Top critical review
124 people found this helpful
Good method, awful tutor
on 16 January 2012
Michel Thomas was recommended to me by my Open University Spanish tutor as a useful audio course to accompany my OU Beginner's Spanish. The reviews here are so overwhelmingly positive that I was tempted to jump in feet first and purchase one of the big £60 courses, but I took the cautious route and purchased this smaller course first, and I was glad that I did! In brief, the method that Michel Thomas uses seems to be a useful and interesting way to learn Spanish, but the tutor is very annoying. In more detail, the good aspects of the course are:
1. He uses a modular approach to the language that enables you to construct fairly complex sentences quite quickly
2. In this first disc, he teaches you how to adapt the many latin-derived words that exist in English into their Spanish equivalents (eg revolution to revolución, important to importante)
3. His explanations are simple
4. There are plenty of examples to practice
The annoying aspects of the course (in order in which they annoyed me) are:
1. Michel Thomas instructs you to pronounce words in ways that are completely bizarre. For example, in the Spanish word "aceptable", the second "a" is emphasised. In, the emphasis is made by saying that second "a" a bit more loudly. However, Michel Thomas, instructs you to elongate the second "a" so that it sounds like "aceptaaaaaaaable." I've been to Spain a lot, and I have *never* heard this type of pronunciation. This would only be a minor annoyance, but MT places *huge* importance on this erroneous pronunciation. In fact I would say that he spends at least a third of the total time on this disc "correcting" his students' pronunciation so that "tengo" becomes "teeeeeeeengo", "revolución" becomes "revolucioooooooon", "verle" becomes "veeeeeeeeeeeeeerle" and so on. I have no doubt whatsoever that if I were to go to Madrid and follow MT's pronunciation instructions I would be laughed out of town. Thus, a minor annoyance becomes a very irritating waste of time.
2. MT teaches what he calls "Standard Spanish," by which he means Latin American Spanish. This is weird because the course seems targeted at the UK market, and both his students are British. In any event, as a UK resident, I foresee myself spending a lot more time in Spain than in Latin America, and I don't want to get into bad habits. The Latin American/Spanish difference is most evident in the pronunciation of "c" in words like "revolución" and the z in all words: in Spain, these are pronounced like the "th" in "think" wheras in Latin America they are pronounced like "s" in "situation." The thing is that Spanish people find it crude if you follow the Latin American pronunciation and will correct you for it, so I want to avoid it as much as possible.
3. MT seems to prefer very formal language. In this first disc he completely ignores the "familiar you" form "tú" and only uses the "familiar you" form "usted." Since this is more or less a taster disc, this can be forgiven, and I'm sure he addresses the "tú" form in his bigger courses. However, he also teaches sentence structures which are unnecessarily complex in their formality. For example, he teaches "Para qué restaurante tiene una preferencia?", litereally, "For which restaurant do you have a preference?"; whereas he could teach "qué restaurante prefieres?", literally "which restaurant do you prefer."
Overall, I am disappointed that the utility of Michel Thomas' method is (for me) nullified by these weak points. I actually got angry listening to him in the car, so I'll be looking for another Spanish audio course to play while I'm on the road.