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Michel Thomas FrenchTitle: Michel Thomas Method French For Beginners, 10-CD Program (Audio CD)
Author: Michel Thomas
Copyright: © 2008
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
ISBN-10: 0-07-160082-5

Relevance: The Michel Thomas Speak French for Beginners CD set is an easy and painless way to learn another language, in this case French. The series is perfect for busy reporters who find it difficult to sit down in formal classes to learn conversational French due to time, distance or career limitations.

Keywords/phrases: French language instruction

Review: We are big fans of the Michel Thomas method of language instruction and only wish it could be extended to include other less common languages that some reporters need in more exotic areas.

For those readers unfamiliar with the series, it currently focuses on the most common European languages: French, German, Spanish and Italian and uses a very interesting – and in our opinion – very effective way to teach a new language. According to Michel Thomas, language students shouldn’t be bothered to memorize new words or phrases, at least in the traditional manner involving rote drills and complex memory games.

Rather, students learning under the Michel Thomas method will learn to train their minds to think in the new language and become “one” with it as soon as possible. This generally means no writing, but listening to the new words – both on their own and when used in sentences – as soon as possible and in a way that makes sense within the context of the sentence. Because of this, Thomas says, the student learns without trying. It just makes sense. And miraculously, at least for our reviewers, it seems to work.

The first segment of this set of Intro CDs teaches over a dozen “transformations” designed to unlock the hidden French inside of the listener. According to Michel Thomas, every fluent English speaker already knows a fair amount of French and proves this claim by providing a long list of familiar verbs and nouns derived directly from French. Cognates, for example, are English words based primarily or extensively derived from their French counterparts. According to Michel Thomas, fully 60 percent of English words are of French origin or have passed through French at some point in their lifetime. Practice these cognates, he says, with your best “Inspector Clouseau” accent. After all, almost two out of three English words are French; the only difference being the pronunciation!

We liked the fact that Thomas stresses the need to practice each new phrase and often corrects his “students” (i.e., the male and female voices on the CDs who are convincingly learning along with you) when either one makes a beginners’ mistake or tries to guess his or her way out of a problem.

Words in English, for example, that end in either “-able” or “-ible” are often the same in French, except, of course, for the French-specific pronunciation. The English, “possible,” “visible” and “terrible” are exactly the same in French, only with the aforementioned Clouseau accent. Incomprehensible, another “-able” or “-ible” word, is yet another example of what Thomas tries to illustrate.

Other segments introduce English words ending with the suffix "-ary" (such as "military" and "necessary"). Thomas points out these words are, in fact, the same in French, but their pronunciation goes up at the end like the "air". For example, "necessary" becomes "necessarire" and so on. Words in English ending with the suffix "-ance" and "-ence" also come directly from the French. These include examples such as difference, preference, importance, influence and others. The change (again) is in the pronunciation. For most aspiring French language students, this is a marvelous revelation because it immediately puts them at ease knowing they already know quite a few French words.

Also introduced are important verbs such as parler (to speak), venir (to come), manger (to eat) and aller (to go). Again, Thomas endearingly points out similarities between what we already know (i.e., the English) and compares these words to the French. The French word, aller, for example, can be easily remembered by thinking about the English word, alley, from which it is derived.

Another thing we really like about the Michel Thomas method is that he builds sentences in a logical (and nicely paced) way. He thinks of a rather complicated sentence example, then shows just how easy it is to break it up into its component parts and speak (and remember) them. First: Où voulez vous allez? (Where do you want to go?) Next: Où voulez vous aller manger? (Where do you want to go eat?) Then: using a new word from English soiree, he explains that "this evening" in French is "ce soir". Now, he says, we can build a rather complex sentence, "Where do you want to go eat tonight?" Où voulez vous allez manger ce soir?

Throughout the 10-disc CD set, Thomas builds on each word or phrase he introduces. Rather than formal grammar lessons and verb tenses (which always made us tense -- get it? -- when we were learning different languages), Thomas gives just enough to get us thinking of how we want the words to flow out of our brains and out from our mouths.

The French word for something is "quelque chose (the thing = le chose). Thus, we now know that "I would like something to eat" becomes "je voudrais manger quelque chose" in French. Again, Thomas makes it seem so easy, between his little anecdotes on how French words have come into English and how small pronunciation differences can add huge numbers of words, the student language learner quickly gains a level of confidence unmatched by most other language products.

Overall: An excellent way of learning a language, the Michel Thomas method is highly recommended as are other CD sets in the series. This CD set (as well as the others listed below) are very good ways of learning French in a non-threatenting, easy-to-remember way.

End of Review

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