I finally got around to checking out the Michel Thomas course for Spanish after getting many recommendations from readers. The audio course is a recorded classroom instruction done by the late Michel Thomas, a Polish borne linguist and World War 2 adventurer.
His talent comes in breaking down the language into component parts and then providing simple rules and mnemonics to help you remember. For example, his “nose rule” for Spanish tells you that you should stress the second-to-last syllable in Spanish words that end with n, s, or a vowel. I’ve been studying Spanish for a while and never was taught a rule to remember the stress. His course is like an audio version of Madrigals Key To Spanish book, which I found to be extremely intuitive and practical.
I was initially skeptical to learn Spanish from Michel since he’s not a native speaker, but his insistence on mastering pronunciation helped me more than learning from actual native speakers. His method strongly focuses on clarity, something I desperately needed as women have often told me that my Spanish sounds “robotic” because of not enunciating the vowels. I quickly got used to Thomas’ accent and enjoyed his soothing, paternal coo.
The Thomas course is a mixture of instruction and call-and-response, unlike Pimsleur which is solely call-and-response. I understand the Pimsleur argument that if little kids don’t need to be taught grammar rules then you don’t either, but we’re not little kids. Telling an adult a rule can make him understand the language a lot faster, so I’ll have to give Thomas’ course an edge in helping you understand the nuts and bolts of the language.
Pimsleur courses aim to burn the rules into your head unconsciously, but it kills you not to know the rules. Adults need to know the why. Thomas helped me clarify the basic rules of Spanish that I should’ve already known.
Pimsleur does have an advantage in that it teaches you more touristy phrases that help you get by in a country from day one while Thomas focuses on casual conversation. Another positive with Pimsleur is that it gives you a lot more vocabulary, especially verbs (Thomas focuses only on a dozen verbs). While the Thomas course gives you a better understanding of the words you do know, it was much too limited to speak at length. I also liked the more structured approach to Pimsleur that forced you to stay alert the entire time. Sometimes during a long-winded Thomas soliloquy I lost attention and dozed off until I was forced to come up with an answer.
From this point on I’m going to recommend you do Pimsleur first in order to get around in the language (in taxis, restaurants, ticket offices, etc), and then Michel Thomas to aid you in real conversation with women. Since both courses are extremely helpful, I don’t see them as competitors but synergistic tools when learning a language through audio. If your goal is to master a language in the shortest amount of time, doing both is the way to go.