The Mezzofanti Guild Language Learning Made Simple

Why I Don’t Recommend Michel Thomas (Review)


Michel Thomas ReviewUPDATE: For a quality alternative to Michel Thomas, I recommend this audio course.


I was recently sent a few copies of the Michel Thomas Total Arabic and Perfect Arabic courses from the good folks over at Hodder Education in exchange for an honest review.

This is a product that I’ve wanted to look at for a long time as MT is still a very popular course among language learners.

Michel Thomas is a popular household name that most of us are familiar with and it’s certainly a course that I get asked about quite often (particularly the Arabic edition).

I’ve spent the last few weeks meticulously going through the content and researching its method.

Unfortunately, I wanted to include some Q&A with Hodder Education along with this review (I always like to fire off challenging questions to content creators and publishers to get some substantive answers) but Hodder never followed up on my request for additonal information.

Not sure why that is but it’s a shame.

So no Q&A on this one! 😐

However I will provide my in-depth and brutal assessment of the Michel Thomas Method anyway.

Make sure to share your own experience and thoughts in the comment section below.

 

The Michel Thomas Method has been around for a long time but age is not a reliable indicator of quality

Like so many other products that I’ve taken the time to write about, decent reviews on the Michel Thomas Method are virtually non-existent.

What I have seen first of all is an assumption by many that age = high quality.

As I pointed out in my Assimil, Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone reviews, the fact that something has been around for a long time does not bestow authority.

This is especially true in the realm of language education.

Consensus on effective methods changes dramatically over time, and approaches that were extremely popular decades ago (like that of Michel Thomas) may have been rendered obsolete by contemporary research.

Or it may just be that MT was pioneering and innovative back in the day though it would probably struggle to stand out in today’s market.

I should also add that although Michel Thomas’ famous war story (his Nazi resistance and role in interrogation in WW2) is an incredible tale that’s well documented (there’s even a good biographical account on it), this does not warrant conferring extra weight to his teaching methodology which was developed many years later.

Yes, his story is heroic and inspiring.

No, this did not necessarily make him a good teacher nor did it say it anything about the development of his method.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this review, I was contacted by an investigative journalist from the LA Times who debunked Michel Thomas’ war story (see his points here).

 

Ever asked yourself why Michel Thomas is endorsed by so many A-list celebrities?

Before we even get into the substance of the MT Method, there’s one thing that’s always had me curious.

The Michel Thomas Method came out of his Polyglot Institute in Beverley Hills, and seemed to rely heavily on celebrity endorsements rather than letting the method’s results speak for themselves unlike other big name competitors.

It’s a course that’s marketed primarily for and by the rich and famous.

By the way, if there’s anything the recent US election has taught me, it’s that Hollywood endorsements aren’t worth much! (see here and here) 🙂

The Michel Thomas Total course sitting in front of me has a dozen A-list celebrities’ names written on it under the heading, “The method chosen by the stars”.

Michel Thomas Celebrities

The first thing you see on the Michel Thomas website as soon as you land on it is a big bold quote from Stephen Fry:

A unique and perfectly brilliant way of teaching languages.”

Then there’s another quote displayed by Woody Allen:

“You learn a language effortlessly. It is amazing. Michel had me speaking French and I learned it in a way I’ve never forgotten, and it was painless. A tremendous experience.”

I should add – Woody’s testimony doesn’t quite match up with this recent interview in France:

I see these A-list endorsements in Michel Thomas advertising, on other reviews and videos and what it says to me is that somebody somewhere probably got paid good money to say very nice things.

These aren’t linguists or teachers making recommendations.

They’re actors. 

And they make a living by doing and saying things that aren’t necessarily true.

 

You are responsible for your own learning

“Before starting, I’m going to set up a very important rule, a very important ground rule and that rule is:

For you never to worry about remembering, never to worry about remembering anything and therefore not to try, never to try to remember anything from one moment to the next.

This is a method with a responsibility for your remembering and for learning… [inaudible]. So if at any point there’s something you don’t remember, this is not your problem.

It will be up to me to know why you don’t remember individually and what to do about it.

– Michel Thomas, The Language Master 1997

One thing that I find particularly at odds with everything I’ve learned as a language educator is the Michel Thomas emphasis on full teacher responsibility.

The teacher – not the student – is the one responsible for the learning outcome.

In fact, the Michel Thomas website even states:

“There’s no such thing as a poor student, only a poor teacher.”

I can’t disagree with this statement enough and I actually think it’s a very detrimental thing to imply as it leads learners to forever blame teachers for their failures.

While it’s absolutely true that there are some terrible teachers out there who don’t know what they’re doing in the classroom and/or use ineffective teaching methodologies, the responsibility for learning ultimately rests on the learner.

Even as children we can’t be forced to acquire knowledge. We can only be guided.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink! 🙂

The Michel Thomas classroom is 100% teacher-controlled.

Unlike a contemporary language classroom that uses a communicative approach and allows students to move around, form groups and have the freedom to interact and make mistakes, the MT setting is like a psychiatrist’s couch where the students’ hands are held through every single step of the session.

There are constant error corrections by the teacher.

One main feature of the MT Method is that the teacher maintains flow until a student makes a mistake in which case they’re instantly corrected on the spot before moving on.

While it’s still a contentious issue for some, most language teachers these days would argue against this.

The general consensus in second language teaching these days is to correct errors if there’s a miscommunication in meaning but that stopping students every single time they make a grammar mistake is detrimental to self-esteem and motivation.

Whatever your view or preference is on this issue, it’s worth bearing in mind that the MT classroom is not student-led.

 

Strong emphasis on the learner not feeling any pressure or stress

“It is very important for you when you walk out not to practice, not to try to remember, not to review mentally and not to test yourself…”

-Michel Thomas

There has been a lot of study on psychological factors relating to language learning and much of it has centered on stress and anxiety.

Without doubt, high anxiety can negatively affect performance, self-esteem and overall acquisition.

So what Michel Thomas has tried to do is to create an atmosphere in the classroom where students feel completely calm with no burden of expectation.

He does this by setting a ground rule where the students are “not to try to remember”.

Now, this may have a positive effect on some students with reduced pressure to perform but I should also note that pressure isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes we benefit from being under pressure as it pushes us to try harder.

Language is a cognitive skill after all and skills require hard work to improve at.

I also find it really troubling to hear a teacher say “don’t practice” and “don’t review mentally”.

This is terrible advice.

I can’t see any real practical benefit to telling students to do this other than possible stress reduction.

 

The teacher talks so much English that it feels more like an English lesson

In the Michel Thomas recordings, you hear four people:

The native English-speaking host, a native speaker of the target language (in my case Arabic) and two students.

They call it a virtual classroom where you’re able to put yourself in the students’ place and learn through their mistakes and subsequent error corrections.

Unfortunately the course is almost entirely taken up by English.

If I were to estimate percentages of how much time each person takes up throughout the entire audio course, I’d say the native English speaker is probably about 85%, the students 10% and the native Arabic speaker the remaining 5%.

Ludicrous!

As I was listening to the Egyptian Arabic course, I found myself constantly thinking in frustration:

“Would you just shut up and let Mahmood (the native Arabic speaker) talk please?”

The British woman who hosts and teaches the course is, as Michel Thomas was himself, very much in charge of the lesson.

Mahmood plays a complimentary role and apart from a few cultural notes that he dictates, his primary purpose appears to be to demonstrate correct pronunciation. The British woman teaches the course and periodically refers to him to demonstrate.

Now, I can understand how this may be desirable for some learners.

Some people do find they get a better grasp on concepts when they hear them explained by a speaker of their own language.

And that really is something that she does well admittedly – breaking grammar down into easily digestible concepts.

For example, when she’s talking about mumkin (ممكن) and laazim (لازم) in Egyptian Arabic and the way they’re both used when combined with verbs, in my opinion she does a pretty good job of turning it into a simple concept to grasp for a totally new learner.

But the main issue for me is that her accent is awful.

She continues to teach Arabic using dreadful pronunciation even though there’s a native speaker sitting right beside her. It’s painful at times to listen to.

And in my opinion, you should be learning from native speakers anyway (unless it’s not an option).

This gets me to my next point.

 

What about listening comprehension in Michel Thomas?

This is by far the biggest problem with the Michel Thomas Method (in my opinion).

The course does not – in any way whatsoever – train listening comprehension skills.

It is in fact 100% devoid of any authentic listening opportunities.

As I always say, listening comprehension is the most difficult part of learning a new language and it takes the longest time to train. You can learn to speak a language very quickly in fact but being able to understand what people are saying when they reply back to you is a skill that takes a lot of time to hone.

I actually find the course to be disingenuous in this regard.

The reason why I say it’s disingenuous is because for the entire duration of the course, the students are being asked questions primarily in English to give a target language response.

Over the duration of the course, they’re learning how to give certain responses when prompted and various mnemonic techniques for remembering words but they’re never really thrown into an actual conversation where they have to apply listening skills.

The course encourages them to think in English the whole time but respond in Arabic.

Naturally, this “no pressure” method does not equip anyone for real-world interaction.

It would be very easy after a week of Michel Thomas classes to think that you’ve learned the target language to a proficient level, then step outside and quickly discover how little you actually know.

 

The focus on function words, structure and building blocks

If there’s one thing I think that Michel Thomas actually does right, it’s this.

As I said above, the English-speaking teacher does a very good job of breaking grammar down into easily digestible concepts or blocks.

So instead of going into a big spiel about verb conjugation for example, she gives a verb form and then demonstrates how to plug that verb form into a sentence pattern.

This is basically along the same lines as a method I call chunking.

It gets you away from burdensome grammar memorization and focuses more on piecing building blocks together to form coherent and natural sentences.

I explain this in detail here.

For the Arabic edition that I sampled, it does a very good job at this and explains to a degree why MT was able to assure a functional command of the language within days.

NOTE: The levelling of the Michel Thomas Total and Perfect courses are totally incorrect (they suggest Total = Beginner to Intermediate and Perfect = Intermediate to Advanced).

In reality, the short and sparse nature of the content wouldn’t take you beyond an Elementary level at all.

 

Overall, Michel Thomas is not a course that I’d honestly recommend

Honestly, if it wasn’t for the total lack of listening comprehension and the excessive amount of English, I would be happy to recommend the Michel Thomas Method.

But as it stands, I cannot and will not.

The focus on functional building blocks is excellent and indeed good.

Also, as far as the Arabic edition goes, it’s good to see another product that teaches a spoken dialect (Egyptian) rather than Modern Standard.

But the fact that they have a native speaker present only in a complimentary role, while a non-native English speaker with horrid pronunciation does most of the talking is just baffling to me.

It makes no sense and reduces the overall quality of the course.

I’m also wary of advertising that relies heavily on A-list celebrity endorsement while the founder, Michel Thomas, was evasive about how he developed his method.

If you’re able to pick up a cheap copy then it might help you get started, but in my opinion there are many other courses and products more worthy of the full cost of this program.

 

Used MT before? Did it help you?

Comment below!

Michel Thomas

 

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  1. I think you are pretty much on the mark. I’ve tried MT in Japanese and Hindi. In neither could I muster up the enthusiasm to progress onto the 2nd CD.

    Reply
      1. Hi Donovan.
        Love your take on language learning and agree with the
        chunking method. But about MTM it is a known thing that the further one moves from European languages with MT the worse it gets. I did the Russian one both plus vocabulary. I did not like it, but the prof was a native Russian speaker and passed all the phony hype regarding proficiency , for someone whom does not know anything it is a rather useful as a jump off point to get acquainted with the language…And yep the “total and perfect” lack of listening comprehension is a huge minus! Best.

        Reply
      2. Hi Donovan
        I have read your review and agree with some of your sentiments
        However I would like to share with you my experiences as a user of MT learning materials
        I studied the MT French course, on audio CD, for a couple of weeks before a visit to Morocco
        I was able to make myself understood and understand many of the responses I got
        I was able to engage In conversation with ex-pat French people I met
        They were amazed that I had only been studying for two weeks
        The thing I like about the MT method is that you are given the tools to begin thinking in the target language from the outset
        There are a great many positive reviewers here who I agree with, about the effectiveness of MT’s courses especially those taught by Michel Thomas himself
        Given that, I think it is a little unfair to entitle your review “Why I don’t recommend Michel Thomas”
        Your review does not cover all of the MT products,focussing solely on the Arabic course
        Perhaps it would be more accurate if your review were entitled “Why I don’t recommend the Michel Thomas Arabic course”
        I think it would be a shame if prospective students were discouraged from trying the Michel Thomas taught
        European language courses
        I have enjoyed learning both French and Spanish by his method and would encourage anyone who wants an easy introduction to understanding a new language to try these courses
        Others on here have commented that other MT courses for languages without close relationship to European languages are not as good as those taught by Michel Thomas
        himself
        These all seem reasonable criticisms from people with personal experiences as students of these courses
        However it seems unreasonable for you to condemn Michel Thomas on the basis of a review as a non-student,
        (I believe you are already an Arabic speaker) of only one of the courses they offer
        I also detect some bias on your part as, as far as I can see, you only respond to posts that share your viewpoint
        Perhaps there can be an exception to that rule and you will respond to my post
        Ed Barnes

        Reply
        1. Hi
          Sorry to accuse you of bias I have seen some of your replies to posts that don’t share your view
          Ed

          Reply
        2. Hi Ed,
          They sent me the Greek version after this review to give it a second chance.
          While I found it ‘slightly’ better than the Arabic one, my opinion hasn’t changed.
          I have a theory as to why so many people here (yourself included) are defending Michel Thomas: https://youtu.be/yY8_TAOfok4

          Reply
    1. While I may disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.

