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Title: Michel Thomas Speak German For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program
Author: Michel Thomas
Relevance: This ten-CD set is ideal for those trying to learn (and perfect) their German-speaking and pronunciation skills. Michel Thomas Speak German For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program uses a non-standard approach to language learning that speeds the process and makes the experience less arduous. Ideal for those who need to come “up-to-speed” quickly, the discs are part of the Speak…for Beginners series.
Review: Michel Thomas was a French resistance fighter during the Second World War and used his language skills to survive these terrible years. Later in life, he founded the Michel Thomas Language Centers and successfully taught languages for more than 50 years, primarily in New York, Beverly Hills and London.
His approach? First off there are no textbooks. No workbooks. In fact, there is no writing of any kind in Thomas’ technique. There’s no memorization and no tedious drills. What you do learn is now to start “thinking” in the new language. In the process, one gains a good working vocabulary of the German language and includes skills to build understanding and comprehension.
In our mind, there is no better way to learn a language than to listen (and hopefully, get feedback) to new speakers and an accomplished teacher. In this, Michel Thomas Speak German For Beginners is a complete success. Not only does the instructor give practical ways to remember new German words and use them coherently, but he also employs two simulated students who make first-timer mistakes and get corrected.
One of the basic tenants of Thomas’ system is learners should not try to memorize specific words or expressions in their new language, in this case German. Thomas starts off with asking people to remember two simple ground rules. The first: never worry about remembering your new language and never review (at least, in the traditional sense) what you have learned. Instead, Thomas insists, you must absorb and internalize the new material. “What you know you will not forget”, he says.
The second ground rule: listeners should immerse themselves into the conversations between the two other students who are learning German on the CD. In this way, Thomas says, you, the listener, can quickly appreciate the language and start internalizing it as soon as possible.
The disc immediately launches into a quick explanation about the similarities between all Anglo-Saxon (i.e., Germanic) languages, with the obvious inference that German isn’t that far from English. In fact, with a few exceptions, many German words are very similar indeed to many English words, with the noticeable shift in certain letters. Thomas discusses the “consonant shift” between the two languages and presents these shifts into three “strings”: The D-String, the B-String and the G-String.
Take the “d” sound, the starting point in Thomas’ D-String example. This sound may have changed to a “d” in English from a “t” or “th” or even an “s” to “z”. Example: “Good” in English is “Gut” in German (“d” is replaced by “t”). Note the similar sounding words with the slight change of consonant ending (or even mid-word consonants). This is the principle of Thomas’ introduction to the German language: we know more words in German than we might think.
As long as we remember that the consonants can change the look and pronunciation from German into English (or, from the point of view of a native English-speaker, from English into German), we can “get it”. Once one sees how the consonants drift across the different languages, it’s actually quite exciting because immediately one realizes one already knows some German! Another example: “it” in English becomes “es” in German (when the “t” changes to “s”). “What” in English becomes “Was” in German. “Water” in English becomes “Wasser” in German. And so on.
Another string, the B-String, Thomas says, can morph into a “p” sound or “ph” into an “f”, and “f” into a “v” and then possibly into a “w” (because there is no “w” sound in German). The third string, the G-String, means that “gh” changes into “c” or perhaps to “ch”, and again to a “k” or a “ck” all the way into the “y” in English.
Another principle introduced is that all German consonants are pronounced, even if they are not stressed. Thomas demonstrates this well with his two “students”, often helping each of them overcome their English-speaking upbringing where we tend to slur things together.
The infinitive form of all German verbs end in the suffix “en” and Thomas again does a good job explaining how to use verbs in constructing sentences. He introduces verbs in German harkening back to their similarities to the English analogue. One example, “Wollen Sie…?” (“Would you like to...?) is compared with the English word, volition, making it easy for new learners to remember the connection.
Another nice touch in the CDs is that Thomas frequently spells out new words so listeners can store the new word both sound-wise and text-wise. This, we thought, would help listeners who respond primarily to either the spoken or written word.
Overall: All three of our reviewers thought the Michel Thomas Speak German For Beginners series was good value for the money. There are 10 discs in the package, with over an hour of instruction or review on each disc. For those who wish to continue in their studies, there are additional offerings in the same series to extend vocabulary and other language skills. Highly recommended.
End of Review
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Other CDs in this series include:
Michel Thomas Speak German Language Booster: 2-CD Booster Program
Michel Thomas Speak German Advanced: 5-CD Advanced Program
Michel Thomas Speak Spanish For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program
Michel Thomas Speak Spanish Language Booster: 2-CD Booster Program
Michel Thomas Speak Spanish Advanced: 5-CD Advanced Program
Michel Thomas Speak Italian for Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program
Michel Thomas Speak Italian Language Booster: 2-CD Booster Program
Michel Thomas Speak Italian Advanced: 5-CD Advanced Program
Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program
Michel Thomas Speak French Language Booster: 2-CD Booster Program
Michel Thomas Speak French Advanced: 5-CD Advanced Program
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