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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 16 July 2003
Allow me to get straight to the point. If you are serious about learning French, Spanish, German or Italian, and you have the money to spare, I would advise buying the full 8 hour course straight away. If you buy the 2 hour introductory course first, it will just be a waste of money, because I can guarantee you you will want to buy the full course after listening to it.
I'm a Spanish graduate and so Michel's teaching style really intrigues me. It is truly unique and extremely effective. You will find that you will remember almost all of the vocabulary without much effort - compared to a very low retention rate from traditional courses.
Michel focuses entirely on the spoken language and some people may find themselves fighting this method at first. That's only natural, because we are trained in school to rely on visual aids to remember things.... vocabulary lists, flash cards, videos, OHPs.... but when you consider how you learnt your mother tongue, you'll realize that our brain is wired up to learn a language in a auditory way. He spells out some of the trickier words, but for the most part you need to think of yourself as a child and absorb all of the information eagerly, not worrying about spellings. You can learn the spellings later, after you have finished the course.... just as a child learns to read and write his native language after he has learnt how to speak it.
The format of the course is great; it's very informal. It is a recording of Michel teaching two students who, like you, have little or no prior knowledge of the language. You will feel like you are the third student in the class. It is vital to pause the tape/CD when Michel asks how to say something. Take as much time as you need to think of your answer... he will never ask anything that has not already been fully explained.
As a language graduate, I have tried MANY textbooks, tapes, courses, videos, classes.... and I can guarantee you that this is the most effective, natural and stress-free approach to language learning that you will ever come across.
At the end of the eight hours, you will find that you have a good, solid working knowledge of the structure of the language on which to build.
As for further study, I would advise trying to get hold of a second hand copy of Margarita Madrigal's Magic Key to French (it's out of print now). It uses the same sort of methods as Michel, but you can see the words written down and can practise your own writing skills.
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on 15 September 2000
The man is undoubtedly a genius. He is able to produce an interest in, and affection for, the language within a few moments of starting the course. He demystifies French, and makes it quite clear that there is nothing to fear here: all is logical and welcoming. He quotes Dumas pére who, on having to learn English, and receiving his first lesson, famously remarked 'Why,it is just French, but badly pronounced!' - which sets the tone for the proceedings.
Obviously, you're not going to speak perfect French after eight or so hours of Michel Thomas, but I'll wager that you speak more and better by the end of the course than you did after however many years of school French. And, more importantly, you'll have the confidence to interact in French with the French ,and so to continue the learning procees.
I can't recommend it too highly. I imagine, though, that you'll be left wondering, as I was, why these language teaching methods aren't used in our schools. So much ability going to waste!
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on 10 September 2000
I really wanted to learn French but I just can't abide swatting. When I first read the usual "fantastic new method" nonsense on the box of Michel Thomas's course I thought, yeah right, I've heard that before but, I suppose because I had a holiday in France looming and the box did say no swatting, I gave it a go.
From the very first CD, I was completely captivated. This was learning with logic. A way to work out what you wanted to say for yourself, without having to listen to endless repetitions of foreign phrases, which to my mind can only ever result in me becoming a walking phrase book with no real prospect of ever holding a conversation in a foreign language. I learned in the car and found the learning so stimulating that I would arrive at my destination and not want to get out of the car because it meant that I'd have to turn the CD off.
Since listening to Michel's CDs I have increased my vocabulary by listening to stories in French and now French radio. Whilst I would not say that I am yet completely fluent, I speak French to a standard that I would have previously thought only possible after years of practice, not a few months. When I got to France my family and friends were truly gob-smacked by how well I could both speak and understand French. I am now just desperate for him to bring out some more advanced CDs.
I can tell you quite honestly that this is the first time I have been moved to write anything in this way but these CDs are the most enjoyable way you could possible learn a language.
J'espere vraiment que vous alliez avoir la meme experience que j'avais.
Bon Chance!
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on 20 October 2004
By the end of this 8 CD course, you will recall phrase and sentence building tools that will provide a basis for getting by, as well as the confidence to progress to more intermediate and advanced skills.
Michel Thomas has definitely hit upon a clever technique for making language learning accessible, memorable and less painful.
The CDs help a novice or rusty speaker lay solid foundation for speaking straightaway to the level of confident beginner, as well as preparing for higher level facility in the language.
You must follow the tips suggested for using the material, especially: play them when you're very relaxed; stop and start just as you prefer; and most of all - pause the CD and try to say every phrase he has asked his students to attempt. Your brain will hurt if you're a beginner - but you'll progress rapidly.
As for the two students you learn with in real time: the guy on the CDs is fairly sharp and you feel he could be a strong French speaker in time. The woman is a disaster - as dumb as a doorknob that was dropped on its head as a child. Her meaningless participation impairs the course.
Repeat the whole course or individual CDs to consolidate the skills you picked up on the first run through.
I would not reccommend the 2 CD Introductory Course. Such courses are so superficial they are nothing to do with language learning. Buy this 8 CD one (the first 2 CDs of which are the Short Course anyway).
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on 23 March 2006
I had heard many good things about Michel Thomas's teaching methods before, and had also seen a documentary where he taught a group of 'hopeless' pupils to speak basic French in three days. It came as no surprise, therefore, to discover that his methods really do work, and work brilliantly. I feel that I can speak better French now than I could after four years of French at school. The key to his technique is to make you think out the answer for youself, before either of his pupils (one clever, one, er, a bit less so) have a chance to do so. You must hover a finger over the pause button at all times, so this isn't suitable for using in the car, as I originally planned to do.
