Michel Thomas Spanish Language Courses

When I started learning Spanish with Michel Thomas, I wasn’t totally convinced it would work well.  What initially hit me was the fact that Michel Thomas was not a native Spanish speaker, and to my untrained ear, sounded German.  I did a little searching on Michel, and the more I read about him, the more I grew to enjoy the Spanish courses.  Before I review the Michel Thomas Spanish Language Courses, let me tell you a few facts about the man:

  • Michel Thomas taught languages for over 50 years, with a range of courses in Spanish, French, German, Italian plus others.
  • Born in Poland to a wealthy Jewish family, Michel Thomas (who was born Moniek Kroskof), Michel’s family sent him to Germany, but the rise of the Nazi’s forced him to move to France.
  • He changed his name to Michel Thomas so he could operate in the French resistance.
  • Michel spent time in Nazi concentration camps as a prisoner.
  • In 1942, Michel escaped “Les Milles” using forged papers.
  • In 1943, Michel was arrested and “interrogated” by Klaus Barbie.  He was released after convincing then he was a French Artist.
  • In 1943 he was captured by the Milice française and tortured but eventually released.
  • Michel began working for the US Army counter intelligence corps.
  • Michel was a true war hero.

OK, with Michel’s background covered, let’s review the Spanish Language course, and the Michel Thomas Language system in general.

One of the things that makes these language courses so special, is Michel’s golden rules.  I may not be remembering them exactly, but they go something like this:

  1. When you are listening to the recordings, relax.  If you feel stressed, that prevents you from learning effectively.
  2. Never try to remember.  It is the job of the teacher to make sure you remember.
  3. Don’t take notes.

The two courses I have taken are the Foundation Spanish Course & Advanced Spanish Course.

Both of the courses follow the same format.  There are two students with Michel, and you become the third student in the group.

The idea behind the Michel Thomas System is that you become proficient at the language structure, so that while you don’t learn canned phrases (like some other Spanish courses) you do gain confidence (and quickly) to build complex sentences for yourself.  The great thing about the whole course is that you simply listen and repeat.  There is no studying of books, or racking your brain trying to remember.

Michel has his own unique ways of getting you to remember the material.  For starters, while most Spanish language students will think of three types of verb (-er, -ir & -ar), Michel lumps them into just two groups.  These are the “AR track” (meaning the –ar verbs) and the “Other Track”, which refers to the –er & –ir verbs.

Michel also uses a clever naming system for a group of Spanish verbs he calls the go-go verbs.  These are the verbs that have –go as the ending e.g. tener (to have) becomes tengo (I have).  One of my favourite sections of the course is in the teaching of the imperative, where go-gos become ga-gas.  This is another clever system to get you to remember.

Michel also gets you to pronounce and stress the words correctly.  For example, those who have taken the course will be familiar with the preeeeeesent tense.  Stressing the syllable before last in the present tense.  While this often sounds unnatural in the teaching of the language, it becomes very clear later on in the courses when the stress of the syllables becomes vital in the understanding of the language.

In the Foundation course, Michel teaches you a range of tenses including the present tense, conditional, one of the past tenses, three ways you can get into the future, plus a lot more.  For anyone wanting to learn Spanish, the Foundation course is absolutely fantastic.  I personally have struggled to learn Spanish for 10 years, despite living in a Spanish speaking country, but after the Foundation course, I was speaking more than ever, and with greater confidence.  One of the things I love about the Michel Thomas system, is that he does not like to use grammatical terms.  He doesn’t talk about  the perfect tense, pluperfect, future perfect, conditional etc.  Instead, he prefers to use the English equivalent, so that you learn how to conjugate verbs so that they mean I would, I would have, I could have, I had, I will etc.  This is brilliant, because one of the ways I have struggled in the past with Spanish language learning is that I had no idea what many of the tenses are called in English, let alone a different language.

Once you have completed the Foundation course (and I suggest you listen to the later modules a few times), I highly recommend you go onto the Advanced course.  This course starts off by revising everything from the foundation course, but then goes on to complete the tenses for the entire Spanish language.  Here you’ll learn the subjunctive tense (which Michel calls the command tense), plus the simple past tense (I ate, I went, I began), what Michel calls the “dot” past and straight line / broken line past,  and a variety of other tenses not covered in the Foundation course.  These include tenses like:  I would have eaten, I could have eaten, I should have eaten, I will have eaten etc.

All of these tenses are taught in the wonderful Michel Thomas method, meaning you don’t have to try to remember anything.  Michel drives it home.  You will definitely need to listen to these recordings several times, but by the end, you will be very confident in Spanish.

The Michel Thomas Spanish Language Courses are simply the best Language learning system I have ever seen, and I have tried a lot.

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