For those of you immediately thinking ‘Well she’s given that too many stars!’ I can understand where you’re coming from. Nevertheless I think 4/5 ⭐️s is justified. Let me explain.
This is advertised as a course to improve your vocabulary and, as a result, it may mislead the audience and ultimately mean that people don’t get as much out of it as they could. Looking on Amazon reviews I think this statement is true not only of my experience but other peoples too. But that doesn’t mean to say that this isn’t a good course; I just think it’s badly described as to how it’s useful.
If it’s languishing in a drawer at home, or your thinking of buying it, it may good to revie it from a different perspective. The course blurb is;
This NEW Vocabulary Course builds on the Foundation and Advanced Courses to increase the number and range of words you will be able to use. Rose Lee Hayden, Michel Thomas’s most trusted teacher, shares her first-hand insights with the author, Hélène Lewis, who teaches French at Bournemouth University, to give you over 1,000 words in a unique and memorable way. The presenter is joined by two native speakers to make sure your pronunciation is perfect, while a booklet shows you the written language.[Additional highlights mine.]
As you can see from the highlights I’ve added the emphasis is on the vacabulary in the sales pitch. However at first impression it appears that the course is just a rehash of Thomas’ other courses. The same cognates patterns as before are introduced; just in more detail and with new expressions.
The second thing that strikes you is that it’s very dense and as a result a little off-putting. Yet this is why the course is worth it. The density is because the sentences in this course are far more grammatically complex; not just focusing on verb conjugations, but finer grammar points such as making everything agreeable with the gender. Although this has been done in earlier courses it wasn’t to this level. In fact Thomas’ advanced course can be seen to be targeted at a lower intermediate level, whereas this can easily be categorised as an upper inetermediate level.
If you’re equating the course to just developing vocabulary the harder level is just dry, and actually feels unrewarding. You’ve done this haven’t you? Why is it so hard on this cd? It must be her manner, tone, instruction etc. But viewed in the light of a more grammatically complex course, pushing you to greater fluency, this challenge seems realistic.
It drills into you these finer points of grammar and I think quality time spent on it is worth it. I found that in order to get the most out of the course I had to break down the CDs into sections; doing a ten minute section repeatedly until it was learnt. This is evidence that this is a progressive course, rather than a repition of skills learnt, as there is so much in each sentence. In the foundation course I was able to tackle an entire CD at a go, less so with the advanced. This one can’t be approached in that manner if you want to confidently know the material.
What the course actually gives you is;
- a chance to practise the cognates learnt in the other courses
- a chance to practise the advanced verb conjugations learnt in the advanced course, including challenging irregular verbs
- use of nouns and their modifiers such as c’est versus il/elle est, expressions of quantity etc
- development of y and en pronouns
- use of numbers and adverbs of time and place
- a more comprehensive look at negatives with idioms
These finer grammar points, like possessive pronouns etc, are imbedded with this practise and, unlike a text book, it means you have learnt expressions as examples that teach the theory to fall back on when you’re trying to speak/understand French.
In terms of vocabulary itself I found that it did improve mine considerably by introducing semi-idiomatic expressions; making my reading and comprehension, as well as ability to communicate in French, a lot better.
What is a real negative about the course is that there is no in-depth PDF unlike the other courses, despite what’s said on the course jacket. As the course is the teacher and two French speakers, you really need it to be sure you’ve understood what is being pronounced. In fact I found this so frustrating that I actually transcribed all 5 CDs to aid me.
There are other more annoying down sides to the course. Her attempts at humour fall flat as they feel so scripted. In fact, I swear, in CD 1 you can hear the male speaker sigh!
For an advanced course she provides you with the most basic vocabulary such as très! If you need to be told that, you probably need another course – and this can be an impediment when you’re wanting to confirm your level of French.
Also she needlessly spends the first CD making worshipful references to Thomas. I admire the man and his technique, but…..
I gave my CD transcript to my French tutor to double check it for me and she commented on how good she thought it was. This is a woman whose taught French for over 30 years, so high praise indeed. She actually asked me for a copy of it when I’d made my, inevitable, corrections! (Although I’ve probably still made some mistakes in writing up her corrections, so if you spot anything please let me know).
I’ve included my copy of the script for free download here (Michel Thomas Method Vocabulary Course Transcript). Needless to say if anyone has any objects to this I can take this down (though I doubt they will as you can actually download the course booklets for free, links to which are in my other MT reviews here, here and here).
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried the course, especially if you think the transcript will be helpful!