Paul Noble, a British-based language teacher, recently contracted with Collins, the UK publisher, to author a series of CD courses to teach various languages according to a method which he claims he developed on his own.
After I was alerted to the uncanny resemblance of his approach to that of Michel Thomas, a well-known language teacher who died in 2005, I investigated things on my own. I was the only student to whom Mr. Thomas taught his methodology . He did this over a ten year period. Following his death, I was approached by his publisher, Hodder, to continue his legacy with another course using the method I was taught by him. Subsequently, I authored three such courses to teach Mandarin Chinese.
So I do claim to have some familiarity with the teaching approach of Mr. Thomas.
His method is based on a unique way to eliminate anxiety which he believed was the major problem for learners in general and language learners in particular. In order to accomplish this he dissected languages and put them back together in a way which made learning effortless. Students, as the reviews to his courses on Amazon will show, reported miraculous acquisition of spoken abilities in other languages with minimal work, no memorization, no reading or writing and a number of other things commonly associated with study of languages.
It is my opinion, based on the analysis of materials obtained from Audible.com, one of the distributors of his Collins courses, that Paul Noble has been quite influenced by the approach of Michel Thomas.
Some might call it plagiarisation.
What is most disturbing is that he goes out of his way to claim that he alone originated his method of instruction.
The Thomas method is patent-protected in addition to numerous copyrights.
I wonder if it a coincidence that my review of his French course on Amazon.co.uk, which expressed the thoughts of this article has been removed. This is the second such review to have been removed. Now only reviews praising Mr. Noble’s courses remain.
It will be interesting to see what comes of all of this.
Since I would not be shocked if the same people who took down my previous negative review of Mr. Noble’s French course may take down my latest review, meant to replace the previous one removed, I am printing the latest review here. At least they won’t be able to take down this copy of the review.
Who originated the Paul Noble method?, 28 Oct 2010
By Harold Goodman (Silver Spring, Maryland 20910)
This review is from: Collins French with Paul Noble (Audio CD)
My last review of Paul Noble’s French course was just removed.
For the record, I was Michel Thomas’s only methodology student. He died in 2005 and is no longer alive to defend himself. Since his work is patented and covered by numerous copyrights, I have no doubt that he would have sought to defend it. He worked for fifty some years to create and perfect this approach to teaching languages.
I am also the author of a Michel Thomas method course to instruct English ( and now, French-speakers) in Mandarin Chinese. I have no dog in this race and do not care what others say or do regarding language teaching. Everyone is free to create and teach as they wish.
However, I do question the claims by Paul Noble and Collins, his publisher, that he originated his method of language teaching.
Review of his French and Spanish courses, as published via Audible, made me question his claims to origination of his method.
For me ,the method he used, which he claims as his own, bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the greatest language teacher of the last century, Michel Thomas.
I can only wonder who might benefit from removal of my review which questioned his claim that he originated this method.
I believe that anyone who compares the two courses, by Paul Noble and Michel Thomas, will immediately note the use of the Thomas method by Mr. Noble. Some have also alleged plagiarisation.
Mr. Noble frequently advertises his IQ which he notes is higher than that of Alfred Einstein.
I can hardly wait for his course on Physics.
More on all of this:
22 June 2011
I have noticed that Hodder is repackaging the old Michel Thomas courses under new names and at a higher price. This also includes my own course. I do not endorse this action and apologize to any students who may inadvertently purchase any of these courses believing that they represent something new. In my opinion, they don’t.
After writing all of this on my blog you may well understand why Hodder and the American publisher of my courses are not banging down my door requesting my advice.
I have received several inflammatory and denigrating comments which I shall not post here .
Some readers believe that I am not allowed to share my thoughts about the work of other teachers. They say that this is unprofessional. A secretary once told me that since I refuse to wear a tie at work that I am unprofessional. She is now history, ancient history.
With all lack of due respect I must respond that I completely disagree. I shall continue to share my beliefs and opinions. This is a blog. That is why I have a blog. It is a venue for me to share my opinions and ideas.
There also is a matter of sales.
The courses, including mine, are finding a large audience.
However, most of the people comprising this audience do not pay for the courses. They get them off of pirate sites that steal our work and enable anyone to download it gratis. The authors receive nothing in return. This is theft, pure and simple. You may justify it anyway you wish; it remains theft.
I just Googled ” Paul Noble+ bit torrent” and was not surprised to get over four million hits. Just imagine how many illegal downloads that represents. No one is immune to this phenomenon. I estimate that over 50% of my courses are illegally downloaded. The number for Michel Thomas’s courses is even higher.
Shocking as it may seem to those not active in this work, except for making a name for oneself, the authoring of anything which may be digitally copied is not too lucrative. The good old days when authors lived off of royalties in their dotage is long gone. The internet has changed all of that. I definitely do not recommend anyone else to follow in my footsteps in this matter if you hope to earn a living from such efforts.
My future efforts at teaching will not be vulnerable to online piracy. I suggest others follow suit.
My current teacher, Boris Shekhtman, requested my assistance in sharing his method. His work has demonstrated that students are able, with the correct support, to quickly achieve high level proficiency in foreign language communication. With all due respect to the Michel Thomas approach which I still consider the best way to learn the basics, the foundation, for any language, the method of Boris Shekhtman allows the student to quickly, comfortably and with excellent grammar and pronunciation communicate with native-speakers. Such communication is on a very high level which is rarely, if ever, attained in many years of professional study. This method has now very much influenced the way I teach languages. However, in view of the rampant piracy that has infected the web I told him that I believe that issuing CDs or other courses that may be digitally pirated would be a mistake. He saw the logic of this and decided to continue with in-person teaching and carefully controlled sharing of our work. The work will be only shared with people who will respect the efforts of those who have developed it over the past 40 years. It will not be available for pirating of any sort.
Mr. Thomas told me many times in the 1990’s that he was afraid that if he allowed his courses to be openly sold on cassettes ( now CDs and downloads) that his work would be stolen. In my enthusiasm I spent two years planting the seeds that resulted in the present courses. In retrospect, I now realize that his fears have been realized.
I shall not make that mistake again with the work of Boris Shekhtman.