His method has been used by stars such as Bob Dylan, Mel Gibson and Woody Allen
Korean is the latest addition to the Michel Thomas methods
The method focuses on conversation and mastering structure through lots of repetition and exposure
What Is The Michel Thomas Method?
So what sets the Michel Thomas method apart from other methods? Well, quite a few things actually.
Michel Thomas believed that learning a language should be like riding a train. Meaning, that the responsibility and the pressure should be on the teacher. The student's role is to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride to basic conversational fluency.
The approach is a conversational one, so you don't learn any grammar rules. You speak from the very start in complete sentences.
You're exposed to the grammar and learn it naturally. You learn phrase by phrase, rather that grammar point by grammar point.
You're not allowed to write anything down! Nor are you allowed to do any homework after class! The idea is to enjoy the learning process as much as possible.
What's It Like For A Student On A Michel Thomas Course?
After the first day, we had learned a good 50 words. Despite the intensity, it was a lot of fun.
One thing I especially liked was the speed at which you master the grammar on the course. On a normal Korean course, I imagine it would take a year to learn and use the tenses we worked on.
But this focus on grammar and structure comes at a cost because there's not so much time to focus on learning vocabulary
Participating in the recording of the course was a bit stressful as the microphone is on all the time.
On day 2 we noticed that we kept going through highs and lows of “I've got it!” to forgetting things shortly after!
I felt physically tired by the end of day 4, but mentally I was in good shape. A good night's sleep seems to be enough to help consolidate the language and prepare me for the next day!
Cerys confirmed that “it has genuinely been one of the best things I have ever done”.
After 4 days I felt like my next step would be to expand my vocabulary and practice of course!
By the end, Cerys was determined to keep going by watching K-dramas, listening to K-pop and even hitting the textbooks or taking a more traditional course.
I was also motivated to keep going…with a view to participating in a possible future intermediate course. Watch this space.
What's It Like For A Teacher On A Michel Thomas Course?
There are 2 teachers on the course, Derek Driggs a linguistics student at Oxford University and Dr Jieun Kiaer who designed it together. Derek leads the course in the recording while Jieun is the native speaker voice.
As you'll see, they have to be very responsive and reactive to the real-time learning that takes place in this context.
They focused on collecting useful and relevant phrases, rather than grammar points, to help us advance phrase by phrase, not grammar point by grammar point.
Derek and Jieun went through different drafts before the final recording took place.
They tested the course initially with a few students over a number of hours to see how they got on and then used their feedback to make improvements
Once they went through the full course and got some success for their students, they knew they were getting close to the finished product
The teachers were actually amazed by our progress over the four days as well as our patience and motivation to learn – isn't that nice! Jieun Kiaer confirmed that it would take two terms of class time to learn what we've learned over 4 days.
The Tech Side Of Recording The Course
Let's not forget the behind the scenes/tech-side of putting together a course like this. In the recording studio with us were editor, Helen Gilhooly; recording engineer, Rowan Laxton and Teach Yourself Publishing Director, Sarah Cole. Rowan even worked with Michel Thomas back in the day when he was first getting started.
Editing is a big part of putting together a Michel Thomas course. Helen has to go back through all the material to make cuts, such as removing mistakes that aren't useful for learners.
The guiding principle for the edits is: is this going to be useful for the learner?
Helen doesn't just wait for the finished product. She collaborates with students and teachers during the recording to create the course.
16 hours of recording is average for a 4-day course like this. The final, edited version will be 10 hours long. But it's a real challenge to make the cuts.
For every hour worked, Helen produces around 5 minutes of finished audio. That means it takes 150 to 180 hours to create one ten hour course!
The Michel Thomas Korean Course
Well, that was quite an experience.
I hope you've enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how a Michel Thomas course is put together, from initial idea and trial runs, to the recording session, to the editing afterwards.
Many thanks to everyone who took part in the filming of this documentary.
Derek Driggs – Course Tutor
Dr. Jieun Kiaer – Associate Professor in Korean Language and Linguistics, Oxford University