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Michel Thomas vs Pimsleur
Both courses have advantages and disadvantages, which will vary from person to person. I have used both for Italian - I'm finished Michel Thomas's foundation course and have been working through the Pimsleur course for a few weeks.

Michel Thomas

Essentially, it's a recording of Michel Thomas conducting a tutorial with two students. There are 8 CDs in the Foundation course, 4 in the Advanced and 2 in the third-stage Language builder; you dip in and out when you want, there's no recommended interval to listen to in one sitting. MT will ask the students to say a sentence. You pause the CD and think of your answer, then resume to hear the student's answer. MT will point out any mistakes they have made in sentence structure, verb conjugation or word emphasis and then give the full, correct sentence.

His emphasis is on verbs. He will introduce a verb and show you how it would be used in a sentence. Grammar and vocabulary are picked up along the way.
His gimmick is to ask you to put together long sentences from the very beginning - for example, "I cannot speak with you now because I am very busy, but I will call you later." It's not the standard tourist stuff, but it makes you feel more confident using the language and gives the impression that you're learning it properly right from the start: learning to construct meaningful sentences and rules for translating English words - not memorising stock phrases like I did for GCSE French.

In the Italian course at least, the students become incredibly annoying in the second half. They seem to ignore the rules MT has laid down and answer questions in the wrong tense. They make really stupid mistakes and keep repeating them, to the point where even the teacher becomes (very occasionally) dismayed and frustrated.
Also, not much vocab that would be useful for a tourist.

The Michel Thomas method suits me down to the ground. I found that just about everything covered seemed to be miraculously retained.
Mr Thomas explains the literal meaning of each phrase you learn and how it is used. He draws comparisons between how something would be expressed in Italian and how we would say it in English. Some people might find that information superfluous and would prefer to stick to bare Italian, but I found it very helpful in understanding how the language works.

Mr Thomas's English accent poses a problem now and then, but I think this is overstated by some reviewers because my Italian doesn't seem to have suffered. I have yet to find a discrepancy between the pronunciation I learned from the MT course and that of native speakers from other course CDs.
No course covers everything, but MT lays down very solid foundations - if his teaching method suits you.


The Pimsleur approach is very structured and based mainly on repetition. Each lesson begins with a conversation in your chosen language, which is broken down word by word. You are guided through the pronunciation by native speakers and repeat the phrases for most of the lesson. The lesson finishes with a conversation in which you think of the answer for yourself before hearing and repeating the correct answer.
Pimsleur strongly recommend that you do one half-hour lesson per day, every day.

I'm not yet through the Pimsleur course so unfortunately can't comment much.
One big advantage with Pimsleur is the emphasis on pronunciation: the demonstrations are by native speakers, so you get a more realistic idea of the speed of an exchange in your language - though still slower than in reality, of course!

The information sinks in, but the constant repetition gets boring. I don't look forward to my daily half-hour sessions. I find them very dry.
Nearly a week in, I was able to say I didn't understand Italian very well, but that was only true because the course had covered next to nothing! Quite apart from wondering how much value there is in an Irish kid spending a week learning how to tell an Italian I am American, it's the pace (or lack thereof) more than anything that bothers me.

Pimsleur is simply refining what I'd learned from the Michel Thomas CDs. Many have pointed out that Thomas is very obviously not a native speaker, but the difference between his pronunciation and that of the Pimsleur teachers was negligible and at the end of the day it's pronunciation that counts.
Where there have been small discrepancies between Pimsleur and MT, I've asked Italians over the net and it usually turns out that Pimsleur teaches the 'textbook' way of saying something, whereas MT teaches the more natural, everyday usage.

I would recommend starting with Michel Thomas. When you're a few CDs into the 8-hour course, start doing the Pimsleur course in parallel. Neither are completely comprehensive, and you will still need spelling practice and extra vocab, for which I would recommend the Teach Yourself range and Rosetta Stone.

At the end of the day, the only way to really, properly learn a language inside out is immersion, but a good combination of materials tailored your learning style can give you a massive boost.

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