Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

Which languages did Michel Thomas speak?

  Tags: Michel Thomas
 Language Learning Forum : Language Programs, Books & Tapes Post Reply
United Kingdom
Joined 4841 days ago

50 posts - 64 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Esperanto, Welsh
Studies: Polish, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Scottish Gaelic, French

 Message 1 of 7
10 February 2012 at 7:35am | IP Logged 
I'm curious if anyone knows which languages Michel Thomas spoke and taught? I tried
looking it up online but all the info I got was a bit vague, saying he spoke 12
languages, but not saying which particular languages.

We know he spoke English, German, French, Spanish and Italian (as those are the ones he
made courses for), and since he was born in Poland, I think we can safely say he spoke
Polish. And it's been mentioned he spoke Yiddish too.

So that's 7 languages? What were the other 5?

Do you think we'd have gotten a Michel Thomas Yiddish and a Michel Thomas Polish (with
him teaching and not some other teacher) had he lived longer?

I've often wondered, did he teach English to French/German/Italian/Spanish/Polish
people? I reckon there would've been a market for a 'Michel Thomas English' in other
countries too. Come to think of it, there is a good business idea for anyone who would
have the time and energy to do that.

Also, I've only ever seen/heard Michel speaking in English. But does anyone know of any
audios or videos of him speaking fully in any other languages, like doing a TV
interview in French or German, for example? It seems weird that he spoke all those
languages, but there is nothing of him actually speaking them. Obviously he COULD speak
them very well, otherwise he wouldn't have been able to teach them, but I was curious.

Edited by Neil_UK on 10 February 2012 at 7:36am

1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United States
Joined 4994 days ago

574 posts - 1707 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean

 Message 2 of 7
10 February 2012 at 8:41pm | IP Logged 
I'm sure this might be a controversial statement, but judging by his accents in the Spanish and Italian courses, I'm not even sure it could really be said that he "spoke" those languages in a fluent sense. He certainly understood their fundamental grammatical structures, but the fluidity with which he spoke them is undocumented, as—as you pointed out—there is no real video footage of him speaking any of them. I suppose the same may be true of his German, though to my untrained ears (I understand German far less well than I do Spanish and Italian), he still sounds more natural in that language, despite his accent.

I suppose it's natural that he must have had good command of his presumably native tongue, Polish, though I'd be more suspect at the claim that he spoke Yiddish. Even though he was a Polish Jew, there's no way of telling how much he would have actually had to use the language, especially given all the traveling he did.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 4899 days ago

1256 posts - 2363 votes 
Speaks: German*, English

 Message 3 of 7
10 February 2012 at 9:49pm | IP Logged 
According to the Washington Post article, Thomas spoke only 11 languages.
He spoke 11 languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Yiddish, and promoted a controversial method of teaching.

AFAIK, only the French Wikipedia claims that he spoke 12 languages.

The languages that most sources seem to agree upon are:

1. French
2. Italian
3. German
4. Spanish
5. English
6. Yiddish
7. Polish

Since he was sent for education to then German Breslau it's safe to assume that he also learned at least the basics of:

8. Latin
9. Classical Greek

And since he spoke Yiddish, it's very likely that he knew at least some:

10. Classical Hebrew

This leaves 1 more language. My guess would be Portuguese because of it's similarity to Spanish.

1 person has voted this message useful

Random review
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 5362 days ago

781 posts - 1310 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Portuguese, Mandarin, Yiddish, German

 Message 4 of 7
10 February 2012 at 11:29pm | IP Logged 
Only 11?


@Nway: Well his English accent was thick yet he was fluent (and I never noticed any
errors) and easy to understand, he clearly spoke good English with a thick accent. I
imagine the same is true for Spanish and Italian. Harold Goodman has stated that he
witnessed Thomas using languages, but I don't know which ones.

Edited by Random review on 10 February 2012 at 11:34pm

1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 4997 days ago

439 posts - 800 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Norwegian

 Message 5 of 7
11 February 2012 at 2:35am | IP Logged 
Not sure we'll ever get a clear answer to what languages he could actually properly communicate with.

I have his biography "The Test of Courage" which is a wonderful read with many interesting tales but there is certainly some skepticism regarding Thomas' involvement in some events and that he exaggerates certain details which might be the case.

I'll see if I can find any proper references to the various languages he had knowledge of. One thing I did find though is that at the age of six when he moved to Breslau in Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) he decided to not speak Polish anymore. To quote him from his biography:

"As quickly as I learned German, so I erased Polish. It was total rejection."

Not sure if he went back on his rejection of Polish in later years though. He moved to Germany to get away from the anti-semitism in Poland as, at the time, Germany had far less anti-semitism and he was able to feel welcome and treated like everyone else. Apparently he learned to speak German like a native which is likely enough if he moved there at such an age. His accent in German doesn't sound quite native to me though, but perhaps the accent he acquired in German was very particular to the region of what was then Breslau and is thus unfamiliar to most of us.

Although he was apparently fluent in French, he did make errors. I remember in his French courses he taught the word "possiblement" for "possibly" which isn't really used. When I used it in a speaking assessment with my French teacher she said you don't say that in French. Also Thomas teaches "On est très confortable ici" to mean that you are feeling comfortable here, but as far as I am aware, confortable cannot be applied to a person, though perhaps there is an exception for that phrase as it is a way of saying that a place is comfortable. Any info from a native would be appreciated on this one.

I'll keep looking through his biography for further info on what languages he knew.

2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4257 days ago

602 posts - 1042 votes 
Speaks: French*, EnglishC2, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, German

 Message 6 of 7
19 February 2012 at 1:37pm | IP Logged 
To jazzboy.bebop: "on est très confortable ici" surely isn't proper French, though of course you can understand what he meant. "possiblement" exists, but is rarely used.

To echo what nway said of his Italian and Spanish, I can also say that his accent is terrible in French, and it's a real disappointment. I'm very glad the Polish course was made by a person with a decent accent (i.e. sounding like my Polish friends, at least), because I was able to learn the first 8 cds. At the time I discovered it, I was really enthusiastic about it, but after listening to the French course, I was really disappointed that I could not reasonably recommend any of my friends who want to learn French to use Michel Thomas... his accent is just ridiculously bad (for someone who claim to teach a language).
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United States
Joined 5812 days ago

280 posts - 408 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Russian

 Message 7 of 7
19 February 2012 at 11:00pm | IP Logged 
He was born in Lodz, at the time it was Congress Poland, part of the Russian Empire. I wonder if he know some Russian as a child?

1 person has voted this message useful

If you wish to post a reply to this topic you must first login. If you are not already registered you must first register

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 0.3125 seconds.

DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2023 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.