What do you think about Michel Thomas Method?

They claim that a lot of famous people, like Barbra Streisand, Emma Thompson, Woody Allen , have learned to speak foreign languages using this method.

Does anyone know about that?

I think I’m gonna give it a try. I’ll start to learn French using this method, but since I’ll use others methods too ( Lingq and Pismleur), I will not be able to isolate the effects of each method.

reference here:



Looks interesting, but to really learn a language, you first need to understand what others are saying, rather than produce sentences for others to understand.

Producing a sentence isn’t really that useful unless you can “continue” this loop. Otherwise the native speaker of that language will digest what you had just said and return a barrage of syllables that will completely blow you away. Thus relegating your speaking ability to one sentence quips without much return stimulus from the intended listeners.

That being said, it looks very interesting.


I think the Michel Thomas method is brilliant. Of course I’m talking about the CDs and not the live course.

No, you will not be fluent after listening to the course. No, you will not have native speaker like pronunciation. No, you will not be able to handle native speakers talking to you at their normal speed. No, you won’t be able to express every thought that comes into your head and I have no idea why people expect that kind of thing. That’s never going to happen in the real world. Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur and all the teach yourself books in the world won’t get you there. What you really need is to be listening to and reading content in (interacting with) the native language. I think most people here would agree with that.

But when you’re a beginner and you look at authentic content there’s nothing there that you can identify with or get meaning from. You don’t even know the words for “I,” “you,” or “and.” So you need something to get you started. I would go into a comparison of the other methods I tried here, but that would take a long time. It suffices to say that I either spent a long time working out what a word meant in the foreign language by instinctually translating it into English myself, rather than it arriving in my brain with meaning attached directly to the foreign word, which ruled out the immersion method for me, or I learnt a bunch of nifty phrases.

Then I tried Michel Thomas, and he explained the language to me. He showed me how to work with verbs, and basically, and I know a lot of people don’t like the word, gave me the grammar of the language. Not perfectly, but enough. He starts with simple words, then he lets you build them into phrases, then he shows you how to manipulate the words and the phrases to make new ones, and then shows you how you can do the same thing with other words and where these words fall into, or differ from, the standard pattern. So far it probably doesn’t sound great… and yes the whole time he’s talking in a non-native accent (which I don’t think matters at all)… but the thing is, when you’re trying to come up with the phrase he’s asking for you’re remembering something you learned moments ago. You’re reactivating that memory and setting it deeper into your mind. You’re building on things you know and therefore reinforcing those foundations. I think that’s why he gets the students to speak early. It’s like writing things down to help remember things. (Some people seem to hate the students on the recordings because of the mistakes they make, but I think if you’re like me and make some of those yourself the following explanations are helpful, and if you don’t make the mistakes, being pained as someone else does almost guarantees you never will yourself.)

So by the end of the the course, especially the advanced course, you have all the basic tourist knowledge someone looking for a quick fix in the language is looking for, but you have more than that, because you’ve been shown how to use, and even better, how to recognise every tense of the language… and that, for me, is where the brilliance comes in. At the end of the advanced course (for French anyway) Michel Thomas says something like this… and I’m sure some people reading this will recognise some of these thoughts:

–I’ve given you a bunch of tools, and an open door to walk into the language which will be an enjoyable experience. It also opens the door to reading, and it will be important for you to start reading, and you’ll be amazed at how well you’re doing. It would be good to read magazines, or things like that because there you get interviews, you get the spoken language. And you should read every day, even for a short time, 10 minutes a day, even if you don’t seem to get anything, because the continuity will be useful, in fact more useful than reading for a few hours once a week. Read things that you’re interested in, don’t force yourself to read things that will bore you. Keep reading and you’ll get the gist of it and that’s good enough. The more you read the more everything will fall in to place. Don’t look up every word in the dictionary except if the word is the key to understanding the whole paragraph, but if you see a word that reappears a lot you’ll know it’s in common usage and you’ll have a rough idea what it means and that’s when it will be useful to look it up. Otherwise you might be looking up something that you’ll never see again and isn’t in common usage.–

So after I’d listened to all that I came back to LingQ and started reading Steve’s book in French, and I was amazed at how much I could read, and more importantly how quickly new words became obvious to me, that seemed incomprehensible before. Suddenly I recognised what tense the paragraph was in, why the verbs changed the way they did. I knew “will” and “would” despite the fact that in French they’re tagged on as a suffix to the verb… and so on. I listened to the audio of it at work, and pretty soon I couldn’t remember Michel Thomas’s pronunciation, only the native speaker from the audiobook. Pretty soon after that things I’d have had to quickly deconstruct and reconstruct in my brain to translate and understand like “aura” being “would have” appeared in my brain in the full form, so I wasn’t stuck thinking through Michel Thomas’s descriptions forever to arrive at the right word… but knowing what it meant and why, in my case anyway, helped cement it in my mind quicker than I otherwise would have if I was just reading and trying to work out what tense it was on my own, or from a grammar book, or dictionary. I could see a new verb in one form and immediately have a good idea of it in every other tense. Sure there are exceptions to the rules but I’m sure if I said one incorrectly to a native speaker it’d be close enough to right for them to work out what I meant to say.

