Dear readers, I’ve mentioned in my about page that I enjoy learning new languages. Let me tell you about my favorite method: learning through audio tapes while driving. This method has its ups and downs. At times, I lose concentration while driving, which has led to some sloppy performance behind the wheel to say the least, and what is happening on the road often makes me unable to pay attention to the lesson. Yet, studying a foreign language beats listening to the same songs on the radio one thousand times. Listening to audio lessons makes me feel that my time driving has not been lost. This article claims that we spend 290 hours a year (a little over 12 days) driving. That’s a loss of almost two weeks!
I’ve just about finished the Michel Thomas Spanish course for beginners. You must read this biography about the teacher’s most interesting life. The most amusing line is how he fled from Poland and immigrated to Germany to escape anti-Semitism as a young boy. How things changed! At any rate, he’s a splendid language teacher. I had gone through a Pimsleur course on Spanish prior to this. That course made me confident that I could communicate enough to order food, buy things, and the like in Spain, which is very important. However, after finishing the Michel Thomas course, I felt that I could attempt to read a Spanish novel with the help of a grammar and dictionary.
You see, both the Pimsleur method and the Michel Thomas one employ repetition; but, the former course relies on one memorizing set phrases and matching one’s pronounciation to native speakers by ear. On the other hand, the Michel Thomas course utilizes a classroom set up with two pupils who are even more ignorant of Spanish than the average beginner is. Michel Thomas is the teacher and is constantly correcting his pupils, which makes it easier to perceive where one is going wrong. This course also includes informative digressions about the Spanish language to help the student gain a clearer understanding of how the language works and proper pronunciation. (His digression on the definition of nouns, verbs, and adjectives stood as the only unhelpful one: the classic definitions which you learned in grammar school work well enough.) Then, I also love how he concentrates on verbs, which are always the most difficult part of a language and must be thoroughly understood for fluency. He even went over the present, past (really the perfect tense if Spanish is anything like Latin), imperfect, future, and present progressive forms! Let me also mention here that, unlike Pimsleur, he does not teach Castillian, but the dialect spoken in the Americas. Yet, he does describe where and how Castillian differs so that one can also understand Spaniards.
So, I highly recommend this course for those of you who also like learning languages or think that it might be a worthwhile way to make your long drives more productive.