      I cannot comment on the effectiveness of the Arabic course, having never used it. I speak fairly fluent Spanish and Portuguese, and ended up marrying a Brazilian, and I am currently learning Japanese and French. I firmly believe if I had never found the MT Method my language learning journey would have ended before it began.

      I have found no other course that gets you up and running with the basics so quickly, and provides a constant feeling of progression. The courses gives you a solid basis for fundamental grammar, common verbs, basic vocabulary, and sentence structure. It helps build confidence in the early stages and provides you with the tools to think in the language and create your own sentences. Another plus, is that his can all be done in your car on the daily commute, using otherwise wasted minutes of the day.

      I would say however that courses taught by Michel Thomas (Spanish, French, German, Italian) himself were far more effective than those taught by his students. This is in part because the languages he taught have several similarities with English which he was able to exploit, but also due to his distinctive voice and personality.

      I found the Portuguese course (not taught by MT) was in content a carbon copy of the Spanish but did not stick in my head to the same degree. The Japanese course is taught well, but vocabulary learned on the course is far more limited due to the lack of similarities with Japanese.

      Another problem with the newer courses is that they lack the review track which the original languages had. This was a brilliant way to drill grammar, basic verbs, vocabulary and sentence structure after completing the course, without all the talking in English.

      As you discussed, Michel Thomas has several faults. Lack of listening comprehension, poor pronunciation (MT taught courses only – mitigated with native speakers on newer courses), limited vocabulary, no reading / writing, annoying class mates, etc.

      That said, MT should be viewed as just another tool in your arsenal and not something that will take you to an advanced level on its own.

      I have found using Michel Thomas Beginner & Advance > Pimsleur (1-3) > MT Review tracks > Assimil along with learning some vocabulary and basic sentences from the Lonely Planet phrasebook gives me enough of a grasp of the language to get by in the vast majority of situations, but I think without that initial hand holding given by MT, I would not have been as successful in language learning as I have been.

      Cheers
      Grant

      Reply
      1. I started to learn French using the MT CDs and I also feel that it gave me a fundamental grasp on grammar, verb conjugation, and sentence formation. It also gave me a feeling of accomplishment as I was speaking sentences in French.

        I tried other language programs in the past for Spanish and they never stuck. I tried Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone and a couple others whose names escape me. I just didn’t get the same motivation or confidence to continue the programs.
        I have since tried the Michel Thomas Spanish CDs and I have had a similar experience to my experience with the French CDs. Meaning, they gave me a feeling of having a basic fundamental understanding of the formation of sentences, correct grammar, and verb conjugation.

        I also agree that the there is no writing or reading, which could be a problem. The students, especially the male student in the Spanish CDs, can be irritating and distracting. There isn’t a ton of vocabulary either.
        Lastly, I listened to an advanced French lesson and another Spanish CD (I don’t remember if it was advanced or something else), which didn’t feature Michel Thomas and I agree that the impact just wasn’t the same.
        However, I don’t know if that is really needed in an introductory sort of approach to a new language. For me, the CDs served their purpose, which is to get me excited and motivated to continue my journey. I still have to practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I have to work on increasing my vocabulary. But, I’m very much a fan of the method.

        Reply
    2. Having read your article, all of the comments below and your responses and as someone who has learnt Spanish, and German and speak all three now fluently (luckily having been able to live in all 3 of these countries) may I offer the following:
      1. The negative comments seem to be about the extended range of MT courses all of which have been developed by Hodder since MT passed away.
      2. Those courses may use (or try to) the MT ‘method’ of language teaching but they were neither created or delivered by the man himself and since starting on the Arabic course, I can see this makes a very big difference.
      3. Almost all, including my own, opinions related to the MT created and delivered courses (French, German, Spanish, Italian etc.) seem to be positive.
      Thanks,
      Jim

      Reply
      1. I cannot comment on the MS Arabic courses ( I suspect few Americans can), but I can tell you that for me the 8 basic Spanish CDs and the 4 Adanced Course
        CDs were a joy to learn from and interact with. Of course this is not a replacement for more traditional Spanish courses, but it gave me not only confidence to pursue classroom learning, but also an overview that made parts of traditional classroom and laboratory (including online) learning much easier to comprehend.
        Mr. Degan’s criticism regarding self esteem is completely unfounded. I found the humor and almost always present patience extremely helpful in developing confidence. Furthermore, anyone who has self esteem problems when listening to a CD alone with no one to pass judgement has a problem more difficult than learning a new language. Anyone taking Spanish for the first time would benefit tremendously from listening to the Introductory tapes before starting the first day in the classroom. And the advanced CDs would be of great benefit to the second semester of high school or college courses.

        To list just two examples: take the “NOSE RULE” introduced on CD 2 of the introductory course. This rule makes understanding where accents belong and don’t belong so simple that it is amazing that the courses I’ve taken do not use it.
        Second, MT’s teaching of the different verb tenses is so much more intuitive than the traditional memorization methods. Sure the traditional methods are necessary, but they are so much easier to learn if you’ve listened to MT’s cds first.
        Finally, as a linguist MT brings a “heightened awareness” of one’s own language” to the learner. And most importantly MT imbues a sense of joy and accomplishment to his students.

        Sincerely,
        PeterD

        Reply
    3. I purchased the MT course for Italian; downloaded all the CDs and listen to the lessons as I do my morning walk each day. I have eventually given up. My main issue is that I would have preferred the “students” to be using a script. Sometimes they struggle so much by saying every permutation of the answer that I eventually forget what it is they are trying to translate. MT sometimes talks over the students; and goes off onto a tangent.
      When I first started I was enthusiastic, and the back and forth between MT and the students was encouraging. (MT did all the teaching and pronunciations; no additional teacher in this boxed set. ) But that soon got lost as the students themselves struggled. Now I think I just won’t be able to learn Italian at all. Which is a shame. Maybe another time . . .

      Reply
  2. I tried MT French a number of years ago, and just couldn’t get through the first lesson. As you pointed out, the English speaker was in control. He was waffling on so much that it didn’t feel like a language lesson. It was more like someone pontificating about a language at a dinner party.

    Reply
    1. Good analogy.

      Looks like I’m not the only one who found it painful to listen to.

      Reply
    2. Are you sure you listened to Michel Thomas French? In the beginners CDs there is only Michel Thomas and two students. Also it’s not divided into lessons, but is one continuous 8 hour flow. Well… there is a break after 2 hours which separates the 2 hour demo from the expensive 8 hour set, but that’s all.

      Can’t comment on the Arabic one, but I agree with what people have been saying that the ones done by Michel Thomas himself seem to be better.

      Reply
  3. Hello, I tried the method in mandarin Chinese and let me tell you that I gave up right away and went to find Chinese speaking teacher. Michel Thomas method is such a waste of money.

    Reply
    1. I’d be curious to hear how they handle Chinese tones, especially if the English speaker is doing all the talking like in the Arabic edition.

      Reply
      1. I am on the MT course for Mandarin. The first cd is slow to get going.. But it helps you grasp the tones and structure of a sentence well. I get what you mean about understanding the spoken words as in the advanced cd (cd 11 of 12) the native speaker says the Chinese slow then at normal speed (seems like bullet speed). But I think for grasping the basic understanding it is not all bad. I’m off to China in a few weeks and I’m hoping it’ll help me at least find my hotel, toilets, food and transport. Admittedly I repeated lessons too in blocks of 3.. 1-3 then 3-5 then 4-6 etc.. Found I leant one time them tested myself the 2nd time. 🙂 me x

        Reply
      2. I studied Chinese for 4 years. My teacher was native chinese. I had a lot of difficulty with hearing and speaking. During this time I stumbled over the MT course online and just tried it. Both my hearing and speaking improved quite dramatically. Especially the sentence structure of my spoken chinese improved, according to my teacher. Inspite of the no memorising method, the words would pop-up in my head when I thought of what I wanted to say.
        I consider the amount of English used not obstructive, rather it helped me “think” the language, binding it to my first language. What I also loved was the slow sentence and grammar growing, without having to learn a lot of new vocab at the same time. I was able to incorporate new vocab I leant in class without much effort. For me it resulted in a greater confidence when speaking Chinese.

        Reply
        1. Hi, I used MTM for Mandarin, and I loved it. I had no idea what I was getting into, but had a trip to China and found the app online and a) enjoyed it and b) could speak mandarin by the end.
          I am a real advocate of MTM now and am listening to the Spanish course at the moment in anticipation of my Spanish friend visiting me. I am determined to get my wife to listen to the French one with me (I already speak French as my dad lived there).
          However I have to say that I am pretty cross about how I was taught languages at school (mid 90s) and maybe I will now discover that there are more ways of learning languages,I want to match my Portugueese friends 8.
          Anywa interesting review and has opened my eyes that there is a new way of learning languages and maybe MTM is just one of them, thanks!

          Reply
          1. I now have a MSc in Chinese Language, Business and International Relations. The brilliant MTM Mandarin courses (Foundation/Advanced/Vocabulary) were the perfect introduction and a great help to fall back on. Michel Thomas Method is great at chunking and playing a limited and specific role in language acquisition. The issue is more to do with the marketing of promises of fluency etc. In terms of listening comprehension, I agree as a languages teacher that other methodologies are needed

  4. My take is, that a course has many flaws as you’ve pointed out does not make it totally useless. If MT fulfils a single L2 language need for an individual, then by all means they can use it. After which they leave it and move on to something else that fulfils another language need. There’s no one-size-fits-all course, heck, there shouldn’t even be! Because language learning is multifaceted. I find things like MT and Pimsleur to be nothing more than primer courses, the one for giving some sense of structure, the other for internalising pronunciation (obviously, it’s best to start with pronunciation first). After which you move on, because language learning doesn’t (and won’t) stop there.

    Reply
    1. I’ve found that Pimsleur is a better primer for the beginner (or someone wanting to start reactivating a dormant language) than MT. With Pimsleur, the English is there but it isn’t (at least it doesn’t seem) as dominant as with MT.

      Reply
  5. I listened to the first and second levels of German, with Michel Thomas himself doing the teaching, and I found them very useful and learned a lot of basic sentence structure, conjugations, and vocab. I enjoyed listening to it, and got a kick out of how the students responded, and tried to beat them to the answers, like a guessing game. I tried one of the more advanced vocab courses too, but it wasn’t taught by Thomas and I got annoyed with it.

    Doubtless the methodology and presentations could be improved for other languages, but I’d recommend the German series done by Thomas himself, to a beginner.

    Reply
    1. Great to hear a different take on MT, Rhonda.

      Thanks a lot for sharing.

      Reply
    2. My thoughts exactly, you can’t lump all Michel Thomas courses into one; the German one is actually great, as it’s taught solely by a native German, it taught me a lot and basically ingrained in me a strong feel for the difficult German grammar which I’ve never forgotten.
      I’ve tried the Japanese and Mandarin and found both a little awkward and, as you say, English heavy, but then you are trying to teach very tricky concepts (like tones and very foreign grammar concepts), so you’re going to have to speak a lot of English to explain things.
      The courses in general I think are really great to get your feet off the ground and get you to an A2 level, you shouldn’t buy into a lot of the nonsense (like not practising or using effort etc.), and you SHOULD move onto listening and reading as soon as possible.
      In terms of being interrupted, admittedly this probably wasn’t the correct way to teach the two people in the class, but for someone listening and participating from home, this is probably an advantage for you (at their expense).
      So if you use the audio course as a tool for your own ends and don’t take the ‘Michel Thomas method’ too seriously, I think it’s a great way to engage and teach a language to people. Just treat it like a quick and easy primer, and remember that the end of the course is the start of the real battle.

      (I should add that I have no idea how much these courses cost, so value for money doesn’t enter into my valuation of them at all…)

      Reply
      1. I just want to clarify, since I did not realize this myself at first, but Michel Thomas is Polish and not German. Though he teaches the German course himself, his own German speaking is heavily Polish-accented (not that this stops him from correcting his students accents so that they more closely resemble his own.) All of his courses (other than presumably the Polish one, if there is one) would be much better if they just trained a single native speaker with good English skills to conduct them instead of Michel himself, or the host/native speaker set-up.