And I’m going to stop there because I type too much and that’s a bit long and preachy… but there you go, excellent beginner’s springboard into the real language. That’s what I think of Michel Thomas, and I think, for me at least, his method and LingQ go hand in hand.



Very interesting Martin, and thanks for taking the time to provide all of this information.

I would like to hear the views of any others who have tried the Michel Thomas method. I will provide my own views after hearing from others. I have purchased and tried Michel Thomas.

I am also interested in hearing people’s views on other systems that are out there.

I have tackled “Learn in your car” Italian and French, and Pimsleur French and German. They are both essentially similar audio courses - you get a phrase in English and have to translate to the target language.

I found Pimsleur HIGHLY irritating, as there is no transcript of the target language utterances, so you can’t read what you’ve just heard (especially important for a highly inflected language like German). The “graduated-interval recall” concept I just didn’t buy into, and this was born out by my experience: the brain does not process new words/phrases at the same rate as the Pimsleur programme appears to assume, leaving you with a “hard core” set of difficult phrases per lesson that you just don’t get. Also, the vocabulary is very limited. Also, it is VERY expensive. Finally, it is hard work (I painstakingly made my own transcripts to review off-line; without this I’d have been repeating many lessons ad infinitum).

By contrast, the “Learn in your car” series I’d recommend - it’s cheap and covers a lot of vocabulary (much more than Pimsleur). Also, you get the transcript (it also explains the grammar as you go along). OK, it’s still output activity only (translation), but would be a useful adjunct to other resources (e.g. LingQ).

I’ve not tried Michel Thomas, but I downloaded the Rosetta Stone trial system from their website (in Spanish I think) and very nearly smashed up my computer before deleting it from my hard drive. Total rubbish.

None of these courses really addressed listening and comprehension, which should surely be the cornerstone of learning a language. LingQ fills that niche nicely and I can attest to the fact that speaking ability does come with continued listening and reading. I achieved much more in 2 months with LingQ than 5-6 months with Pimsleur…

Finally, there’s a company called Champs Elysées, who make wonderful audio magazines in French, German, Italian and Spanish, for intermediate to advanced learners. You get a 1 hour radio-like show, with various features from the target country - places, people, culture etc. - and a full transcript, in a nice pocket-sized booklet, with explanations for difficult vocabulary, grammar, idiom etc. Their website is :-

Almost forgot…

I’ve used the “Hugo in 3 months” course for French, German and Dutch, and would recommend it. It comes with book and 3 CDs and is relatively inexpensive. It is a grammar based course, but the grammar rules are illustrated quite well I think with lots of examples given; certainly it’s not as dry as many grammar texts you’ll see. Some of the dialogues are cheesy to say the least, but as a grammar reference it has value in my opinion. There is also an “Advanced Hugo” course for the French and German, with longer, more difficult dialogues and covering more complex grammar concepts. A good set.

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I looked for the Michel Thomas Method with a DVD - to see the person in front of me is often helpful.

During my learning with LingQ sometimes I thought I would like have a tutor who is able to speak my own language for giving me help.

I have listen to Michel Thomas without seeing - it is different. When I had conversations with my tutor he has sometimes his webcam open, and this is very nice. Sometimes words are better understandable when we are able to see the body language :slight_smile:

I think Michel Thomas can work with really beginners best.

I tried Michel Thomas for Italian and found it very frustrating that he was going at such a slow pace and hearing people make mistakes in the recordings. I also tried “Learn in your car” for Italian and Russian and it’s like memorizing a phrasebook basically and some of the phrase were said too fast for me to repeat them.

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Michel Thomas has its place, although if you really want to learn and internalize a language I think that Lingq has got it down.

Michel Thomas is good for getting you speaking really quick and giving you an idea for how the language is built. I don’t think anyone who has just put in a tape and listened to 2 of the cds can really attest to what it’s able to do in the end, you really do have to finish the course.

