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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Paul Noble and plagiarisation.

Paul Noble, a British-based language teacher, recently contracted with Collins, the UK publisher, to author a series of CD courses to teach various languages according to a method which he claims he developed on his own.

After I was alerted to the uncanny resemblance of his approach to that of Michel Thomas, a well-known language teacher who died in 2005, I investigated things on my own. I was the only student to whom Mr. Thomas taught his methodology . He did this over a ten year period. Following his death, I was approached by his publisher, Hodder, to continue his legacy with another course using the method I was taught by him. Subsequently, I authored three such courses to teach Mandarin Chinese.

So I do claim to have some familiarity with the teaching approach of Mr. Thomas.

His method is based on a unique way to eliminate anxiety which he believed was the major problem for learners in general and language learners in particular. In order to accomplish this he dissected languages and put them back together in a way which made learning effortless. Students, as the reviews to his courses on Amazon will show, reported miraculous acquisition of spoken abilities in other languages with minimal work, no memorization, no reading or writing and a number of other things commonly associated with study of languages.

It is my opinion, based on the analysis of materials obtained from Audible.com, one of the distributors of his Collins courses, that Paul Noble has been quite influenced by the approach of Michel Thomas.

Some might call it plagiarisation.

What is most disturbing is that he goes out of his way to claim that he alone originated his method of instruction.

The Thomas method is patent-protected in addition to numerous copyrights.

I wonder if it a coincidence that my review of his French course on Amazon.co.uk, which expressed the thoughts of this article has been removed. This is the second such review to have been removed. Now only reviews praising Mr. Noble's courses remain.

It will be interesting to see what comes of all of this.
----
Since I would not be shocked if the same people who took down my previous negative review of Mr. Noble's French course may take down my latest review, meant to replace the previous one removed, I am printing the latest review here. At least they won't be able to take down this copy of the review.




Who originated the Paul Noble method?, 28 Oct 2010
By Harold Goodman (Silver Spring, Maryland 20910)

This review is from: Collins French with Paul Noble (Audio CD)

My last review of Paul Noble's French course was just removed.

For the record, I was Michel Thomas's only methodology student. He died in 2005 and is no longer alive to defend himself. Since his work is patented and covered by numerous copyrights, I have no doubt that he would have sought to defend it. He worked for fifty some years to create and perfect this approach to teaching languages.

I am also the author of a Michel Thomas method course to instruct English ( and now, French-speakers) in Mandarin Chinese. I have no dog in this race and do not care what others say or do regarding language teaching. Everyone is free to create and teach as they wish.

However, I do question the claims by Paul Noble and Collins, his publisher, that he originated his method of language teaching.

Review of his French and Spanish courses, as published via Audible, made me question his claims to origination of his method.

For me ,the method he used, which he claims as his own, bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the greatest language teacher of the last century, Michel Thomas.

I can only wonder who might benefit from removal of my review which questioned his claim that he originated this method.

I believe that anyone who compares the two courses, by Paul Noble and Michel Thomas, will immediately note the use of the Thomas method by Mr. Noble. Some have also alleged plagiarisation.

Mr. Noble frequently advertises his IQ which he notes is higher than that of Alfred Einstein.

I can hardly wait for his course on Physics.
---------

More on all of this:

22 June 2011


I have noticed that Hodder is repackaging the old Michel Thomas courses under new names and at a higher price. This also includes my own course. I do not endorse this action and apologize to any students who may inadvertently purchase any of these courses believing that they represent something new. In my opinion, they don't.

After writing all of this on my blog you may well understand why Hodder and the American publisher of my courses are not banging down my door requesting my advice.
------

I have received several inflammatory and denigrating comments which I shall not post here .

Some readers believe that I am not allowed to share my thoughts about the work of other teachers. They say that this is unprofessional. A secretary once told me that since I refuse to wear a tie at work that I am unprofessional. She is now history, ancient history.

With all lack of due respect I must respond that I completely disagree. I shall continue to share my beliefs and opinions. This is a blog. That is why I have a blog. It is a venue for me to share my opinions and ideas.

-----

There also is a matter of sales.

The courses, including mine, are finding a large audience.

However, most of the people comprising this audience do not pay for the courses. They get them off of pirate sites that steal our work and enable anyone to download it gratis. The authors receive nothing in return. This is theft, pure and simple. You may justify it anyway you wish; it remains theft.

I just Googled " Paul Noble+ bit torrent" and was not surprised to get over four million hits. Just imagine how many illegal downloads that represents. No one is immune to this phenomenon. I estimate that over 50% of my courses are illegally downloaded. The number for Michel Thomas's courses is even higher.

Shocking as it may seem to those not active in this work, except for making a name for oneself, the authoring of anything which may be digitally copied is not too lucrative. The good old days when authors lived off of royalties in their dotage is long gone. The internet has changed all of that. I definitely do not recommend anyone else to follow in my footsteps in this matter if you hope to earn a living from such efforts.

My future efforts at teaching will not be vulnerable to online piracy. I suggest others follow suit.

My current teacher, Boris Shekhtman, requested my assistance in sharing his method. His work has demonstrated that students are able, with the correct support, to quickly achieve high level proficiency in foreign language communication. With all due respect to the Michel Thomas approach which I still consider the best way to learn the basics, the foundation, for any language, the method of Boris Shekhtman allows the student to quickly, comfortably and with excellent grammar and pronunciation communicate with native-speakers. Such communication is on a very high level which is rarely, if ever, attained in many years of professional study. This method has now very much influenced the way I teach languages. However, in view of the rampant piracy that has infected the web I told him that I believe that issuing CDs or other courses that may be digitally pirated would be a mistake. He saw the logic of this and decided to continue with in-person teaching and carefully controlled sharing of our work. The work will be only shared with people who will respect the efforts of those who have developed it over the past 40 years. It will not be available for pirating of any sort.

Mr. Thomas told me many times in the 1990's that he was afraid that if he allowed his courses to be openly sold on cassettes ( now CDs and downloads) that his work would be stolen. In my enthusiasm I spent two years planting the seeds that resulted in the present courses. In retrospect, I now realize that his fears have been realized.

I shall not make that mistake again with the work of Boris Shekhtman.

Caveat emptor.

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76 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know if offers a Chinese course?

November 7, 2010 at 11:59 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

I don't know of any Chinese course by him at this time.

November 8, 2010 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

I just learned that he is advertising his expertise in teaching Mandarin Chinese.

Will I be shocked if he comes out with a Mandarin Chinese course that has an eery similarity to my course?

Certainly not.

November 8, 2010 at 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you think he'll just go and copy you?

November 8, 2010 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

I have no idea what he will do.

November 8, 2010 at 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Steven W. said...

When I saw Noble's series I was quite sickened by his total lack of credit to Thomas, saying he developed the methodology he uses by himself, despite this revealing interview with the Daily Mirror in 2007, a year prior to opening his "Paul Noble Language Institute":

http://www.mirror.co.uk/advice/jobs/2007/08/23/find-your-language-115875-19675520/

In it he says that Michel Thomas's French and German courses "changed my life", and now he does his best to distance himself from Thomas despite providing a carbon copy of his courses, just with some tweaks to the syllabus. He even goes so far as to introduce the transformations Thomas teaches at the beginning, it is totally shameless. The only problem is, he has likely tweaked his courses enough to avoid being sued, he may be shameless but probably not that stupid.

November 18, 2010 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Mr. Noble widely advertises that he is smarter than Einstein.

We shall see.

I doubt that Einstein plagiarised the work of others, passing it off as his own.

In the article which you graciously linked to he even mentions that he learned Chinese using my Michel Thomas Mandarin course. While I am honored that he mentions my course as an inspiration, I am not happy that he has used this method without attribution and, in some cases, with generous borrowing of the Michel Thomas approach and wording. It is no coincidence that many phrases he uses to teach are identical to those of Mr. Thomas.

