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What’s this? A product in our Top Ten that consists of nothing more than an audio course costing less than $50? Something must be afoot here? Yes, the Michel Thomas Method is simply an audio course, but with a secret ingredient; Michel Thomas himself. If you haven’t already heard of him, this man revolutionized the 'teach yourself' world with his very simple mantra; "if we put our minds to it, we could all be multilingual". Before Michel Thomas, foreign languages were the preserve of diplomats and ‘international types’, yet through the simple medium of audio CDs, Michel Thomas’ advanced and unique teaching methods are available to us all for a very reasonable price. Michel Thomas enjoyed a long and prestigious career in language teaching but perhaps what he was most famous for was his three day, $30,000 intensive courses that he taught to diplomats, business leaders and celebrities such as Woody Allen and Grace Kelly. The principal stages of this course have been made into this Audio Course which is (luckily!) available to you for the much more reasonable price of $48.32 for the beginners set. We like to imagine Woody Allen kicking himself that he didn’t just wait for this to come out!
Michel Thomas applies his technique to the teaching of many different languages. However, unlike other ‘one size fits all’ products in this category, his teaching techniques are specifically tailored to that particular language. When it comes to learning German, English being a Germanic language, Michel recognizes that many of the words are very similar and it is the grammar that differs. With this is mind, you are taught some minimal vocabulary, how to ‘guess’ what a word may be in German (which is surprisingly effective) and the rest you pick up from your grammar lessons. As most German learners have difficulty with the grammar, this is where Michel Thomas focuses. He claims that ‘If you can handle verbs, you can handle the language’ and proceeds to break down long complex sentences into simple components in order that you understand the logic of the language and are then able to reconstruct your nouns, verbs and etc. into sentences that express increasingly complex meanings. With this technique, a language that originally looked like the enigma code actually begins to make sense and becomes a lot less daunting.
Michel Thomas lived an exceptional life in which he learned many different languages. Throughout the course you get the feeling that he understands what it is like to learn a new language and applies this excellently to his teaching methods. Furthermore, users of this specific Michel Thomas course enjoy the additional advantage of German being Michel’s mother tongue. At points we actually felt as though we were taking part in one of Michel's $30,000 courses and in fact, we pretty much were; The CD set is a real recording of the full course given to two lucky winners of a competition set up exactly for the purpose of making Michel’s $30,000 course available to us all. At times we did find this ‘class room’ set-up a bit frustrating and found ourselves at some points even shouting the correct answers at our inept virtual classmates! However, it must be kept in mind that this is an effective and proven teaching method.
Now hold on, those of you who have just read ‘class room set up’ and are about to look elsewhere just stay with us for a few minutes please. As opposed to most of our language learning experiences at school, the Michel Thomas Method does not require note taking, homework, revision or tests. All you need to do is sit back, listen and repeat on cue. In fact, users are asked not to do any of the above as this may distract you from relaxing and taking in the language; a key aspect of the Michel Thomas technique. On the back of his vast language teaching experience and expertise, Michel Thomas takes responsibility for your learning. This not only takes the pressure off you but also makes the lessons extremely portable as simply listening and repeating (once you get over the slightly worried looks from strangers on the train) can be done anywhere. Play the CDs in your car for the daily commute, in the kitchen while cooking or easily load them onto your mp3 player to take with you while jogging. In this way, your German learning need not even interrupt your busy schedule. Overall, it is Michel Thomas' unique research and experience led methodology that make this product stand out from the competition and is and is why we believe it fully deserves a Top Ten spot in this category.
Although reading and writing practice are almost impossible using the Michel Thomas method, we were able to give it a go, due to Michel’s focus on grammar and ‘understanding’ the language. However, we did encounter problems when trying to use German accents and it became clear that we would need to look to different sources to fully master this aspect of the language. Although this is a great product, do not expect miracles; even the advanced course will not take you to fluency and those looking to perfect their accent should consider a product with speech analysis technology. This said, the Michel Thomas Method is arguably the easiest and most effective way to learn German. The teaching style itself simply cannot be emulated and although the class room style may not be for everyone, you can always check it out with the free trial available on the UK website.
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