        Reply
  6. I bought the MT French course way back in 2003. It cost over a hundred euros, a lot of money for a college student. I bought it because I was about to visit my French girlfriend’s family in Brittany. In the event, however, her family all spoke good English, so I didn’t get to use much of what Michel had taught me (though I did try some phrases on waiters, bus drivers and so on). I abandoned French after that trip; it had been a false start.

    A year later I went back to French, and this time stuck with it. This time I used a bog-standard, computer-based course, with clunky graphics and no celebrity endorsements, which I was able to access for free in the language lab of my university. It had a more “tradtional” layout: dialogues, grammar explanations, verb tables, practice exercises and so on. I found that that system worked a lot better for me. (Not saying that it would for everyone, just that it did for me.) After a couple of months of that course I would still have struggled to have a proper conversation in French, but I was able to write a decent-length e-mail to an old friend in France, and that gave me a real feeling of achievement. I’ve kept it up.

    I do remember some of MT’s French mnemonics (“I’m going – I’m on my WAY – je vais”) and they have been helpful. I also like the fact that his approach constantly challenges you to translate things from English into your target language. All in all, though, I don’t find it thorough enough. Echoing Lolu, I think you could use it to supplement a more grammar-based course, to allow you to practise actually saying stuff. But don’t imagine that an MT course all by itself will teach you a language. Even if it does say ‘Total’ on the box.

    Lastly, I agree with you that that whole “no bad students, only bad teachers” thing is rubbish. “I never succeeded in learning [language] because our teacher at school was awful” is such a common cop-out excuse as things are. Come on, if you *really* wanted to learn the language, you wouldn’t let a mediocre schoolteacher stand in your way! It’s actually kind of ironic, because Michel Thomas himself doesn’t strike me as the kind of man who went through life thinking that his destiny lay in the hands of other people.

    Reply
  7. I can see why you would be making these points, but I cannot agree with this assessment. I think the Michel Thomas method is great because of at least two reasons:

    First, it enables you to reproduce what you learn by having you practice immediately. I think this is extremely rare in language teaching, yet this is one of the most effective ways to get you to remember and use the structures you learn. This makes the difference between active and passive learning, and it is crucial! For example, I recently found a good Slovak course on the Internet (slovake.eu) – it has lots of video, exercises, etc. Having read through big chunks of it, I am able to passively understand quite a few Slovak words. Yet I couldn’t produce a Slovak sentence, even if it’s as simple as ‘I would like to learn this language’ because the course doesn’t encourage reproduction in ways that work for me. Sure, it has lots of exercises, which could perhaps achieve the same as Michel Thomas method does – but that doesn’t quite work for the busy types out there, who are interested in learning, but are not so interested in solving countless drills by trying to fit the correct form with the correct ending somewhere in a web input field, multiplied a thousand times.

    Second, Michel Thomas method does not shy away from grammar – rather, it embraces grammar the way that works for most people: breaking it down into manageable chunks and reinforcing with examples. If you complete a Michel Thomas course, you will have a good understanding of how the grammar of the language you’re learning works – that is a great asset. And the rest is… just vocabulary. As a side note, it’s true that the courses don’t reveal the full grammar, but that’s just a criticism about the length of the courses rather than their quality.

    I think this is also where your criticism doesn’t quite work. Sure, big parts of the courses are in English, and lots of it is not pronounced in a native accent – but the point of the course is not to teach you vocabulary, nor is it to give you a perfect pronunciation – rather it is to get you to practice the language, and also to help you build the basis of a language, to which you can later add more vocabulary and more advanced structures. And I think the method does that really well.

    Plus I can’t really agree with your comments about the fact the courses are seeking to be stress-free somehow being a disadvantage. Surely, if you prefer to stress yourself out as you think that this might increase your performance (or for whatever other reason), you can always find ways to do that? But given the world we live in today, where the reason that most people don’t succeed in languages has lots to do with the fact they are being presented those languages in ineffective ways under unnecessarily stressful classroom environments, one would think that a method striving to make learning as stress-free and as fun as possible would be welcome, wouldn’t one?

    Reply
    1. > Plus I can’t really agree with your comments about the fact the courses are seeking to be stress-free somehow being a disadvantage.

      I didn’t say that.

      By all means, if you can create a more stress-free environment then do it. But I made the point that stress isn’t always a bad thing necessarily. We do well to put ourselves under a healthy amount of pressure.

      Reply
    2. I like his French and German courses. I think he was great. I learned a lot with Michel. I am very happy to have been a student of his.

      Reply
  8. Michel Thomas courses are for me the most effective way to start learning a new language and build a base, which is echoed in some of these comments.

    It feels like you’ve simply reviewed this course against a checklist of current best practices in language learning, many of which are not really relevant for this method or course. But did you actually use the course to learn Arabic and assess it on its effectiveness? I believe you already speak Arabic, so I’m guessing that’s not the case. I think if you picked up this course without speaking any Arabic – a very intimidating language to learn – you would have left a very different review. Let me make my point…

    The use of English is part of Michel Thomas’ method as it relies on cognates and relating the new language back to English. Of course nowadays we try to use the target language as much as possible when teaching. But in the self-study scenario where there is no teacher, this is quite reassuring. Second, Michel Thomas courses don’t attempt or claim to teach comprehension. There are other courses for that. Just like there are courses for reading, or writing. So, this is an unfair criticism. It’s like judging a tennis player on how well she is at volleyball, or a romance novelist on crime fiction.

    Where I do agree with you is on the one thing it tries to do and succeeds at doing – and that’s building the structure of a language in your head and focusing on grammar. What I’ve learned through these courses I recall more quickly and it sticks with me. I agree it’s a jumping off point for further study and the benefit is you speak right away and can see your progress. This, for me, is what is most motivating and has then propelled me to go on to study a language in more depth.

    I haven’t done the Arabic course myself, so perhaps there is more English, but perhaps it’s necessary as Arabic is complex and doesn’t have the similarities that the romance languages do. And it is a shame if the teacher has bad pronunciation, but that’s why the native speaker is there to give a model. Michel Thomas only taught the languages he learned, and none that he spoke natively, I believe.

    I do agree the levelling is wrong and that some of the celebrity endorsements undermine it. However, if you watch the BBC Language Master, they seem to be legit. And you can also see him in action. I think it’s the real deal.

    Lastly, yes, some of the claims like ‘no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher’ is not necessarily true at face value – we’ve all seen bad students. But the point is that he believed EVERYONE was able to learn a language, even those that were labelled unteachable. And by taking the responsibility off the student, they could relax and try to learn. It was a message he used to his students. And it worked.

    Reply
    1. Well after writing this review, Hodder did offer to send me a different language – one that I have not learned before – to try that. I may still accept that offer.

      But I feel that as an experienced Arabic learner I was better able to assess the strategies they use to explain certain features of the language. The fact is, I don’t think that I’d find this teaching style effective regardles.

      Reply
  9. Hi. Donovan

    Thanks for the review. I have to agree with a few of the other posters. I think if you were new to Arabic you would have written a very different review.

    MTM is what I use After Pimsleur. It helps me with pronunciation and being able to think on my feet.

    I know a lot of you here are big grammar learners, but that never worked for me. MTM does teach grammar in a more organic way.

    True there is a lot of English in the couse, but that tends to help me.

    Also I have no problem wit MT saying there are no bad students. I had a terrible teacher years ago and would have quit learning the language. Luckily another teacher came in and got me on track and I stayed on track.

    I recommend MTM for anyone who finishes Pimsleur and wants to go to the next level.

    The only thing thing I really didn’t like was the students making mistakes on cd. I found it distracting.

    Reply
    1. I’m a beginner to Arabic. I looked into MT after being disappointed with the catastrophe that was Pimsleur Arabic (Egyptian was bad, Eastern was worse). I didn’t have the ability to recognise that the teacher had a bad Arabic accent (I didn’t realise that with Pimsleur either), but I did notice something was wrong from the start.

      I like courses that have a male and female speaker, the difference in octave means some differences in pronunciation are more apparent. So if I’m listening to a woman, and compare what I say myself, I’ll notice mistakes in my pronunciation that I didn’t when comparing to a man. There’s a male and female student, and the teacher was only correcting the male student, even though the female student was clearly speaking differently from Mahmoud. That means the teacher didn’t notice a particular difference between her speech and the female student’s (I couldn’t either), which suggests that her Arabic is no better than that of someone speaking it for the first time in their life.

      Then we get to the method itself, I’ve also looked at French. I’m not a complete beginner, but my level isn’t high. Michel himself teaches it. First warning flag for me is his French accent speaking English, it means the method he used to learn a language himself doesn’t work for pronunciation (which makes perfect sense, relying on cognates is going to guarantee your speech is full of L1 intrusions). He also waxes poetically about how it’s never the student, always the teacher, yet it’s less than 5 minutes in before he’s crying “Noooooo!” in frustration at the student’s mistakes. The Arabic teacher at least had some integrity to try to stick to the premise of the program.

      Now compare MT Arabic to Language Transfer Introduction to Arabic. The premise is similar, teacher and student having a conversation. Also a teacher who isn’t a native speaker (he admits that, says he’s not too worried about pronunciation, so at least you know what you’re getting, even if that is a disappointment for me). Also works with the idea of starting with blocks and building up sentences with those blocks and grammatical concepts. What it does very differently though is almost entirely eschews English cognates, and instead explains Arabic’s root system. So you get the 3 roots and some example words with them. You’re encouraged to think of at least one root, and see what others come into mind, and then how you put them together based on gender and number. The basic concept is the same, but it has been highly customised for the language being taught. It’s also free. There’s simply no sense in paying any money for MT, when LT is just plain better, and doesn’t cost any money. And even if LT weren’t available, I wouldn’t see any value in MT.

      Reply
  10. Hi Donogan, longtime reader but first-time poster here. I was wondering if you have listened through any of the Language Transfer courses yet. The method, as far as I can tell, is very similar to MT but mostly it’s superior because it’s free. There’s an Intro Arabic course. I’ve heard wonderful things about the Spanish course, and I myself got a lot out of the Intro Turkish course.

    Reply
    1. *Donovan haha sorry

      Reply
    2. Hi Rachel!

      This is the first time I’ve heard of Language Transfer. Their website is a bit of a mess – hard to read and navigate – but I’ll check it out shortly and see what it’s about.

      Thanks. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Im not the original commenter, but please update when you have finished checking out language transfer. It’s a completely free audio based course somewhat similar to MTM.

        Would love to hear your thoughts

        Reply
  11. I’m a French teacher and I just met a student who swore only by this method, and had been learning for almost a year, only she could not even answer my most basic questions (What is your name, Where are you from?) I had never heard of this method before but now that I’ve met this student and listened to the samples on the website, I can say it is a disgrace to language learning. Also, the website is so focused on blaming the teacher, like you said, saying that if you tried to learn before it was because the method was wrong, that I felt my student was pressuring me to adapt my lesson to her “learning” style. Well, needless to say, she will have some surprises when she gets to France and starts “speaking”!

    Reply
    1. Exactly.

      It’s great to hear your input as a native French teacher on this. Just the kind of thing people need to hear.

      Really appreciate you chiming in. Thanks Gabrielle. 🙂

      Reply
    2. “a disgrace to language learning”? That’s a bit strong isn’t it?
      I personally love the Michel Thomas method. I used the older versions to learn French and Spanish, to a level where I could make myself understood, obviously I wan’y fluent, who would be after 15-20 hours? But I knew way more than I had learned in a college course of 2 years. MT makes the structure of the language make sense, it puts it in a way that you can digest and it sticks in your head. I also tried the Japanese one, which is a later one produced after Michel’s death. It was ok once I got over the irritation of the teacher’s voice and helped me with a trip to Kyoto; and I also tried the Russian one and got a lot further than I had ever got with Russian before. Enough to cope with a week in Ukraine anyway. I just wish I could find a similar style course for Bulgarian.

      Reply
      1. I agree 100% with you, I have taken German in the past (many classes) and in very short time on Michel Thomas I understood better the way the language worked and improved greatly in a short period of time! I had a friend who recommended me this course said his spanish is at a level where he is near proficiency so I think you should not judge a language program on one language and second I do like the way he teaches and the short audio makes it less more palatable.

        Reply
        1. I agree with you .ITS WONDERFUL !!! I could understand immediately . Absolutely love it .Love the philosophy behind it also I am so glad i came across it .i Think learning German is a lot easier than Arabic or Chinese though ……they would be entirely more complex …
          Of course learning a language is ongoing . …never ending and has to be put into practice constantly ….but I actually love it and I love how he teaches . It reminds me oif the Suzuki method of music where you internalize things and where the teacher says there are no bad students and to make the seemingly worst student your best student is the motto …HIS PHILOSOPHY IS SIMILAR …A MARVELLOUS COURSE CANNOT SPEAK HIGHLY ENOUGH OF IT..