Mr. Noble may be smarter than Einstein but he still has much to learn when it comes to intellectual honesty and integrity.

His day of reckoning is yet to come.

But, I can assure you, it will come.

November 18, 2010 at 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Steven W. said...

The advertising of him being supposedly smarter than Einstein makes me want to roll my eyes.

Einstein was never known to have even taken an IQ test, he was estimated at having an IQ of around 160 by a psychologist who looked at the biographical data of deceased geniuses but you have to take any such calculation with quite a hefty pinch of salt. In any case, having a high IQ just shows you are good at IQ tests and scores can vary considerably on a test by test basis.

To make any such claim of having a higher IQ than Einstein is ridiculous. Einstein changed physics forever with his research, Noble makes his mark on history by trying to copycat one of the finest language teachers of our time. I think we know who is the more impressive man.

He may be Noble by name, but certainly not by nature.

I hope that Thomas Keymaster Languages can take him to task some day.

I am glad to see that Michel Thomas' methodology lives on with you and the company producing the newer MT Method courses. Many thanks for helping to continue Thomas' legacy, your Mandarin courses are fantastic.

November 18, 2010 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Thanks, Steven for your kind comments.

I studied with Mr. Thomas for ten years and will always be grateful for his generous sharing of his understanding of teaching and the learning process with me. He was truly a master teacher.

Though he did not live to hear the Mandarin Chinese course ( he died in January, 2005) I believe that he would have been very happy with it. I know that my way of teaching tones would have delighted him. Simple yet amazingly effective.

Michel Thomas was very creative. One might say that he was ingenious in his approach to teaching. It took him fifty years to perfect the approach that you find on his CDs. He was very reluctant to allow recordings of his work to be made public. It took years for me to convince him that it would be beneficial for all if he were to do the recordings. His fear was that others would steal his work.

Now that we have Paul Noble and his "unique method" we can all understand that his fear was quite justified.

However, I am still very happy that he consented to record the four courses that he did. They are now with us for posterity and that, I think, is a very wonderful part of his legacy.

November 18, 2010 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Nìall Beag said...

Well you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. How is Noble supposed to credit Michel Thomas when Thomas's name is now a registered trademark?

Noble hasn't violated any of MT's intellectual property rights, but if he was to use Thomas's name he would be.

Isn't it enough that Noble's course is inferior to Thomas's originals? I mean, in the French, they even introduce "vous avez" without liaison. Don't sweat it.

December 6, 2010 at 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Harold, I had never heard of Paul Noble until I found his French course at Amazon 4 weeks ago. I saw your review before buying and still bought it. I rationalized to myself that all teachers build on previous teacher's methods and I wanted the best method. Whatever you think about Paul, the course is fantastic. I have done 2 CD's and am amazed at my progress.

I was a bit confused though how you criticize him for not giving credit to Michel Thomas when you are the only one who was taught his methodology. How could Paul have copied it or know about it?

You say "The Thomas method is patent-protected in addition to numerous copyrights. What is the patent number? Surely the owners would take action if he is breaching patents or copyright?

December 6, 2010 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Niall

Thanks for writing.

I believe that his taking credit for a method which was created by Mr. Thomas is a form of such violation. I also think that his rampant plagiarisation of the Thomas material bolsters this case. In addition, he is quoted in a prominant UK newspaper that he got his initial inspiration from the Michel Thomas courses.

There is an impressive paper trail which will come back to haunt him.

However, we shall have to wait for the lawyers to fight it out.

Best wishes

December 6, 2010 at 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Harold,

I'm not sure what the basis of your dissatisfaction is.

I have studied the MT patents. They only mention a method in which a teacher instructs two students, one male, one female. That aside, there's virtually nothing in the patent that we would recognise as being part of the 'Michel Thomas Method'.

Although no legal expert, I can't imagine any situation in which this patent would be enforced in the UK courts.

Given that, in the US, a man can use a toothpick to scratch his armpit and then get a patent on it, can we agree that the issue of patents is an irrelevance?

Aaron

December 8, 2010 at 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of the legal position the moral one seems clear to me. I suspect he'll probably get away with it, though.

December 13, 2010 at 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harold, do you know what these new Michel Thomas Method Courses are (e.g. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-French-Michel-Thomas-Method/dp/1444133039)? Are they just the old ones rebranded with a hefty price increase? Some members of the how to learn any language forum tried to ask Hodder, but recieved no response.

December 13, 2010 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Anonymous

I have no idea what the new course you mention is. Mr. Thomas died in January, 2005 and Hodder has previously published every bit of his material that he recorded.

I spoke with him while he was doing the recordings that are today's MT courses and know what he did.

Hodder has cut me out of the loop.

They even had my Chinese Foundation course translated into French without telling me about it. That was several years ago. Someone alerted me to it and I contacted them. That was how I managed to get my royalties but only for a short time.

The course, which is sold in France did well and I was briefly compensated as an author. Curiously, they left my name as author off of the product. Then they cut off the royalty payments. When I protested they took quite some time to let me know that, due to complicated reasoning, there was no more money due me. I never expect to see another penny in earnings from the course though it still is selling well on the French Amazon site and in French stores.

Every single person at Hodder who knew MT is gone. The old MD there, who was a big fan of MT, left. The new crew seems to have little regard for him or his work.

I do know that they plan on reissuing stuff but, it seems to me, it is an obvious reissuing of old stuff.

I have already informed Hodder in an e mail that I will no longer work with them.

December 14, 2010 at 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi

Are you planning on doing some other courses in the future. I enjoyed your Chinese Course.

February 14, 2011 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

At this point, no new courses are planned via Hodder.

However, I do plan to create and offer courses independent of Hodder.

Stay tuned for more information.

February 14, 2011 at 3:43 PM  
Anonymous JonathanJK said...

Can I add to this discussion that I bought both the beginners German and Spanish.

Both are terrible products, they don't work for me, the students are clueless and make many mistakes which Mr Thomas has to correct repeatedly. It's very distracting because they can't speak properly and I can't memorise the teachings.

If you are the only teacher of this method, are you making a new version, maybe improving upon Michael did?

I ask because I just listened to the 1 hour preview from Paul Noble's Spanish course and it's amazingly so much better. Helpfully so because his two students are not students, they are actual speakers with different dialects. This makes everything so much easier to learn.

Whatever the truth is regarding one product ripping off another; do you think it's fair that Mr Thomas was going to go to his grave with his method to teach languages? I salute you for recording something at least.

May 19, 2011 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Jonathan

There is no need to memorise anything in the approach of Michel Thomas. In fact, attempting to memorise is about the worst thing you could do according to his approach. It will really slow down your learning.

The purpose of using students is to teach people who, like you, are clueless when it comes to what is being taught. Mr. Thomas explains all of this at the beginning of the recorded lessons.

It is good to make mistakes. That is how we learn anything. But mistakes without feedback are worthless. The MT method relies on relentless feedback.

Mr. Thomas did teach one person his method.

Me.

I used this method to create and teach the Mandarin Chinese course. From the reviews on Amazon.co.uk some people appear to have found the course helpful.

May 19, 2011 at 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also wanted to add that not recording course because people steal them online is rather petty and shortsighted.

Do you think Madonna will stop recording because people download from the internet?

You might teach 1000 people a week.
But with the right marketing you could sell 10,000 recordings per week., even if that means 100K people download them for free on the internet, you are selling 9K more courses and opening a whole new world to them through your teaching.

It's fine to take a principled stand, but in the end you lose out commercially and fewer people get the benefit of your teaching in order for you to deprive the majority who probably wouldn't buy your courses anyhow.

