Michel Thomas Total French is an audio-based course with supplementary software. The technology it's served on is very dated now, but the lessons remain good. Unlike the best learn French software (opens in new tab) for desktops and apps, Michel Thomas TF has few interactive features and opens in your web browser once you've got the CD-ROM. The visual components in this program are scarce, but only because it’s such an audio-heavy course, and it appears on a dated format. It's ancient next to the likes of Rosetta Stone (opens in new tab) and Rocket Languages (opens in new tab), and there is a newer version of Michel Thomas that comes with an app. You can access it here (opens in new tab).
Linguist Michel Thomas encourages learning through relaxed, active listening. We tested the Total course that includes nine audio lessons and one software installation disc. During the audio lessons, you join Thomas and two other students learning French. Thomas’ instructions throughout the course are simple: Relax, don’t take notes, repeat phrases and answer in the pauses provided. You can pause the audio, and Thomas encourages you to do so throughout the course.
This course is best for those who enjoy low-pressure audio-based learning, but there are some visual and interactive components in the desktop and newer mobile app. The desktop program installs quickly and easily, and opens in your default web browser. The lessons in the software pair well with the French audio course, and contain a video narrated by Thomas. He walks you through each course and highlights French vocabulary words as he goes through the lesson. The video isn’t particularly engaging, but it is helpful to see the proper spellings of the French words.
Listening to the other students in the course is helpful. They often make mistakes and mispronounce tricky French words, but any mistakes they make are quickly remedied by Thomas. This creates a low-pressure learning environment, and makes you feel like you are learning in a traditional classroom.
Although each lesson builds on the one you just finished, the application cannot track your progress, so you will have to keep track of which lesson you completed last. Thomas relies on cognates, or words that sound similar in French and English to help you grow accustomed to French pronunciation and mechanics. This software doesn’t offer deep explanations but rather focuses on repetition and proper pronunciation. If you need to learn travel-specific vocabulary, though, we recommend you consider Fluenz (opens in new tab) because it has a wide variety of situational conversation topics. It isn’t as audio-heavy as the Michel Thomas method, but it has more travel-specific content.
The activities section for each lesson is short, containing two or three activities. These exercises look more like classroom worksheets than games seen in other French software packages we reviewed. They are mostly matching and fill-in-the-blank activities, and you check to make sure your answers are correct once you’ve finished.
Should you try Michel Thomas Total French?
If you enjoy audio-based learning at your home computer (opens in new tab), the Michel Thomas Method is worth considering. While the visual and interactive components to this older program don’t compare to the best we tested, the core lessons are informative and create a low-pressure learning environment to help you memorize important words and phrases quickly. Don't forget that this is for the CD version - Total French - and there is a more recent app available via Michel Thomas' website.