          Reply
  12. Hello, I’ve studied Spanish using MT method, I just downloaded the .mp3’s and for just around 2 days, I think I could speak decent dialogue with spanish people (not serious talks). I think what I can say is that it really depends on how you comprehend something and as what MT said: “Never ever try to memories words.” This reflects on how we learn our own language. We don’t memorize, we just listen and understand, and for a course of time you suddenly exercise your tongue into speaking it nicely.

    My advice is to just listen to the lesson and again and again listen to it even though your not paying attention 😉

    Hope this helps 🙂

    Reply
    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on MT, Jay.

      Reply
  13. My situation is a bit more difficult, since I can only rely mostly on audio programs, being totally blind, combined with the fact that not much foreign language learning books get put in braille here.
    I seem to find Pimsleur useful, but the big problem I have is when I finish it, I don’t know how to find some sort of program to teach me more everyday vocabulary and maybe more advanced audio-only courses.
    Michel Thomas, I definitely couldn’t recommend it on its own. For example, you do it in nearly any language, you don’t learn things that you really should know, such as greetings, numbers, much foods. I think if you do Pimsleur and you suddenly listen to a radio station in another language, you will have an easier job of hearing a word and knowing what they’re talking about. The MT courses, often they are not sentences you’ll say everyday to your friends, just really long sentences that somehow feel heavy.
    I would like to know though, what other audio programs have you found useful? Are there any that you don’t have to use the book?

    Reply
  14. I must agree with you on this.

    I purchased MT Total Polish on the basis of a freebie trial lesson. At first it was good, but the ‘teacher – bright student – poor student’ roleplaying chit-chat soon became distracting, and I lost interest. What is the point of including acted out errors and silly little jokes in a language course?

    The WORST MT course I sampled was the Mandarin Chinese course, which began with some guy ranting on about making shapes with your hands to memorise the tones. That lasted less than 5 Minutes!

    “There’s no such thing as a poor student, only a poor teacher.” I’d like to thank Michel Thomas for his honest admission of the inherent fallibility of his own method. Woody Allen is living proof of this.

    The MT ‘method’ is not a patch on the Pimsleur ‘listen-and-repeat’ (and learn words and phrases in reverse) approach, which is professional, businesslike, does not allow for mistakes, and for me, is instantly engaging; not to forget the inclusion of very useful cultural notes in some of the courses, and of course, the NATIVE language speakers.

    Where with Pimsleur I start learning, and thinking in the language immediately, with MT, I had to recapitulate on the previous lesson every time.

    I would not recommend MT to anyone.

    Reply
  15. I used the MT course to learn Chinese. After 2 months I started speaking to my local Chinese friends. Basic conversations, yes but Chinese. I also speak some Norwegian, which I learnt at a school in Oslo Norway. The MT system is great. Okay I can’t read or write Chinese but for people who just want to speak a language, it works for me. I can’t understand why you don’t rate it?

    Reply
  16. I ran into your article while searching for “learning European Portuguese”. I spend tons of commute time and would like a verbal / audio based program to learn simple Portuguese. I’m hoping to travel to Lisbon again in December. While I appreciate your review, for me, I would have appreciated that you left out the personal “bashing” of his background, etc. How is that relevant? I do have to say, after listening to the MT “sample” lesson, I picked up way more that I have on other intro lessons. But, I’m slow to pull the trigger on a program yet. Apps, courses, youtube….it’s confusing which courses really work! Does anyone have any suggestions for a great audio / verbal based program for European Portuguese? I’d really appreciate it!

    Reply
  17. Hey! I believe MT is the best method out there in that it teaches a lot considering the short amount of study time. I don’t know any method that can teach as much as MT does in such a limited time. However, the course itself is not the best. It is too short which renders it uselless unless you continue your studies with other materials.
    Bottom line, I believe it’s the fastest and the most effective way of learning a new language; however, it’s just too short and fails to cover the basics of a language.

    Reply
  18. I just discovered this website after spending ten minutes with the MT Italian course which had been recommended to me, and having just started listening to it and being utterly incredulous, want to find out whether others found his courses as ridiculous as I do, or whether I’m being overly harsh. I confess I’m relieved to find

    After being entreated to “lorn ze stracture av ze langvijj”, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps he ought to have spent a few minutes learning correct pronunciation as well, certainly of the English Language at any rate; I found that I had to listen very carefully to catch what he was actually saying. Whilst I realise close attention is beneficial to the learning experience, I don’t feel that should extend to trying to understand the instruction given in my own language, and it certainly doesn’t conform to his professed teaching methodology. For me, he fails as a language teacher on an epic scale.

    As a keen Italian cook, with an interest in Italian cinema and having spent time in Italy in the past, I already have a feel for Italian pronunciation. This is why, as Michel continues (promiscuously dropping both definite and indefinite articles as he goes), thoroughly mispronouncing the first Italian words he introduces with a thick German accent, it just seemed horribly wrong; a beautiful, musical language mashed into guttural, sibilant grunts. Then came the loud and annoying PEEEEP followed by a student answering his basic questions, always in their own horrible accent with no attempt to sound Italian, and often mispronounced. It was a genuinely painful aural assault. PEEEEP, PEEEEP, PEEEEEEEP! Aaaaaargh!

    Considering the preamble about being as relaxed as possible, I found it utterly frustrating and stress inducing to listen to, so much so that my instinct was to throw my CD player out of the window due to the internal scream of “Make it stop! Make it stop!” which, fortunately, drowned out the sound of the CD itself. This was after less than ten minutes. I scrambled to hit stop on my CD player and instantly felt a sense of relief.

    Why would anyone want to use this as an introduction to a foreign language? I want to learn the language properly, with correct pronunciation, in a way that will be easily understood and appreciated by native speakers. I can’t see that happening with this course. This course is a joke, one that I felt the butt of for having invested in. Incidentally, I’m returning it on the basis that it is simply not fit for purpose.

    Reply
    1. Hey, Andrew. It’s a real shame you had such a bad experience with the MTM. I understand and speak italian today thanks to MT. I knew his accent and pronunciation weren’t good enough, so I simply didn’t focus on those. I focused on learning the grammar with him, and it worked great for me. Therefore, what I did was to start listening to native speakers through the internet with movies and videos, and that provided me the input I needed to acquire correct pronunciation. Right now, I actually teach languages with his methodology and have thousands of students on the internet. It’s really sad you couldn’t ignore his bad pronunciation, so you could get what also matters (grammar, structure).

      Reply
  19. That should read ” I confess I’m relieved to find I’m not the only one”.

    Would be nice to have the ability to edit my own post on the page once posted.

    Cheers

    Reply
  20. Hi,

    I will not go into much detail but I am quite happy with the Total Spanish course because of the simplicity and easiness it creates for learning the Spanish language. I only bought it in April this year and was listening while driving my car in the morning. It gives the necessary skill to form the basic sentences and understand elementary concepts. After a few months I realised that I could read Spanish texts with ease and write my own sentences.

    Listening and conversational skills may take years to practice in any language and it is due to various aspects such as clarity of language, pronunciation, speed, dialects etc.

    I did not expect this course to be equal to a classroom-based learning, and it does exactly what it is designed for – to give the basic understanding of that language. The rest is up to you what you wanna do with it and how you wanna master…

    The Total Spanish course is taught by MT himself and I like his simple way of building up the vocabulary and grammar skills. I cannot comment on other courses though.

    I am a linguist, translator and language teacher by my background and I know several other languages already. I think this was the easiest way of acquiring another language without putting too much effort.

    Hope this helps.
    Best,
    Liga

    Reply
  21. I’m a huge fan of the MT method. I had been trying to learn German for 20 years when I used the MT cds. It was my a-ha moment. I have completed the first German program and can read pretty well and can get by conversationally.
    I also used the Spanish course and got most of the way through that one. I can read a lot, but have trouble with conversation. I have a great base though.
    I used the mandarin program for about an hour before going to China and just with the few words and understanding I knew I was able to get us out of a sticky situation with a cab driver while we were travelling.
    I recommend MT to anyone that I hear talking about learning language.

    Reply
  22. I used the earlier versions of the Arabic. I thought it was good. I noticed straight away that Jane Wightwick’s pronunciation was weird (but her English pronunciation is quite weird too – she says ‘tomaaarrroe’ for ‘tomorrow’ for example. I had taken classes before moving to Cairo and the MT really helped me put sentences together when speaking. A friend who had lived in Egypt for a while but basically used the point and say a noun method of communication found it incredibly helpful to learn to construct sentences. She played it to an Egyptian friend who said there was nothing wrong with Jane Wightwick’s accent! (She has been involved in a lot of learning arabic courses not just MT and not just Egyptian). Anyway, thank goodness Mahmoud was there.
    Other friends also found it useful for learning to create sentences.
    (I also learned to read arabic script and so forth, obviously not from MT, but a lot of foreigners really don’t want to learn the arabic script, just speaking, as I found out).

    Reply
    1. I also tried the Italian one. I don’t recommend that one. The teacher was obviously getting very frustrated with the learners. I think you have to suck them and see, not every teacher or method works for every learner.

      Reply
    2. PPS – sorry! Wish I could edit a comment:
      I used what were formerly known as the Foundation, Advanced and Vocabulary courses of the MT Arabic – a total of about 10 hours.

      Reply
      1. Sorry messed up again – considerably more than 10 hours.

        Reply
  23. Hi,
    I don’t agree that MT is rubbish, I did the German MT and it’s far better than Duolingo, Memrise or other apps/methods.
    – It really enables you talk and to engage with natives;
    – you get a lot of fun when MT is correcting the students, I was able to almost always be better than them. I believe this gives a satisfaction;
    – it is really engaging and keep you there;
    – I like a lot this audio method of language learning where you need to translate. I used the same method a lot for learning Spanish with Pimsleur and other such courses (“Learning Spanish like crazy” if I rememeber correct).
    – you don’t learn only words, you learn structures which are more prone to stick to your memory than plain words with no context;
    – I guess the only pitfall is that you don’t get grammar with this course, you need to have a solid level of grammar to grasp the concepts presented. There are people saying that you don’t need grammar, but I truly believe you need it in order to have a logical system in place.

    I recommend this method to all language enthusiasts!

    Reply
    1. I agree.

      I like his French and German courses. I think he was great. I learned a lot with Michel. I am very happy to have been a student of his.

      Reply
  24. How curious! I’ve brushed up on 4 Euro languages using MT, and learned basic Italian from scratch. I found him superb! Not perfect, but superb.

    I’ve also explored some of the more exotic languages, and found them a delight. My Shanghai born fluent Japanese speaking friend said my Mandarin tones were fine, and the basics of Japanese were relatively easy.

    I’m not discounting the points in this excellent article, only suggesting that even so, I’ve found MT hugely useful.

    Reply
  25. I stumbled onto your site while searching for a decent Egyptian Arabic course. Although I see your points, and agree with many, it’s dependent on the way you’re looking at the MT courses, and your expectations. I actually do recommend MT for the courses I’ve used: French, Japanese.

    Caveat: Use the course for what it is, and don’t expect any one course, no-matter which, to make you a language master. You will always have to do the work, learn further vocabulary, practice listening to different conversations, radio programs, and accents etc. No course will give you all the vocabulary you personally need for your way of life, job, interactions etc. Also remember: you didn’t learn to write by writing a letter or word just once, you can’t learn the piano by playing a note or chord just once. Sure, relax-listen-repeat-absorb, and then do it again, and again……….

    I completed the MT French Foundation and up to the 2nd CD of the Advanced, and then decided to go to a Language school in my City (company paid). I sat a face-to-face placement interview. This was the first time actually conversing with someone in French, having only used MT. We covered a number of topics to gauge my competence, and I was then placed in the Intermediate class. I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to communicate with the interviewer as I hadn’t previously put my French to use.

    I did the same with the Japanese. I was taking a trip to Japan and had a few months to prepare. I only did 2/3rds of the Foundation course, learned the Hiragana and Katagana in a weekend with a book (not difficult if you find the right book), and then contacted a private Japanese language teacher who used to teach for the Foreign Service. She was very pleased with my ability to have a basic conversation. Learning the Hiragana/Katakana was instrumental in making further classes much easier also.

    I do agree that the leveling is not correct, but you will be able to communicate with others. Again, it comes down to expectations. I also greatly agree that the comprehension part is severely lacking, but I find that is something you will work on for quite a while with any course and depending on where you go, different accents, etc.

