Michel Thomas Review: The Best Audio Course for Language Learning?

Michel Thomas Review: The Michel Thomas Method is an audio course that takes a student from knowing nothing in a foreign language, to speaking quite advanced sentences quickly.

In this review I dive deeper into Michel Thomas and give my evaluation of the method for learning foreign languages.

michel thomas review
The one and only Michel Thomas who designed the method.

Michel Thomas Language Courses

The concept of the MT courses is that you learn a language together with two students.

The teacher builds up your vocabulary so you can speak long sentences quite early in the process which gives you the feeling of victory and motivates you to keep going.

It's not endless repetition and memory exercises, in fact one of Michel's KEY points was: “Don't try and remember.”

He believed that the active decision to think somehow impeded our learning ability.

I'm not so sure how true the science aspect of this is, but think about it, when you learned your first language growing up, did you ever try to remember?

No, probably not.

Compare this to your foreign language studies in school where you did try to remember. For me personally that always ensured that I forgot most of what the teacher was trying to tell me.

Generally the teacher will introduce the necessary words based on cognates (words that are the same across languages) and then ask the students to formulate sentences, only introducing grammar when it is absolutely necessary.

This means that the language training is almost like a game show, and the questions rarely progress outside of your comfort zone.

The effect of this is that you constantly gain momentum and sometimes you impress yourself with the complexity of the sentences you are actually speaking.

The teacher also repeats the sentences so the last you hear is always the correct sentence, and not a sentence from one of the students.

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Listen to a 1-minute Sample of Michel Thomas Russian

Not a complete A-Z method

There's an unfortunate trend in the language learning space, and that is that language courses like Michel Thomas are advertised as this one-stop way to quick fluency while you sleep, almost.

To my knowledge no such course exists or will ever exist. Learning a language requires a consistent efforts in many different mediums to become fluent and beyond.

The beauty of courses like Michel Thomas in my personal opinion is that they provide a good way to get introduced to the language and the sentence construction of that language. It's a good partner with vocabulary training and speaking to a native speaker.

What I'm trying to say, is that you should not expect to go from nothing to mastery with it alone. Having the right expectations will mean the difference between getting frustrated and not.

What I like

  • Builds up to speaking sentences in the target language very quickly from scratch
  • Constantly getting challenged by the teacher “How do you say X?”
  • Natural spaced repetition
  • Great introduction to a new language
  • Affordable, or free at the local library.

What I don't like

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a fan of the method and so I struggle to spot any huge problems with the course.

One potential flaw I could see is that the students in the recording often make mistakes, so there is a slight risk you might pick up a bad habit.

Though it has to be said that the teacher is always the last one saying the sentence, so in an ideal world you'd only remember the last way.

The other negative aspect I can think of is something that all audio courses suffer from and that's what I mentioned previously, you don't learn a language exclusively through these courses.

You can get a lot of impressions, vocabulary and practical usage – but if you read about any audio course that claims to take you to fluency in a language then they are lying.

Michel Thomas encourages small wins, and lots of them so there are never any time where you don't know the answer, it just comes to you naturally without remembering.

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Michel Thomas Levels

Michel Thomas has the following hierarchy:

Start > Total > Perfect > Masterclass

Starter is just a sample of the first few lessons of Total, designed to awaken your appetite. To really use a Michel Thomas programme correctly you should start with Total, move on to Perfect and then finish with Masterclass, if it is available for your target language.

Michel Thomas vs Pimsleur

Pimsleur is one of the bigger competitors to Michel Thomas, so I thought I'd compare the two.

The biggest difference for me between Michel Thomas and Pimsleur is that MT feels much more natural. You start out by learning words and sentences in context and you build up quite long sentences very early.

This is because MT focuses on loanwords and other ‘hacks' to make the student better utilise the knowledge he or she already knows.

Pimsleur on the other hand feels like I'm listening to an audio-phrasebook. Even the sentences are quite tailored towards going on holiday in the country. With that being said both methods are quite solid and I would suggest you try them both out to find your favourite.

If you do the math for Total+Perfect Michel Thomas and compare it to Pimsleur Comprehensive 1 and 2 you will realise that Pimsleur is about twice the cost of Michel Thomas, with the two parts coming in at over $500, with MT not even breaking $300 for the pair.

Conclusion of my Michel Thomas Review

To me personally, Michel Thomas is a very good resource for adding to your language learning tools. It's not as expensive as Pimsleur or Rosetta stone and the value you get out of it is quite high.

Suddenly learning a new language is fun and exciting and you constantly feel a sense of achievement as you dish out longer and longer sentences in your new target language.

Michel Thomas is available in retailers all around the world, the best and cheapest option being Amazon.

Find Michel Thomas on Amazon