MICHEL THOMAS ITALIAN LANGUAGE BUILDER REVIEW

michel-thomas-italian-language-builderAn independent language course review by Andrea Martins

BUONGIORNO!!

Having learnt Italian to GCSE level a few years ago, I felt that although I wasn’t exactly a beginner anymore I needed to revise what I had learnt and practice speaking it again. Using the Michel Thomas Italian Language Builder pack would ‘refresh rusty Italian’ and ‘quickly boost your confidence to speak everyday Italian’. This sounded just what I needed!

The pack comprises of two CDs and is a two-hour Language Builder course that caters for those who have either done the Michel Thomas 8-hour course or for those who have never done one of his courses but want to revise what they have learnt. I had already been exposed to Michel Thomas’ method of teaching via the Introductory French course and so felt comfortable using his same method to build on my Italian.

I had already been exposed to Michel Thomas’ method of teaching via the Introductory French course and so felt comfortable using his same method to build on my Italian.

The pack also comes with an accompanying booklet and nothing else. That’s to say that you are not meant to study anything or write anything down or memorise anything. Michel teaches the Language Builder course just by helping you to create your own sentences and phrases and build up vocabulary like building blocks. As opposed to the Michel Thomas French beginners course, Michel is the only person to be heard on the recording. There are no students learning with him this time, so you don’t feel that you are part of a study course.

Instead, we can listen to him creating sentences and phrases and building on them to create new sentences. We can also follow the booklet at the same time, but you don’t need to do this if you are on the go. We are encouraged to pause the CD after each new phrase so that we either repeat what Michel has said or anticipate what he is going to say. This is how you learn.

I found this way of learning much more intensive than when I studied the Michel Thomas French Beginners course. It is not as entertaining as the beginners’ pack and far more challenging. As I was using the pack on the train, in the car or lying on the sofa at home, I had to go back to certain places on the recording and without specific points on the CD to go back to, it was difficult to find my place again. We are supposed to make a note of the time on the CD player but this is difficult if you are not able to do this! I found that I had to repeat several areas … which is no bad thing I suppose!

The Michel Thomas Italian Language Builder begins with some easy words and phrases and then jumps suddenly using idioms that I don’t remember having learnt at GCSE level. Verb endings and gender terms are quickly introduced and then revised over and over but in different ways throughout the course. The past, present, and future tenses are all reviewed as well as the conditional (I would like to), gerund (-ing) and adjectives. These grammatical terms are not explained in great detail but are highlighted in shaded boxes in the booklet to signify that you need to learn these well before moving onto the next item.

What I found useful is the way that Michel associates many Italian words with English words. You feel that you know a lot more Italian than you thought you did. It’s very self-motivating and boosts your confidence!

Again, what I found useful (and I found this also in the beginners French course) is the way that Michel associates many Italian words with English words. Throughout the whole course, he uses sound or cultural recognitions to help us remember certain endings or words and some of these are highlighted in the booklet. For example, ‘comic’ in English is ‘comico’ in Italian; ‘capable of’ is ‘capace’ and so on. By highlighting these comparisons between the languages you feel that you know a lot more Italian than you thought you did. It’s very self-motivating and boosts your confidence!

There is the usual GSCE and introductory level content here: learning how to ask for things, how to talk about yourself, how to complain about things, how to ask for directions etc. But there is a lot more everyday conversational content on this course too. I found myself saying things like, ‘I had much to do’ (…avevo molto da fare), ‘I don’t have the time to do it’ (non ho il tempo di farlo), ‘I can’t bear the heat’ (non posso sopportare il caldo), and my favourite ‘Although, I’m sure that I will have many difficulties’ (comunque sono sicuro che avrò molti problemi)!

I feel a lot more confident in what I know of the Italian language and felt that I could really get stuck into a conversation with a fiery Italian!! Si diverta!

There is a lot more grammar and more difficult phrases, but not enough to be confusing. Certain phrases are repeated in different ways helping us to build on what we have already learnt. That is the point to Michel’s method of teaching; that the learner works out and creates their own sentences to build a whole conversation by themselves. This is a practical and functional way of learning spoken Italian. By using the booklet as well you can improve your spelling, reading and writing too. I feel a lot more confident in what I know of the Italian language and felt that I could really get stuck into a conversation with a fiery Italian!! Si diverta!

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