No books – no writing – no memorizing – just learning to speak French
Michel Thomas created his language courses after teaching for decades. He is well known for his success with teaching Hollywood stars, politicians and business leaders (see below).
The Michel Thomas Method works by breaking a language down into its component parts, enabling you to reconstruct a language for yourself – to form your own sentences, to say what you want, when you want. Learning is applied in small steps, with the aim that you build up the words and phrases yourself enabling you to produce ever more complicated sentences. Michel Thomas believed that the Method he practiced is ‘in tune’ with the way your brain works, so you assimilate it easily and don’t forget it. It’s very much a system aimed at you working at your own pace and does not include learning written French – it is all about speaking and understanding French.
Lots of people say that they found this course good for practicing in the car whilst driving or playing in the background which they did other things. This won’t be the case for everyone though, I found that I needed peace and quiet and to concentrate or I didn’t take it in so well. As there are no books to read you can give the listening side your full attention and he has a voice that is really easy to listen to and doesn’t irritate like some teachers on CD.
If you don’t need to be able to write or read French, this is a hugely popular method of learning to speak and understand French.
A bit about the teacher Michel Thomas
Michel Thomas was born Moniek Kroskof, the only son of a Jewish family who owned a textile factory in Poland in 1914. As a young boy, Michel was sent to live in Germany to escape the anti-Semitism directed at his family. Living in Vienna in 1938, when the Nazis annexed Austria, Michel was rendered stateless as a Jew.
He fled the country for France, and when the Germans invaded he joined the French Resistance. He spent two brutal years in French concentration and slave labour camps, narrowly avoiding being sent to Auschwitz. He escaped, surviving capture, interrogation by Klaus Barbie and torture by the Gestapo.
His mastery of languages enabled him to adopt many identities – he could fluently speak 10 languages. At the end of the war, he masterminded operations to uncover war criminals and infiltrate underground Nazi groups and in 1944, Michel was nominated for the Silver Star medal for his service to the US Army’s 45th Infantry Division in France, the award was finally presented to him in May 2004.
During Michel’s wartime experiences, particularly his torture by the Gestapo, he discovered an ability to block out pain using the power of his mind. The only way he survived his wartime experiences, particularly his capture by the Gestapo, was by concentrating and placing his mind beyond the physical. He said, “I concentrated so hard, that I stopped feeling pain. I was amazed at myself.”
Fascinated by this experience, he was determined that after the war, he would devote himself to exploring this further and dedicated his life to education. “I contemplated the untapped reserves of the human mind. The great hidden depths of the brain. I learned from it”.
In 1947, he moved to Los Angeles and set up the Michel Thomas Language Centers and taught languages for over fifty years in New York, Beverly Hills and London. His pupils included Sophia Loren, Mel Gibson, Woody Allen, Emma Thompson, Barbara Streisand and many more high profile names.
Michel Thomas died in 2005 but remains to his students a great language teacher and an inspiration and mentor to learners everywhere.