Random Review wrote:There are a number of misconceptions in this critique.
1) He may seem to you to be committing "classic" errors that everyone emulating MT commits, but he is no longer emulating MT, he has moved on from that. The way the new Greek course works is based throughout on building connections between the building blocks of words and I imagine he will have been doing the same in his German course (in fact German is the perfect language for that!). His approach to cognates is not the usual one of looking at correspondences; instead he draws you into seeing the connections between words (both within the TL and between the TL and English). In contrast the old Greek course was basically an attempt to continue where MT left off and contains far fewer cognates.
"Moving on" doesn't always mean improvement, though. Maybe the Spanish course is too old to judge the "new" method on -- I'll maybe check out the Italian course later. I have listened to the first couple of tracks of the Greek now, though.
First up... part of what MT got right was avoiding that feeling of "why am I saying this?" that you get in so many courses (Dear Harold Goodman, I am neither Chinese, American or English, so why do you keep asking me to that I'm all three?) but the very first thing in the Greek course was "I stay/I'm staying". Why? It felt really odd. To then move immediately on to "I'm waiting" was a bit jarring too.
Mihalis did this to demonstrate a point about prefixes, which is all well and good, but it felt a little abstract and removed from meaning, and one thing that most people in the language world agree on is that language has to be meaningful to be learnt. One of MT's main strengths was his interpretation of what "meaningful" means. Starting with "Es ist gut" and "c'est possible", MT gave us something that you takes no conscious imagination. I didn't think "when would I say this?" or "what am I trying to say here?", because it's something so universal. "I'm staying" isn't great for that. I found myself thinking about whether this was talking about where I live (because in Scotland we speak like that) or just not leaving, or both. It's not an ambiguity that got resolved in the first two tracks, and I now feel like I'm just been "word-juggling" instead of engaging with meaning. "I'm waiting" was unambiguous and meaningful, and then along came "I insist", which was unambiguous, but fell into the "why am I saying this?" category.
This leads to another point about what Thomas did in building long sentences from the start. Thomas's courses started by building up a phrases containing a lot of slots, so by about ten minutes in you had "wollen Sie heute Abend mit mir kommen?" or "ce n'est pas très confortable pour moi". That's at least 5 slots each (5 by disregarding pronouns and treating "mit mir" and "pour moi" as units), and by the same stage, Mihalis has only got as far as 4 (why not me you-wait). To count it as 5, you have to consider why as occupying two slots (for what), and doing similar puts the German at 7 slots and the French at 8.
This may seem like a small thing, but I think part of the effectiveness of Thomas was that he managed to do something most teachers pay lip-service to: teaching one thing at a time. If you teach vocabulary and grammar simultaneously, you're teaching two things. But you can't teach grammar without vocabulary for the grammar to act on.
Mihalis was quick to start presenting multiple items for several slots: 2 x verb prefix, 3* x question word, 2 x verb ending. So now the learner is forced to think about word choice and word order at the same time.
(* I actually wrote "2" here because I remembered being taught why and what, but not where. Although now that I think about it, "what" was never worked into a sentence at this point.)
I listened on another track, and we've still not got a lot of slots (although admittedly more than a lot of traditional courses), but the number of potential items in each slot is growing.
After 20 minutes we've got 3 x question word, 1 x negative, 1 x object pronoun, 2 x prefix, 3 x verb root, 3 x verb suffix, 1 x adverbial of time, 1 x subject pronoun (8 slots)
Meanwhile after 15 minutes in MT French, we've only learned two verb expressions, and we're not yet treating them as equivalent, because one's only in the first person (je regrette) and the other's in the third (c'est). But we're using them to build up complex sentences - "je regrette, mais ce n'est pas acceptable pour moi comme ça". The only slot where there's been any real choice of item so far is the adjective -- everything else is either present or absent, so you're thinking about meaning, but without lots of alternatives to hunt through.
My first impression of LT Greek is that I am trying to remember words, just like we're asked not to do, and I think that's because we're being asked to handle too many variables simultaneously.
2) You are wrong that he is not testing his courses. It is true that his funding model leads to the less-than-ideal need to create courses in stages; but each stage is tested with real students and then revised before the final version is recorded. He asks for volunteers for this.
3) I do not believe the errors are scripted. Unlike MT, most of the students are not native English speakers and so they may indeed nail some parts that are very difficult for English speakers and find other parts difficult. I'd actually be more suspicious if they didn't.
Well the woman in the Spanish course seems to be a native English speaker, and her accent in Spanish (in the sections I listened to) is unbelievably good.
4) I checked out a little bit of his German course after reading your review. You are fine to go ahead with it IMO. His pronunciation is not perfect, but it is at least as good as MT's Spanish pronunciation TBH. All the audios are checked by native speakers before being published and any important errors corrected (I tried a bit of the Turkish course and this was sometimes quite amusing). They must have decided that this error is not a bad one. The wonderful thing about the nature of his community model is that if I am wrong and it is an important error, however, you can contact him and enable him to put it right!
I'll just not bother with the course and go back to MT and finish it off this time.
5) Regarding his funding model. You know I think you are wrong about it only benefiting people in rich countries, it is truly amazing how many members of the middle class in developing countries get themselves some level of English by hook or by crook. They can benefit from this.
A) Middle class people in any country can afford language lessons in their countries.
Also poor people in rich countries can benefit. I know at first hand just how little disposable income you have when you are washing dishes, cleaning offices, etc., because I did it for years (I say "little" and not "zero" because I was a single guy with no kids). I don't really like the fact that you are dismissing the fact that this project can provide access to information for people like I was TBH.
But you had access to libraries, didn't you? I sometimes wonder why I ever buy books at all -- I find as much material as I want in my local library (OK, there was a wider choice when I was living in Edinburgh). True, libraries are shutting down, but if I start down that road I'll end up going political and getting kicked off the site.
Everyone who contributes to his funding campaign knows how it works and does so of their own free choice.
True. I just don't like it. I reckon the fair thing would be to propose a roadmap and if people agree, they pay in. Paying to have the opportunity to "influence" is pretty illusory.
In a democracy, we all pay taxed into a central pot. In theory, the government then pays out something for everyone -- the money doesn't exclusively go to what the largest single group wants. But that's what happens with LT. Even though it's entirely opt-in, it still doesn't sit well with me that some people might never get any of their specific interests fulfilled. And what I really don't like about it is that it plays on human cognitive weaknesses, in particular the sunk cost fallacy. Anyone who has been putting their money in for a long time and not getting the languages they're interested in will be prone to continue putting money in because as soon as they stop they lose their vote, and suddenly all the money they've put in is seen as "wasted".
Now I'm not saying Mihalis has any ill intentions -- I'm quite certain he doesn't -- but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say, you can do the wrong thing without meaning to. He has a noble goal, but he can't afford to do it without support, so he asks for money, and he uses an approach that has proven effective in raising money for others. The problem is all about where the value lies for the sponsor. Look at his Patreon rewards. Pay enough and you'll get an interlinear ebook every month. But there are only 8 interlinear books in the catalogue, and they're all different languages. It's a product that isn't really there, because he's splitting his attention between too many things -- see also the donated songs album (why? there's plenty of free music in every language on the net already -- why not just link to it?)