Michel Thomas Japanese Review

I’ve used a lot of Japanese courses over the years, some that were good and some that were not so good. Today I’d like to talk about one such course and give you my Michel Thomas Japanese Review.

The “Michel Thomas Method” is the name of the company and gets its name from the linguist who invented a unique way of teaching people foreign languages.

They say that their method works with your brain and produces effortless learning, so let’s take a closer look at it now.

What Is The Method?

The unique way that Michel Thomas taught, and the way that you learn when you take the course, can be likened to sitting in a small classroom with a teacher and two other students.

The teacher introduces a concept of the language, such as using “o kudasai” when asking for something, and then the teacher asks you and the other students a question like “how do you ask for a cup?”

Your brain then takes what’s it’s learned up to this point and then tries to answer the question. It’s a pretty natural process and one that the Pimsleur course calls “the principle of anticipation.”

In other words, The Michel Thomas Method works by “breaking Japanese down into its component parts and prompting the student to reconstruct it” based off of what you’re learned throughout the lessons.

One of the things that I found pretty interesting about this course is that it’s really based upon understanding and not memorization.

In fact, when Michel taught lessons himself he actually forbade his students from taking notes!

Instead, as you go through the course you are really just supposed to listen to the new words and explanations and then answer the teachers questions as they are asked.

This should cause you to naturally learn Japanese and be able to use it easily when you want to.

Something else that is interesting about the teaching method is that on the recording there are two other students who are both brand new to the language.

This means that they are also trying to answer the questions, and they sometimes make mistakes or ask questions for clarification as if you were in a live classroom with everyone.

I found this to be a really nice addition for beginners since the mistakes that one of the recorded student might make would be one that the learner is susceptible to as well.

It also allows you to hear other people’s questions that you might not have thought of yourself, but once you heard the question you realized that you want to know the answer as well.

A Pure Audio Course

I mentioned before that you’re not supposed to take notes, and as it turns out this is purely an audio course.

That means that it is going to help you learn to listen to and speak Japanese, but there won’t be any reading or writing.

If you’re wanting to go to Japan in the near future this is a good thing as it will allow you to actually talk with natives once you arrive. Or if you have some Japanese friends, this course is will quickly get you speaking Japanese with them.

But of course there is a gap left in your total language skills since you will have to go somewhere else to learn the written side of Japanese.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this course is really focused on conversational Japanese. Again, this means that you will be able to talk to people, but if you were to turn on the news or a documentary, you probably wouldn’t understand much.

I guess the point to keep in mind is that this course is really aimed at helping people with a specific skill-set. If that’s something that you want, then it’s great! But if it’s not, then you’ll need to go somewhere else.

Levels Of The Course

If you go to their website, or look for the course on Amazon, then you will see that there are three levels for the Japanese course.

  1. Start Japanese
  2. Foundational Japanese
  3. Intermediate Japanese

The first level is really designed to introduce you to Japanese and get you learning several essential words and grammar constructions so that you can begin forming basic sentences.

According to their website, the course will only take 3-4 hours to complete. This takes into account the assumption that the listener is pausing the course when necessary to allow enough time to answer the questions. It also considers that certain parts will be repeated when necessary.

The second level has quite a bit more information and should take somewhere from 20-30 hours to complete based upon how quickly you progress through it.

Once you’ve completed it, you should be able to understand and speak basic Japanese and have a pretty good foundation for how the language works and what the correct sounds are for good pronunciation.

The third and final part is actually shorter than the second one at only 15-20 worth of work, but the material is more complex as you learn to construct longer and deeper sentences.

This time is spent entirely on listening to the teacher’s explanations, the students questions, and the time that you use yourself to speak in Japanese.

There is not homework, no memorization exercises, and no tests as you go through all three courses. If learning Japanese in this way is something that appeals to you, then there is a good chance you will enjoy the process and you go through it.