    After these experiences, I do believe that the original MT courses are a good start. But they are just that….a starting point. No-one should believe you’ll master the language simply using these courses. Yes, they used to use the term “Advanced” course etc. but if you’re an adult, I’m sure you understand the marketing aspect of any commercial product. A little research is required, and a realistic expectation. Did you really think any one course would cover everything you would ever need to master a language?

    MT is useful and I can recommend the two courses I’ve used personally, but again, use them as a starting point, a very good one, but a starting point none-the-less.

    Reply
  26. I took up the Dutch courses as a “false beginner”. I found the Michel Thomas courses very suitable, because what they actually do is teach grammar and syntax, without frightening anyone off by using technical terms. I know of no other course that enables students to construct quite complex sentences of their own so quickly. The MT courses openly state that they don’t teach much vocabulary, but that they aim to provide you with the structure of the language so that you can then go on, using other materials, to build your vocabulary. Suffice to say that I passed a Dutch A2 (on the CEFR scale) examination. Of course I had to do extra work to learn a suitable amount of words and phrases, but I was happy with what the MT course had given me.

    Reply
    1. I’ve got a similar experience with the Dutch MT course. It also helps a lot that the teacher is a native Dutch speaker. It seems that with regard to Dutch pragmatism, we’ve been quite lucky!

      Reply
  27. I’ve found the MTM to be excellent on teaching otherwise complex grammar, and I’ve personally really enjoyed doing the MTM courses.

    I spend a lot of time in the Netherlands, and the MTM Dutch has helped me to get to a basic level of Dutch much faster.

    I’ve found that the best results though come from combining MTM with some other course (personally found Pimsleur good), and then just making the effort to practice every day in every situation, asking native speakers, so you learn things in context.

    Reply
  28. I have to disagree. I learnt Italian, Greek and am now learning French with MT. It is utterly brilliant. My friends here are astounded I have picked up the language so quickly. I agree that there needs to be other methods at play for comprehension and listening, but I am a huge fan of MT. He explains things simply and has a way of helping you recall things which is excellent. His method of teaching grammar and complex rules is brilliant because I hate “grammar”. With him I find I am learning it without even realising until afterwards. Genius!

    Reply
  29. MT method is brillant. I have learned easily english, spanish and german with michel thomas in one year . Im a french native speaker and today im able to speak three languages thanks to his method. MT method is one of the greatest ever. i have learned with it, what i have not been able to learn during many high scool year. I dont know how good it is at arabic , russian and chinese, but for french, english, spanish and german its just wonderful. it is Far better than the crappy language learning in the “modern” classroom or other methods like ( rosetta stone, tell me more, Assimil….). I hope all that resentment is not because because a publisher did not answer your request. Or you just want to promote rocketlanguages ? Not recommanding Michel thomas ? Are you kidding me ? There are so many good testimonies about it everywhere around the world. what you learn in 15 hours with michel thomas, you cant learn it even if you live with a native speaker during 2 weeks. He is building the Core of the language, he gives you the keys to master the language. Dude you really got a problem. You can say its not 100% perfect, of course, by not recommanding this awesome method is really really bad. Thumb down.

    Reply
  30. Like many of the above users, I have found MT courses an excellent introduction.
    I already speak fluent French and Japanese gained from studying (not MT) and living in those countries.
    I have tried to MT Spanish, German, Mandarin and Arabic courses over the years.
    I think that the original European languages taught by MT are of a very different standard.
    He quickly builds the students’ confidence by showing how (in the European languages) we already know thousands of words.
    The constant correction of the students is something I found to be quite clever. He’s not criticising you, but correcting the students (on the recording) with common mistakes that most people will make.
    Also, the stress in listening and not reading/writing helps steer people away from mispronouncing things like many English students studying French may do with the pronounciation or “r”.
    Up to 10 years on, I can still remember his lessons and sentences.
    I found the mandarin one to be pretty useful in demystifying the tones, and moved on to Pimsleur from there.
    I found the Arabic one to be a little dry, and didn’t give it the effort it deserved.

    However, being multilingual, and having learnt in classrooms, self study and in situ, I highly rate these courses as a good introduction and foundation into a language, from which point you can build via other study methods.

    Reply
  31. I tried Spanish, French and Mandarin and first of all, i have to say that i tried Madarin for 5 mins and quit because it was very slow. Wayyy too slow for me to focus. I lost what i’m trying to learn.

    For Spanish and French, for me as an Asian, I think it’s very convenient and quite useful for a start. After I finished the first whole lesson I wanted to learn more. I think that is the use of it. It gets you hooked up and able to hold on to something. I feel confident when telling people that I am learning French because i’m not scared to show them a few sentences from the top of my head without even thinking. This I have never felt with the conventional way of learning languages.

    I’d say try it first just for you to feel comfortable speaking other languages that you are not familiar with. Then you can move onto something with more coverage.

    Can anyone let me know how far they have gone with the Advanced French? I haven’t tried it but all the examples I listened to seems a bit boring for me. It would be so nice if anyone here can recommend me which audio lesson I should go for after MTM.

    Thank You

    Reply
  32. Thanks, a really good in-depth post. Personally, I found MT really good for instilling confidence, alas in the real World that confidence soon came crashing down. However, I would say that I love his approach to generalizing verb endings (French and Spanish courses) and although they are only generalizations they’ve helped me pick out tenses when listening and reading. One final point, Language Transfer Complete Spanish provides a very similar course to MT Spanish and has two great advantages:

    1. There is only one student, so less annoying.
    2. It’s FREE!

    Thanks again – great blog and loved your post regarding chunking.

    Reply
  33. Hello. I have to say, I take strong issue with this review. I’m hesitant to write so much here, because I don’t want to seem callous or dismissive (which is all too common on the internet). I do admit that regarding the MT method, I basically have anecdotal evidence: myself. I’m the only person I know who has learned a language (Spanish) well, by starting with MT. That doesn’t mean I know people who learned nothing from MT. What I mean is that MT is not well-known apparently, and I have met nobody else who even knows who he is, never mind have learnt an entire language starting with him.

    But, I do have a lot of experience with people learning languages via other methods, particularly group and one-to-one classes and particularly English (although I also have knowledge/experience of people learning other languages and via other specific methods). I’ve been an English teacher for 10 years and I have met and worked with a lot of people, not just those working on English.

    I’ll try to keep the main part of this comment (the retort?) brief and, I hope, respectful. In my opinion, most people critical of MT’s method don’t understand what the aim was. The MT courses are meant to teach grammar and how to structure a sentence (including the pronunciation and other language tools necessary) in order to gain “the open door” (which is what MT says at the end of his courses). Why should they include listening comprehension? A language learner can do as much listening comprehension as they want in their own time, and a teacher is not necessary. Especially now with the internet and YouTube. The student can “tailor” (if that’s what they want to call it) a comprehension course for them self, free of charge! The foundation of a language is its structure.

    Regarding pronunciation, I haven’t heard the Arabic course, so perhaps the teacher’s accent really is atrocious. In my humble opinion, pronunciation at the first stages should be clear, but not necessarily perfect. Babies and toddlers are, arguably, the best learners in life. But learning English, how many babies cannot immediately pronounce the “th” in three? In my experience, basically none of them. In my personal experience, I couldn’t pronounce the Spanish “j” (similar to the “ch” in Scottish loch) correctly for 2 years after I had my first experience in Spanish. Pronunciation is a long process, and after the first introduction (where it must be clear and distinct), the rest is mostly unconscious in my experience – just like natural acquisition of a new local accent. I had to live with Brummies for a good year before I could make a decent approximation of it. So, again in my humble opinion, I don’t think having a native speaker is really necessary – a bonus, yes, and clear, absolutely – for the teaching of the foundation, which is to say the structure.

    As for why so many celebrity endorsements? That was never a mystery to me. MT was a savvy guy, and not to mention a little unscrupulous at times, as can be seen with his exaggerated wartime stories, or just plain fabrications – he was a storyteller. And you can see in his courses where his imagination and little stories to help the new language points stick came from. It seems to me that he went to Hollywood because that’s where the money was for language teaching/learning. And for 50 years he basically only taught the rich, and so that was and still is his niche market. When he tried to introduce it to education systems, the educators wanted him to explain his method first, which he was reluctant to do as he was very protective of it (perhaps, again, he was worried about the money? I can’t say for sure). In the end, they refused to work with him without his divulging his method, and he refused to work with them for that. So he was left with his school, teaching celebrities.

    I know it is basically anecdotal, as I have a survey sample size of one (me!), but from my experience, the course was an eye-opener. My personal language learning theory and “method” (I don’t like using this word) is: language teachers are not supposed to teach the language, they are supposed to teach HOW to learn the language. Then the student takes this skill and continues to learn the language, or another language, or perhaps any other subject. In my experience most language teachers don’t do this, and so the student imitates and learns by rote, and when the class or course is over, the student leaves and learns almost nothing else, ever. MT’s Spanish course taught me HOW to learn a language. I finished Spanish not terribly fluent, but it gave me the confidence and the tools to go and finish the job myself.

    In my experience as a teacher, almost the whole industry is based around the idea of making the student happy. Language classes are basically an endless stream of different sensory stimuli, where you have to keep the student entertained, happy and distracted. If the student doesn’t get what he/she expects from a class, they will leave and find another teacher who does provide it. I’m always exasperated how everyone thinks that a student who has no knowledge of learning methods, never mind the language, is supposed to team up with the teacher and design the class alongside the teacher.

    I speak as someone with at least reasonable experience in teaching a language, and experiencing how people learn. Perhaps I am a special case, and I already had a talent for languages (I would love to hear that!) and correlation does not necessarily imply causation. But in my humble opinion, MT’s course was very very good. I could write a lot more on this, as there is a lot of nuance, but I don’t want this comment to drag any more.

    Regards, and my apologies for the long comment.
    P

    Reply
  34. MT is very good.

    I studied Portuguese with books, various courses before discovering MT – It took me 4-5 years to grasp what learning a language is all about.

    MT breaks it down in a matter of 20+ hours.

    I do recommend get 2-3 supplementary courses – I have never stuck with 1 course or 1 method –

    I used PM for Spanish, teach yourself & MT, as well as a very high end expensive course from a school in Cape Town South Africa but the courses are very expensive – in the £250+ range.

    For me, MT is the fastest way to get a handle, a grasp without months, years of language learning. Its true what you say about listening skills. When I started YouTube was not available – now it is, you can simply watch a few minutes a day of programs in the language you are learning to help facilitate your learning.

    For me, I have even taken the transcripts of all the MT courses, combined them, removed the duplicates and any language I want to learn, I pay someone overseas to read them and repeat the sentence.

    The combined foundation courses, Spanish, French, German & Italian are about 2,500 sentences when you remove the duplicates. I use these basic grammar sentences & then pay someone to record the 6,000 most common English words – I get them to translate & record this.

    Those 2,500 sentences + the 6,000 sentences will get you very far. If you listen to a podcasts, radio, television in that language – you will learn a lot.

    I then do the same for his language builder & advanced course in the language & get the person to record another 6,000 words.

    By this stage, you know how to conjugate verbs, you have 12,000 words you are learning, you have combined the beginner + advanced stuff.

    I must preface that when I learn a language, I am not learning it to be 100% fluent. Achieving fluency is a pipe dream. I am a native English speaker and do not know every English word.

    I do not know every English grammar rule.

    What I look to do is be able to make myself understood & try to understand 80% of the language when listening to people, radio, television.

    With 12,000 words (most common English words) you will understand about 95% of what you hear. The goal is to get to the 15,000 – 20,000 words. If you have grammar + a vocabulary of about 15,000-20,000 words, you will be considered fluent.

    The MT method is by far the fastest way to get speaking. In my earlier years I jumped too fast from one language to the other. Now I will work on one language for 24-36 months.

    That is to learn 15,000-20,000 words.
    Get the grammar down
    Learn to read
    Learn to listen.
    I also combine this with the most common phrases, sentences in that language.

    Just my take but the above works.

    I never set foot in France ever, I was in India & there was an Indian who grew up in France & could not speak a word of English. For two weeks all we spoke was French, I accredit that to MT & the above.

    Reply
  35. You should probably update this article.

    Thomas’s claims were verified by the government. He was awarded a Silver Star. Those aren’t easy to get, and definitely require verification and proof. I’d trust this over a journalist.

    Also, I’m using this language for French, and I’m amazed at how well it’s working. A beloved French-speaking…”it’s complicated” of mine recommended the French course. He used the English one to learn English, and has attained fluency without ever sitting on a French class through this method and English movies and books. I don’t think this method, or any method, should be used on their own, but rather that a few ways should be used together. In addition to this, I’m going into week 4 of an accelerated, total-immersion French class, and am surprised to find myself understanding a lot because of Thomas’s French course, and I just finished the first disk of the first set!!

    Reply
    1. Well stated. Michel is a hero for me. I love his language courses too.

