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Michel Thomas: The Learning Revolution Hardcover – 30 May 2008
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At last, the secrets of the phenomenal success of the Michel Thomas language courses are revealed!
The publication of the Michel Thomas ground-breaking, all-audio language learning materials has been a publishing phenomenon. Sales of over one million units in just eight years and the universal acclaim his method has excited would indicate that there is a large body of people who want to know more about how and why his method works where so many others have failed. The book will give a brief history of Michel's fascinating life and summarise how he became interested in teaching foreign languages, before going on to look at the experience of learning a foreign language in general and Michel's method of teaching in particular. It examines the barriers to language learning in both the UK and the US, Michel's focus on the role and quality of the teacher rather than the learner, and Michel's core belief that with the right teaching anyone can learn another language quickly and easily. The reader will be introduced to new trends in psychology and their relationship to the way Michel teaches foreign languages as well as examining conventional wisdoms.There follows a detailed analysis of Michel's programmes for foreign language teaching and the implications for schools, colleges and universities if they wish to adopt his methodology and at the same time meet the requirements of the public examinations both in the UK and the US. See all Product description
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As you might guess from the logo on the front cover, Solity does not claim to give a balanced view but is totally convinced by the Thomas method. Having used the Japanese course myself, getting an A* at GCSE in eight months from scratch with far less effort than I expected, I was already pretty convinced too. Solity's book helped me to understand why the method works. Thomas deliberately discarded "natural" acquisition methods and broke down languages into their basic components, teaching the most useful and frequent elements first, and those which could be combined with the most other elements. In practice this means, for most languages, (though less obviously with Japanese) introducing modal verbs (want, must, can, should, will etc) right from the first lesson, instead of much later as in most other courses. Solity also uses the "80/20" principle - showing how the most frequent 100 words make up over a half of a language. He explains the concept of "interleaved learning" - basically building in regular review of what has already been learnt into the introduction of new material, so that you don't forget the earlier material. As an adult learner and a teacher myself, I was more sceptical about some of Thomas's ideas about the teacher being in total control and the learner being completely relaxed, but Solity does not labour this aspect. He does not claim that the courses give total fluency either - if you have tried one you will know that lots of grammar and vocab, as well as the writing system, is simply left out for the learner to cover later. But he explains why the method gives the best possible start.
Having read "The Learning Revolution", I was delighted to have the opportunity to use the new "Michel Thomas for Schools" courses to teach both German and French during the last academic year, and am now even more convinced of the superiority of the method, particularly when starting a language from scratch. I am now re-reading the book to continue getting the most out of the method when I continue with it in September. I would recommend it to teachers and adult(ish) learners of foreign languages who are interested in what works and why, though I suggest at least trying out one of the courses first. I also suggest that you try one of the newer courses which do not feature the Master himself, as his pronunciation (especially of English!) is not perfect. MT himself would admit that it is his method, not his delivery, which gives the results.
I'm still digesting this book, and will return to it for a while at least.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The big insight that Thomas and instructor centered learning share is that the purpose of testing isn't to document whether students are learning. It's to be sure they are learning and to correct one's teaching if they aren't. This is the heart of the success of the original Michel Thomas tapes - since he was teaching actual students he couldn't cram in more than you could actually learn by listening to them. The book covers this well, as well as the secondary factor of breaking down learning into small building blocks that can be easily mastered and readily tested.
However, it feels as if the author doesn't quite bring together the Micel Thomas Method and instructor centered learning. If you want to learn about either, or both, there is useful information in here. But it is up to the reader to sort it out.
But here's the secret: Everything in the "Michel Thomas Method" that makes it so uniquely effective (and *efficient*) is an approximation of the Theory of Instruction used by Siegfried Engelmann and associates in developing their "Direct Instruction" (DI) programs.
Solity doesn't *mention* Engelmann and DI until a hundred pages into the book, and then he totally fails to highlight it, among all the other "interesting things" that are referenced, as the single one that is actually *The Point*.
Google the introductory open module on Siegfried Engelmann and DI at Athabasca University.
But Engelmann and Carnine's Theory of Instruction *will* tell you everything you need to know to develop programs better than Michel Thomas's yourself.
They were too busy doing other stuff to put the information into a format that will make it *easy* to actually start applying it. But it is out there.