I have been speaking to a lot of people about Refold recently (since it was the method I used for 8 months) and I feel like there a lot of stuff it needs to improve on idk how to express this through text but it is something i am really passionate about talking about since there could be a couple of takeaways from this method that could be very useful for everyone but i was thinking of making a new method that everyone can use without having to pay the creator and you can section it out into multiple different goals and then have a method where you don’t have to pay monthly subscriptions on resources and ones where you do and you section it out into different parts so everyone can study. I believe that immersion shouldn’t be at the core of studying a language unless your basically fluent and then that is the only time i believe the refold is relevant. Please give me your thoughts on this!
I think that refold, for the average person, probably understates the amount of upfront studying that is necessary. There are some cases of people looking up just about everything and figuring it out as they go, but I don’t think they’re the average person. And while it’s also a misconception to think Refold says study NO grammar… but they do de-prioritize it hard. A strong enough base is what’s needed to make immersion doable for most of us.
All the same, and I don’t mean to be rude in how I say this – but I recall you fairly recently asking about how to use a beginner textbook, Minna no Nihongo. Suffice to say I’m skeptical of a method of language learning created by someone who hasn’t learned the language, you know? If you see a lack of something that you particularly want, new resources are nice, but I think you should be aiming a lot more narrow than an all encompassing “method” if you have some idea the community might benefit from.
I think I understand the position you’re in though, really. There’s a noisy enough crowd on the internet that can make you paralyzed about how is best to learn the language, telling you everything but what they do is a waste of time. While I like the general methodology of Refold after a point, the followers tend to be super guilty of this. Being bombarded with “just immerse” as someone at an early enough stage sees you just listening to incoherent sounds and struggling to parse a single word boundary when you read. It’s good to get exposure to the sound of the language at the least, but that’s a little tangential.
Anyway, what I want to get to, is that I know learning from immersion feels agonizingly far… but if you hang in there and learn enough words as a basis and all the grammar fundamentals, I promise, one day it won’t be so bad. I’m pretty comfortably reading a book and visual novel right now (with word lookups of course), and I would struggle to string together a decent coherent sentence that doesn’t sound like it came out of a textbook. I started reading when I had really only learned a few thousand words. There’s a tendency for people to undervalue direct studying right now, and I think it has its place – but no one learns a language to a high level without tons of hours of immersion.
I hope that didn’t come across too badly. Best of luck to you
I understand that this is the reason i asked i don’t feel experienced enough so i wanted to ask an experienced community and i am quite experienced int the area of immersion learning and it’ flaws all i want to do is fix that. since the problem i see is that refold imo isn’t beginner friendly. Also I really didn’t like the way anki is and i could never find any alternatives
btw, it didn’t come off badly i understand where your coming from
I agree btw can i add you on discord? my tag is Has TBMM#4335
@saibaneko neko thanks for editing i am learning touch typing so i made an error
Here’s a link to the Refold website on the off chance that it might help someone else understand what the heck this thread is about.
I realize that English might not be your native language, but your post would be much easier to parse with a bit more punctuation. That first period felt like an oasis in the Sahara!
I’ll just give you the short version of my thoughts on this, as someone who used a lot of immersion to become fluent in French: you don’t need to be ‘basically fluent’ for immersion to be helpful. However, you do need to be fairly advanced for it to be as helpful as possible. The reason for this is very simple: if you’re not advanced enough, you’re going to spend ages and ages looking up new words, and you’ll probably also be so confused by sentence structure and long compound sentences that, as people have famously said, you’ll just go, ‘I know what all the words in this Japanese sentence mean, but I don’t know what it says.’
Here’s a full explanation of why:
There’s nothing wrong with immersion at the lower levels, but unless you’re using a resource that ensures it only uses words and structures you can easily figure out at each level (like a graded reader or carefully designed textbook), you’re just going to spend a lot of time struggling. You can keep going and push through, but if you’re at the point where you can’t even identify what it is you don’t get in the sentence (i.e. you don’t know what the source of your confusion is), then you’re better off going back to studying something that provides more guidance and explicit explanation.
