This is the second of the Michel Thomas language course offerings and, like my previous review on the foundation course, it’s wise not to become confused by the differing names and presentations for the same course. I’ve also noticed on Amazon that the ‘Language Builder‘ appears to be significantly cheaper at the time of writing than then ‘Masterclass French‘; so check the various prices before buying.
The course presentation differs slightly than the original Foundation and following Advanced French courses in that it doesn’t follow the format of teacher (Thomas) having a realtime interaction with two students. As a result it’s a lot faster and, particularly as you are more familiar with the course content, it’s easier to use without getting frustrated with the additional content taking up your time.
However the downside of this is that the CDs as a whole feel as if Michel is reading from a script, which he no doubt is, and as a result some of the spontaneity, humour and anecdotes are missing. I find this disappointing as some of his humorous asides help me remember key learning points more easily; tant pis!
Unlike the Foundation course and the Advanced the Language Builder course concentrates less on the structure of sentences and focuses on introducing more, basic vocabulary. It is useful for developing knowledge of expressions that don’t automatically transfer from the English into French. For example;
En tout cas at any rate
Je n’ai pas envie I don’t feel like
Il paraît It appears
A mon avis In my opinion
Ça vaut la peine It’s worth the trouble
for this reason it’s a good tool, if not essential.
The set of CDs also provides you with an opportunity, if you use the pause button frequently and quickly, to use the skills taught in the first course to stop and think about how you’d construct the sentence and give it a go yourself. So although with the phrases above you couldn’t automatically do that, you can develop them into simple sentences and this is satisfying as the method itself is a little addictive and hugely satisfying!
In terms of grammar the CDs also introduce the idea of lui as in to give something to him or to her. This is developed in the Advanced French series and I remember when I first started to use them some years ago I went straight from the Foundation to the Advanced and suddenly found I wasn’t able to answer as well as the students on these CDs.
As well as basic conversational talking points the CDs also introduce the days of the week, months, directions, asking people to do things for you (your suit cleaned, washed etc), how to write/say it in French/English, weather, feelings (hot, cold, thirsty, hungry etc), filling in a form as well as other basic topics. As such it’s a good set of CDs to give to anyone you know who is studying basic or GCSE French to help them in their revision.
And that’s how I’d sum up this little set – short and sweet; nothing in depth. It’s fine, particularly if you don’t spend a large amount of money on it. You can listen to it as you’re strolling with the dog, in the car, doing the washing up – whatever, because what is covered isn’t too intense. As such, especially if you’re short of cash, it is perfectly ok to skip this one and go to the more substantial Advanced French course which introduces you to more complex grammar and structure (and any missing bits that I previously mentioned are covered in there anyway, you’ll just be aware that you’re missing prior knowledge).
Just one more thing; like the Foundation course you can find downloadable PDFs of the accompanying booklet here should you ever lose yours. As you can download and keep this on your Kindle too it’s handy to have as a little revision tool for on the go!