Michel Thomas Method

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The Michel Thomas Method is an original method developed by Michel Thomas for teaching languages. Thomas stated that his students would be conversationally proficient after a few days' study.[1]

Thomas was hired by Raquel Welch, Barbra Streisand, Emma Thompson, Woody Allen and by Grace Kelly when she had to learn French rapidly after becoming engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Towards the end of his life he recorded audio versions of his courses that were especially popular in Britain.[2] The method first came to prominence in Britain, following a BBC television science documentary The Language Master, in which he taught French to sixth form students for five days at a further education college in London in 1997.[3]

[edit] Method

With Thomas's method, the teacher cautions students to avoid making notes and to refrain from making conscious attempts to memorise, promising that the teacher will "be taking full responsibility" for their learning. Thomas stated that keeping the students relaxed, focused and stretched with a feeling of mounting successful achievement, is at the heart of the method. The removal of the stress and anxiety 'of being put on the spot' of conventional language learning, especially school language learning is a key goal of the method.

Interviewed for the documentary The Language Master, Margaret Thompson, the headmistress of the school in which the documentary was filmed, commented that in general teachers "try and ... capture their (students) interest by finding them interesting materials that are supposedly related to their interests" but that what Thomas had demonstrated to her was that "it's the learning process itself that motivates these kids", not the material used.

The teacher then introduces short words and phrases in the target language. The students are asked 'How would you say?' an English phrase into the target language, starting with trivially simple sentences and gradually building up to more advanced constructions. The phrases are chosen as common building blocks of the expression of thoughts. When a student gives a correct answer, the teacher repeats the whole sentence with correct pronunciation. When the student's answer is wrong, the teacher assists the student to understand their mistake and to correct it. The most important words and phrases are reviewed repeatedly during the course, and Solity[clarification needed] notes that Thomas does not insist on perfect pronunciation from the beginning, instead providing progressive feedback and continual improvement by the process of shaping student response over the course of these repetitions.

Within the original four courses taught by Thomas himself (Spanish, French, Italian and German), the teaching focuses on verb conjugations and modal verb constructions such as "I want to go": the vocabulary used in the course is fairly small, focussing mainly on function words in preference to lexical words. Grammar rules are introduced gradually, and grammatical terminology is generally avoided. In this way the students are, at an early stage, able to translate a sentence as complex as "I want to know why you don't have it for me now, because it is very important for me and I need it".

Michel Thomas often links cognates in the target language with their equivalents in the student's home language, and in his courses in the Romance languages, many of the Latinate borrowings in English are highlighted to allow the student to incorporate their existing vocabulary into the target language.

This approach was adapted to tape and CD by recording live sessions with two students, (one male and one female), "by becoming the third student in the group". The listener then attempts to say the phrase on the recording, pausing the recording to take the time to think out how to say the phrase in the target language, and rewinding if necessary to correct themselves. The recorded method became U.S. Patent 6,565,358 in 2003.

Harold Goodman, DO, studied with him 1995 until shortly before the death of Mr. Thomas in January, 2005. He was the only person to have been taught the methodology used by Michel Thomas. Following the death of Mr. Thomas, Hodder and Stoughton used his method to create courses in languages other than those for which Mr. Thomas left recordings. Dr. Goodman was the author of the first of these, Mandarin. Subsequently, other courses have been issued by authors who did not work directly with Michel Thomas but claim to follow his approach. McGraw-Hill has published all of these courses in North America.

[edit] References

[edit] Book citation

  • Dr Jonathan Solity (2008), Michel Thomas: The Learning Revolution, London: Hodder Arnold, ISBN 978-0340928332 
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