Afterall, if you really truly wanted to learn a language, then you would pay for it.


Just record and market it using smart, modern techniques. People will love you and reward you for it.

Focus on the difference you could make, rather than the petty many out there.

July 13, 2011 at 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say I agree with 8:26 a.m. I want to buy a course that will help me speak French and I'm not going to get a pirated copy. I saw the Paul Noble series on Amazon and was reading reviews and a reviewer mentioned that he had thought it was a rip off of MT. I was looking for advice on which one was best. I can read french pretty well and my vocabulary is not too bad, but I struggle to speak with confidence.

July 19, 2011 at 5:58 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

I had one-on-one training in French with Michel Thomas in the late 1990's and am also familiar with his CD course.

It is a very helpful course if you want to learn to speak French with confidence. You will already have been exposed to much of what you are taught in the course but I believe that you will find it useful.

The course will force you to express yourself in French and give you an informed understanding of how to speak with French speakers.

The course is divided into several pieces ( Foundation/Beginner, Advanced, Language Builder). Do not buy the Vocabulary part for reasons I will not go into here. The three parts I mentioned in parenthesis are entirely taken from the MT long course and done by him alone. They are a rare opportunity to study with a master teacher and, if for no other reason, are very well worth whatever time and money you invest in them.

After you have done the three parts which actually comprise a single course, you can begin to speak.

I recommend that you force yourself to do this on a regular basis if you really want to learn to speak.

Find a native speaker. Pay them, if necessary. Their job is to speak with you for one to two hours once or twice a week. Speak about whatever you wish, whatever interests you. Have them pay attention and make notes for feedback. Then, after an hour or so, they can go over the feedback with you in French.

If you do this regularly you will do quite well.

I do this weekly for three hours in Russian and I am comfortable speaking at this point even though I do not have an large vocabulary.

If you want to speak then speak.

That is the only way.

=====

Hodder, the publisher, recently announced that it will no longer publish the original MT courses. Instead, it has decided to scrap the original series and in its place has cobbled together a mish mash of pieces of the old courses under new titles and with a lot of bells and whistles which actually contradict the Michel Thomas approach.

Even though my name will be on the Chinese course I was never consulted on the new course which will list me as author.

I can only recommend that students use the old courses.

July 19, 2011 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger schmetterling said...

Harold

I think it's a shame that the general public wont be able to access and benefit from the Boris Shekhtman teaching method or any future courses you could produce due to piracy fears.

I believe there is still a large proportion of language learners who value the effort of course authors and are willing to pay a reasonable amount for them.

Could you look into alternative ways of releasing course content, perhaps with a subscription based website or supported through advertising?
Some smaller computer game developers have been releasing games with a 'pay-what-you-want' approach which you could also explore.

Thanks

Andrew

August 16, 2011 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Andrew

You are right.

There must be an alternative way to release and share such teaching without the teachers and developers being ripped off.

I have recently been thinking about this, too.

Some people have written to tell me that in the future all content will be given away. I wonder how I could make a living writing, creating and then giving away all of what I produce?

How does this work. I would appreciate answers to this since I obviously come from a different world when it comes to these things.

I also understand that there are probably people who would be willing to pay something for the material if released in an alternative, digital way.

Thanks again for writing.

What, specifically, would you like to learn?

Love,

Harold

August 16, 2011 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Byron said...

Thank you, Harold for your awesome Mandarin course. I recommend it to everyone. I love what you did with the tones. I'm sorry you didn't profit more from your work. Perhaps you can take some consolation from the fact that Albert Einstein didn't make much money from relativity either, but then again people at least gave him credit for it!

August 17, 2011 at 1:08 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

Dear Byron

When I read your comment I felt tremendous sweetness and heart sense. You are a gift to all of us.

Love,

Harold

August 17, 2011 at 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a good idea would be to emulate apple's app store. Sell your stuff cheaper and way more people will buy them.. I routinely buy apps priced from .99 to 3.99. If your course cost 10 bucks i would buy it. If it cost 100 bucks i would "steal" it.

August 17, 2011 at 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Steven W, said...

It is a shame that piracy has risen to such levels that it is now people find it not worthwhile spending a lot of time and money into producing something as the return you will get for it will not be worth it.

One possible way of getting round this would be through careful use of digital rights management such as that used on audible.com/.co.uk

In Norway there is a digital library of audiobooks for visually impaired people where once an account has been set up one can download audiobooks which have certain personal details put in them, though I don't know the specifics. Essentially, if an audiobook which had been download from the library was spread around, it would be extremely easy to track who had uploaded it to the internet for distribution and then that person could be found and prosecuted and due to that fact, no-one would dare try and make a torrent from these books.

The media world is beginning to change with the digital markets likely to hold a vast monopoly compared to the physical media like CDs at some point in the near future. In future, it may be possible to just release a product digitally and only through places which utlise careful digital rights management practices and the online market will soon be viable enough to rely on entirely.

Of course, you may well find people who can get round this and have hacks for devices to allow them to play files that they shouldn't and so on but they will be very much a minority so perhaps once the online markets expand enough, selling a product like an audio language course will be able to bring in good returns.

I am intrigued about Boris Shekhtman's courses, it sounds like it would be a big shame if his work never gets to be seen outside of personal tuition.

August 18, 2011 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

Steven W

Thanks for writing such an interesting comment. I learn a lot from some of those commenting here.

Boris Shekhtman has a method which may not lend itself to a digital course; he really seeks to customize the teaching to the individual student. For example, he works a while to figure out the learning style of the student. He continually refines this as the course progresses.

Many approaches which he used to employ with me have since been abandoned. He finds what works and really mines that for all it is worth.

There are some students who love to memorize his islands. They may use 100 - 200 islands and will sound absolutely fluent. They will rarely deviate from the island. He teaches them how to work with the islands in a very sophisticated way. The vast majority of his students are like this. They are able to finally dispose of the islands once they achieve a certain level of communication and exposure to the language on a constant basis.

I, on the other hand, like to use the islands in a different way. Consequently, I am currently communicating in Russian on many topics that were never covered in class. I base this on what I have learned from Boris and, so far, it seems to work. At a certain point I, too, anticipate leaving the islands behind. This happens with every student who is persistent and committed to the method, according to Boris.

How can I ever hope to teach this via a packaged course where I will never have any contact with the student?

It is a very interesting question for me.

August 18, 2011 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Harold, I plan on becoming a secondary education language teacher because of your and Michel's courses. But I wanted to let you know that I believe you have the wrong views on the sharing of these resources as being "theft". I realize we all need to make a living in life, but this does not mean that we need to profit off of every single person that we help in some way. I believe the most important thing to consider is that the people who download these files are not depriving you or stores of any physical property. They share and download these resources out of interest and passion, and are able to do so without harming you in any way; they are simply not contributing to you in any way either. I would be proud to help so many people, even if I am not personally gaining from each one of them.

If Michel or you did not make recordings, and if Boris Shekhtman continues not to, then you will all have such a diminished impact as educators on the world. Thousands of people would never discover the method, let alone have the opportunity to use it (me included). As an analogy, I would rather have a great impact on the lives of a million people and make less money, than make a large amount of money and only impact the lives of a thousand people. I plan on doing this by having a healthy balance in my life; make a living off of the needed work as a public educator or private tutor, and spend my free time making resources to release on the internet because of my passion for education and language learning.

