Pros / The course creates a low-pressure learning environment that lets you pause and doesn’t require note-taking.
Cons / There are few visual or interactive components.
Verdict / The Michel Thomas method is best for people who retain information best through listening.
The Michel Thomas Method is an audio-based course with supplementary software. Unlike traditional desktop French learning software, the Michel Thomas Method has few interactive features and opens in your web browser. The visual components in this program are scarce, but only because it’s such an audio-heavy course.
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 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.
Each lesson builds on the one before, and the content in the mobile app is the same as the desktop application. Unfortunately, neither application can 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 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 learn French software 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.
If you enjoy audio-based learning or prefer learning away from your computer, the Michel Thomas Method is worth considering. While the visual and interactive components to this 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.