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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What do I do after the Michel Thomas course?

I received a query asking what does one do after using the Michel Thomas course if one wishes to continue on.

First a little background information.

Hodder is the publisher of the Michel Thomas courses. I am the author of the Mandarin Chinese course; I do not publish them.

Hodder is under new management having been bought out by a French conglomerate a few years ago. The new people at Hodder have little to no direct understanding of the Michel Thomas materials, in my opinion. The former MD knew Michel Thomas. Much of the editorial staff had years of experience working closely with authors like myself in developing these courses. The new people rarely communicate with me.

They have now decided to cease publishing all the original courses by MT as well as all of the secondary courses by other authors. In place of these they have created new courses which are cobbled together bits of the old courses with visual materials as well as review materials. Of course, anyone familiar with the MT method will immediately realize that he was totally opposed to the use of such materials. They seriously detract from the efficacy of the method.

They have also announced that they have no new languages planned.

I have already apologized to those who buy the Mandarin version of the new courses. I was never consulted on the makeup of the courses which will bear my name as author. I do not recommend that anyone buy such a course. Stick with the old versions which are available from various sources.

The old courses were sold split into two and three parts. Foundation (Beginning - North America), Advanced and Vocabulary (for certain languages only). These labels are misleading. I mentioned this to MT when they first came out and he agreed.

All of the levels comprise one complete course. It is a course that will provide the student with a decent familiarity and use of the essential patterns necessary to speak the language. It will not give you the bulk of the vocabulary and advanced patterns and phrases. For that, you will need to go elsewhere.

As you mention, the method works well in providing what it claims to provide. However, as with any such approach it can only provide so much.

My suggestion is that you decide what you want to do with the language. How do you want to actually use it?

If you want to go on a vacation ( holiday) then you may wish to get a basic phrasebook such as Lonely Planet and work with what it provides.

If you want to read then start with low-level readers meant for natives ( school children). There is much adapted material out there for such audiences. I also use religious materials printed by missionaries which are aimed at those who are just learning to read. One source which is free and readily available is the magazine published by the Jehovah's Witnesses, Awake!. It is published monthly, available for free download on the net, has mp3 recordings which will help you with the pronunciation, and has some interesting, general interest articles on history and nature if, like me, you find the religious content repulsive. In addition, the English editions should be downloaded as well since they provide an excellent translation of the foreign language editions. These magazines are not meant for children. They are aimed at adults who can read the language or who, via mp3s, wish to listen to it. I collect these in various languages since they are a fantastic resource. Be advised that the older magazines are not available online after a few months time.

If you want to really do well I suggest that you find someone who is a native-speaker to spend some time on a regular basis to simply chat. You can do this locally, in person, or via the net ( skype, etc.). There are many sites on the net for language exchange where you can find people.

I go to local churches where foreign language services are held, as well.

If you really want to learn there are many resources around no matter how geographically isolated you may believe you are.

One further comment.

The method of Boris Shekhtman, which I have written about on this blog, is a very good way to accomplish what you seek.

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18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

could you post a link to the Jehovah's Witnesses, Awake!? having trouble finding it :)]
is there any specific learning materials (grammar books etc.) that you would recommend?
thanks

July 18, 2011 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

The general link = www.jw.org

Then go to downloads.

I have no specific titles since I don't know your needs, language, etc.

July 18, 2011 at 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the link.

how did you go about learning chinese hanzi?
what do you use for russian? do you use the penguin course by Nicholas brown?
would you ever consider using any of the mt courses produced by the other teachers? the russian course is very useful in building a base vocabulary and use of tenses.

thanks,
kevin

July 18, 2011 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Kevin

What han zi I have learned mainly are based on the system of James W. Heisig as detailed in Remembering Traditional Hanzi: Book 1, How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Chinese Characters. I wrote an Amazon.com review in which I tell how to make the best use of this volume.

In order to get the most out of this book I recommend reading the following pages first: Introduction, p. 105-107 (the best and clearest explanation of the method) as well as p. 260-261 ( the fruit of the method is finally revealed). Also, make the flash cards described ( p.47-48) and use them as suggested; from Keyword to mnemonic story to actual character and NOT the other way around. This approach will get you the desired result.

This book will teach you 1,500 characters which will get you through 90% of Chinese text which is not bad for starters.

====

As detailed in other posts on this blog, my Russian is essentially from studying weekly with Boris Shekhtman, a very talented teacher of Russian.

The Nicholas Brown book is excellent and I believe that if you know what is in his book you will have a nice foundation for the rest of your Russian language journey. It covers the basics but not much more. However, that is nothing to sneeze at and I like his way of presenting the material. His frequency dictionary is invaluable.

I have gone through the MT Russian course out of curiosity. It is OK but leaves out a lot that I believe is essential. However, you can learn much from it. No real learning is ever wasted. It is better to learn a few things well than to just plow through a lot of stuff without much recall or long-term use.

Some of the other MT courses produced by other teachers are said to be good. The Dutch, for example, is said to be such a course.

July 18, 2011 at 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks, i read boris shekhtman's book, that you reccomended, detailing the techniques such as islands. did he help you make your islands or did you do this between classes on your own.
is it easy to build them up without a teacher?

July 20, 2011 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Boris regularly has his students work with him on creating islands. We suggest the subject matter according to our needs and goals. Then we speak it out in Russian and he writes down what we say. He assists where necessary in vocabulary, phrasing and grammar.