Look at khanacademy.org. The Khan Academy is largely run by one man, Sal Khan, who produces videos constantly to educate people on a variety of subjects. He has literally changed the lives of thousands, and may not die a rich man, but certainly a fulfilled one. It is all a matter of deciding how many people you are able to help in the world with the knowledge you possess, how much money you need to live, and finding a healthy balance of these. As people have mentioned, digital goods such as audio recordings are changing in nature; people generally offer them through websites as subscriptions where consumers continually get access to new resources. Or, resources might be offered at a lower price that consumers are more comfortable buying (even as free, less-legal alternatives exist) because they want the legitimate version of the product and want to contribute some reasonable amount to the creator. Apps and media in Apple’s stores are excellent examples of this. One day, I hope to work with others to produce web resources, apps, or some sort of low-priced goods that are accessible to many, improve their lives, and enable me to survive as well.

September 4, 2011 at 1:30 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

Tyler

I assume that you will not be paid for your work as a secondary education language teacher.

This would be a logical extension of your philosophy.

Why do you expect others to work for free if you are not willing to do so?

Piracy is piracy. Theft is theft.

I come from a generation when taking someone's creative work without their permission is considered theft.

I have read every word that you wrote and remain unconvinced that I should give away my lifetime of work and innovation so that others can have a free pass.

Do you get your food, transportation, clothing gratis? You want to be an educator. Did those who educated you get paid?

The future of the net will be very interesting.

The most valuable contributions of all to our betterment will not be present.

Other people may write about them, produce youtube videos on them, and so on.

But the actual creators will be absent.

They will quietly be serving the community that is prepared to reimburse them for their efforts.

You may be familiar with Alexander Arguelles.

He is a very talented educator and polyglot.

He is also my friend.

If you go to youtube you will discover many wonderful videos by him.

He has so much to give us, teach us.

But he is unable to feed his family based on having given everything away on the net. He had to move to Singapore and teach there in a school in order to put food on the table.

He even begam a service to personally teach via skype. I know about it because I suggested it to him and helped him set it up. I bought the domain name for him and gave it to him as a gift. It was a real bargain, considering what he was willing to provide in response for minimal compensation.

He gave it up. He had less than ten takers after months of work. This was after publicizing it widely on youtube and the net.

People are willing to pay lots of money for absolutely worthless courses like Rosetta Stone, courses which do not deliver a fraction of what you got from the Michel Thomas courses.

But these same people suggest that I and others work for free.

So, no.

Boris Shekhtman and others like him will not work for free.

You get what you pay for.

I simply don't believe that the "give it all away" model works for me and those like me with a lifetime study and development.

The web is rapidly becoming a mass of frenzied feeders. Everyone is hawking something. The old sites that pirated stuff and enabled anyone to download it gratis are now all charging membership fees.

Formerly free newspapers ( NY Times, Wall St Journal, etc.) are now charging.

Pay to learn is taking over the web, too.

It is inevitable.

After the initially free sites get popular they then take their stolen materials and attempt to charge membership fees.

And so it goes.

September 4, 2011 at 9:00 AM  
Anonymous anonymous1 said...

Harold I really think you should get some internet marketing skills because your problem is knowing how to direct market your products. There is certainly a demand for better ways to learn languages.

Focus on the people who will pay. You will notice that despite being widely available on the internet, people continue to buy michel thomas courses online as well as movies, songs, books etc

There are enough people who will buy if you can target them, to be a very very lucrative business. I am building my own internet marketing business, so I know full well how lucrative it can be.

If you really want to find a way, watch this video until the end.
http://www.viddler.com/explore/videomarkster/videos/9/

September 8, 2011 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Thanks for your comment.

You are right. I lack internet marketing skills and would probably benefit from having them.

What is your connection with this video and Jeff Walker?

September 8, 2011 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

My philosophy is not that all work should be done for free, because people would be unable to survive in a society where food and other necessities have some cost to produce (Of course in the future, technology such as 3D printers, similar but probably less advanced than the replicators of Star Trek, could push the cost of reproducing physical goods down to nearly zero, as it currently is for digital goods. At this time, you will be able to download the digital blueprint of a Nike shoe, "print" your own pair of sneakers at home, and Nike will likely be complaining. People could survive without needing to do as much work, and consumerism would completely change again.)

Although you make it sound obvious, I do not believe that digital copying is theft or piracy. I share the views expressed by the organization Question Copyright: http://questioncopyright.org/learn
I believe that people should not be legally obligated to reward those who create works, so long as these people can reproduce the works without causing harm or depriving the creator of property. Laws should prevent citizens from harming one another, and as digital copying of creations deprives the creator of nothing, you should not be able to punish those who do it. It is the fault of the creator, I believe, for demanding people to pay him for a product they can harmlessly acquire otherwise.

By only giving private lessons, you are creating a service that people cannot freely copy or acquire otherwise. This is fine; I am not telling you to work for free and starve to death, nor am I doing this myself (as I mentioned, I teach secondary education because it is a job I can make a living from). I am suggesting that we should all have time to make a living, and do more with our lives. If you are spending every minute and bit of energy to making a living or doing whatever you enjoy, so be it, you might not have the chance to dedicate your life to helping more people. I believe humans get intrinsic reward from creating, sharing our creations with others, and helping others. I am trying to create free resources when I am not working to make a living, and I feel proud of it, and I like to believe that Michel would have made his resources even if he knew people would get them without paying for them because he loved education and language learning. I would like to believe he would have a smile on his face, rather than a frown, if he saw someone who downloaded his recording from a torrent website and finally found the joy and stressless experience of learning a language.

September 9, 2011 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

I knew Michel for ten years.

He would not have had a smile on his face. People stole his work and he was very upset about it. It took me over three years to persuade him to issue his courses on cassettes ( they are now CD). He kept telling me that his work would be stolen. In retrospect, he was right and I was wrong.

Good luck in your studies.

September 9, 2011 at 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Rue said...

I find it amusing that people are getting so frenzied by the release or nonrelease of some infomation by this Boris Shektman person.

The fact of the matter is that if you hadnt know about Boris Shektman, Michel Thomas, Paul Pimselur, Maria Madrigal,etc...etc or they hadnt existed. What would you do? Especially if you really cared about learning a foreign language?

Of course you would still continue to pursue your dream and learn it in any matter! The fact of the matter is that you dont need Michel, Harold, Paul, etc to learn a language. All you really need is some elbow grease!

When I was in school, I tried myself to learn Japanese, I couldnt afford Pimsleur (which was slated as the best, newest, most fastest or whatever have you course for whatever reason), though despite that I realized that many people believe in the spread of knowledge as a greater good, and I found cheap resources and even had a penpal. How did people of yore learn a language? So people stop fretting and put in some WORK! Hell, I used an MT course, and I still have to buy many many more resources because despite that you have Basic and Advance you do not learn everything to be truly fluent.


On the issue of the piracy. People are greedy. This includes the consumer and the producer. We no longer have a society that can live with in it's means. If anything, there will always be those that will never buy it anyway, and then there will always be those who wil buy it if they can (and then you got that middle-grounders.)

Good Luck everyone on your language studies!

October 9, 2011 at 4:01 AM  
Blogger Fitnfun007 said...

Im a great admirer of Michel Thomas, and have done his foundation and advanced course in French. However he was not the first to use this approach. He seems to have "copied" and adapted it from Margarita Madriga, who wrote Madrigals Magic Key to Spanish (Still in print) Madrigals Magic Key to German,(Out of print) Madrigals Magic Key to French (Out of print) amongst others. These were written in the 1950's and I am lucky to have all three, courtesy abebooks.com. The spanish one is available on amazon.com Paul seems to have used Margarita Madriga approach because they all start with the past tense, and not the present tense like Michel Thomas. i am also very sure that Margarita Madriga must have got her ideas from some earlier published book. So i feel that the accusation against Paul is somewhat baseless.

November 7, 2011 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

I find it interesting that you have published the exact same comment on the Paul Noble Amazon page.

Well, you are wrong.

I,too, have the Madrigal courses including ones you didn't mention. The evidence that Noble lifted his approach from Michel Thomas is overwhelming; exact copying of phrasing, presentation of material, but most of all, masses of web comments and solicitation from me on the MT web site several years ago as to the details of the MT method.

