anywhere
  • It’s convenient to listen when doing gym exercises, jogging or commuting to work

4. The class setting is helpful

  • Including two students in the audio helps keep the teaching pace reasonable.
  • When these students answer wrongly, we can learn from their mistake. If they are right, we can confirm our understanding.
  • The students sometimes ask for clarification such as a grammatical concept or an informal way to say something, which might be the questions you have in mind.

VI. THE BAD – THE LIMITATIONS

1. Michel Thomas pronunciation

Michel Thomas has a strong German accent in the languages that he teaches. It is not good if you want to listen to perfect pronunciation right from the beginning of your learning.

2. The program does not help us to develop listening skills

There is not much time to listen to the native speakers in the audio. Thus, to improve listening skills you have to supplement Michel Thomas with other listening materials.

3. Mistakes of the other two students

The other two students in the recordings, just like us, may make mistakes and the instructors have to stop to correct these. This may slow the teaching process down. It can even be annoying if these learners repeat those mistakes throughout the course, which some of them did.

There are several funny situations such as in the German course, the female student, after several hours of constant reminding from Michel, still kept pronouncing “Ich” as “Ick.

Others

In several courses, the volume is unstable. Sometimes it is high. Sometimes it is low. Therefore, some words are not really clear.

VII. CONCLUSION

With Michel Thomas you can really speak after a short time of using the program. Furthermore, the program builds in you the confidence and a good foundation for further development.

Who is Michel Thomas most useful for?

  • Total beginners
  • Beginners
  • People who have learned language for some years, but cannot communicate.
  • Intermediate learners who want to brush up their knowledge.

VIII. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

1. The current release

Currently, Michel Thomas has four types of courses: Start, Total, Perfect, and Masterclass.

In the past, Michel Thomas courses had different level divisions. The Courses are named: Introductory, Foundation, Advanced, Vocabulary Builder, and Language Builder.

The current courses are the reorganization of the older courses. For example, the Start Course is the Introductory Course with some edits to make it shorter. The Total Course is a combination of the Foundation Course and the first half of the Vocabulary Builder. The Perfect Course is a combination of the Advanced Course and the second half of the Vocabulary Builder.

The current version also comes with free mobile app, which is a tool to manage our learning progress, review words/ phrases with flashcards, etc. It is a good tool, but not a must-have.

2. Michel Thomas vs. Pimsleur

These programs are both audio-based and both are very good programs. There are some differences between the two:

  • Michel Thomas teaches grammar more explicitly.
  • Pimsleur has more audio: Michel Thomas’s total audio length from Total, Perfect and Masterclass course is around 20 hours. Pimsleur’s total audio length of level 1, 2, 3, and 4 is around 60 hours.
  • The pronunciation of the instructors in Pimsleur is often better than in Michel Thomas because all of them are native speakers, while only several Michel Thomas courses have native speakers.
  • Pimsleur teaches 49 languages for English speakers, while Michel teaches only 12 languages.

3. The cost of Michel Thomas vs. the cost of class study

  • Michel Thomas: around $100 for 10 hours of instruction, which is $10 per hour
  • Language school: $20 per hour (on average)

4. You can read more about Michel’s life from these biographies:

  • Test of Courage (Christopher Robbins, Hodder Education, 2003)
  • The Learning Revolution (Jonathan Solity, Hodder Education, 2008). This book also provides a lot of information about the psychology behind the method.

IX. TIPS

1. Take 5 minutes to get a free Michel Thomas introductory course (first 2 hours of total course – $13 in value) by registering a free membership trial at Amazon Audible.

(No need for registration if you already have an Amazon account.)

Michel Thomas free course

(A free trial membership will give you 1 free credit, which you can use to buy an introductory course.)

2. PDF booklets of lists of words/ phrases taught in Michel Thomas (all languages, all levels) is downloadable at this link.

3. To learn more effectively, you need to listen and read more, get the listening and reading materials with high quality for free from LingQ.com.

In addition, with a small fee ($10/month), you have access to some useful tools to help you read and acquire vocabulary more effectively.

4. Have your writing documents corrected for free by native speaker from lang-8.com or Italki.com.

Italki also provide one-on-one tutoring service at very good prices.

5. Upon finishing Michel Thomas, what course should we work on next? Read this article to figure it out.

6. Listen to the audio more than one time to solidify what you’ve learned.

 

Free Trial – Amazon Audible   Buy from Amazon

 

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I tried my best to give you the information as detailed and exact as I could (for I understand that if you choose a wrong program, it will cost you more time, money and energy to achieve your learning goal). Despite that there might be points that I need to be more specific, or points that I was wrong. If you know the program well, please help me, as well as other learners, by giving your opinions about the program in the comment section below.

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About the Author

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A Vietnamese. An English Learner. A Language Lover. I enjoy learning languages. I believe that self-study can be a lot more effective than class study (if you learn in an effective way) My favorite quote: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution.” - Aristotle *To write the content for this website, besides my own experience in language learning, I collected and synthesized the experiences of other highly effective language learners.

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