- Audio-only program with a full transcription
- Foundation course (8 hours) and Advanced course (2 hours) available
- Available for: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Polish, Dutch, Greek, Portuguese, Russian
This is a truly interesting audio-only course on the foreign language learning market today. You will learn your chosen language without games, videos or interactive experiences via a computer, and become part of a virtual class of three students. Your fellow students speak through the program along with the tutor, giving you a potentially fuller sense of genuine immersion than those programs which are essentially glorified point-and-click flashcard games.
The program consists of audio and a full transcript booklet. And that’s basically it. Ordinarily, this would be a cause to complain, but the content here is just fantastic on its own.
The audio is of an excellent quality, and for most packages, you’ll find that they come in a handy little black case. Not that you’ll be wanting to use these outside much, as they do require a bit more feedback than usual from the actual student, but the neatness of it is pretty appealing.
The transcript booklet is the full course, which makes it incredibly easy to follow exactly what everyone is saying, not just the tutor. Still, there are no pen and paper exercises to complete, which might be exactly what you are looking for in a course, or it might be a little too alien from however you’ve previously learned in the past.
The course seems to be a relatively short one, clocking in at around eight hours for the foundation course and two hours for the advanced course, but you really can’t let that fool you. You will probably need to go through each lesson at least twice, or at least make extensive use of the pause button.
You don’t need a computer to learn this course, which might be a definite positive for some people. I know that when I am trying to sit down and learn something as complex as an entirely new language, when sitting at my computer desk, there are just so many distractions. This course can force you to take the time out and really pay attention to it.
It’s not something you can just let wash over you, you really need to be focusing clearly in order to take anything in, because without the use of the pause button, you might find that everything is going a little quickly. Again, that’s not to say that the lessons go too fast, just that you very much will need to give them your full attention, and what better way to do that than to step away from the computer.
You take your virtual lessons along with a British male and an American female, who you can also hear on the audio. The Brit ends up consistently lagging behind, while the American seemed to be around the same pace as I was. A lot of students seem to have trouble getting along with the slower British guy, as he really can hold up the class, for want of a better phrase. Still, as the lessons progress, he doesn’t feature in them quite so much, and personally I think that it is an excellent idea to have mixed abilities feature in the audio.
Whether you progress at the same rate as the man, woman, or find yourself doing better than either of them, it’s very helpful in making you feel like you’re in a real learning environment, which of course you are, but a more everyday one.
The really fantastic thing about having other voices to listen to, the voices of students who are learning the same as you are, is that you can close your eyes and it really does feel like you’re in a classroom, because of the natural manner with which everyone is talking to. It might sound odd, but you really do forget sometimes that they can’t hear you on the other end!
There’s a small point to make here, and it certainly won’t be applicable to everyone, but it can be a little strange at first to be sitting and talking so much to yourself. This course requires a lot more input from you than from others, so you will definitely need to find yourself a quiet little working space to do this, if you don’t want to feel silly, or in my case annoyed with interruptions! It’s not really the sort of course you can listen to in public, which might be something to consider if you’re picking a language course up to do on the plane while you travel, for example.
The Michel Thomas program insists that you don’t need to take notes, write in a workbook, and if possible, try to keep yourself from memorizing as opposed to learning the language. It’s a really fascinating way to go about the course, but basically what it comes down to is that you have to focus yourself a great deal on the words and phrases that are being spoken by Michel and his two other students. It might seem frustrating at first, when it seems like you just aren’t remembering anything, but if you stick with it, the language is sure to sink in.
An interesting point to note, if this is the sort of thing that might bother you, is that Michel himself is for the most part not a native speaker for the courses that he is teaching. Still, his accents are excellent, and he always stresses the correct syllable, etc. It really isn’t something that should worry you, but it might come a little out of the blue if you aren’t expecting it.
There is a strong focus on “doing” words, or verbs, and here is where the program really shines. It is absolutely spot-on with the grammar aspect of learning language. Some programs skip over these vitally important parts of language, when you really will need them if you ever want to become fluent.
Essentially, what this course teaches you to do is to break down sentences and language into the core segments of what it is trying to convey, and then putting it back together again in a way that students can understand it.
This is just the best way to teach language; in a way that inspires the student to keep on learning, because they are making the language their own. And that really is the best thing about this course. It gives you the confidence in what you are saying and learning enough to really start to understand the language.
This is one of the best things about this course. It is incredibly good value. Admittedly, it isn’t as flashy as some that you might encounter, and it certainly doesn’t have that multimedia aspect that is so popular nowadays, but it is an excellent learning tool.
This is clear from the quality from the lessons as well; you can see that the majority of the content comes from experience in taking lessons. The mistakes made by the other two “pupils” are sometimes obvious and sometimes a little obtuse, but it’s still reassuringly as though there are other pupils actually there with you.
