Paul Noble and Collins Books

If I need a dictionary or phase book then I always turn to Collins books. They have now joined forces with Paul Noble, the highly acclaimed English linguist with a language school in London.

Collins has been publishing educational and informative books for 200 years. Throughout this rich heritage they have held an impressive record in creating market-leading products across various sectors. With a database of over 4.5 billion words, they constantly monitor text from publications, websites and transcripts around the world to ensure their dictionaries are up-to-date. There is a free online dictionary at which provides a snapshot of world languages. Collins is the home to bilingual dictionaries and language learning products and now the Paul Noble audio courses.

Paul Noble acts as the instructor on his products, which are published through Collins. the languages are: Spanish, French, German and Italian- Chinese has now been introduced to the range.

My friend has tried the Paul Noble method to learn French and has found this a great way to learn quickly, the reviews are also very good. I saw Paul Noble on TV a while ago, where he was showing people how to learn languages and I was impressed by how easy and fun he made it look. I learnt French at school and have attended a couple of classes as an adult, which were a bit disappointing to be honest. I have also listened to various discs including linguaphone. I am not quite a beginner, but I am certainly no linguist and I would love to be better at these. Learning a language is also supposed to be good for your brain power, which is an added bonus.

Now is it possible to learn a language in just one day? The Express newspaper sent a reporter along to meet Paul Noble to see if this was possible.

This is a short summary of the interview:

Paul shows himself to be as friendly, approachable and entertaining a genius as you could ever want to meet. The Collins people might say he’s a genius but no, he chuckles, it’s actually just not teaching language in a ridiculous way. That is all it is, just doing it in a sensible way. Why wouldn’t you do things so people understand it? Why wouldn’t you teach them the more useful stuff, rather than the less useful stuff?

So, what is he referring to exactly? I always had the feeling that it would be incredibly cool to be able to speak a foreign language, he admits. When we did have any language classes in school, I was never any good. I did history at university but I actually spent most of my time studying languages at home by myself. Paul confesses that he became obsessed with the idea of being able to speak a language and consumed as many different courses as he possibly could. In doing so, he discovered that traditional ways of learning a language just didn’t suit him. Most language courses are terrible, he says. So how does he do it? Well, rather than spending an age learning the nuts and bolts of a foreign language, such as the grammatical terms that we all remember with a groan, Paul’s argument is that if you want to speak a language then you need to do just that. If you want a course that makes you better at speaking the language then the course should be making you speak the language, he argues and after just five minutes, I have to say that he’s right.

I would agree with this myself; it sounds a lot like the courses I tried, I much prefer the sound of his classes!

When asked why he started his training school, Paul says that the most commonly used phrase, uttered in foreign language classrooms across the entire English- speaking world is: I’m no good at languages also frequently expressed as I’m not gifted at languages. Curiously, this is a phrase which is especially common, to the experience of language learning. I don’t think, for instance, that I have personally ever heard it used by anyone learning to drive a car. Whenever I’ve met people who are having trouble learning to drive, very often their response is: I suppose it’ll just take time. Rarely do they suggest that they are simply not gifted at driving.

Having said this, I have never considered myself to be especially gifted at languages. As a teenager, although I was successful academically, I was totally lost with languages, bemused and frustrated by them. I found them so difficult in fact that I probably would never have given them another thought, except for the chance coinciding of my initial failures at language learning and my passing of the MENSA entry test. When I gained entry into MENSA, I did ask myself why it was that I could have a high IQ and yet be appallingly bad at languages. Was there a connection? Or was it just a question of not being gifted as one might or might not be in music, for example?