Curiously, not too long after I gave him this information as requested on the MT fan site, he suddenly discovered this unique approach all by his little self.

What a pathetic jerk.

November 7, 2011 at 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Harold,

I recently came across this "new" course and was stunned - though not in a good way...

There is no doubt that Paul Noble has studied the Michel Thomas method a little too closely. He obviously liked it so much that he decided to steal the entire template. He could have at least given Michel credit for what he learned. What a horrible little kid.

May 14, 2012 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

It is not PN's way to give credit.

Now that Michel Thomas is dead there is no one to protect him and his legacy so I suppose PN will get away with what he has done.

However, some of us know what has happened and the internet will contain evidence of his perfidy for those who are interested.

Meantime, life goes on.

There are lots of wonderful languages to learn.

Do what makes you happy and doesn't harm others.

Life is short.

May 14, 2012 at 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the utmost respect for Michel Thomas and his method and have used his courses to learn several languages and believe they are fantastic ways to learn. Having said that I believe you are being too harsh on Paul Noble - Michel also claims that he developed the ‘Michel Thomas Method’ completely independently, yet it does bear a very striking similarity to Margarita Madrigal’s ‘Magic Key’ books (published in the ‘50s), in a very similar way that Noble’s courses are similar to Michel’s. I also find your comments about ‘theft’ very narrow minded and selfish. Access to Michel’s courses have changed people’s lives, including my own, and especially those who cannot afford to buy the courses (particularly young people). I do not understand why Michel’s original courses should not be freely distributed online now that he is no longer here, as he no longer needs the royalties to survive on. It is my understanding, although I did not know the man personally, that he was a lot less greedy than you are and was whole heartedly dedicated to the powerful force of education, as he put it in the documentary ’Language Master’ - “freedom and democracy… can only be maintained through…education” - which shows that Michel had a complete passion for learning and thought it can be used for a higher cause than simply making money. It is also my understanding that he didn’t fear that his method would be ‘stolen’ as you like to put it, but rather, altered and misused, as he says in this same documentary. Maybe you cannot comprehend this, but many great people have done great things for reasons other than profit. Either you have misinterpreted what Michel was saying, or you are right about him being afraid that his tapes would be ‘stolen’, and if this is the case than I am saddened and my respect for him has been reduced somewhat. I of course understand that you need to earn money, but people still buy the courses, as is evident by the fact that they are still available to buy (if there was no demand there would be no supply), and many people still believe that being taught in person is the best way to learn and are willing to pay for that.

July 30, 2012 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Michel Thomas did not know of the existence of Margarita Madrigal. I know this because I asked him about it. I have all of her published works and admire her approach but the method of Madrigal and MT bear little resemblance that I can tell. I defy anyone to prove otherwise.

Paul Noble openly acknowledged in numerous places that he was influenced by the Michel Thomas method. If you examine his work you will discover, as many already have, that this influence extended to stealing the MT material outright, copying things word for word, sentence by sentence. He has been quite shameless about it.

MT was quite prescient to wish to protect his work from those who, after he was dead and unable to defend himself, would later have the audacity to claim it as their own.

Paul Noble will have to live with this intellectual travesty the rest of his life.

July 30, 2012 at 3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a linguist and language enthusiast, with no personal vested interests in the sales or success of Michel Thomas branded materials, or Paul Noble's.

You are correct - Paul Noble's method is identical to that of Michel Thomas. Unless I'm mistaken, however, it is Paul Noble's publisher, Collins, not he, who claims that he was the creator of the method.

Regardless of Paul Noble's claims, I must say that I much prefer his courses to the Michel Thomas courses. They are much easier to use, flow better, use native speakers, and don't have a slow talking old man speaking in a heavy accent (with all due respect). Paul Noble's courses are also more affordable.

To sum things up, Michel Thomas may be the creator of this method, but it seems like it took Paul Noble to really get it right. The Michel Thomas method is nothing special - really anyone could have easily created similarly improved versions with or without Einstein level IQs. I do find it somewhat shameful to market claims that it is an original method, but at the same time, I don't think there is any room to complain when you present an inferior product.

August 1, 2012 at 7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harold,

I have every sympathy with you over this issue. I listened to the Paul Noble recordings about a year ago and it was evident that something was amiss within the first few minutes. (I think it was when he started listing his ground rules!)

I’ve been hooked on Michel Thomas’s lessons since 2006 and I’m a huge supporter of him and his work. It’s difficult to overestimate the praise he deserves for his achievements. My area of work & study is within applied linguistics and it was MT who inspired my choices to some degree.

I also notice that the charisma and charm are absent from the Paul Noble recordings!

August 18, 2012 at 5:51 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

There are so many anonymous comments here that I don't know which of you I am replying to.

This is for the 18 August "anonymous".

I believe that integrity is central to one's life. At night, regardless of how my day has gone or how I feel, at least I know that I have been true to myself. That is very important to me.

What good is "success" in any endeavor if it has been obtained in a less than honest manner?

Incidentally, I received a note about a Paul Noble video on youtube in which all the comments that pointed out his ripping off the Michel Thomas method had been flagged as "Report spam" and removed.

I had written a comment pointing out specific things in the video that were indicative of "creative borrowing" on the part of PN. Of course, it had been reported as spam and removed.

August 18, 2012 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous keneto said...

Harold, on July 19, 2011 12:45 PM, you advised against the Vocabulary Builders, could you explain a little about that? Is it that the vocabulary is presented without a context (i.e., not according the Michel Thomas method) or because you recommend instead some other method of building one's vocabulary? Much thanks! (Incidentally, I routinely highly recommend the MT method courses to people I meet, and recommend buying the course. It's worth it!)

October 23, 2012 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Keneto

Thanks for your kind words on the MT method.

I must be very discrete in explaining why I do not recommend the French vocabulary builder in particular.

It was not done by Michel Thomas. I do not view it as following his method.

Best of luck in your continued learning.

October 23, 2012 at 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name escapes me now, however I read somewhere that Michel based his methods upon the works of another person before him.

You must remember, that nobody can make an idea out of nothing, every idea in history has had inspiration from something else and built on it by drawing from other inspirations.

The patent system is about greed. It would be sad to hinder progression of learning and teaching in the world.

February 14, 2013 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Well, you are wrong.

That is why the name escapes you.

He originated it.

And the patent system protects inventors from unscrupulous people who would steal their creations.

The same for copyright. My course is copyrighted so that thieves cannot steal it.

If they do, they can be taken to court and punished.

Do you work for free?

Why would you expect others to.

February 14, 2013 at 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Damian said...

Hi Harold,

I'm a musician. I've recorded songs and I'm aware that, in this day and age, many people will listen to music without having paid for it.

But, at least in the music industry, the piracy situation is, I doubt, anywhere near as damaging as it's claimed to be. To say, for example, that if 1,000,000 people listen to Madonna's songs but only half pay for them, then Madonna is losing 500,000 units of profit is to assume that the 500,000 would have paid for the songs if illegally downloading wasn't an option. But that clearly wouldn't be the case. There would be a smaller financial loss per unit, with a lot less people listening to her music. On the other hand, it could (probably truthfully) be argued that, with many more people listening to her music now, she is getting amazing airplay - free advertising.

That isn't to say that piracy is justified. I'm just saying that I just don't think the financial losses are reckoned honestly.

But, to my main point: Can I tell you a problem that I think exacerbates the piracy problem, and also one thing about piracy that is over-egged?

