Michel Thomas

How to learn a new language quickly with the Michel Thomas Method

A great way when learning a language for the first time is to use the Michel Thomas method.

Michel Thomas was born in Poland and during World War II he was imprisoned in concentration camps. Among other things he worked as a code breaker.

When he was young and learning languages in the traditional way of learning languages; through rote memorization and repetition he realized that there must be a better way of doing this and so he discovered a new way of learning which does not depend on rote memorization and repetition.

In Michel Thomas’s method of learning he explains at the start of his audio recordings that all the responsibility of learning is on the teacher, not on the student.

He explains that all you have to do is to relax and relieve all tension from your body, as this helps the learning process.

If you are relaxed then the language will go in easily. He says that any kind of tension blocks the learning process and that you shouldn’t even try to relax, because if you are trying then you are creating tension in your body. Instead just let go and release all tension in your body.

He also says that you shouldn’t try to remember anything, as this will prevent the process from working properly.

All you have to do is to relax and follow along with the audio recording.

The recording has a teacher, Michel Thomas or another teacher depending on the language you are learning who has been trained in the Michel Thomas Method and two students who are also approaching the language for the first time like yourself.

In fact, as Michel Thomas says, it’s better if you are totally new to the language, if you have already been studying the language in a traditional way it could interfere with his method.

The Michel Thomas method is a really great way to quickly learn the foundation and grammar of a new language.

It’s incredible because after a few sessions of listening to his audio recordings you’ll find yourself being able to say really long complicated sentences.

You can hear the other students on the recording gasping when they realize that they can do this.

I learned Japanese from following his recordings, and my Japanese friends were really suprised at how I’d managed to be able to speak Japanese so quickly.

The Japanese Michel Thomas recording isn’t actually one where Michel Thomas is doing the teaching it’s actually two people called Helen Gilhooly and another teacher called Niamh Kelly who have been trained in the Method.

In the classroom as you listen, as well as the two students who are also learning like you are, there is a native Japanese speaker who says the correct pronunciation of Japanese so you can learn how to pronounce the words naturally which really helps.

In the Spanish and French Michel Thomas recordings Michel Thomas speaks with quite a strong accent but you shouldn’t worry too much about this, studies have shown that we acquire accents not just from our teachers but from the social group that we are part of.

For example if you are part of a biker gang or a group of young people doing yoga you will acquire the accent that most people speak in that group.

More information can be found on this in the writings of the linguist and activist Stephen Krashen. This is especially useful to know if you are teaching a language and worry that you have a strong accent or if you are trying to learn a new language and acquire a certain accent. More on this in this post …

The benefit of learning Spanish or French using the Michel Thomas Method is that you have Michel Thomas as your teacher, you get to experience the method directly from him.

The method is also a great way to relax, since it’s a way of learning that depends on you relaxing.

You do need to play a role in the learning process, when Michel Thomas asks you a question there is a pause in the recording and a beep where you have to try and answer. It’s not about guessing, it’s about thinking through the language that you have already learnt and then formulating a sentence that is natural and correct.

Michel Thomas believes that you should get your answers completely correct, he doesn’t want you to only give a half baked answer and only get it nearly right, he emphasises that the student should know what he has learnt before moving on to the next part.

‘What you know, you understand and what you know, you don’t forget’ Michel Thomas.

He does this by constantly checking for understanding, if someone on the recording makes a mistake, he goes back a few steps which then brings you back to a point where you could understand and then moves you along from there. He does all this effortlessly.

Michel Thomas taught langauges to celebrities and charged 25000 US dollars per weekend, and Emma Thompson described it as

“The most extraordinary learning experience of my life.” Emma Thompson in the Guardian.

The Michel Thomas Method really helped me to learn Japanese, to get a foundation of a language that is so different from my own native langauge of English.

After five years of learning French in high school in the UK, I could only say a couple of sentences and I was convinced for years that I couldn’t learn languages.

Then I learned Japanese from the Michel Thomas Method and found that this was just a myth that I had believed, that you needed some special talent for learning languages.