If you know you are one of those people who need to learn with a variety of different methods, then this course is not right for you. It’s similarly not very useful for children, as it requires you to sit somewhere and pay attention to the audio for a really long time.
This can be great for adults sitting in the car on their way to work, or for those who have a quiet space to sit and learn, but I’m not sure that this is the easiest course for children to work on. Still, for an adult with a relatively good attention span, there aren’t many other solely audio programs that are better than this, and certainly not within this price bracket.
There might be better programs that offer you a wide range of how you want to learn, but the Michel Thomas package is by far the best audio-only on the market, so if you know that you can learn well by listening and using your imagination, then I would certainly recommend this package for you.
Pro & Contra
|very good for beginners||no native speakers in the audio|
|can be used without computer||the 2 students in the audio can be annoying|
|very good way to learn grammar|
I’ve studied many languages in my life (spanish, english, german and french). I’ve used a lot of different kind of courses like classrooms, duolingo, Tandempartner(I don’t know the english word, but is a german word for a talking partner for learning), etc which have been effective after a long time. This method, in contrast, makes learning a language a LOT more natural.
Not only michel thomas teaches you how to speak normally but eases a lot your understanding of the language by giving you references and teaching you intuitive speaking. This course does not force you to do things like memorize, learn grammar, etc. It just teaches you the same way you learned your native language.
The course works this way:
1st you must listen to everything and pause when michel asks you to say something.
2nd You are forbidden to guess and memorize (except guessing words)
3rd along the lectures michel talks to you about the language and tries to correlate what you know from culture with that language.
4th The learning works similar to how you learned as a kid. He teaches you simple small phrases and asks you to say things based on on uniting those phrases and working it out. This makes you understand how the language works and makes your mind work more natural towards the language.
Pros & Cons.
* You learn the spoken language instead of the written language.
* You learn to be dynamic and to feel the language as the people who speak it.
* Avoids using specific grammar structures for writing purposes and makes talking feel more natural.
* As you progress the difficulty gets higher and keeps a review of what you know.
* Michel gives you a foreigners insight to the language. This helps you get into it a lot easier.
* Best method for beginners.
* Has reviews which help you evaluate yourself.
* Not useful method for B2+,C1,C2 level speakers.
* Lacks situational vocabulary.
* You won’t learn to write or read the language but It’ll make learning those skills a lot easier.
My personal suggestion to use its material:
* Try to pair this method with conventional methods: duolingo, classrooms, rossette-stone, etc.
* Use music and read articles you like in that language.
* If you can find a tandempartner with whom to practice.
I highly recommend the french course.
I would like to address a couple of the cons above, as well as tell you why Michel Thomas courses are the very best starter courses available. To Sandra Marshall’s comment, I would say that it totally depends on which language you’re learning in the series as to which person he favors. He favors whichever person is more quick witted. In the French series, the American woman is the slower one, and the British man is the faster (hence, favored) one. In the Spanish series, the American girl is faster and favored, while the British man is the slower one.
To the comments about pronunciation (like William Stewart), you’re missing the point: the reason why these language courses are the best is because they teach you languages LINGUISTICALLY. That is, they connect the language you are trying to learn to your own language, showing you how root words are the same. This greatly increases the amount of words you know naturally, without having to memorize (as Michel says, you will know about 1200 to 2500 words by the end of the first 10 CDs, which is amazing). Perfect pronunciation is not the goal of the first 10 CDs—understanding is the goal (i.e., that you can understand what is being said and a native speaker can understand you). Michel himself does not handle perfect pronunciation: that is taken care of by a native speaker in the upper courses.
If you want to learn many languages rapidly, you should always start with Michel. He is the skeleton key for unlocking (and getting the best out of) other language courses and other language materials. If you want to spend the rest of your life trying to learn one language, try Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone.
I find this cd course helpful as a beginner. However I find his attitude to the woman very annoying, very critical giving the impression that she is not able to learn at the pace of the man. This is not good, very biased and discriminating, also showing he has problems with women. Why does he feel he has to do this because the end result is I, as a woman would not recommed him to anyone however good his course might be. I find this kind of insecure discrimination towards the intellect of women, appalling. How long do women have to keep proving they are usually intellectually superior to men
I have the Spanish Total/Perfect/Master. I like it so much I am considering trying to learn with the Italian version. Michel Thomas clarified a lot of things I had trouble learning with other programs. Highly recommended if you want to learn the structure of Spanish.
I don’t find thefact that MT is a non-native speaker (French Foundation) to be a problem, and the use of two students (one struggling and one doing well) puts the listener in the middle, and hopefully in with the better of the two. It won’t/can’t be the only language course you use, but it is a good way to get comfortable with the language in a less-formal setting. I find that overlapping the sessions by a chapter or two each session allows me to do a little review and make some progress in 30 minute sessions. The chapters are short enough to get through 3-4 in that time. I think the serious student will back this up with a book or a classroom setting, but the MT course is the least boring audio course i have found and it keeps things moving.