Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

I Hate Michel Thomas

 Language Learning Forum : Language Programs, Books & Tapes Post Reply
61 messages over 8 pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Next >>
Ajijic10
Diglot
Senior Member
Mexico
Joined 5182 days ago

161 posts - 210 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish

 
 Message 1 of 61
11 April 2010 at 1:42am | IP Logged 
Just out of curiosity, I downloaded the MT demo today and for the life of me, I just don't see the appeal of the program, unless your looking for something that is about 80% English with no native speakers, awful pronunciation, and a method that reminded me of my Spanish class in high-school taught by a nun who didn't speak Spanish. Actually, to be fair, the methodology isn't all that bad (if you're the sort who needs a lot of explanation in order to learn), and he does give you some grammar points in order to be able to produce sentences in the language, but god almighty, the crap you have wade through to find any pearls. The demo is a little over an hour, and I guess if you used Audacity you could get about 10-15 minutes of useful stuff by editing out the two students and most of the English. But you're still left with a teacher whose Spanish pronunciation is mediocre, to be charitable.

In it's defense, it's probably better than Rosetta Stone, and at a much more attractive price point, but hell, you can get FSI for free and at least in my mind, there's no comparison between the two. At least FSI, while mind-numbingly boring, uses native speakers, and I would suspect, covers much more material than MT, although I could be wrong about this because I've never heard the MT Advanced Course. Also, FSI doesn't make you listen to students, at least one of whom is most likely brain damaged.

Anyhow, I certainly don't mean to disparage anyone who uses or likes the course, but after all the hyping done here by a few members, I thought I would see what the fuss was about. I was underwhelmed, to say the least.







Edited by Ajijic10 on 11 April 2010 at 1:47am

9 persons have voted this message useful



datsunking1
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3852 days ago

1014 posts - 1533 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: German, Russian, Dutch, French

 
 Message 2 of 61
11 April 2010 at 3:08am | IP Logged 
Ajijic10 wrote:
Just out of curiosity, I downloaded the MT demo today and for the life of me, I just don't see the appeal of the program, unless your looking for something that is about 80% English with no native speakers, awful pronunciation, and a method that reminded me of my Spanish class in high-school taught by a nun who didn't speak Spanish. Actually, to be fair, the methodology isn't all that bad (if you're the sort who needs a lot of explanation in order to learn), and he does give you some grammar points in order to be able to produce sentences in the language, but god almighty, the crap you have wade through to find any pearls. The demo is a little over an hour, and I guess if you used Audacity you could get about 10-15 minutes of useful stuff by editing out the two students and most of the English. But you're still left with a teacher whose Spanish pronunciation is mediocre, to be charitable.

In it's defense, it's probably better than Rosetta Stone, and at a much more attractive price point, but hell, you can get FSI for free and at least in my mind, there's no comparison between the two. At least FSI, while mind-numbingly boring, uses native speakers, and I would suspect, covers much more material than MT, although I could be wrong about this because I've never heard the MT Advanced Course. Also, FSI doesn't make you listen to students, at least one of whom is most likely brain damaged.

Anyhow, I certainly don't mean to disparage anyone who uses or likes the course, but after all the hyping done here by a few members, I thought I would see what the fuss was about. I was underwhelmed, to say the least.







I love MT German, and if you're seriously located in Mexico, I wouldn't even BOTHER. Talk to natives :)
1 person has voted this message useful



chucknorrisman
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3715 days ago

321 posts - 435 votes 
Speaks: Korean*, English, Spanish
Studies: Russian, Mandarin, Lithuanian, French

 
 Message 3 of 61
11 April 2010 at 3:22am | IP Logged 
I think Michel Thomas is designed for students who are complete beginners so they could get a feel of the language and understand how its grammar works. I don't know how much the Advanced does for you, though. Since your profile says that your Spanish is at the intermediate level, you should probably get more experience by talking to natives instead; I don't think you could learn much by using the MT, you probably know most of the materials covered in it.

I agree that the pronunciation is questionable, though. I've tried a bit of the MT Polish so far, and some voiceless stops (p, t) in the tape sounded like they were pronounced with aspiration, although the IPA chart for Polish only mentions the unaspirated voiceless stops. If any Polish speakers want to confirm this please let me know.

And I think the student who is "most likely brain damaged" is there to purposely make errors in order to warn the listeners on the possible mistakes that they would easily make?