I did try to learn a language again later but I always met with failure and utter frustration. The explanations given to me by teachers and grammar books bamboozled me and progress seemed impossible. One day, I was wandering through a second-hand book shop, when I came across a very old and extremely tatty French textbook. Glancing inside, I came across a quote, which struck me at the time and which was to change the whole direction of my life. It was by the eighteenth-century French writer, Antoine de Rivarol

Grammar is the art of lifting the difficulties out of a language; the lever must not be heavier than the burden

 I was very much affected and inspired by this idea, that grammar should actually remove the difficulties from a language, rather than being a troublesome subject in itself. I thought long and hard about what de Rivarol had said and with this basic idea in mind I set about self-instructing myself, both in French and German, all the time being guided by this basic notion. I deliberated a great deal about how the difficulties from typical textbook and grammar book explanations could be removed. So as to give myself and others a more usable understanding of foreign languages. During my initial period of self-instruction, I also began to seek out any course or book that was easier for me to understand and to learn the language from, I found very few. Most courses offered much the same as that which I had experienced at school. So were of little help.

A small minority of authors and teachers did exist, however, who had produced books, audio-tapes and CDs that at least hinted at better ways to teach like: Alphonse Chérel, Jacques Roston, Lewis Robins, Charles Duff, Margarita Madrigal and Michel Thomas. Looking back, I can honestly say that each of them changed my life and helped me drag myself those initial steps along the path towards being able to speak a foreign language properly. In spite of this, I was nevertheless acutely aware that they each still suffered from serious weaknesses. Nonetheless, they did each help me to take some of those first steps. On top of this, however, these courses were perhaps most valuable in that they acted as an aid in prompting me to try out some aspects of the instructional viewpoints employed by them, with the hope that they would make instruction easier and more effective. These provoked me into asking the most important question: why it was that, if courses could be fleetingly insightful and useful, they couldn’t be insightful, useful and use real language from beginning to end. This in turn led me into thinking long and hard about what it was that allowed each of their methodologies to work but then, ultimately, to fail at certain points.

Considerable time passed as I considered this during which I came across the works of various authors, each of whom exerted a significant influence on the way I thought about languages or about learning in general. Spurred in part by this realisation ,I decided to try writing a course of my own, one which would be guided by the belief that there was nothing so complicated in foreign languages that it could not be made simple and with the intention that this principle would be sustained throughout the entirety of the course. It would be a course where students got everything they were taught and where everything they were taught was useful, real language, which would allow them to hold a normal conversation with another human being. Finally, it would also be a course where, by its end, each student would actually be able to remember what they had been taught. Eventually, I did write several courses based on this principle. They took a long time to develop and each had to be trial tested for many months just to make certain that they were heading in the right direction.

I found that I was able to get the results I desired and they were quite remarkable. Whereas students might normally spend several years studying languages at school and come out unable to communicate in that language, students were leaving my classes after the first few hours, able to construct complex sentences and to begin communicating in the language they had been taught. Based on the great success of these courses, I eventually founded a private language college. The Paul Noble Language Institute, as it came to be known. The French, Spanish and Italian courses I developed at the Institute were subsequently published by Collins. Since their publication, I have gone on to work exclusively with East Asian languages.

Paul gives 5 tips on learning a new language;

  1. Study at least a little every day. Learning a language is like building a fire, if you don’t tend to it, it will go out. It doesn’t have to be for a long time though. Just 5 or 10 minutes each day will be enough.
  • Stop while you’re still enjoying it. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that the key to his body building success was that he stopped his work- out each day just before it started to get boring.
  • Use your hidden moments. The famous American linguist, Barry Farber, learnt a great part of the languages he spoke during the hidden moments he found in everyday life. Such hidden moments might include the time he would spend waiting for a train to arrive or for the traffic to get moving in the morning. These hidden moments could include lunch breaks.
  • Forget what you were taught at school. Many of us were told at school that we did not have an aptitude for languages, that we didn’t have a knack or a gift for them.
  • Choose the right language. If you’re going to learn a foreign language, make sure you choose a language that you’re going to have a chance to use. Like going on holiday. Could a particular foreign language be useful at work?

To find out more information, the website is below and the Collins books and audio courses are available through the Collins website or Amazon. I hope you have chance to give it a try!