Afterwards, he rewrites the entire island so that it sounds like it came from a native speaker, contains our level of grammar and phrasing, and is not too long.

He will then send this to me via e mail.

I do not create my own islands in Russian since he is the master of this.

However, working with a native speaker who is a good friend I have created my own islands in Chinese.

They were not as good as what Boris creates during our work together ( he has been doing this since 1974 with thousands of students) but they are passable.

I would try it on your own unless you have access to Boris. You might contact him by e mail and ask him if he would work with you via skype. His contact e mail is: sbsltc(at) (a) (o) (l) (dot) com. Of course, aol is one word.

Only contact him if you are serious about becoming a student. He is very overworked and does not have much free time. As you may imagine, he is much in demand.

July 20, 2011 at 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

o i would be very interested in that. but i assume there is a fee yes? :) how much would that be.
does he teach any other languages? i read somewhere he made tailored courses for clients.

July 20, 2011 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Yes, there is a fee. It is how he earns his living.

Talk with him about it for more information.

July 20, 2011 at 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bought Boris Shekhtman's book based on your recommendation, it appears to be just what I need, Thanks.

July 30, 2011 at 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad that Hodder is modifying these courses. I understand that they want to "update" them and make them more appealing with software, but I have a bad feeling that the software is just tacked on and not very good. I'm using MT Japanese right now and am really enjoying it. I'm also planning on picking up your Chinese course! I really like the method and it seems to give a wonderful foundation to learn more. I wish they had levels after the advanced course, too. I guess it wouldn't make much money though since I'm sure there are many more beginners than advanced learners.

-Amber

August 11, 2011 at 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harold,

I wonder how long it took to prepare the Mandarin courses and record them. I also would like to know if you had studied Mandarin previously or you learned it in anticipation of creating the courses.

I've bought all three courses and really enjoyed them.

September 3, 2011 at 4:27 AM  
Blogger Harold said...

The Mandarin courses were prepared over several years. Up until the last moment when they were actually recorded things were being tweaked and improved. I was even making changes in the recording studio sessions. This drove the British editorial staff crazy. They wanted to stick to a script but I refused to do this. New stuff was constantly coming up and I insisted on the changes. It made for a much more effective course, one that I am proud of.

Thanks for writing. I love to hear from students and am happy that you enjoyed them. Enjoyment is essential to learning. Learning must be fun or it is not true learning.

September 3, 2011 at 5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi,

its been a while since your last post, is there going to be any more soon? they are very enjoyable to read.
plus i think there are some posts from a few years back that you said that you would continue but never got round to. i think there was a story of a second hand bookshop that was never finished.

kevin.

September 4, 2011 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Hi, Kevin

I have been posting quite a lot, sometimes several times a week.

However, these have not been formal posts but rather longish responses to comments.

You are right. I did write about several things which I said I would continue and did not.

The bookshop was one such post.

For many years I have thought about that particular idea. My thought was to expand it into something much longer than a few posts.

It is very reassuring to read that you recall that particular post. I often have considered self publishing some books and making them available for purchase on Amazon and elsewhere. I just didn't know if they would get noticed or even read on the net.

It is rather large, you know.

Thanks for writing.

As a result of your post, I will create something which will be posted within the next few days. It will be different than the language materials that I have concentrated on for a while.

September 4, 2011 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Harold said...

Well, in answer to Kevin's request, I have just uploaded a new post: John Rechy and City of Night.

I hope that you enjoy it.

It is not about learning languages.

It is about the efforts of a young writer to accurately express himself. I admire such things.

September 4, 2011 at 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Linguahacks said...

You may want to check out the self anointed "Benny the Irish Polyglot" who is using your MT course, and a trip to China, to reach advanced fluency in three months. IMO he's of the more shameless self-promoting variety of YouTube polyglots, whereas Luca (whom you posted about) is the more soulful sensitive type, but at least he gives credit where it's due: your MT Madarin course.

So, here's the link: http://www.fluentin3months.com/chinese-week-1/

January 17, 2012 at 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Harold Goodman said...

Hi, Linguahacks

Thanks for this heads up.

There are many wonderful resources online for language learners.

You just need to know how to use them in a way that will allow you to reach your goal, whatever it may be.

I am currently experimenting with reading material in the language after listening to audio of the material read by a native speaker. I first listen to the audio. Then, after each phrase or sentence, I repeat as best as I can. I do this to mimic the pronunciation, the cadence ( very important and often ignored in learning), and just getting comfortable with the language patterns.

Then, if necessary, I will look at the actual text in the language.

This has really helped in my learning of languages. I find it relaxing and lots of fun. I only do it for a brief time when I do it. Best to just take it easy and not push it.

Good luck with your learning.

Harold

March 3, 2012 at 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dont know if this is applicable but the Michel Thomas App on the Apple technologies is pretty breath takingly helpfull. Agree about sticking to the idea of the MT method but have to say in an unbias way they really deliveried a great way to enhance this meathod of teaching.

Any one that has used the Apple MT app has to come away even more empowered than just a simple mp3 or cs player method.

For ref, Im on the japanse, up to hour 3 lession 5 ot 6 and I have learnt to say a heck of lot.

December 23, 2012 at 3:30 PM  

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