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Learning how to block out pain while being tortured unveiled the potential of the human mind to Thomas and the experience proved instrumental in his life's work. He used it to build his new method of teaching languages and set up an institute in Beverly Hills.
He taught the rich and famous - Woody Allen, Grace Kelly and Francois Truffaut among them - for money, and gave public classes for free. Languages were what he chose to teach, but he had more ambitious aims. I didn't devise my system to teach languages quickly - I did it to change the world. Thomas's background meant he struggled to trust anyone throughout his life. He kept his teaching technique secret right up until a decade ago when, in his 80s, he was persuaded by Hodder Education to record it for posterity. Building up his trust was the most difficult thing.
We put in a lot of time.
Dr. Jonathan Solity Michel Thomas Method the Learning Revolution
He astounded staff at a school in north London by teaching a group of teenagers deemed incapable of learning languages. In one week, they learned the amount of French it normally takes five years to acquire. Three years of careful negotiations later, Hart persuaded Thomas to make recordings with students found through an appeal in Education Guardian. He taught without any notes at all. It was an act of faith recording him," Hart says. It paid off. Over a million copies of the language courses have sold so far.
And, since Thomas's death in , Hodder has published seven more based on his method, with the help of Rose Lee Hayden, a trusted teacher from his language school. The tapes are the closest anyone can now get to being taught by Thomas.
It is these that Solity has analysed to reveal how Thomas's method works. It's likely those principles would extend way beyond teaching foreign languages. This has huge implications for teaching anybody anything. Why, if the method was so foolproof, did Thomas not teach teachers how to teach?
He was concerned they would mess about with the formula, Solity says, and his early experiences with education researchers scarred him. But they weren't willing to do it the way he wanted. He wanted proper scientific research, not the kind where you just go round and ask people what they think works. They don't compare one method with another, they tend to look at schools that are seen to be effective, and try to pinpoint what it is they have done.
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It's just a kind of hotchpotch of people putting together what they think is a good idea. This also explains why the sector hasn't embraced Thomas's methods, according to Solity.
Michel Thomas, The Learning Revolution by Dr. Jonathan Solity | | Booktopia
Ministers promote teaching that supports the idea that some children have a problem that prevents them from learning, Solity argues. He is convinced Thomas's methods would work in any subject, and improve how all pupils learn.
If you didn't learn in the past, it's just as likely to have been the fault of a poor teacher. If you don't learn, I'll go home and revise what I'm doing and try to teach you differently. So what psychological principles underpin Thomas's method?