Everyone can learn a language, we all have learnt our first language as children and so we can learn another language, our brains are capable of this. Michel Thomas would often say, just as Mr Miyagi in the film the Karate Kid,

“There is no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher.” Michel Thomas

He would also work in inner city schools and he would teach children languages like French and Spanish.

Give it a go you might be suprised at how quickly you can pick up a new language and start your journey of learning languages and meeting people from different cultures.

Survival Japanese

How to ask for directions in Japanese

If you are travelling in Japan you will often find yourself lost in big cities like Tokyo or even in the countryside. It’s a good idea to know how to ask for directions, here’s how to do it.

ホテルはどこですか in Romaji hoteru-ha-doko-desu-ka (the ‘ha’ is pronounced ‘wa’ so it sounds like this hoteru-wa-doko-desu-ka

You can insert the name of your hotel in front of the word ‘hoteru’ (hotel).

Lets break this sentence down a bit, you might have noticed that the first word ホテル (hoteru) uses slightly different characters than the rest of the sentence. That’s because the word hotel comes from English, words from other languages, not just English use characters called Katakana. The characters are slightly different from Hiragana (the characters that are written in the rest of the sentence) はどこですか (ha-doko-desu-ka). These words that use Katakana are quite common and if you learn them you can have an instant vocabulary of words that are borrowed from other languages. This is really helpful because when you are trying to learn a language that is so different from your language you need something to hook onto that you can connect to something you already know to help you understand the rest of the sentence. I’ll write a post on this but for now lets get back to asking for directions.

ホテルはどこですか hoteru-wa-doko-desu-ka where is the hotel?

The は in this sentence pronounced wa indicates what we are talking about in the sentence, the thing that came before it in the sentence, which in this case is ‘hotel’ ホテル hoteru. Think of it as saying something like, as for the hotel…

When you look at the last character in the sentence, it’s か (ka) This turns a sentence into a question. You don’t need to change the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence like in other languages. Then when we look at the middle part of the sentence, we can see the word どこ (doko) This means where, and finally we have です (desu) (don’t over emphasise the u when you say it, it’s usually just pronounced dess). です (desu) you can think of it as kind of like ‘it is’. It makes the sentence more polite to use the word desu.

So the whole sentence again,

ホテルはどこですか hoteru-wa-doko-desu-ka Where is the hotel? (You can think of it as: As for the hotel where is it?)

So what you do now is change the first word and just memorize the last part of the sentence and you can ask directions to anywhere.

For example here a few places you might need to get too,

駅  えき (eki) means train station.

郵便局  ゆうびんきょく (yuu-bin-kyoku) means post office.

銀行 ぎんこう (Ginkou) means bank.

居酒屋 いざかや (Izakaya) is a Japanese style pub where you can also get tasty Japanese food.

So you can just add these words to the beginning of the sentence.

So you can say for example, 駅はどこですか  えきはどこですか (eki-wa-doko-desu-ka) Where is the train station? (as for the train station, where is it?) As for the Eki where is it?


How to say I Love You in Japanese

In Japanese there are different ways to say I Love You. One is said only between a husband and wife and then rarely as it would seem strange if you said it all the time. This way of saying I Love you is Aishiteru, in Japanese it’s pronounced Ai-shi-teru, it’s writtern in Kanji in the following way, 愛してる the Kanji 愛 means Love. Another more common way to express feelings of Love and affection and to tell someone that you like or love them is to to say Suki, it’s written like this in Japanese 好き. The ‘u’ is barely audible, it sounds more like ‘ski’. This is usually said when you confess your love for someone. You can also say, daisuki, which is written like this 大好き the Kanji 大 means big, so it’s a way of saying your feelings are stronger than the first one. You might want to tone it down a bit and just say 好き so as not to scare the other person off.

So here they are again

愛してる Aishiteru

好き Suki

大好き Daisuki

In Japan, people don’t say I Love You all the time like in other countries, instead they show it in their actions and also show it indirectly in their words.

In Japan on Valentines day, women give men chocolates, then a month later in March there is another day called White day where the men buy women gifts.

Another way to say I Love You is 月が綺麗ですね。In Hiragana, げつがきれいですね。In Romaji, getsu-ga-kirei-desu-ne. Literally means ‘The moon is beautiful tonight isn’t it’.