It's two-fold: The cost of language learning is high. When I last looked the MT courses were advertised at about £85 per section - so about £255. I'm not saying that's a high price to learn a skill - it's just a big wad to take out of your wage packet in one go (or three goes) - especially given point 2: I want to learn Portuguese. There's Rosetta, Pimleurs, MT etc etc etc. Rosetta say they're the best - everyone else slags them off. MT method makes fantastic claims - language skills with no effort (or little effort).

The internet is awash with people and organisations promising that if you use their method you won't fail.

people are nervous and don't trust what they read. So £85 is a big deal if its a scam. Or, for Rosetta, £300-500 is an even bigger deal.

I honestly believe, that many people who want to learn a new skill are half-hearted and will probably waste their money anyway. Many of those people know that about themselves.

So, as a business plan, why not run loss-leader to get people's interest? If your course really is THAT effective, let people have the first part for free. You've done the work anyway, there is no massive cost to you with digital downloads once the work is done (if I sell oak tables for a living, every sale has to be accompanied by an oak table - so I would lose out if I gave them all away - but not so with digital downloads)

If your beginner course works and the user experiences the joy of learning a little, then surely many more would be over their fear of being conned and purchase the next levels.

Another option would be to provide physical materials with the course that people will like to have in their hands. Flash cards, booklets and so on.

Finally, if your courses and method become super-successful - you will have countless people wanting in-person training and you'll be able to charge a fortune for it.

I wish you all success.

April 20, 2013 at 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Damian said...

Hi Harold,

I'm a musician. I've recorded songs and I'm aware that, in this day and age, many people will listen to music without having paid for it.

But, at least in the music industry, the piracy situation is, I doubt, anywhere near as damaging as it's claimed to be. To say, for example, that if 1,000,000 people listen to Madonna's songs but only half pay for them, then Madonna is losing 500,000 units of profit is to assume that the 500,000 would have paid for the songs if illegally downloading wasn't an option. But that clearly wouldn't be the case. There would be a smaller financial loss per unit, with a lot less people listening to her music. On the other hand, it could (probably truthfully) be argued that, with many more people listening to her music now, she is getting amazing airplay - free advertising.

That isn't to say that piracy is justified. I'm just saying that I just don't think the financial losses are reckoned honestly.

But, to my main point: Can I tell you a problem that I think exacerbates the piracy problem, and also one thing about piracy that is over-egged?

It's two-fold: The cost of language learning is high. When I last looked the MT courses were advertised at about £85 per section - so about £255 I guess. I'm not saying that's a high price to learn a skill - it's just a big wad to take out of your wage packet in one go (or three goes) - especially given point 2: I want to learn Portuguese. There's Rosetta, Pimleurs, MT etc etc etc. Rosetta say they're the best - everyone else slags them off. MT method makes fantastic claims - language skills with no effort (or little effort).

The internet is awash with people and organisations promising that if you use their method you won't fail.

people are nervous and don't trust what they read. So £85 is a big deal if its a scam. Or, for Rosetta, £300-500 is an even bigger deal.

I honestly believe, that many people who want to learn a new skill are half-hearted and will probably waste their money anyway. Many of those people know that about themselves.

So, as a business plan, why not run loss-leader to get people's interest? If your course really is THAT effective, let people have the first part for free. You've done the work anyway, there is no massive cost to you with digital downloads once the work is done (if I sell oak tables for a living, every sale has to be accompanied by an oak table - so I would lose out if I gave them all away - but not so with digital downloads)

If your beginner course works and the user experiences the joy of learning a little, then surely many more would be over their fear of being conned and purchase the next levels.

Another option would be to provide physical materials with the course that people will like to have in their hands. Flash cards, booklets and so on.

Finally, if your courses and method become super-successful - you will have countless people wanting in-person training and you'll be able to charge a fortune for it.

I wish you all success.

April 20, 2013 at 4:19 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Damian

Thanks for writing.

I do not control the courses that Hodder publishes. They raised the prices on the courses and reissued many of them under new titles ( ex. Total) which I consider misleading but then what do I, as an author, know about anything.

What I do have control over is what and how I teach and, to a limited extent, how I am compensated for my efforts.

The Michel Thomas system delivers what it promises when used exactly as he requests the student to interact with the CDs. This effectively means that there is no review, no written material, no practicing. The way Hodder has redone the courses violates this in my opinion. I have told them this but they really couldn't care less about what I think.

What you say is what many people have told me. However, I am not convinced that I want to go this route. Frankly, anything that can be digitally rendered will be pirated if there is any evidence that people want it.

The situation in Russia is just one example. I was speaking with a Russian-language bookseller last week. He told me that the very day a book is issued in Russia it is instantly available for free digital download on many pirate and so-called sharing sites. What this does to the publishing houses, many of which are struggling, and the authors, should be obvious. The future looks dismal for publishing in Russia for this reason.

People like me can simply refuse to be part of this system. I can teach in a way that simply cannot be pirated. And, as things stand, that is my choice.

Thanks for your wishes for my success in this endeavor. I also wish you success in your learning.

Harold Goodman

April 20, 2013 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Fermín Etxenike said...

Harold,

I have heard of some MT courses targeted to native Spanish speakers, but I haven´t been able to find them. Do you know where they can be bought?

To reply to the commenter that said if everyone worked for free food would still have a cost, I have to say that that is not true. If everyone (including those producing food or the necessary supplies to produce it) worked for free, then food wouldn´t have a cost either. Nothing would have a cost. Of course, it would take learning to let go of greed, both by the people producing stuff and the people consuming it (so they would consume what they need and not abuse).
I hope that day comes, but it won´t likely be within my lifetime. However I can work towards that goal, and I am actually doing it.
I do give part of my work for free. And unlike a musician or a writer, the work I give for free is not subject to copying (digital or otherwise), so it is not true that whoever takes it for free doesn´t take anything from me. It takes my one-on-one time as a massage therapist. But I do get free food and free clothing (without bartering), as well as a great satisfaction when I see the change in a person when they get up from my table. I still have to take paying clients, as I don´t get enough free food, free clothing, free language training, etc. to quit that completely, but we will eventually get there when we all change the way we relate to work and resources.

May 9, 2013 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hodder had the English for Spanish speakers course transcribed but it was never published.

I don't know why they didn't publish it.

May 9, 2013 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Fermín Etxenike said...

Was that the only course for Spanish speakers? I´m actually interested in French, I got English covered ;)

Thanks for answering.

May 15, 2013 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

As far as I know, it was the only course for Spanish-speakers.

May 15, 2013 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I tried learning Mandarin using Assimil, but quickly gave up. Months later I tried again using your method, and there was no looking back. The dreaded and intimidating tones were a piece of cake thanks to your innoative method. You may have stood on Michel Thomas's shoulders, but you have attained new heights.

I finished the Mandarin Foundation and Advanced courses earlier this month. I loved them and I thank you, Mr. Goodman. I just started the Vocabulary course, and so far it seems just as good.

Last year I tried Paul Noble Italian, for the sole reason that I knew Michel Thomas did not use native speakers for the courses he taught personally. People have complained that this resulted in a bad accent to imitate. Your course, of course, has a native speaker, but the problem is that I get tired of listening to the incorrect pronunciations and bad accents of the two students. I don't know what Paul Noble Mandarin will be like but I know his Italian course had no non-native speakers pronouncing Italian words. Thus all the Italian I ever heard was from the mouth of a native speaker, and as far as I can remember not even Paul Noble himself uttered a word of Italian.

It is because I loved your course that I wish to suggest how it can be improved even further: nothing in Mandarin should be uttered by a non-native. This does not preclude the existence of two fellow students; the "students" can be native speakers too. In fact, this will expose the learner to more than one native pronunciation and voice, which will undoubtedly prove stimulating.

On a side note, I wish to learn the Chinese script eventually. I am aware of the brute force method of learning: read, read, and read till it sticks, and know that if you take an extended break you'll forget everything. Is there an alternative?