      Reply
  36. I’ve just been speaking Arabic with a Parisian greengrocer and a Parisian taxi driver. This is after using MTM for three months. Not a brilliant conversation but enough to get a big smile and a look of surprise. I really like MTM. I do not like the ones with MT himself as the teacher. I find him extremely irritating and lose my train when he interrupts the students but the Arabic method with Jane and Mahmoud is great. Unlike you, Donovan, I love the way that Jane speaks Arabic because she’s English like me and she pronounces Arabic well enough to be understood and she’s good at explaining HOW to get your speech organs around a word. And if she can do it then I possibly can too. I also like the fact that you learn about your own language (internal and external plurals for example) and the fact that if you do the equivalent in Arabic of pluralising incorrectly and you say ‘mouses’ instead of mice, you will be understood. I also like the building blocks approach and the way in which you soon get a vocabulary that you can use and fit in to the basic syntactic patterns you’ve acquired. And the way the 3 consonant root thing works and learning about the English words that have come via Arabic. It’s very do-able. So I get what you are saying but would have to disagree.

    Reply
  37. I found the MTM helpful, mainly in learning to speak French, not so much in comprehension. However, there was a limit to how much it could teach me. I think it is a great resource to use along side other things. For example, I’m following the MTM, learning on Duolingo, and taking French lessons three times a week. I would definitely recommend taking other steps to learn a language as well, but the MTM was, for me at least, a great stepping stone.

    Reply
  38. I find the Michel Thomas Method courses an excellent place to start when embarking on the process of learning a new language. I find the method efficient in getting me off the starting block. I think this is important because a sense of making progress breeds faster further progress. I also think the method is quite effective in starting to push structures over into long-term memory due to the repetition and recall elements. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a complete course because attacking from all angles, and over and over again, is par for the course with what will ultimately be the lifetime endeavour of learning and maintaining a language. So, I’m not too concerned that, yes, I will have to buy other materials like a grammar and seek out TV programmes in the target language etc. I do wish they were cheaper, but then, I wish everything were cheaper!
    I have noticed that, as a teacher, I have the tendency to take the comment about the responsibility for learning being the teacher’s and not the student’s rather too personally!

    Reply
  39. I’m a spanish language learner, and before trying to learn any other language than english, I was unaware of MT method, when I decided to learn french, i found Michel Thomas and Pimsleur methods. In my own opinion bro, the only certain thing in this universe is that everything is relative, it doesn’t matter my reasons to express that I found Michel Thomas method EXCELENT and very accurate at the time of my french learning journey, it simply worked for me, the learning was simply effortless, but it’s just me, if this course is useless for other people, great, then go find the course that fits your personality and your way of learning, but there’s no such thing as right or wrong, just diversity of methods, that’s why there’s pimsleur, Rosetta, Fluenz, earworms, and the traditional way, that is going with some teacher and having the pressure of doing a bunch of homework and exercises from some book, and all of them are OK and WRONG at the same time, but it depends on the learning approach of each person. “Know yourself”, know what works best for you, and stick to it, what doesn’t, just let it go, and keep searching. My final thought: I found MYSELF MT excelent, I learned so fucking fast with this method, why?, that’s the way my brain was able to grasp the grammar and the language. I would recommend it? Hell no!, I’m just saying there’s the posibility that you fit in the kind of audience for this product, and if you are, believe me, you’ll find it awesome, if not, that’s ok, then keep searching, If Rosetta Stone makes you learn, excelent!, If the earworms approach makes you learn..terrific!, great!, if not…then-keep-searching…..Just know yourself, and be conscious that everyfuckingthing is RELATIVE….
    Peace language learners….

    Reply
  40. While I can’t comment on the Arabic courses, I can however comment on how the Japanese lessons were. They are definitely effective than most lessons I’ve tried, including Pimsleur.
    MTM teaches you proper grammar and sentence construction, when others just asks you to memorise phrases without explaining in detail how those phrases or sentences were constructed.

    Reply
  41. I honestly couldn’t disagree more with almost everything you’ve written here. I’ve followed multiple of these courses and find them *by far* the best way to get up to speed with the basics of a language I’ve ever found, getting to stage where I feel I can mostly learn pure vocab from then on and improve organically.

    As one example, I recently went on holiday to Portugal and after having only listened to the 8 basic level Portuguese CDs in a very compressed period of time (~2 weeks) was able to reasonably comfortably interact with people who spoke little to no English.

    I’ve yet to find any other courses which teach the structure/grammar of a language so well, getting you to give numerous different forms and constructions which you have to think about and which I find really beds things in. To each their own I guess…

    Reply
  42. I used the Polish course and found it fine, it gave me the backbone I needed for a running start. The massive criticism is that once you’ve gone through it once, you’ll never want to repeat the 8 hours of the two students struggling and the teacher (a polish lady, fluent in English) explaining things. It seems like poor value for them not to include a condensed version, with only the English sentences followed by the native polish translation – with everything else cut out, it would probably only be an hour long! They do provide a document/pdf that covers the words in each section, which helps, but it just felt lazy that they couldn’t edit down a revision version.

    Still, I would recommend the Polish foundation and advanced, in conjunction with something that focuses on everyday, classic tourist scenarios like pimsleur

    Reply
  43. I married into an Italian family, though my husband has grown up in the UK but his extended family live in Italy. I’m on lesson 70 of the beginners package and soon to move on to the intermediate.

    While I don’t agree with the “good teacher, poor student” claim for this method, or the celebrity endorsements, I do think this method is good. No method is perfect.

    This is purely a method to learn speaking and how to become understood. No, it does not equip you well for listening to natives. I always ask people in Italy to speak slower, but that is because learning a language doesn’t end with completing a course and everyone speaks quite rapid in their native language. You have to immerse yourself! Use what you have learnt to practice with people.

    I really enjoy this course. It is good that they have a male and female sudent so I can spot the differences for masculine and feminine words. I have learnt far more Italian via this course than I did in my 5 years of French and Welsh in secondary school and by any other app, program or youtube video. I often look up the conjugations and spelling.

    I do think if you had tried a new language you may see the benefits of this method. Sure it doesn’t offer a “complete” introduction to the language. In the introduction it says it’s aim is to get you speaking with confidence. I think if you are serious about a language then you wouldn’t rely solely on one method for learning.

    Honestly, my grammar in Italian is actually better than my husbands now. His understanding of natives is better having grown up listening to it, but he never took Italian academically and rather picked up what he knew from staying in Italy in the summers and from his father who spoke it when he was very young, but he never took it seriously to become fluent like his sister did.

    I think your personal criticisms of him are harsh and have no bearing on this method. I know MT is Polish, so he has an accident and so do the students, but he does correct the pronunciations of the students and to be honest, it doesn’t affect me. I find his teaching of the pronunciations adequate.

    Reply
  44. I have experience with both the Japanese and Italian programs for MT:

    The Japanese program was fantastic. I’d started and stopped many different language programs, even dropping out of a class I’d signed up for, because none of them were really working for me. But the MT program really worked in getting the language to make sense to me. I still remember the day that Japanese sentence structure clicked in my head – I suddenly understood how to mesh different sentences together, and it all made sense to me. I think this was due in big part to how in-depth the woman on the program explained everything. It was amazing.

    The Italian version was done by Michele himself, and it didn’t work as well for me. It may have been the heavy accent, I’m not sure but I couldn’t get into it like I had the Japanese program.

    I think it’s pretty heavy-handed to say that the program shouldn’t be suggested for anyone – people learn in different ways, and this program rocked for the way I learned the Japanese language.

    Reply
    1. I tried the MT app on iTunes for Greek. I’m a bit of an app maven… I try everything, duolingo, LingQ, Mondly, MosaLingua, 50 Languages, Babbel, Udemy Courses, ad nauseam. My absolute favorite at this point is hands down Language Transfer. Go straight to YouTube, forget the website (except to donate through Patreon). Same technique as MT, BUT the depth is amazing, one little step at a time,for 120 lessons. It’s not extensive for vocabulary, but 50 Languages is also free, and drills on vocabulary. LingQ is great for reading and listening. Italki of course for conversation. MT was okay, but I learn more for the time spent with LT. Χαρά, the MT teacher, was a Greek speaker, so that helped.
      I’ve tried German before, and am hopeful that when I try LT German, it will finally click. LT even has Swahili!

      Reply
  45. I loved the Michel Thomas Spanish CDs. A friend had raved about them about four years ago when I didn’t speak a word of the langauge. I listened to them several times over and they were a great launchpad for learning Spanish. I then started attending a class for beginners at the Latin America Institute here in Vienna and the tapes were an incredible advantage for me – allowing to grasp grammar concepts a lot more easily than the others in the class. I now read novels and newspapers in Spanish, listen to Spanish radio and chat with Spanish-speaking friends. Sure Michel Thomas isn’t going to make you fluent but it’s definitely a great way to learn some holiday Spanish and (more importantly) to lay the groundwork for the real learning if you really want to speak the language well. I imagine that’s true of all these language methods. I recommend the tapes to all my friends who talk about learning a language from scratch. P.S. I don’t work for the Thomas organisation. 🙂

    Reply
  46. Hi, I just have to say I love MT method (and I don’t work for any companies involved in it in any way!). I’m always recommending it to people who are looking to learn a language. The one thing I would say though is that I’ve only learned European languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Portuguese) and I think a lot of the less flattering comments seem to be about the non-european languages, perhaps it doesn’t work so well for these? I did try the MT Polish and didn’t get very far with it (it was really hard!). But I would reiterate, I love learning languages and for the French and Spanish in particular it’s the best I’ve found for me personally. But I guess we are all different and different styles suit different people?

    Reply
  47. When giving a thorough critical review of a product it might be worth mentioning to state current alternative products you prefer to use when learning Arabic.

    All you have done is put a microscope on MT and haven’t offered anything of value. This is pretty much the political situation in the Middle East and their viewpoint of western societies. Israel is the most advanced economy in the Middle East with incredible technology startups meanwhile the deranged countries next door are too busy being critical of Israel (as you are with MT) to offer any real value to the world.

    Reply
  48. As a native English speaker with 8 years of study in Latin and half a lifetime studying French (and keeping up with it via podcast) who’s done “7-week crash-studies for travel” in Spanish and Italian, and as someone who NEVER looks at a new language when first studying it (I’m great with the written part — it’s my fluid-pronunciation handicap I need to immerse myself in), I decided to try Michel Thomas for Portuguese because all my old favorite audio-only standbys (Instant Immersion 2000-era casettes with the “Ann Johnson” narrative, the Rush Hour singalong series, etc.) weren’t available in Portuguese. I’m about an hour into the 1st CD of an 8-CD set and I love it. But that’s for my very specific situation already knowing all the grammar, and merely wanting an easily-memorizeable way to transfer that knowledge to new words and pronunciation. After an hour of listening as I fell asleep, with a quick 1-minute listen to my last bit where I left off in the morning, I was able to spend my trip into work writing “illiterate pronunciation keys” of words & phrases I remembered learning into a notebook and come up with a sentence to show off to my Brazilian friend at the office (“It is not important to you, but I want it now, because it is very urgent to me.”) [I apologized that I only knew confrontational sentences because, with the method’s initial focus on rearranging the same 20 words into 40 permutations, I’d mostly learned conversation-turning words like “no,” “but,” “why,” “because,” etc! But I knew she’d get a kick out of the sentence since she works in customer service, and indeed she understood me.] So anyway, so far so good when it comes to picking up a spare Romance language when you already know many others. The whole “start w/ cognates and pronounce them right in small sentences” thing is really working for me in this context.

    I don’t think I could use MT for a completely foreign language — I think I’d have to “put in the work” like I did as a child w/ French and Latin doing years upon years of homework and drills to make those sentence structures feel fluent.

    HOWEVER, I don’t think I could use ANY audio-only method for that. I tried and failed to learn German that way before a trip. Even my tried-and-true “Ann Johnson” tapes and “In-Flight” CD quickly overwhelmed me. The sentence construction was just too hard to remember at the pace it was presented when I hadn’t “put in the work” to make it subconscious.

    Anyway, for me, so far, it’s been good in its niche (using audio-only products to crash-course pronunciation, vocabulary, and subtle variations in a language I’ve already “done the homework” to learn the “hard parts” of).

    Reply
  49. Hi,

    I also have to defend the Michel Thomas method. It taught me Arabic to a level beyond my expectation. I am also learning Spanish now and there is no match in other courses in the attention to detail in explaining grammar in a really painless manner. Also the focus on correct pronunciation is crucial I believe. It made me start to understand other language courses better. I think MT courses are best combined with a more vocabulary focussed course. Everyone has different learning styles, but for me this is by far the most accessible way to learn a language, at least for me it is.

    Reply
    1. Well, if there is a focus on “correct” pronunciation, then we should only be hearing native pronunciation in a self-teaching course. Hearing other students respond is an unavoidable part of a group classroom, but even this is gets in the way of developing native-like pronunciation.