My Thoughts On It

I think this is a pretty good course for people who are beginners at Japanese or people who want to focus on becoming conversationally fluent where they can talk normally with natives.

It’s not going to give you every single word and phrase that you need to understand everything in Japanese, but it’s a solid foundation and a pretty good way to start.

On the other hand, if you’re more like myself who started learning Japanese to access things like native manga and video games, then this course itsn’t really going to provide the solutions that you’re looking for.

I think a better resource for beginners who want to learn how to read and write Japanese as well as how to listen and speak it would be JapanesePod101.com

On the flip side of things, if you’re already at the intermediate level in the language and you’re looking for something that will help you to break out into the advanced level and start consuming native materials, then LingQ Japanese is a better tool.

Again, these are just my thoughts and opinions, so keep that in mind when deciding for yourself.

Where To Find It

If you want to try out The Michel Thomas Method for learning Japanese, then you can do so by checking it out on Amazon.

They’ve got both CD versions that you can buy to use in your car or on your computer, and there are also digital file versions of the course so that you can listen on your phone or mp3 player.

See Them On Amazon

If you have any questions on the course, or if you would like to share your own experience with using it, then please feel free to do so through the comment section down below.


8 thoughts on “Michel Thomas Japanese Review”

  1. This is an excellent article. It provides a very thorough review of this course. I am an absolute beginner looking for the best course for learning Japanese, and you have done a great job of providing the advantages and disadvantages of this particular method, which I had never heard of prior to seeing your website. Thanks for the information.

    • Hey thanks, I’m glad you found it useful. One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that most people who are able to speak two or more languages know about all the different courses, all the different methods, and all the different techniques. Probably because they’ve tried them all!

      But people who only speak one language and want to learn a second one don’t know about any of them. It makes sense why it’s like this, but it’s a shame as the people who need the information the most, are the ones who have it the least.

      That’s why I want to share all I know with the people who read and visit this blog. That way I can share the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years, and then the readers can decide what they feel is best for themselves based on complete information.

  2. I would love to learn Japanese, the problem I find with the usual structure of teaching like you said above, is how they teach you many words but don’t actually get you to ask questions or use them in sentences that are relevant. I like the fact it gets two people to say it and sometimes its incorrect which properly ingrains in your brain the right way to say it from the wrong way. Appreciate your post and will definitely look into it more!

    • Yeah, it’s a really interesting way of teaching it because when one of the students makes a mistake, the teacher will take that opportunity to really go into depth on just that one aspect so that students can fully grasp how to correctly use it.

      Even if you personally provided the correct answer, it’s still nice to learn why something is right in the first place.

      I’ve never taken a Japanese class at a school or anything, but I would imagine that the environment is pretty similar. That is, as long as there are only three students!

  3. It seems like some of the really good courses on Japanese like this one and also the Pimsleur one focus on teaching you how to speak Japanese, and don’t even bother with the written part of the language. Do you think that’s a good way for people to learn Japanese?

    • Hmm… Well I think that it’s a lot easier for people who are just starting out to do it this way. The Japanese written language is so much different from the English alphabet that you really do have to spend a lot of time focusing on it to learn it.

      Japanese kids learn how to speak the language to fluency before ever starting with Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. So it’s not necessarily a bad idea to teach people that way who are picking it up as a second language.

      But I think that once a person has a couples weeks of learning the elementary sounds of the language and the typical structure of sentences, then it’s fine to start learning the two Kana scripts and then move onto Kanji.

  4. Interesting article, Nick. My daughter and I have been thinking about learning Japanese. We, along with her brother, study ninjutsu together and think it would be cool to learn to speak the language. We speak multiple western languages, but this would be a new adventure that I think will be fun!

    • Hey Steve, that is totally awesome that you and your kids know and study ninsutsu! I’ve often wondered if knowing the language that a martial art was created in would help you to be better at it or not. If you guys are brand new to learning Japanese, then the Michel Thomas method would probably be a good fit for you guys.


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