With that said, for the money spent it really isn’t worth it and I think people are better off with a beginner’s book with lots of dialogues and short intros to the grammar and Lingq.

I’ve found myself on a simplification kick in my life. Why do I need all these methods and revolutions to learn a language or to work out or to learn anything? I’m trying to make everything more simple, which is most often the best course of actioin.

I read and listen to learn a language, I do simple push ups, situps, and jogging to stay fit rather than spend a lot money on a gym membership, I spend time with my wife doing things we enjoy rather than buying every self-help/relationship book. It’s pretty simple really and better overall for me.

Excellent set of posts! Thank you for the information.

I’ve used Michel Thomas French mainly for revision purposes of things I already was aware of, and found it a very useful course. I’m just about to start on Italian and German with Michel Thomas, and then use LingQ simultaneously to help with my reading (I have no knowledge of these languages).

I wonder what people here think to this method? I hope it works well because Michel Thomas isn’t exactly the cheapest language course available.


What did you think of Michel Thomas? Would you recommend it?

I think for learning a language you have not to use an expensive course.
I wonder often about the prices in the Internet.
Here in LingQ you can have direct contact with a real tutor, you can ask all what you want to know there or in the forum.
The only what YOU should have is MOTIVATION and the desire to learn.

He’s probably just downloading it for free… :slight_smile:

Now i am listenning to the free course by Michel Thomas. Not bad.

I thought Michel explained some ideas poorly (at least they weren’t clear to me), and I only understood what he was getting at because I’d already studied French grammar using other sources. I found the French courses to be very useful revision for the stuff I already know, and it also helped to clarify some grammar points I was unsure about. However, I have only used Michel Thomas for French, so don’t know what the other languages are like in the series.

I found the method addictive - the learner experiences a constant feeling of progression - within 30 minutes of the first tape you are already constructing quite complex sentences, all naturally. This helps a great deal with motivation, and certainly makes it very enjoyable as a learning experience. I haven’t tried any other methods like Pimsleur, but I understand some of them are of the ‘Listen and Repeat’ variety. This would not suit me (it seems so boring!), I prefer to learn naturally, so for me, Michel Thomas + LingQ is the best combination.

I guess the acid test of Michel Thomas for me would be to buy the courses for a language I know nothing about (like Spanish) and listen to that all the way through. Maybe I’ll get round to it one day…

Michel Thomas is nothing but the “Listen and Repeat” variety.

Michel: “Okay now say ‘I want it but I don’t have it and if I wanted it I would give it to you tomorrow because I need to eat it’”.

Well it’s more “Listen in English and construct the sentence in the target language, then say it”.

I was referring to those courses that simply say a word or sentence in the target language and expect you to pause and repeat it in the target language.

Michel Thomas is different because he gets you to produce the language using the building blocks he has put in place, sometimes from much earlier on in the course. Hence the great feeling of satisfaction and progress that is often felt by users of his method.

His method is more natural than some other courses that teach primarily ‘survival phrases’ - it enables you to construct the sentences on your own, rather than simply repeating in a parrot-fashion sentences that have been given to the listener.

So no, I wouldn’t say the Michel Thomas courses are of the ‘listen and repeat’ variety at all, but that’s just my view.

Thank you all for the responses. Now that I have had the opportunity to use the Michel Thomas method for french I can say what my impressions are.
As skims have already told us, the major point about this method is that it breaks the language into building blocks and that makes one able to produce much elaborated sentences early on, hence giving the sensation of improvement.
I end up getting bored with the lessons because (1) I found Michel’s voice rather unpleasant and (2) although the lessons had sort of a sequence to it (you keep constructing upon previous knowledge), I thought very hard to keep motivated learning sentences out of a context (actually I prefer to learn new phrases when they are presented in a story, so…)

I would like to hear Steve’s comments on this as he’s promised before.


I am a little reluctant to comment since I can easily be accused of not being objective I think it all depends on our goals and our styles of learning. I am usually most motivated to learn to understand the language, to get used to it, and to learn words. Therefore I prefer to hear native speakers, to listen over and over, to build up my feeling for the language and in this way to build up my vocabulary.

I find it difficult to remember explanations of how the language is supposed to work. I do not like being forced to produce the language too early. I am happy not speaking for 6 months or longer, until I can defend myself.

I found Thomas and his two learners annoying. ( I bought the Geman version). I could certainly not listen more than once, and for me the ability to listen many many times is essential at the beginning. That is why I do not like to hear any English, only the target language. I can read to get the meaning.

So Michael Thomas is not for me. But everyone has different tastes.

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