As with my comments on the foundation course and the language builder you have to be careful that you don’t buy this course for a second time under a different title; hence my including both titles here. Be careful too that you compare prices with both tiles on places like Amazon as they do vary. Also the odd booklet can be found here for download if you misplace yours or borrow a friends set of CDs etc.
On then to the review. This is an amazing course and, considering the limited amount of intermediary courses for those studying at home, it’s a God send. It really anables you to develop your language to give detailed information.
The style is the same format as Thomas’ foundation course, except the two students are different. They sound very young, as if they are students, and although Michel seems a taskmaster there isn’t the cringe worthiness of the first course due to this change.
There is a little overlapping with the first course, he again covers future tenses, but every other verb tense is covered too. So at the end of the course you have everything; the future, present, past, subjunctive, imperative, negatives, conditional, reflexive verbs (as well as past and conditional reflexives) etc.
You also have it with Michel Thomas’ little witty catchphrases. So, for example, to introduce the subjunctive, he says ‘you never say I want you in French. If you say I want you, they think you mean it.’ You know what, although you have to clarify in your mind he’s talking about ‘I want you to…’ it sticks in your head. Those of us who haven’t made a serious study of a foreign language at school, college etc don’t often know what these verb tenses are called. So when we use the subjunctive in our native language we don’t think about it, but repeat the patters of grammar we’ve learnt throughout our lives. When you’re trying to frame your sentences then it’s really helpful to have these prompts. I now stop to think – “I’m saying I want you” and adjust my language accordingly.
The other way in which this course is excellent for us amateur language students is his explanations of his ‘diving towers‘ and the ‘three keys‘.
The diving towers are to have (avoir) and to be (être). His main advice her is that before you dive into the past tense of the verb, e.g. vendu for sold, you have to have cleared the boards – which is just a visual way of reminding you that the verb is the last thing you hear.
So when you’re thinking about a sentence like ‘I sent it to them’ you know you have to dive from the avoir tower (he makes it clear that in the main être is used for verbs of coming and going), and also that the ‘to’ and ‘them’ must come before the conjugated avoir as that’s what you’re going to dive from. Makes sense?
In terms of conditional tenses he makes it clear that you have to differentiate between what he calls ‘woods’ i.e. I would like, I would go etc. and ‘wouldhave’. I’ve written the latter like this because he says it quickly as if it’s one word which we actually do. Again, we don’t realise that we are actually using a more sophisticated form of grammar, another tense, in our own language. We just use it. However this lack of awareness doesn’t help us when we’re trying to communicate in a second language as we’re not aware that we actually need this additional tense.
These diving towers are one of the ‘keys’ Thomas uses to help you to unlock how you treat the tenses you need to develop your language.
The future and conditional tenses are given a second key; the R key for will or would. Both of them rest on the sound of r. So when you hear this r sound in a verb, or read it, you know you’re in this area of verb conjugations. The way you differentiate between the two is that the will/future tense has three endings;
- rai/rez/raient – all pronounced with a simple ‘a’ as in ‘a,b,c’ sound
- ra – pronounced with an ‘a’ for apple sound and
In the would/conditional verbs endings there are also three sound;
- rais/raient – with the same pronunciation as above – for all the verbs on what he calls the ‘short’ box (I, you, they, he, she)
with the ‘i’s clearly sounded.
He uses the verb avoir to differentiate between the two in the first instance, before going on to practice other versions.
I will have it – Je l’aurais
I would have it – Je l’aurai
He will have it – il l’aura
He would have it – il l’aurais
We will have it – nous l’aurons
We would have it – nous l’aurions
When studying this it becomes clear why the stress is placed at the end of the word in French.
The final key is the ‘w-ing‘ key for the present tense and the imperfect i.e. those times we say “I was doing it for……”, as well as being used for something you used to do or repeatedly did in the past as well as something you’ve just finished doing.
This has to be listened to again and again, or at least I had to, to imbed the teaching tips and practise the examples given. But this is why learning on a cd is so much more beneficial than in a book. I play these when I’m ironing, walking the baby etc to constantly remind me of these principles and it means that I have stock phrases which I have to remind me of them when I need them. Books don’t really give you that – unless you want to write lines out over and over again!
The advice that he gives at the end of the cd is also excellent – read. He recommends magazines, but I actually chose Agatha Christies in the French language as I know the plot so it helps me unpick the story when the language is difficult. What this does is let you imbed those verb conjugations in another way. I find myself reading these books and focusing the endings of the verbs to clarify the tense.
I cannot recommend it enough – an excellent piece of kit!