Thomas was hired by Raquel Welch, Barbra Streisand, Emma Thompson, Woody Allen and by Grace Kelly when she had to learn French rapidly after becoming engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Towards the end of his life he recorded audio versions of his courses that were especially popular in Britain.
With Thomas’s method, the teacher cautions students to avoid making notes and to refrain from making conscious attempts to memorise, promising that the teacher will “be taking full responsibility” for their learning. Thomas stated that keeping the students relaxed and entertained is a central focus of the method.The teacher then introduces short words and phrases in the target language. The students are asked to translate English sentences into the target language, starting with trivially simple sentences and gradually building up to more advanced constructions. When a student gives a correct answer, the teacher repeats the whole sentence with correct pronunciation. When the student’s answer is wrong, the teacher assists the student to understand their mistake and to correct it. The most important words and phrases are reviewed several times during the course.The teaching focuses on modal verb constructions such as “I want to go”, and pronouns, so that students do not need to memorise the many nouns and adjectives of the language. Grammar rules are introduced gradually, and grammatical terminology is avoided. In this way the students are, at an early stage, able to translate a sentence as complex as “I want to know why you don’t have it for me now, because it is very important for me and I need it”.The teacher often exploits the shared linguistic heritage of the two languages to teach new vocabulary.
A book describing the method in detail called “Michel Thomas: The Learning Revolution” by Jonathan Solity is due to be released in January 2008. The method received a US Patent in 2003.
This approach was adapted to tape and CD by recording a course with two students. The listener then attempts to translate the phrase on the tape before the student in the recording does, pausing the tape and rewinding as necessary.