Edited by chucknorrisman on 11 April 2010 at 3:25am

1 person has voted this message useful



Ajijic10
Diglot
Senior Member
Mexico
Joined 5182 days ago

161 posts - 210 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish

 
 Message 4 of 61
11 April 2010 at 3:24am | IP Logged 
datsunking1 wrote:
I love MT German, and if you're seriously located in Mexico, I wouldn't even BOTHER. Talk to natives :)


I didn't download it to use, but after all of the recommendations I've heard I was just curious as to what all the fuss was about.

I used FSI when I first moved here, and I felt it was quite the chore getting through it, but it was a solid introduction to the language, and after I finished FSI I hired a private tutor. After a year with the tutor it was native materials and speakers all the way.
1 person has voted this message useful



Ajijic10
Diglot
Senior Member
Mexico
Joined 5182 days ago

161 posts - 210 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish

 
 Message 5 of 61
11 April 2010 at 3:30am | IP Logged 
chucknorrisman wrote:
..your profile says that your Spanish is at the intermediate level, you should probably get more experience by talking to natives instead; I don't think you could learn much by using the MT, you probably know most of the materials covered in it.


Thanks for reminding me, I had forgotten to update my profile. I would actually place myself between "Basic Fluency" and "Advanced Fluency", but the language can be very humbling so for now I'll stick to "Basic Fluency."


1 person has voted this message useful



Juаn
Senior Member
Colombia
Joined 3612 days ago

727 posts - 1830 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*

 
 Message 6 of 61
11 April 2010 at 4:01am | IP Logged 
The purpose of Michel Thomas is to teach you grammar, and it does that pretty well. You must use it as a complement to your main textbook.
2 persons have voted this message useful



Elexi
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 3832 days ago

937 posts - 1835 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: French, German, Latin

 
 Message 7 of 61
11 April 2010 at 9:38am | IP Logged 
Editing down Michel Thomas to the 'useful bits' has already been done in the review course that comes with the full package! But, to be honest, if you are talking about 'useful audio' in the sense that an Assimil lesson has useful dialogue you are missing the point about how Michel Thomas works. In my opinion MT is a great beginner's course that gives you an active sense of the structure of a language quicker than anything else - and in order to do this you have to play along with the dopey other students. However, it leaves you as a 'false beginner' in a perfect position to take advantage of something like the Assimil or the old Linguaphone partial immersion method.



Edited by Elexi on 11 April 2010 at 9:40am

1 person has voted this message useful



Cainntear
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Scotland
linguafrankly.blogsp
Joined 4278 days ago

4399 posts - 7687 votes 
Speaks: Lowland Scots, English*, French, Spanish, Scottish Gaelic
Studies: Catalan, Italian, German, Irish, Welsh

 
 Message 8 of 61
11 April 2010 at 2:17pm | IP Logged 
Ajijic10 wrote:
Just out of curiosity, I downloaded the MT demo today and for the life of me, I just don't see the appeal of the program, unless your looking for something that is about 80% English with no native speakers, awful pronunciation, and a method that reminded me of my Spanish class in high-school taught by a nun who didn't speak Spanish.

Your first mistake was downloading the Spanish course. If you want to evaluate the course itself, you're far better off going for one in a language you don't already speak.

Quote:
Actually, to be fair, the methodology isn't all that bad (if you're the sort who needs a lot of explanation in order to learn),

The notion that being confused and having to work things out for yourself helps you to remember things -- Discovery Learning -- was pushed heavily by Bruner, one of the big three names of the post-behavioural Cognitive Scientists. But I've never seen any convincing evidence that this is true.

Jan Mondria examined the value of inferring meaning of vocabulary from context (see myth 5 here) and found that it made no difference whatsoever.

Mondria's stats showed that it wasn't the nature of the initial exposure that made words stick, but the subsequent learning. This is in line with the behaviorist notion of "reinforcement" and the subsequent work on graduated interval learning by Pimsleur and others. It's also in line with the theories of Ausubel, one of Bruner's contemporaries. However, Ausubel diverged from the behaviorist view in that he didn't see meaningless (rote) practice as productive. Instead he said that learning only occurs when the material is being used meaningful. (Of course, discovery learning can add meaning, but is not necessary for it.)

Ausubel's key idea, though, was what is called the "advance organiser" -- the idea that you can coax the brain into being prepared for the concept about to be presented by comparing it to something the student already knows. Thomas employs the advance organiser to great effect. Rather than have students memorise a phrase in Spanish he teaches them all the little bits until they can produce it themselves. So it's only after asking the students how to say "I call myself" that he tells them that this is how to say "my name is". Thomas doesn't want the student to say any single thing that isn't understood, because that only produces confusion later on (when you start to see a single word as meaning different things in different contexts).