To be clear, I’m not against immersion at all: you’re talking to someone who bought a mobile monolingual French dictionary when he was at the mid-B1-to-low-B2 level and tapped on hyperlink after hyperlink to get to an entry he finally understood, and doesn’t regret doing it. However, it’s precisely because I’ve done so much of it that I have these opinions: I would have been stuck for a much longer time if I hadn’t also been studying guided material (a textbook) on the side. Doing a small amount of leisurely, fun immersion on a regular basis is good for easing into the language even if you’re a beginner. However, intensive immersion, coupled with what everyone calls ‘sentence mining’ (I used to just call it ‘checking/digging through the dictionary while reading’), is not very useful until you know enough basic grammar to decipher the basic structure of most everyday sentences.
To put that into the Japanese context using JLPT levels, I’ll use myself as an example: while going through my first textbook, I continued to watch my favourite anime with English subtitles. I simply looked out for words I knew, and listened out for Japanese syllables. I also tried searching for Japanese transcriptions and looking up particular words that interested me, but I didn’t do it very much, and I mostly used EN-JP dictionaries. However, when I’d finished my first textbook, which brought me up to… the low N3 level, I believe… I started watching anime more attentively and actually looking up words. I also started moving into heavier texts like Tobira readings, newspaper articles and monolingual definitions, although I still fell back on EN-JP explanations from time to time. As I studied Tobira on and off, I also spent more and more time (especially during my Tobira breaks) looking up words and structures I had seen in anime.
The end result? I was soon finding that Tobira didn’t have much grammar left to teach me, because I had seen and heard almost all of it in anime. The only reason it worked is that I already knew enough Japanese grammar to work out why I was confused by something new. Yes, I learnt most of N2 grammar through immersion and searching (N.B.: this is the thing that Refold might not put enough emphasis on – immersion means a ton of self-study), but that was only possible because I already had a solid grounding in simpler grammar that allowed me to piece together most of what I saw. That’s the enabler for immersion learning. If pure immersion learning were so effective, Rosetta Stone would be much more popular and successful than it is now, because it’s built from the ground up to allow the learner to infer relationships and meanings from context. It’s not that simple: immersion is a great tool and an essential part of getting good at a language, and some amount of ‘struggling’ is bound to be a part of it, but like with almost any other method, there’s a good way and a bad way to use it, and a good time and a bad time to use it.
PS: I don’t mean to come across as haughty, and I might be saying this because I worked out how to improve myself using immersion without much outside help (e.g. seriously, I don’t understand why people keep acting like Professor Alexander Arguelles’s ‘scriptorium’ and ‘shadowing’ methods are revolutionary – ‘scriptorium’ is just how I was taught to write as a child, and ‘shadowing’ is something I fairly naturally felt like doing after reading my French textbook’s recommendations, because I wanted to sound native and speak faster. The man’s amazing, but I thought everyone did that!), but I’m honestly quite suspicious of anything that needs an hour of more to explain immersion learning alone. There are a lot of little details and ideas one can share, but language learning is something you need to experience and then work out on your own. Asking for help is fine, but you need to see what works best for you. I’m by no means an expert, but look at what I wrote about language learning in general here:
I wrote this eight years ago. This was my first article on language, and I had only been learning French for four years at that point. Yes, there are some awkward expressions in there (I have a feeling I was translating from French), but I stand by most of what I say there. (What I disagree with now? ‘Expression result[ing] from an accurate imitation of the language.’ How then do people express themselves creatively? Imitating and preserving the spirit of a language is important, but you don’t always need to have heard something in order to be able to express it.) How long was it? Just under 1400 words. I think most people can read that within 10 min. You shouldn’t need an hour-long read to explain immersion, in my opinion, even if you include lots of little practical tips. Gather ideas, do research… and then chart your own path. The last sort of method I would be willing to pay for is an ‘immersion kit’, unless I’m getting a textbook or video set in my target language with lots of helpful in-context explanation. I already know a publisher who sells such books – Assimil – and they’re so much more worth it than some bizarre subscription service that doesn’t contain any language-specific teaching. I sincerely think a hand-holding approach to teaching immersion – as opposed to simply providing tools for guided immersion in a specific language – is just going to end up imposing a massive amount of unnecessary rigidity upon your learning.