Thank you once again, Mr. Goodman, for introducing me to the world of Chinese!

June 16, 2013 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Dear Unknown :)

I love feedback from students and your letter is very detailed and helpful.

Michel Thomas used two non-native speakers for one reason only; the value of the mistakes and the message to the non-native speaker that you,too, are part of our little class here.

Mistakes followed by feedback and understanding corrections are the way we learn.

Make your mistakes now.

Make as many as possible.

Learn from each one and you will amaze yourself and others with your progress.

If you were to take a course in Chinese you would be seated with non-native speakers. This is similar.

I am still convinced that it is the best way. MT tried many different approaches for over 50 years. This is the one he found that worked the best.

You will have a lifetime to converse with native speakers.

I agree that force feeding, infinite repetition of characters is not the best way to learn them.

My recommendation is that you decide whether you initially want to learn simplified or traditional characters. Then buy the book, Remembering traditional ( simplified) hanzi 1, by James Heisig and Timothy Richardson.

Follow their instructions exactly. Do not deviate one iota from their instructions.

You will be satisfied with the results, I think.

I am also working on a way to learn characters which will be as innovative and effective as my approach to tones. However, it will not be available for some time I guess.

In the meantime I suggest you check out the work of Heisig.

The first of his two volumes contains a detailed summary of instructions on pages 105-107 and 260-261.

Good luck with your progress in Chinese.

Please keep in touch. I want to support you in this journey.

June 17, 2013 at 4:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is really interesting. Thank you for putting up all this excellent content!

What you say here is really interesting. I enjoyed learning Chinese with your course and German with the one MT wrote himself.

I actually came across another course yesterday on a site called youspeakgerman.com. I was wondering if you know whether the author of the course on that website was also trained in how to teach languages using MT's method? I listened to the demo on it and it did remind me quite a lot of the way MT taught me German. Do you know if the author of that website received any training from Michel Thomas?

June 19, 2013 at 2:48 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

I am not familiar with that site.

Thanks for taking a moment to write.

June 19, 2013 at 3:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd agree that the two systems are very similar, but I will say that both are very good and serve their purpose.
For me the Paul Noble CD's are essentially a "revision" (or update) of the Michel Thomas method, working on resolving some of the flaws of the original work. For example the use of a native speaker really helps. Whilst of course MT was fluent he does have a strong accent which can make it difficult to distinguish the Polish nuances from the French!
The biggest improvement is the decision not to include real students on the CDs. Whilst I can see where Michel Thomas was going with having the two pupils (forcing the listener to learn along with them), unfortunately one of them does make a LOT of mistakes. This can lead to the listener getting frustrated and bored, and simply wastes time on the CDs that could have been spent on further tuition. The MT CD’s would definitely benefit from some better editing.

I’d definitely agree with you on the marketing of the Paul Noble course. I think the IQ claims are a bit of a gimmick; Collins have spent a lot of money on a product figure-headed by one man so they clearly felt the need to give him a bit of an allure. Personally, I think this is no longer necessary as the courses are good enough to sell themselves.

Overall, both are excellent courses and could probably be used together to good effect.

October 11, 2013 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

You wrote:
"Whilst of course MT was fluent he does have a strong accent which can make it difficult to distinguish the Polish nuances from the French! "

Paul Noble is neither fluent nor without his own English accent or, as you might term it, "nuance".

I knew MT for ten years and never detected a Polish "nuance".

Noble is trapped by his own devious history of repeated written requests for information on the inner workings of the MT methodology and his later admission that his system is heavily indebted to that of MT.

When he went on to lift entire passages verbatim from MT, the cat was out of the bag.

October 12, 2013 at 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who has done 3 of the Michel Thomas courses (Spanish, Italian and German), I have to say that the many comments on here faulting the courses for not using native speakers are missing an important point. The courses do not set out to enable you to pass yourself off as a native speaker of the language - their purpose is to enable you to make yourself understood.

Mr Thomas talks about 'getting the ball over the net', and this is a good analogy. He focuses on those importants things, such as stress, which will make sure your meaning is conveyed correctly. You can achieve complete idiomatic conversational fluency in a language while still having a strong accent, and that doesn't matter.

October 17, 2013 at 1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"His fear was that others would steal his work.
Now that we have Paul Noble and his "unique method" we can all understand that his fear was quite justified"
Why does it matter that someone takes his ideas and updates them and packages them in a more user friendly manner? Why should we be stuck with someone who seems to be eating while teaching, has a very strong accent and spend so much time listening to the stuttering "bad" student that you pretty much forget what the sentence was. I have found when listening to native speakers, for example, I automatically put stresses in the word correctly and have found this far more effective than Thomas's pantomime stresses. I have progressed with the Michel Thomas course and others I have spoken to have made great strides but almost everyone does not like the bumbling student idea and have doubts about the quality of Thomas's Spanish pronunciation. If Noble's course or others base themselves on Michel thomas's and by doing it in a more accessible way, open up language learning to more people, then all to the good. Being the first to do something does not necessarily make you the best. Who knows, Michel Thomas himself may have got ideas from someone else who did not do any CDs!

November 7, 2013 at 4:30 AM  
Anonymous Francois said...

Harold i could write an essay as to why MT was brilliant and how his course was the master key to which many have used to unlock doors and others have used to copy. i have your mandarin course but have not yet started as i have an order in which i want to learn languages. i have the french german spanish and madarin courses and i believe they will change my way of life forever.

Harold i have 3 questions

1) why did MT only use the "vous" form and not the "tu" form in french? now i know as a tourist to ALWAYS use vous and though my name suggests im french i am not and only learning via MT have i done my name justice. I am not enquiring so much so that i can use the "tu" form but rather if i am speaking to a native french person and they use the "tu" form it would confuse many students who have used the MT method i understand the difference of who to use it with and when to use it but because i have self learned i do not have the same confidence as to even attempt to use it as i do with vous because the way MT teaches you understand and it sticks with you. i am yet to know the verbs or nouns that change when you use tu eg you go using vous to go is aller but if you use tu it is not aller but a different word entirely

2) as a french learner using the MT way i have confidence to speak the language however my biggest drawback is that the tempo in which native french speakers talk is different to a linguist teaching the language haha. i have watched french movies with subtitles to train my ear to digest and comprehend sentences quicker but i seem to only pick up bits and bobs and sometimes that because of the subtitle + the spoken language. do you have any suggestions to a beginner/intermediate wanting to improve how well you understand HEARING french

3) i am currently doing french and aim to do spanish german and mandarin. would you siggest learning one language at a time and being at least intermediate/fluent level before learning another language or can you say buy 4 different language cds and learn them silmultaneously i guess im asking is it helpful to try to master one before learning another or is it actually helpful to learn several at the same time


thank you for carrying on MT legacy

Francois

November 7, 2013 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Francois

Thanks for writing.

I can only guess on why he used the vous form. My sense is that he wanted people to begin to talk. Learning one, easy form like the vous form will enable you to speak with many people and be easily understood. Also, frankly, some people might take offense if you used the familiar tu form with them.

That is my two cents for what it is worth. He did the same thing with other languages like German, Italian, Spanish.

It is natural not to understand others who speak at native speed. You are learning the language. Ask them to either slow down and/or repeat themselves occasionally. If they are sensitive to your situation as a learner they will do so. If not, just go on. There are plenty of people for you to speak with. As time passes, you will have less of a problem understanding others.

Also, you don't need to understand every word they say, especially at the beginning. Just try to get the gist of what they are saying and comment on that only. Let them do most of the talking. They will then think you are brilliant:)) Only comment on what you understand. The key is to keep on talking. You will make mistakes. It is part of the learning process. Just accept it and be grateful that you are communicating in French ( or whatever the language may be).

