Thanks To Abandoning an Input Only Learning Approach This Chinese Learner Had a Truly Life Changing Experience!

A few weeks ago a message appeared on the ImLearningMandarin Facebook group addressed to me from a learner called Jake Martin.

The message read as follows:

“Thank you for accepting me into the group! I just found your podcast and website the other day, and found them to be extremely helpful. I started learning Mandarin in the beginning of 2021. Like many others, I was pretty lost at first, not really knowing the best way to learn a language. Fortunately, I found out about the Refold Community, which provided some structure for my learning.

Now, my reading comprehension is fairly good, but my listening and speaking skills are abysmal. As a result, I have been looking into alternative study methods over the past several months…What I appreciate about your perspective, is that you value the immersion experience, without being dogmatic about it. As you wrote on your blog, you are a former Krashenite who experienced a sense of disillusionment. That is exactly what I have been experiencing for quite some time now (…Krashen-holics Anonymous, anyone?)”

I was intrigued to learn more about Jake’s journey of learning to speak Chinese after going through a long phase of relying exclusively on listening & reading. So I invited him on the podcast to talk about his struggles as well as share his story about how having the courage to speak Chinese recently led to a truly life changing experience.

I don’t consider myself religious or spiritual but I recognize the draw that Buddhism exerts on so many people around the world. It so happens that not long ago, someone expressed their desire to visit China with the goal of experiencing authentic Tibetan Buddhism in a conversation with me. I recommended the book “Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town” by Barbara Demick, which I found quite eye-opening.

Generally, studying a language for abstract reasons, like interest in specific parts of the culture, can sometimes be insufficient to sustain motivation over a long period of time; so it’s great to hear that Jake was able to find a more concrete target for his Mandarin. It can be good to venture out of the immersion man cave and interact with real people, occasionally.

As I said previously I think that Refold, especially when followed to the letter, is not the best method to learn active skills in a language. But I would be repeating myself.

By the way, I sometimes feel that podcast hosts can domineer a conversation, so it was refreshing to hear that you gave Jake ample room to express himself.

Thanks for your comment. I have similar thoughts about Buddhism.

I am glad that appreciated my style of allowing the guest to tell their story. I firmly believe interviews should be about the person being interviewed, rather than for the host to boost their ego/ promote themselves. I use my blog and the LingQ forum for that (hehe just kidding.)

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