I agree with everything @Jonapedia has to say. Just to build on that, I think getting into immersion is a super beneficial step, and for the vast majority of people, more enjoyable than the direct study (well, once you get beyond the hurdles of it hurting at first). There is a really huge google doc that I used when I first decided I was going to learn Japanese in order to research my options and sorta plan my whole course through this. And one concept the writer uses is the “nope threshold.” Essentially, he advises regularly checking in with a piece of Japanese content to see how it feels. Because you’re going to recognize more and more which is motivating and, eventually one day, you’re going to realize you can identify enough of it that you don’t feel like it’s an impenetrable wall. For that piece of content, whatever effort it takes, you can hang with it, and you’re past the nope threshold.
Of course if you’re particularly interested in the idea of transitioning to immersion as soon as you can, like I certainly was, there are ways you can get fairly handhold-y immersion and force it early. As soon as I was a theoretical N4 (I did Genki 1 and 2 but not so thoroughly I’m confident I would really have passed the N4 at that point), I went out to the WK book clubs and Satori Reader. Both of those help you get curated (relatively) low difficulty Japanese with someone/something always on hand to show you exactly what’s going on with anything you can’t understand on your own.
Of course, the latter falls into “content not for natives” which, if I had anything especially negative to say about Refold, it’s the way it and the people who use it seem to immediately go into absolute fits at the idea of using something made for learners as a stepping stone. That and earlier graded readers eased my transition into native material substantially, and that purism seems to be nothing but harmful. Even a beginner can pick out some bits from native material if they can particularly enjoy it without much total comprehension, sure. But the optimal word is comprehensible to get significant returns on your time spent, and at a certain level even the easiest native material will feature very very little you can comprehend. I swear there’s a bit of straight up fearmongering going on about learning materials starting with “unnatural” Japanese and that somehow being a problem. I started at that level of graded readers where a picture of an egg is accompanied by the word たまご and I’ve transitioned to understanding real sentences with no issues lol.
To be fair, I might have misunderstood something or misrepresented Refold in the process of writing what I just did. I was focusing on this bit of your post, actually:
Are you saying that there’s stuff you need to pay for in Refold (which is completely free as far as I know, merchandise aside, even if I don’t agree with it 100%), or that you would make a method with optional paid resources (i.e. you’re not talking about Refold anymore)?
OK, as I was typing that, I saw that Refold’s Anki decks are Patreon-only, and that certain other things are Patreon-locked as well. In that case, well… I stand by what I said. If anyone finds it helpful and is willing to pay 2-10 USD a month for however long it takes them to learn their language, good for them. I’m just saying I wouldn’t do it. Immersion is super time-consuming, memorable as it is. My experience is that guided immersion textbooks are the fastest way to combine the advantages of immersion with everything else. You do not need someone preaching about how immersion must be done in a certain way while cutting out output and making output sound more scary than it already is for someone with little speaking experience. You simply need to do: ‘do or do not; there is no try.’ Comprehension levels and all that? You don’t need that classification. You will know what feels great to read and listen to, and what is torturously hard at your level. In my opinion, a general description of the language learning process and observations about how learning and memory work are far more useful.
See? Exactly what I just said. You already know what doesn’t feel right. A simple push in the right direction is sufficient. Working it out should come naturally.
