Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reviewing with Michel Thomas; Haitian Creole

Readers of this site know that I've been running through Michel Thomas Spanish for the second time. In fact, I'm halfway through disc 8 now and will finish it tomorrow. I hadn't done Michel Thomas Spanish since 1998 or 1999, however, so while the content wasn't new I didn't have the script running through my head (I'd certainly forgotten how hard he harps on stress placement, for example). However, next month, I'm doing Italian. This promises to be trickier because I ran through the first six or seven discs only two years ago and while I'd like the review, I also want something more interesting. Here's what I came up with:

Oh the joys of technology! Once you put a playlist on your iPod, you can listen to it in order or you can put it on shuffle and it will play the tracks in random order. If you're learning with Michel Thomas (or any other progressive course) for the first time, of course you need to do the lessons in order. But what I'm looking for is a survey to make sure there's nothing I've forgotten. Mixing it up is a plus. So I've created a playlist for the discs I've already listened to. I'll listen on shuffle. That way instead of the five-six minute lesson blocks building up, bit by bit, they'll function more as pop quizzes - if I recognize a track as one where the content was easy, I'll skip it; if I remember getting caught on a point or two (or don't remember it that well), I'll listen. I already did this with the first two discs of Spanish since I had taken a few days off and found the variety made it much less tedious than playing the course straight forward and trying to pick out the best places to skip ahead a little.

If you've got a 30 lesson program, you can also do this with Pimsleur, picking up a language you did a while ago and only doing the lessons where the opening dialog doesn't immediately sound familiar.

Speaking of the shuffling, you can also use this for certain types of vocabulary review. For example, if you go to the DLI field support site, you can download the audio for a lot of their phrasebooks. If you make a playlist for each section, then you can review the same lists without driving yourself bonkers repeating the same things in the same sequence 100 times. (I think I've talked about this before).

The basic lesson for today then: If repetition is the mother of learning and variety is the spice of life, using shuffle and playlists will give you a bit of both.

(By the way, I wrote about some of this here quite some time ago. And for those who are really serious about their playlists, here's an old John Biesnecker article that's well worth reading if you haven't seen it before.)

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One other note: With the sad events in Haiti, Haitian Creole resources are popping up. Whether you're planning to go there, think you might work with Haitian refugees resettled in your area or simply think it would show a little cultural solidarity to have a few words of their language on your tongue, let me point out two resources: First of all, there's the DLI field support site that I linked above. The link on the front page didn't work for me, but if you download the PDF and the Basic LSK from the downloads page, these should work. And, if you go to, you can download the first ten Pimsleur lessons for free (you do have to register for the site if you don't already have an account).


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