Michel Thomas has developed a method of teaching and learning foreign languages that is different from other traditional ways.
He has thought through his system from the learner’s perspective.
The Michel Thomas Method includes the following principles:
Eliminate anxiety and tension.
Only then is a person completely receptive to learning.
The learner must be relaxed (in comfortable chairs, not student desks).
No one questioned directly.
No one allowed to raise a hand to volunteer.
No one urged to try harder.
No one urged to respond faster.
Slow down at the first sign of tension or nerves.
Results in reduction of anxiety and tension.
Removes ‘the terrible burden of expectation.’
(‘We are conditioned to associate learning with tension, effort, concentration, study.’)
LEARNING SHOULD BE FUN
Informal exercises that seem effortless are in reality carefully planned.
Pace seems relaxed and unhurried, but the speed of learning is dramatic.
Do not try to remember what you are learning.
Don’t worry about remembering.
Do not guess.
No grammar textbook.
No making notes.
No written work.
TEACHER IS RESPONSIBLE
Learners do not want to expose what they think are their own inadequacies.
The teacher is responsible for learning progress, not the learner.
The student is never wrong.
No apologizing for making a mistake.
Teacher accepts blame for all student mistakes.
Eliminating student mistakes is the teacher’s problem.
Never acts disappointed in a student’s performance.
Never frowns, Never scolds.
FOREIGN WORDS SIMILAR TO ENGLISH
Uses many foreign cognates similar to English words that students already know.
“Much English is French badly pronounced” -- Michel Thomas
“In fact you know a good deal of French already, much more than you realise.”
Beginners already possess a French vocabulary of 3,000 words from English.
People become most excited when they can absorb and progress quickly and easily.
Cognates Give Confidence
The following about a Michel Thomas foreign language course is adapted from ‘Easy, Tiger’, a humorous article by David Sedaris from the New Yorker magazine of July 11, 2011:
I’ve add a second audio program, one by a man named Michel Thomas.
At the start, he explains that English and German are closely related and thus have a lot in common.
In one language, the verb is “to come”, and in the other it’s “kommen”.
English “to give” is German “geben”.
Boston’s “That is good” is Berlin’s “Das ist gut”.
It’s an excellent way to start, and leaves the listener thinking,
‘Hey, Ich kann do dis.’
“Give me a weekend and I’ll give you a language.” -- Michel Thomas
“Have you ever met anyone, however stupid, who cannot speak their own language? Everyone is ‘gifted’. Anyone who can speak his native tongue has already proved his gift for language and can learn another.” -- Michel Thomas
Teach students of any ability a foreign language in days.
“My idea in essence has been to create excitement. To succeed with youngsters where others have failed.” -- Michel Thomas
Guarantees to have everyone speaking a foreign language in five days.
Learn a year’s worth of foreign language in ten days.
“You follow these threads he creates with you as he slowly weaves it into your brain. He knits the structure of language into your head. It’s magical” -- Emma Thompson
Within two hours Michel helps students through such complex sentences as:
‘If I had known you were coming to town this evening I would have made reservations for us at a restaurant, and would have tried to get tickets for the theater.’
‘I am very glad you are going to come and have dinner with us at the house tonight because I would like to speak to you and I would like to know when you are going to be here because I’m going to cook.’
“In three days students are now guaranteed a comprehensive knowledge of a western language’s grammar, together with a functional vocabulary, enabling them to write, read and converse in all tenses -- without the need to memorise by rote, take notes or complete homework.”
“Some had previously studied the language but felt they did not really know it, and they were brought to what they described as a state of fluency.” -- Wesley Posvar
Language block is not confined to the poorly educated but is found in every class of society at every level of intelligence.
The French film director François Truffaut considered himself an extreme case and despaired of learning English, but said this about Michel Thomas: “He told me that he would make it his job to teach me and that I wouldn’t leave without being able to write, read, speak and even understand.” -- François Truffaut
Michel Thomas began teaching foreign languages in 1947 in Beverley Hills California.
Over ten thousand students have passed through his schools (as of 1999).
Woody Allen described learning with Michel as “effortless...a psychological breakthrough.”
Movie stars taught by Michel Thomas include: Warren Beatty, Candice Bergen,Tony Curtis, Bob Dylan, Princess Grace of Monaco, Melanie Griffith, Yves Montand, Dianna Ross, Peter Sellers, Barbara Streisand, Raquel Welch, Natalie Wood.
The information above was adapted from the biography of Michel Thomas titled ‘The Test of Courage” by Christopher Robbins, pages 281-349 (also published more recently under the title 'Courage Beyond Words').
Link to purchase the Biography of Michel Thomas, which includes two chapters on his method of teaching foreign languages, as well as his exploits during WW2 as a member of the French Resistance.
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