If you want a basic grasp of spoken French then I cannot believe that there is an easier way to go about it than this.
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on 17 October 2003
First, let's be realistic. If you honestly think that you are going to learn useful French in 8 hours (and if you think that there is a way to learn ANY language without memorization), you are older than 7, and your IQ is under 190, then, "I AM JERRY D. KABILA SON TO LATE PRESIDENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO,MR LAURENT D. KABILA..." Send me your banking reference and we'll get rich together.
The man and woman taking the course didn't learn much French, and they had Michael Thomas sitting in front of them. And, since there is no conscious memorization required, there are huge gaps in the course; numbers, the days of the week, more complicated grammer, and a bunch of other stuff gets neglected. He doesn't even cover the familiar form of "you". Since he doesn't present any formal grammar rules, it would be difficult to build on the material already covered. You're not going to finish this course and understand French TV (unless you're watching BBC World on cable). You'll struggle to carry on any kind of normal conversation.
So, why'd I rate it 5 stars? Because I've tried other courses of this kind, this is head and shoulders above any of the others I've tried, and I DID learn a lot of spoken French that helps me every day to communicate my needs and understand the answers. And, my vocabulary does keep improving.
I really like Thomas' teaching style. On the CD's, he is teaching two students, and you're the third (and, if your IQ is over 80 you'll probably feel like you are the smart kid in class that never gets called on). The students he is teaching, especially the woman, are pathetic.
As I listened to the students on the CD's struggling with the material (while I struggled with it myself), I found that I did retain a lot. The course is aimed at native English speakers. As another reviewer also mentioned, he gives a lot of Mnemonics that makes the material easier to remember.
You will have to concentrate if you want to benefit from this course. What I did was to keep repeating each CD until I understood the material before moving on to the next. Now that I've finished the course (and purchased the extra two-CD vocabulary builder), I dumped the whole thing to a playlist on my iPod, and I have the iPod set to "shuffle by song". I listen while I exercise at the gym. I still learn new stuff, and I've had the course over a year.
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on 27 February 2006
Michel Thomas definitely has something. After just one hour of his eight-hour course, you are able to translate “What impression do you have of the economic and political situation in France at the present time?”
Michel’s method is quite simple. He gets you to relax, introduces a new word or grammatical point (with minimal jargon), and then asks you to translate sentences involving the new word/point. He then repeats each sentence in French. If the students on the CD cannot translate it, he repeats what he has said and breaks down the sentence until they can.
Michel never deviates from this method. He doesn’t speak to the students in French. There are no dialogues, no rote learning, no formal structure and nothing is written down. Very different from how you learnt French at school or courses by Linguaphone, Hugo or the BBC for example.
The advantage of this course is that Michel gets you speaking French with confidence. It is very good on word order, pronunciation and the future tense. However, there are quite large gaps in the teaching. For example there is virtually nothing on the past tense and using the informal you - “tu” (which is the way you would speak to friends and children). Also, you do not build up as large a vocabulary as other courses.
But the main problem with the course is where do you go next. There is the Michel Thomas two-hour Language Builder course and the five-hour Advanced course, but these are not sufficient for someone serious about learning French. Ideally Michel would have produced a hundred-hour course, but Michel has now died so this will not be forthcoming.
My recommendation is you buy this course, and the Language Builder and Advanced courses, but supplement them with a traditional Linguaphone/Hugo/BBC course and join a French conversation group if possible.
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on 13 August 2000
This course is the work of a genius teacher. Michel Thomas has previously demonstrated that he can teach the very worst language students 5 years of school french in a week.
This course embodies his teaching techniques, which appear to be:
1) how to successfully get people to remember things without parrot fashion learning, note taking or homework (basically he has built into his course exactly enough repetition, for permanent memorisation)
2) how to get people to understand at all times what he is teaching you
3) loads of useful mnemonics for teaching specific rules of french
4) he teaches adults more or less the same way that children are taught, i.e. verbally; and without baby talk. This is probably the way we are supposed to learn.
The net result is that the course gives you about 2000 words of french. That's plenty.
About the only significant downside to this course is that nothing is written so you don't get a 'formal' education. Still, spelling IS well covered in the course.
Finally the course represents excellent value for money. If you were to take a class with the equivalent level of tuition it would end up costing many times this... Just buy this course you won't be sorry.
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on 4 April 2005
As most people before me, I have tried it all: Books, cassettes, private one to one tuition and even chatting online in French chat rooms. Nothing has come close to what I have accomplished in this 8 hour course. His simple approach, hipnotic voice and the way he relates words to funny quips, make for a relaxed yet very comprehensible learning environment. What with moving to France very shortly, I needed something quick but informative, something that would enable me to hit the ground running when I make my move. This is it. I am now very confident with my French and am able to jump into conversation with confidence. My next purchase will definitely be his, 5 hour, advanced course. Put his CD in your player, press play, sit back and let Michel take over.
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on 2 October 2007
Having read some of the previous reviews, I think there are some reasonable criticisms. However, he does NOT tell his students not to think, he tells them from the outset not to TRY to memorise! He wants students to think through each sentence he gives them, but the effort of trying to memorise words, lists, etc. can be disharmonious to confidence and learning. I agree, since with his method, I have been surprised how easily I have recalled words when prompted, with little effort - it becomes intuitive. Another criticism is the recording quality, from a sound engineer. My son is doing media studies, and now criticises every TV program for the camera work! I expect a sound engineer to find fault with a recording, but for me, the dialogue is clear, the words are easily heard and recognised, and the mono recording is fine: I don't need stereo for this, and it means tranferring onto my Real Player on PC hard drive, or my MD walkman (or iPod) takes up less memory!