      I was a language teaching professional for almost 40 years, and now I study languages as a hobby. When I encountered the Michel Thomas Italian recordings, I was shocked by the lack of cultural and situational cohesiveness. The utterances seem to be occurring in some kind of semantic, cultural and social void. I certainly did not want to be exposed to so much non-native pronunciation, and I took the discs back to the library ASAP.

      The recordings reminded me of a very bad language class that I once took as an undergraduate. We had to take turns translating English sentences into German in order to show our knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical structures. I learned a lot in this class, but only because I was a highly motivated lover of language study. If you had a positive learning experience with the MT courses, you are probably a good self-teacher. Bad teachers can`t stop “language freaks” (apologies – there`s no other name for us!) from learning, no matter how untalented they, nor how wrongheaded their methods!

      Reply
  50. I found the beginner course at a used bookstore and I have to say I have learned a lot. I am constructing my own sentences from the get started kit. I love watching Arabic television and hearing words I just learned. We all learn in different ways. I heard this ted talk by a young boy whom speaks fluently 5 languages. He said have fun. Don’t get bogged down in the alphabet. What words out phonetically how you hear them and get to communication. There is where the fun will motivate you. He also said, ” If you are not making mistakes, you are not learning.”

    Reply
  51. Having used all the app options as well as Rosetta Stone to learn languages Michel Thomas turned out to be one of the limited options to learn European Portuguese (as opposed to Brazilian). When I read how the course worked I approached it with a lot of scepticism about how effective they would be. But I have to say that I have never experienced a language learning experience before that so effectively locked in so much of the content. I would definitely recommend the process to anyone trying to learn a language.
    I have to add that Michel Thomas’ personal history and endorsements from celebrities completely are irrelevant to how effective the learning process is.

    Reply
  52. I tried the Spanish course about 8 years ago.

    What I feel is important when one picks up MTM is to have clear expectations (and I do agree that the marketing blows those expectations out of proportion, as you said yourself – I picked it up on a friend’s recommendation, so I had a much clearer idea of what to expect). The course will definitely not help with listening comprehension. It does not really give you a whole lot of vocabulary to work with (I later supplemented MTM with the entire Duolingo course just to learn more vocab in a convenient way). It will not make you a fluent or even decent speaker. It will give you basic understanding of sentence structure and how to build sentences in a variety of tences, as well as how to make use of some common structures and expressions.

    While MTM does not do much for you on its own, as *one* of the tools that you use as you start learning it can be quite effective, I think.

    I found that even after all these years, I remember the grammar I learned with MTM much better than a lot of things from other languages learned through other methods.

    A month ago, I had a chance to put my memory to test during my five-day stay in Spain where I spoke almost exclusively Spanish (I have to emphasize that I did not learn Spanish in any other way than MTM and Duolingo, for lack of time and need). Surprisingly, I was able to succeed with day-to-day interactions without much difficulty, and I attribute at least part of that ease to MTM.

    Reply
  53. I think the review was fairly meaningless in the end – from the point of view of someone wanting to choose a language course (like me, for instance).

    Because it missed the main and only real point: does it work?

    Instead of debating his opinions about how language should be taught and what claims should be made and what today’s fashions are he needs to point to studies and comparative results.

    Something tangible, kinda scientific, believable, repeatable.

    So better than the review is simply reading these comments.

    It is obvious that the MT method works for some and not for others.

    i.e. there’s clearly a dynamic of some sort whereby methods of teaching need to match the student. And very probably, looking at the comments again, this matching process would need to be repeated for each different language.

    i.e. a method that works for this person with this language might well not work for another language.

    We need to know what works best for us, for ourselves, that’s what we’re looking for.

    And I’d say after considering all this that no one can tell us until after we’ve discovered something for ourselves.

    i.e. if we can say I learned French the MT way very well and easily then maybe someone could advise us on the strength of that. Maybe. But remember what seems apparent about things needing to be reassessed with each new language.

    Too many variables: student, teacher, method, language.

    And another: requirement. Just what do you want? Complete fluency undetectable from a native? Or just enough to get by on a quick visit?

    So that’s just simply too many variables.

    If there were a scientifically presented and analysed database of language methods, teachers, students and results then maybe we could say something but prior to that we simply, as students, first time students, need to jump in anywhere whim dictates and see what happens.

    It’s all up to us. I was in China for instance and I discovered what I needed from a language was first of all the simple ability to get things, buy things, find things.

    So I needed to be able to say ‘how much?’ and I needed to know the words for the things I wanted: foodstuffs in the main and I needed to understand when they told me the price.

    Never forgot that. Main things: names of foods, ‘how much?’ and ability to count (especially money).

    I’ve said so much here I might as well go the whole hog and say one more. Doing MT Russian I repeatedly notice they go on about how this or that English phrase is said this or that way in Russian: and it frequently takes fewer words. Like big deal, a plus, Russian is great because it takes fewer words.

    Fine. I don’t mind. But it seems to me they get it wrong. They say Russian for something like maybe ‘where can i buy cigarettes’ is whatever it is. And point out there’s no little particles of speech. So it comes out like like: where possible buy cigarette?

    i.e. short. Unfussy.

    So that’s how Russians speak. They just say ‘want food’ or something like that, you know? They don’t say : I am interested to know where can I buy food’ they just say ‘interyesna buy food’.

    I’m not explaining myself very well. I’m trying to say they never tell us that Russians DON’T say these English phrases. They give us the translation as though the Russian HAS said it. But Russian just doesn’t talk like that.

    Same as the English don’t say ‘he table like she ship’ but the French do, with their ‘le’ and ‘la’. See what I mean?

    Like if you look at Pidgin, New Guinea Pidgin, there’s no pretense there that they’re saying the same thing. It is not ‘This thing is exactly the same as that thing’ it is something like ‘Dispella allsame datpella’ and that’s the end of it.

    I think this feature should be much considered in teaching languages: that they just don’t say the same things.

    Reply
  54. I’d agree. I tried MT method French, and it was just a guy with a French accent shouting the English and then the French, without any real flow or structure. It was like he’d been told to say all the phrases he knew in both languages, as he thought of them. I don’t rate this method at all, plus I can’t easily go and find relevant phrases or vocab, as I can in virtually every other course. This was just random.

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  55. I have used, and enjoyed, MT courses for German, Spanish (both taught by MT himself), and Russian. I concur that there is virtually no comprehension, but I find the explanations a great assist in understanding any of the ‘natural’ learning styles (e.g. Pimsleur, which is always my starting point). If there’s a serious shortcoming with that combination, it’s one that is shared by most resources I find – they top out at a very basic conversational level.

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  56. Dude, you should change your article to read — Why I don’t recommend MT Arabic language. MT works great in many languages, and what you are writing is complete misleading political bullshit! Yes! And for the sake of argument, what do you recommend? Have you tried a lot of courses out there? How great did Rosetta Stone help you?
    Everybody is different in learning and by posting this bullshit article with your personal shortcomings you are spreading the wrong news about the fantastic method that helped millions. I can’t believe someone would attack MT method–this is insane…. As an educator, you should know that.

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  57. There are really only four Michel Thomas courses. French, Italian, Spanish, and German. The rest were made up after he died.

    I have to say I found the French course extraordinary. I made more progress in a couple of days than I did studying Spanish in school for five years. MT just makes the grammar so effortless.

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  58. I am sorry, but I disagree! (To a point)

    I did his Total German course and loved it. I felt so much more confident in speaking. I was working as a tour guide at the time and met Germans daily and this course really helped. I will say though that this course was not my grounding in German, I did duolingo German up to the genitive case stage and stopped for some reason I can’t remember. Michel Thomas is definitely not wonderful for learning a massive vocabulary but he teaches you how to learn. I would say his course alone is not enough, he does not even get into der, die, das, den, dem, des, etc, but if you buy a dictionary and a grammar book to the side and get a penpal, then he is great. I started his begin French course and had similar results until I had my radio taken away…

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  59. hello, Donovan how are you, I hope you doing fine.
    My name is Hasan and I live in Iraq and I notice that you’re learning Arabic, so if you want any help I will be more than happy to help you.
    my skype is hasan hasan feel free to call any time.

    Reply
  60. Thanks for your review!
    I actually like the MT courses I used (Italian, Spanish and French and even a bit of German, even though that’s my mother tongue), but I never considered them real language courses, for the same reasons you give. I used them alongside real courses at my university, because I liked how they only required you to listen and pay attention (I used to take long walks with them) without using other material and I was very pleased by how they managed to get through most of the important aspects of a languages grammar, even giving some historical context and connecting concepts of those languages to English.
    I see them as a useful tool to very quickly understand the workings of the languages grammar, allowing you to use it correctly without much effort, but without learning the language in some other, more profound way, the MT courses are pointless.

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  61. Interesting point of wiew. I would like to nuance it a bit, on the basis of my experience.

    First of all, I have a diplom as teacher in french language for foreigners, and comparing the methods was part of what I learned, so I can see wich are the good and week points of a method.

    I’ve tried 3 different languages through the MT method. Here are the results:

    – I learned german and russian during my scolarity, and never practiced again since like 25 years ago. But french teaching of foreign languages is wordly famous for being awful, leading people to think that french people themselves are awful at languages 😉
    – I needed to learn a bit of nederlands to spend a year in Belgium, but never learned a word of it before.
    – The support language for the german lessons is french, while the support language for russian and nederlands is (british) english, but quite easy to understand with a B1 level in english, actually.

    -learning anew german and russian was incredibly easy for me, and I caught up quickly with my forgotten abilities, and do better than before, because I already had good basis in those languages, and what I lacked was the oral practice and confidence to speak. The french way of teaching langague is mainly focused on written languages, and that’s why we are terrible at speaking (+we’re taugh not to even try until we are able to speak perfectly, which naturally never will occur if we don’t try it).
    I’ve try my newly acquired russian actually speaking with russian and ukrainian people and it went really great. And now I’m back at university, to learn languages and translations, with specialization in russian and german and I can say this method was a major help in preparation for this.

    – for nederlands: the problem is that the method doen’ts exist via french language, and it’s only available with english as a support language. And thats the point: I was unable to remind a new language, while the support language is really close to the new language. So I kept answering in english. And finally stopped to go back to less oral methods, using french as support, which worked better for me. This wasn’t a problem with russian, due to the fact that I already knew the language and due to the distance between english and russian.

    I will actually give a try later to MT method for another language that I don’t know, just to see what will be the result but this time using my own language as support, maybe italian or chinese.

    So for the moment, I’d say that it’s an excellent method for rewieving a language that you have already learn previously, or if you lack and the results were really +++ for me.
    But the effectiveness is yet to prove for a totally new language. and I’m quite sure that it won’t be that great, considering for example chinese, you may be able to speak it quite basic chinese quickly, but it can only be ok if completed by some written chinese. Or you won’t be able to just read a menu in a restaurant not knowing a single hanzi. A good side method but that should not be the single one you use.

    And I really want to point this :pay attention to the closeness between the support language and the learned language, it can be a difficulty (and I’m pretty sure that learning german from zero through english would have been quite difficult too)

    And also, I didn’t respected the deal, working on my own, listening severaltimes, reading newspapers, using other sources.
    A good, and, actually, very good method for rewieving acquired knowledge, maybe not that great for starting something new.

    sorry, that was a long post!

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  62. I’ve just read your review, and I think I will probably agree with you. I can’t be completely objective because from now I have just tried the CD1 and CD2 of the “German Foundation” but :

    Sure, you learn quite “a lot” in only two hours, but what annoyed me from the begining is that the teacher isn’t a native speaker. And it’s a BIG problem. I am not German, but for example one of the student was pronouncing “nicht” (which means “not”…) the wrong by saying “nikt” during the WHOLE foundation CD1, and the teacher was always saying “yes! perfect!”, it’s just after a while (on CD2..) that the student realised by herself that she was wrong. When the teacher finally decided with his weird accent to explain how to pronounce “ch” in German.
    I mean, I have started German for only one week and even I noticed it immediately! Not the teacher.

    And here’s the second problem : I think it’s bad to hear several time in a row other students making mistakes, because it’s not good to hear something wrong to learn (I mean for me).

    German is actually the 4th language I am learning, and I can also say from my personnal experience that this “way of thinking” (MT way, block by block) isn’t very efficient. It is better to directly think in the language you are learning.
    “Speak. Like google. Translate. Isn’t a good way. Of speaking. Because you will. Be stuck. Like this. For a long time.” Basically, this method teach you how to speak like Stevie in Malcolm in the Middle.

    I think I will finish “the Foundation” anyway, to give it a shot. But I will use it as a tool only.

