Michel Thomas Method Product Review

by | Jun 17, 2013 | English, Product Reviews

Michel Thomas claimed that there was no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher. I discovered the Michel Thomas beginners courses at the time I became interested in learning Italian. I had just spent two fabulous weeks travelling around ‘Il Bel Paese’ when browsing through the language learning section of my local bookshop, I stumbled upon an audio course with a very different approach to language learning.

So does the Michel Thomas approach work?

I used the Michel Thomas courses in conjunction with Pimsleur (Pimsleur article) starting with Michel Thomas first. The two courses complemented each other and certainly were effective in my early language learning.

The Method

With Michel Thomas, the listener virtually joins the class with the two other learners on the recordings who are also beginning the language. Michel Thomas breaks the language down into its component parts and gives you the tools to reconstruct the language using these building blocks. Listeners are asked to translate basic sentences from English into the target language. The course moves incrementally allowing the listener to both consistently and rapidly develop their competence in the target language. The knowledge is consolidated by a form of ‘spaced repetition’, where previously covered material reappears later in the audio recordings.

Strengths

  • Strong structural basis – the course really allows the listener to reach a solid foundation in the language in a short space of time
  • Repetition – the ‘spaced repetition’ means that the listeners are exposed to the material at specific intervals over the duration of the course
  • Grammar – the grammatical points are simplified and easy absorbed through the course material so no complicated and confusing explanations
  • Chunks – the material exposes the listener to chunks of words in context rather than individual words without

Weakness

  • Understanding native speakers at a high pace of conversation is going to be difficult as Michel Thomas does not prepare the listener for real life comprehension scenarios
  • It does not provide the listener with any method for comparing and adjusting their pronunciation to be closer to that of a native speaker
  • At times, the Michel Thomas courses are disjointed and the don’t synchronise seamlessly between the Foundation, Advanced, Language Builder and Vocabulary Builder courses

Conclusion

So would I recommend using Michel Thomas?

Yes, Michel Thomas was worth the investment for me as it helped reach a basic communicative level in the languages that I used it for. However, it comes with the following qualifications:

  • Michel Thomas will only get you to a very basic level in the target language with an equally limited range of vocabulary – it no substitute for ‘learning through lifestyle’
  • As it is audio-based, you are more likely to understand the spoken word better than the written and thus, literacy will need to gained through other methods
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