Learning a New Language with the Michel Thomas Method
Learning a new language is very useful, for both practical and other reasons. Apart from the obvious benefit of being able to communicate with other people who speak that language (esp. those who speak just that language), learning a new tongue is proven to have a strong impact on improving one's cognitive health, keeping dementia at bay. So, if nothing else, it is a good mental workout!
I was never particularly good at learning other languages. It's been always hard to motivate myself into keeping a consistent schedule. I don't think I'm the only one with that issue though. In our busy world, it's hard to commit to something as long term as learning a new language and eventually mastering. I'm not talking about those who are inclined on linguistic matters and who can pick up a new language by just listening to it. I'm talking about those of us who may pick up some words or phrases but will have a hard time building the confidence in the language.
Fortunately, there is this individual called Michel Thomas who's made language-learning more manageable and more accessible. This polyglot and particularly talented educator has developed a technique that breaks down a language and then reconstruct it from its basic elements, for even the most average students of linguistics. He started his career by training actors/actresses and military people, who needed to learn a language quickly as they had very limited time for this task. Now his audience includes all sorts of people and goes beyond the various language schools he's founded in the USA. I learned about him through the MP3 courses (today's equivalent of tapes!).
I learned Italian this way, though I supplemented my learning through reading books and using the dictionary for learning new vocabulary. However, the vast majority of everyday speech was from the MT classes. The biggest benefit however was the building of confidence for speaking the language and thinking in it. Now I'm learning another language using the same method, as apart from the usefulness of this whole endeavor, there is also a lot of satisfaction involved, while the method promises to teach a language in a very small amount of time, at least the basics of it.
Now, I understand that the method has its shortcomings (e.g. pleasantries are not taught until much later in the course, since more rudimentary aspects of the language are considered more important to learn first). Also, the vocabulary of the language may be lacking after finishing the course, but at least you know how to ask what something means. What's more, the course doesn't dwell much on grammar or syntax rule as it's heavy on learning through experience (the empirical approach). Some people find that difficult to get used to. Finally, the courses that Michel Thomas has put together are all audio-based, so spelling may be a bit challenging. That's why I recommend doing some writing (e.g. through a phone/tablet app) to get acquainted with that part of the language.
What's your experience with language learning? If you have used the MT method, how do you find it? Let me know in the comments below.
Note: I am not affiliated with the Michel Thomas schools in any way. I just enjoy using MT's courses as a customer and find them worth talking about in blogs like this one. Also, here is a video about him from BBC, that I came across recently.
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