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  63. I have tried all the main and some of the online German courses and none of them gets the mind to work as it should do to be able to create an understandable sentence by compounding words quite like MT’s method. I did find Paul Daniel’s Magic Language course (in tapes) for French allowed me to now to remember words and gender that I learned 20 years ago. I found this is an extremely good vocabulary learning method but not good for creating sentences. Most of the most up to date methods of learning language incorporate pictures but these pictures aren’t as compelling as the pictures you create in your mind via Daniel’s audio tapes. Visual hooks as they are termed, need to be created in conjunction with the words to be fully effective. As MT states, we are no longer children and therefore we cannot learn as they can.
    I do sense a little professional jealousy among others with regard to MT’s teaching methods. As a psychologist, I would agree that there is no such thing as a bad student but a poor teacher is the centre of all our educational drawbacks. Not because they are incapable of teaching, but that the structure of teaching is simply wrong. Montesori teaching methods work, but are not recognised by teaching autorities and governments. The authorities are right and everything else that is different is wrong.

    MT states very clearly that learning is to be a stress-free as possible so that the direction he gives can be absorbed. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he allows the student to self teach but to correct when needed.
    Many students, even those at school, will find an excuse for not learning. It’s in our nature to do so as we have been allowed those excuses. I have heard those holding business seminars and writing on chalkboards and the like, state that they are dyslexic when they are not. They just can’t spell and can’t be bothered to learn to spell. The USA have met their students half way and simplified the spelling of words so that they are logical such as theater instead of theatre and use liter instead of litre. Most of the ‘ou’ vowel combinations have been replaced with ‘o’ as in labor and neighbor. I guess that the students are saying…why make it difficult when it sounds the same?

    When I was told about the MT method of learning, I was sceptical. The reason for my sceptisism is that it isn’t the latest method of learning. However, that is a typical modern day wy of thinking. I think we all tend to want the latest most up-to-date language teaching method, that has been scrutinised by psychologists and teaching professionals and hopefully a little magic comes out of it. That is a pipe dream, and an expensive one at that. The top language learning tapes do not match the hype and the misleading adverts that sell them. Would that you could follow a trail through a park and as people and things are met with your eye, that a label comes up with the word association. However, the reality is that yes, you have pictures but they are a series of repeat still pictures. You will eventually learn the words but you still have to find a way to memorise them. It isn’t natural any more than it is permanent. It requires the student to apply themselves to the task of memorising. That isn’t absorbsion its the same old same old school test of how much you can remember of a subject prior to an exam. This is the measure of what you can store and recall and has nothing to do with learning. Why do I know this? Beacuse I am a psychologist and that is not how the mind works. The most brilliant 20 century mathmatician Srinivasa Ramanujan whos work is still used today was not formally educated. He was not taught to work in any particular way. He saw the patterns of mathematics in his head and translated this to pen and paper. His biggest problem was to prove his answers. He had no workings out in the margins of his text book. he was labled a sharlitan at Cambridge University by other mathmatic scholars. Because he didn’t do things the way they understood them. The truth is he took days to create a theory that took them years. He didn’t keep going down blind alleys, but visualised a form of clarity within the maize that led him directly to the centre. To those taught by regular methods, his was an incomplete peice of work. They needed to see how he worked it out. He couldn’t tell them because he didn’t work by a series of lists in chronological order as they had been taught. His was a natural, cerebral, connection of mathematic patterns that fitted like a puzzle. Music, language and mathematics are all things that should be allowed to naturally form in the confines of our minds to eventually be realised by communication of those thoughts. If Srinivasa Ramanujan’s work is still being used today to solve complex mathematical equations such as black holes, then we should never arrigantly state that because something is old it is no longer relevant.
    Too much emphasis is placed on a person’s learning ability and application than the method of teaching. Too much emphasis is placed on the method of testing the ability to recall and remember facts. If a history exam can be passed by remembering dates and a physics exam by remembering Archimedes principal or Boyle’s law then we have learned nothing useful. If we fill a bath to the brim, get in and weigh the water that overflows, then we experience the phenominon.

    Michel Thomas invites the student who has a desire or need to learn a new language. His method is logical and therefore useful to those who can benefit most by this method. It may not be for everyone. Most of us carry some sort of scepticism and as such will create a barrier to learning. If you retain that barrier it can be guaranteed you will get nowhere with it. Most will find an excuse for giving up. The only thing that MT does not mention is to make time each day to listen and learn. That requires a discipline we are not used to. In fact I would say that it is a discipline we thought we had left behind when we left school. Much has been said about actors and actresses being used as marketing tools for MT’s language course. Just because Woody Allen failed to be able to speak fluent French, does not mean he did not enjoy the course or had an opportunity within the US to practice it. I grew up speaking German but after I was 5 I spoke nothing but English. I forgot all my German. This wasn’t because I did not learn it properly, it was because English became my first form of communication. A necessity for everyday life. If you learn a new language, you need to be I a position where its use is compulsory or communication will falter very quickly.

    Of course Michel Thomas is no longer around to argue his case, so it is easy to snipe at his methods when he can no longer defend them. Of course, the earning method is still being sold by the publishers or whomever holds copywright. Today, if you are not taking full advantage of marketing aids then you will not compete with the wild calims of others. I am surprised that MT’s biggest critics ave not said “where is his qualification in linguistics” but will remark that his qualification as a war hero doesn’t apply. Its called life experience and life experience relates to a professorship in any language. I certainly would not trust a BSc in mechanical engineering, with no practical experience to show me how to service my car rather than an experienced grease-monkey who does it every day.

    If you need to learn a new language (not necessarily just want to learn a new languge) then I recommend this type of language course above all others.

    Incidentally, actors spend a considerable amount of time learning lines and therefore are very self disciplined. Those who study the Stanislavski acting will attach an emotion and motivation behind the lines that make them more real and therefore much easier to recall as written (or near enough).

    Whether they are ideal candidates for learning languages is debatable. But if the studio is paying for them to do so, why not? If they are using German within a film, they would want to be able to express Stanivlaski’s method acting by wanting to know what they are saying and with the right conviction. My guess is, if he has any success with actors then ordinary people will be a breeze. as we don’t carry the ego and the need to convince the audience at that moment we are German. That in itself will invariably interfere with learning. This kind of student is not a good example of a typical language learner but why not mention them if it helps sell copies. You would not necessarily respond if you were told Lena Bakover of Leicester say’s “The most extraordinary learning experience of my life”
    So what?

    Reply
    1. Thanks for the almost personal slating review of Michel Thomas Donovan. I am not really interested in the debunking of Michel Thomas only the experience of using his work.

      For me the question always is does it work. I play in a band and we go to Europe to play in Germany and France. One summer it was France so I got the first 8 hours of French. Eventually Found myself with a few of my band colleagues in a French Bar/Cafe surrounded by Frenchmen/women. I turned to a lady near to me who was eying up my trumpet. And asked in French would she like to play it for me because I am too tired after playing all afternoon.

      Nowhere on that eight hour stack of lessons from Michel Thomas did it contain that phrase – I made it up in French based on what I had heard on those CDs.. And Immediately the response in French No no monsieur I can not play it. Her boyfriend – Ah! l’écossais parle francais!!!! Excuse my spelling but I am severely dyslexic.

      That little conversation – no matter how good nor how bad broke the ice and the whole band was on free beer and free wine for four days plus I heard and learned a hell of lot more French than any language course ‘ including your Rocket stuff, could teach me.

      So imagine years later – I hear a band APU from Peru in Edinburgh playing in Spanish. ) I think they actually settled in Newcastle= Cant understand a word of APU song but I like them – my interest in Spanish in set aflame so how do I learn it? No it was not a Michel Thomas course ‘ I tried Teach Yourself and bored myself stupid for a week – so I did not complete it.. You see you need to be able to read to do the course and I am – yes severely dyslexic.

      So I left it and the teach yourself book is sitting here right in formt of me in my book rack – apart from the first few pages it is brand spanking new.

      A good two years later I played the CD of APU again and remebered my French experience form years earlier and thought i will give MT a go. I bought the 8 hour CD and was hooked. did the whole lot from Foundation to advanced and then the Rose Lee Hayden ones – )those last ones I did not like.

      So how did it work out? Well after doing all the courses over a 5 month period – I started to read El Pais and El Confidencial.
      Plus I started a East Lothian Council Beginners Spanish course and within two weeks teacher moved me to Post beginners and within two weeks that teacher told me I was too advance for her class and moved me to intermediate – commenting that my accent was really good. So I stayed there for a year and moved on to advanced.

      For the last two years i have been Skyping a friend in Zaragoza in Spain and we speak in Spanish and English for an hour a week. And yes we still split our sides over the mistakes we make.

      So can I speak Spanish perfectly – hell no but my learning journey started with a stress free introduction to the language by Michel Thomas -(there was no such thing as dyslexia when I was at school in the 50s- it was just another day same shit – I could never get enough of the final school bell) Oh and I always rembered my French form school what was it now – le chien – the dog. After fours years of French that is what I learned.)

      I enrolled for En Rumbo Open University in 2015 a first year university Course which takes you from A2 to B2 Spanish CERF passed 78% (very good).

      I dont know where it says in any literature or promotion that Michel Thomas says that you dont have to work to start learning a lanuage with his method.

      no idea about Arabic – never had an incling to learn it – I am more interested in Latin America and Spain.

      Does Michel Thomas claim to teach you to be fluent in the language – No. he does claim to teach you the backbone of the language – the spine.

      Of course with my short term memory problems I expected to be havin to keep playing the CDs over and over again to learn the stuff – actually no. I would learn say 8 lessons – then on my nest session I would repeat the last two and add six that way I got through the whole course.

      Do I have trouble with some aspects of grammar. Of Course but not with verbs!!! For example I can not always remember what the verb alcanzar means but hell, I can tell you every one of its conjugations in every aspect of past, present, future of indicative and subjunctive. Every Spanish verb whether i know its meaning or not I can conjugate and use correctly in every grammatical situation (barring one) – because Michel Thomas taught me how to.

      So where does it fall down –
      a) (this is the barring one) he teaches Latin American Spanish which totally misses out second person plural informal – I had to learn that conjugation on my own – how did I find that out. I had employed two nurses who had trained in Spain and Spanish was their “lengua materna” they told me that when I spoke to them in Spanish I sounded very formal. I asked does that mean you can not understand me. (¿Significa que no me comprenden?). no it didnt, they said that they understand me perfectly. So i got that information form speaking spanish with spaniards in the way that michel taught me – interesting?

      b) Vocabulario – its minimal vocabulary. So Michel says that you have to start to read in Spanish from the end of the course – which i did and that is how I was able to learn to communicate more effectively.

      So that’s my story – probably wont even be posted.
      For me Michel Thomas isnt about learning a language its about learning to communicate in a language that is not your own. The first part again for me was his course. The second was the hard work that I have put in to improve and to learn about other people and culture. the Third is the most important – you have to keep using it or that brain plasticity that everyone posses will start to shrink and you will lose it.

      My learning has been slow by comparision with the likes of the polyglots that I have seen on you tube and it continues.

      The final point is that Michel can be found on the internet you can watch him in action on the BBC spending a few weeks teaching kids who hate French.

      Reply
      1. Sorry just to add – the OU course was very easy after teh work I had done on the michel thomas course and had I put more effort into it I could probably imporved my score.

        Reply
  64. Can’t say I agree with much of your review mate.

    I’m using the MTM to learn Russian after having tried other courses. I’ve found it brilliant and it helped me enormously during my three and a half months in Russia this past twelve months.

    Yes, you have to invest time to learn. I would have thought that obvious. And you do get reward for effort. I like very much the conceptual building blocks that it assembles as a way of assisting one to learn. And I’m told that I’m picking up the language more quickly than others that have been learning for a comparative period of time.

    The issue with the teacher correcting the students and hurting their self-esteem is garbage. If you are worried about that I would suggest that everyone go and swallow some toughen up pills. Too much emphasis in these days on everyone being offended instead of getting on with things.

    I found that when I was in Russia I was able to think in Russian. And I like the focus on getting things grammatically correct. If you know how to speak things in a correct grammatical sense then people will understand you once you tweak with the accent, etc.

    Reply
  65. I could not continue with MT beyond the first few CD’s. I find Pimsleur way better. It gave me a great headstart with my Spanish and Italian which I could successfully continue acquiring after listening to Pimsleur courses. As for Michel Thomas, bless him, he was a nice sounding old man, who had a rather pleasant voice, but his accent was terrible. Apart from no or little input by native speakers, I also took issue with his insistence that I should always know grammar rules (“even if you guess correctly, it is still a wrong answer as far as I’m concerned, because you do not know the RULE”). For goodness sake, how many rules do we know when we speak our native language (or a second one which we have a really good command of)? That seems to me a classical example of an old-school mid 20th century grammar-translation method, which only remains popular because of a clever marketing campaign involving all those celebrities.

    Reply
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