Quote:
and he does give you some grammar points in order to be able to produce sentences in the language, but god almighty, the crap you have wade through to find any pearls. The demo is a little over an hour, and I guess if you used Audacity you could get about 10-15 minutes of useful stuff by editing out the two students and most of the English.

If you did that, you'd be massively confused. Thomas covers a lot of ground in a very short time. The use of English means that there can be a massive change in the target language between prompts.

The students are a strange thing. I found that I made around 50% of the mistakes that they made, so was grateful of the corrections, but that was only 50% of my mistakes, so the others didn't get corrected, but that's the nature of the game. With a lot of audio courses, you end up feeling guilty or inferior if you don't get everything right first time -- with MT you don't.

In fact, most courses make this part of the course: "if you don't get it right, repeat the lesson".

Quote:
But you're still left with a teacher whose Spanish pronunciation is mediocre, to be charitable.

Why is that important? All MT's materials in total for a language will take less than 24 hours of your life -- the first day of your learning. You can't hope to get a native accent in a day, just like you can't get a native command of grammar and vocabulary in a day. No-one attempts to teach you native-level grammar or vocabulary from the start, yet they seem to think pronunciation is different -- it aint. Thomas picks out key phonological features that English speakers have problems with and starts the students down the right track. In Spanish he focuses on: stressed syllables; pronouncing clear vowels rather than schwa or diphthong; pronouncing R (IE not dropping them as people from certain dialects of English do); J/GE/GI.

If you go for sounding native-like from the very beginning, you can fixate on superficial elements that stop you building an internally native-like phoneme map and understanding of the sound system.

Quote:
In it's defense, it's probably better than Rosetta Stone, and at a much more attractive price point, but hell, you can get FSI for free and at least in my mind, there's no comparison between the two. At least FSI, while mind-numbingly boring,

Mind-numbingly boring is an epic fail -- the mind learns when it's active, and the numb, bored mind is anything but active.
Quote:
uses native speakers,

Native speakers does not mean native audio. I've recorded for a language book before, and I was not allowed to speak in a native accent. In particular, I wasn't allowed to use schwa vowels which are a very important part of the sound-system of native English. I've heard "native" Spanish recordings for learners that make a distinction between between B and V, because that's what the speaker thinks is right (Google "Observer's Paradox").

Native means nothing.
Quote:
and I would suspect, covers much more material than MT, although I could be wrong about this because I've never heard the MT Advanced Course.

It probably covers more vocabulary, but it would be hard-pressed to cover more grammar, and there's no way it can do it so quickly.
Quote:
Anyhow, I certainly don't mean to disparage anyone who uses or likes the course,
Well I don't know about anyone else, but I took the phrase "if you're the sort who needs a lot of explanation in order to learn" as being more than a little disparaging, so I find it a bit disingenuous for you to say otherwise now.
Quote:
but after all the hyping done here by a few members, I thought I would see what the fuss was about. I was underwhelmed, to say the least.

Fine.

But tell me this: after your first hour of learning Spanish (or any other language), how much could you say? I think in French I had the numbers from one to ten, what is your name?, and my name is.... Now listen to the last five or so minutes of the MT sample. That's what I could say after my first hour of learning Spanish.

After 4 or 5 hours, I was able to tell my sister "no lo haga" when she was pretending to kick me in the face in a tube station, spontaneously, without planning.

And there's the real beauty in Thomas's stuff: it's not place, activity or whatever-specific, it's just general language you can use whenever, wherever for whatever.

It has low "lexical density", which means that there's lots of words that don't have their own context-independent meaning (it, that, do, there, tomorrow), whereas most courses are full of tables, chairs, cats, running, climbing etc. Not only is low lexical density a feature of natural speech, it's even thought to be a requirement of natural speech -- the little words that come naturally give us time to look for the more specific but less common words. With Thomas, you get left without a large vocabulary, but starting off with low lexical density makes the process much easier in the long run.

Edited by Cainntear on 11 April 2010 at 2:27pm



21 persons have voted this message useful



This discussion contains 61 messages over 8 pages: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  Next >>


Post ReplyPost New Topic Printable version Printable version

You cannot post new topics in this forum - You cannot reply to topics in this forum - You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum - You cannot create polls in this forum - You cannot vote in polls in this forum


This page was generated in 0.3750 seconds.


DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2020 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.