I would study one language at a time. You will have many years to learn other languages. Do yourself a big favor and take it easy. Learn whatever language appeals to you first. Then, when you have attained a level that enables you to communicate with natives, you can consider another language.

Good luck with your studies and above all have fun.

November 7, 2013 at 7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting threads. I have MT French, German, Spanish, Italian & Mandarin, so am obviously a fan.

The worry about plagiatisation by Noble, is not fair in my opinion - he doesn't use 2 students who make mistakes, it is a quite different approach.

I would also suggest that the MT approach of building up the language could be considered to be very similar to Magerita Madrigal's Magic-Key books.

I have no axe to grind either way, MT French & German are excellent, Spanish & Italian less so. Madrigal's books are superb, if you can find them on Pallantin.

all I'd say to people, is don't be a thief, pay for your products !

November 12, 2013 at 3:08 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Anonymous

BTW, you have a very common name. For some reason, it seems that my site is attracting more and more people with this name.

Noble has used the identical language and lines from the MT courses. Does that qualify as plagiarism?

He badgered me for information on how MT did what he did when we had an MT site. I answered all the questions never realizing that one day he would turn around and "invent" this method.

I spoke with MT about the Madrigal books. He honestly had never heard of her. He actually just did his own thing and never bothered to even check out what others were doing.

His method may appear similar to the cognates that she uses but that is just a device to ease the student into the course itself.

It was all part of his approach that this is easy.

And the way he did it, it was easy.

November 15, 2013 at 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Dear Harold

Have you listened to this course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0Tz7pVtj-0

I honestly cannot believe it. Just listen to the introduction and what they begin by teaching. Sound familiar? They even have a student on the course being taught by them.

I am in complete shock.

They are currently offering Greek and Spanish and are beginning to expand into more exotic languages.

Honestly, listening to the first few tracks I just do not believe it. They are calling it "the thinking method".

What do you think?

December 19, 2013 at 3:20 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

You already know what I think.

I have thought this for many years.

Some things never change.

December 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM  
Anonymous George Ashcroft said...

Dear Harold

Michel Thomas was, with hindsight, right to be fearful of his method being undermined. His Spanish course was an inspiration to me and actually helped me to get through University during a period of serious self-doubt. When I listen to these imposters I experience an emptiness – there is no soul in their teaching. Anyone who has regard for Michel Thomas will understand what I mean. In this respect, the Noble course is dreadful indeed. I feel a real sense of sadness that this has happened – it is not even a decade since the death of Michel Thomas. I believe that the friends of Michel Thomas need to seize the initiative – perhaps by way of an on-line Michel Thomas Language Institute – that would serve keep his life and legacy alive for coming generations. The institute would seek to popularise and promote Michel's essential educational tenets: that there is no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher; that there is no subject so difficult that it cannot be broken down into it's component parts and that the responsibilty for remembering and learning rests with the teaching and not with the learner. Michel Thomas understood that there exist different learning styles and I can think of many applications of his ideas within the world of what is commonly referred to as special needs education. I believe that there are many people who, having used Michel's courses, would be sufficiently inspired to undertake additional research into Michel's ideas and philosophy. I can recommend two books with this purpose in mind: The Learning Revolution by Dr. Jonathan Solity, 2008, & The Test of Courage by Christopher Robbins, 2003. Taken together, these works provide an in-depth study of Michel Thomas, his life, his philosophy and methods.

January 31, 2014 at 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

This has developed into a rather interesting discussion. I'd like to offer a few comments of my own, if I may...

First, regarding Margarite Madrigal, I think it is quite possible that Michel Thomas would not have come across her works. I think we take it for granted how easy it is to access information in the age of the Internet. Before its invention, when Michel would have been developing his method, you had to make more of an effort to seek out information in libraries, bookshops etc. And the means to advertise weren't anywhere near as global.

However, whether Michel Thomas knew of Margarite Madrigal's work or not, from what I have seen the similarities end at an approach based on cognates. There is a lot more to MT's method beyond cognates that makes it unique. MM doesn't have a monopoly on using cognates. In fact, you'd have to make a concerted effort not to notice the cognates between English and other Germanic languages and Latin-based ones. It's a bit like saying, 'Don't think of an elephant'. In order not to think of one, you first have to think of one and then try to think of something else or nothing at all.

The issue with the Paul Noble courses are a different matter. I've never used one but I have no reason to doubt Harold's judgement. If PN is not only copying the methodology and passing it off as his own, but he is also lifting chunks wholesale from the MT courses, that would seem to me to be grounds for legitimate complaint. Why hasn't Hodder called Collins out on what appears to be a blatant breach of copyright? I would imagine the PN courses are eating into Hodder's lucrative MT sales to some extent.

Not very 'Noble' to nick someone else's work, is it? I also wonder about the claim that PN is a genius, yet he was unable to learn a language at school. In my eyes, a genius should be brilliant at everything academic. It's akin to a world-class chef like Gordon Ramsay declaring he can't make pasta. Obviously, he can. It's just an illustration.

Interestingly enough, MM was sued for breach of copyright for publishing a Russian volume in the 1950's, that was based upon someone else's work, and they took exception to it. A genuine copy of this book is a pretty rare thing as only a limited number were distributed before all the trouble started. Maybe people weren't too scared to stand up for their copyright 60 years ago!

Harold, glad to hear you are writing a book on Chinese characters. I'll be buying a copy when it's ready.

All the best.

March 27, 2015 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger The Language Door said...

This is an interesting post, and interesting comment conversation. Perhaps someone has already said this, but I haven't read all the comments so I'll try to be brief.

I've used Michel Thomas' courses. I learned Spanish (only 3 years after starting Spanish with his course I'm finishing a master's in a Madrid university, all taught in Spanish). I think very very highly of him and his courses/system. I have 2 thoughts on these "plagiarizers":

1. I can totally understand why it's insulting to Michel Thomas and those who worked with him. All his hard word is being copied by 2nd rate teachers (2nd rate because they're not Michel Thomas) who don't even have the decency to give him credit, nevermind compensate him. Downloading materials denies the material creator (Michel Thomas in this case) compensation for his/her work, but at least it's not being sold for money. There's a tricky grey area here in my opinion (you'd need a whole other blog post and comment thread for this discussion). However, the teachers/companies passing off Michel Thomas' work as their own, AND selling it for money, seems to me to be wrong.

2. That said, Michel Thomas did seem to want his work to have an impact, to spread throughout the education sector, and not be limited to cold academic institutions. And in some way, this is what is happening. For better or for worse, his system is being spread and it is influencing teachers and students (just not honestly, or with due credit to the man). You could argue that this is a good thing.

What's your opinion on this?

December 13, 2015 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

What is my opinion?

My opinion is that Paul Noble has taken intellectual property that is not his and passed it off as his own.

The work of MT has yet to be appreciated for what it is: an authentic and highly evolved system of learning and teaching that he intended not only for language learning but for learning in general.

After spending ten years with him, asking him countless questions ( which are all recorded on cassette tapes) about his work and understanding of it, having gone through two complete personal courses of instruction with him, and then, following his death, creating a Mandarin Chinese course following his approach, I believe that I can say with confidence that virtually no one else out there gets what he was doing.

Least of all Paul Noble.

One of MT's greatest fears was that not only would others take claim for his life's work but also falsify it with their gross ignorance.

December 13, 2015 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There must be other ways of sharing content or teaching online. There is no doubt that MT's courses were excellent I have personally spent a good deal money on them. It's a shame that more aren't available. I like what Rutledge do, you can buy 1 from the colloquial series and get the audio for free. The Q & A format can't be beat though. As for the method - the method is only 1/2 the story, the other 1/2 was the man, he was interesting to listen to.

August 3, 2016 at 3:25 AM  

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