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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Michel Thomas French Language Courses

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

Michel Thomas French

- Foundation Course
- Advanced Course
- Vocabulary
by Michel Thomas / Rose Lee Hayden

The Michel Thomas Method works by breaking a language down into its component parts, enabling you to reconstruct a language for yourself – to form your own sentences, to say what you want, when you want. Because you learn the language in small steps, you can build it up yourself to produce ever more complicated sentences.

Michel Thomas teaches you through your own language, so there's no stress, and no anxiety. He builds it up, step by step, and you don't move on until you've absorbed and understood the previous point. And, as Michel Thomas said, 'What you understand, you know; and what you know, you don't forget.' With parallels to the way you learnt your own language, each language is learnt in 'real-time' conditions. There is no need to stop for homework, additional exercises or vocabulary memorisation.


I've been interested in learning French for awhile now - I've picked up the odd book here and there, and the odd audio course - but I haven't found anything that really helped me, first of all because I'm quite astonishingly lazy, and one needs to actually keep up with a course daily, and secondly because most of the methods I've come across really encourage straight memorization. Which could possibly work quite well, if you really dedicated the time. So with the Michel Thomas method, although I heard great things about it, the claim that you would not need to do homework or additional exercises sounded like it might be too good to be true.


Bottom line right up top: I was extremely happy with this course. The recommended breakdown is you listen to the 8-hour Foundation course, followed by the 2 hour Advanced course, and there is another course in between - Language Builder (which I haven't had a chance to buy yet) and then you follow that up with the 2 hour Vocabulary Builder course. However these course breakdowns are outdated, because on the official Michel Thomas websites, they have repackaged the courses with different titles, same content I believe but different names. The option I went with was buying the old courses used online (Amazon, ebay etc).

Listening to about an hour of the course a day, I felt that my understanding of the basics of French was way more than what I gained from the previous courses. (Although I really don't know how much my previous knowledge of French helped me). Understanding how to use the language - basically grammar - is stressed in the Michel Thomas courses, which I feel gave me a better foundation (as they say) to build up my understanding of the language. And more importantly it made me think in French which I think is the most important piece of the learning puzzle I was missing. The other courses encouraged me to access my memory in order to converse in French, while the Michel Thomas method wants you to think your way to the answer. With the constant repetitions of principles previously learned to anchor and guide you to more complex principles, you find you are able to retain more and more of the information without needing to write anything down. I am more of a visual learner, so maybe it did help that I had tried other courses which enabled me to remember spelling, but Michel Thomas also spells out words that are not intuitive. Towards the end of the Foundation and Advanced courses, it was harder and harder to simply listen and retain, and I had to review some of the material more than once (a booklet is included, with all the content of the audio). The Vocabulary course was not as helpful somehow- they were not compiled by Michel Thomas himself, but by someone who was trained in his methods, but I often felt the speakers said the answers too fast (they were native speakers) and the material felt a little too repetitive at times.

I should also add that the Foundation and Advanced courses use non-native speakers, and people who seem to be at the same level of proficiency as the listener which I think helps you feel more confident in speaking the language. Your accent might suffer, but in all probability, you are not trying to pass yourself off as a native French person. These courses give a fantastic understanding of the language which you will need to continue to work at and develop by reading and expanding your vocabulary. But at the moment, I feel quite confident taking what I have learned to France if I were visiting as a tourist.

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  2. Your article is really informative to learn French language. Everyone should improve their native language and people should take various courses for improving their language. French learner can improve their language skill by taking Language course, they can study French grammar and vocabulary books and thus they can improve wonderful French language .