MICHEL THOMAS SPANISH LANGUAGE BUILDER REVIEW

michel-thomas-spanish-language-builderAn independent language course review by Lisa Zealey

I tried this product with rusty GCSE Spanish and found it a great revision session. This Michel Thomas pack, the ‘Language Builder’, contains 2 CDs and a pocket-sized vocabulary book containing everything that is covered during the course. This is useful because it allows you to see how the words are spelt so you will be able to recognise them in written form when you are in the country. It is designed to follow on from the 8-hour Michel Thomas Spanish pack or can simply be used as a revision tool for someone who already has a little knowledge of Spanish.

The great thing about Michel Thomas is that he breaks down the language step-by-step to make things simple. He explains how sentences are constructed by translating them literally into English or relating the new word in Spanish to an English one. This way it makes the new vocabulary and structure easier to remember, particularly for those who are learning a language for the first time. I use the term ‘remember’ loosely because part of Michel’s technique is to make you ‘recall’ through logic rather than to ‘remember’. He tries to emphasise that there is no mystery and that anything new can be explained and broken down simply.

The great thing about Michel Thomas is that he breaks down the language step-by-step to make things simple.

As a female learner one of the main problems I found was the constant use of the masculine form when giving examples. Women trying to learn will not be so comfortable with feminine forms and would need extra practise after this course. He mentions the feminine form and reminds you that it exists but definitely not enough to realise where you are going wrong. He tends to focus on sentence structure rather than essential vocabulary and although structure is very important, you would also need to put in some of your own work on vocabulary if you were to go to Spain on holiday or to work, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to buy train tickets, meals etc. with confidence.

A difference between this and the 8-hour pack is that there are no students to listen to. While the first 8 hours is a ‘virtual classroom’ setting where you are the third student can be really helpful at first, the Language Builder CDs just contain Michel Thomas speaking which personally I think helps you to learn at a quicker rate. Hearing where the students go wrong the first time is interesting, but to hear their mistakes a second time round is quite boring and it is quicker just to let Michel do the talking.

A problem for me was that only the formal ‘you’ is used so people like myself who are trying Michel Thomas for reasons other than formal speech will not be familiar with the use of the informal address and will end up using the formal ‘you’ with close friends. I think it would be better to have both forms in order to demonstrate a concept that we don’t have in English and to cater for students who are learning for familiar speech.

Michel has a great technique and the fact that it is completely audio is great for someone who has little time to sit down and study. After a few listens it will definitely make a difference to your confidence in the language.

All is all, it is definitely a good next step if you have got basic grounding in the language and the booklet with this pack is a handy reference guide. It’s a shame there is no continuation after this because it all stops when you feel like you’re getting somewhere. Michel has a great technique and the fact that it is completely audio is great for someone who has little time to sit down and study. After a few listens it will definitely make a difference to your confidence in the language.

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