The accent problem was again, not a problem for me. I'm a linguist, and I could pick up that his accent is not pure French. BUT there are many accents across France (or Belgium or Quebec, etc.), AND very few English learners will pick up a French accent anyway, at least not in these few hours. I plan to live in France, so in time I'll discover the nuances of my local accent. For this course, it shouldn't be an issue. Though Thomas obviously has lived in France some time as he gives you proper pronunciations I never learnt at school (and I flunked French BADLY there!)

Thomas DOES give you confidence from the outset. He explains how many words are the same as in English, just with different pronunciation, then starts with simple, common words in context, no complex grammar. At the start of CD2 (yes, after one hour!), he asks you to translate a 17-word sentence into French, and if you've listened, you can do it! Voila!

Cons now: though I enjoyed the course thoroughly, my wife found his voice boring, and just couldn't get into it. C'est la vie, one man's meat... it's not for everyone.

The gaps between his prompts and the students' responses are quite long (to allow for the slow learner), meaning much of the 8 hours actually is silence. Since you should pause the CD anyway to think and respond, these gaps are too long (this is the reason I didn't give 5 stars). Something addressed in the Advanced course, where 6 hours of recording actually teach you more material, and in the 'Language Builder', it's just Thomas with no gaps at all, so 2 hours has a lot.
If you pick up as quickly as I did, you WILL find the stumblings of his subjects over simple sentences a bit frustrating - you'll want to move on.

This IS a spoken French course, and though he does spell out words for you, the simplification of grammar that aids the learning here, means that if you require to understand the complexities of grammar, or written French, you'll need to supplement this, but since it is only to get you confidently speaking French, for me it does 'exactly what it says on the cover'! This course will make you fluent as a tourist and a bit more. For more complex conversation, you'll need to follow with the advanced course (if this one works for you).
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