Yeah, no, I’m sorry, I don’t like that either. At the very least, it’s possible to gather the simplest parts of realistic exchanges so learners can work on them. Plus, don’t we all do something like that to learn our native languages? We don’t understand everything our parents says when we’re younger either. We work with simpler stuff first. Also, particularly with regard to Japanese, I think it’s important to keep in mind that even the content used for immersion isn’t necessarily going to sound exactly like everyday conversation. The closest one can get to that is YouTube videos. Why? Anything that’s heavily scripted is automatically going to sound a little different, and with Japanese, that’s going to mean people speaking a lot more clearly in anime, or drama scriptwriters using stereotypical language to make it clear what a certain character is like. You get the idea. That doesn’t mean that what’s used is completely unnatural: it’s just not exactly what you hear in real life. I had very good, fluent French before coming to study in France, but I sounded a lot more formal than I needed to because I didn’t use much slang. The advantage of that knowledge is that I sound good in formal contexts and get great marks on essays, even when I’m being graded alongside French students. Simply put, there’s a place for every sort of usage that exists within a language, but regardless of what Refold says, you’re never really going to start understanding where everything goes until you make native friends and start observing native speakers in their everyday lives, or at least via something close to everyday life. Take it from someone’s who’s been mistaken for a guy who grew up in France: you can effectively reach native level outside the countries where your target language is spoken, but you won’t sound fully local until your immersion happens IRL or is based on shadowing a local’s IRL usage. You might just sound super educated and therefore still native, but you won’t be able to speak the way natives do in all contexts. That’s the upper limit of immersion outside a country where the language is spoken.
In short, I think immersion is really important, and I’m definitely lacking a ton of it at the moment, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Also, again, it’s only faster than other methods because of how memorable the process is. We’re completely discounting the amount of time required per day here. (So much for Refold’s claims that it’s the fastest.) I outpaced previously more advanced classmates with immersion because I poured my heart and soul into French. I read the news for at least 3hrs a day. We don’t all have that time (I don’t have it anymore), so it’s really not fair to imply that this is the best method ever under all circumstances, especially for beginners. Move towards as immersion as quickly as possible, I’d say, but don’t be afraid to use structured, explicit learning of general rules to facilitate and speed up your understanding. Unguided immersion also requires intuition, and we don’t all have the same intuitions, even though we can build them. Otherwise, reading mathematical proofs alone would suffice for learning how to resolve all university-level mathematical problems.
Thanks for linking this! I hadn’t seen that particular guide before, but I personally find it more approachable than many of the other guides out there simply because it acknowledges that there are multiple schools of thought for most of this, and that people have been able to become very proficient in the language very quickly by following very different paths. I strongly agree that consistency really is the biggest key, and transitioning to immersion eventually.
Regarding the core topic of the thread, I don’t think you need to wait until you’re basically fluent to start immersing, but I think it can definitely be more or less useful depending on what stage you’re at, and what kind of content you’re using to immerse. I spend a lot of my time immersing, but I only really started getting something tangible out of it once I had a solid base of grammar/vocab/kanji knowledge to build onto. Before that point, it was fun, but not really useful.
I think “fun” is actually way more important than “useful”, though! You want something that keeps you engaging with the language. Everyone has different levels of tolerance when it comes to structured study/textbooks, graded readers, native media, etc.
I’m way more motivated to struggle through difficult grammar and unknown vocab to translate a pro wrestling article, for example, because the content is literally the reason why I’m learning the language. And I’m more motivated to invest extra time into specifically learning pro wrestling vocab even though it adds more SRS strain to my daily schedule. Does this follow Refold’s suggested method? Not at all! My first manga was a children’s manga, but it was fantasy and not slice of life, and the third volume had an incredibly steep jump in difficulty because it’s aimed at a much older audience. I’m actually saving Yotsuba until my skill in the language is further along because I love the manga in English, and wanted to be able to get more out of it in Japanese.
But, I’m engaging with Japanese every day, and my vocab is improving by thousands of words each year, and I’ve learned over 1,000 kanji already, and am well on my way to N4 grammar. I’m frequently seeing (and hearing) noticeable jumps in my comprehension literally every month. I’m not fatigued at all by the learning process, and can keep doing this theoretically for years. I’m also about at my maximum for daily SRS, so I don’t want to push any faster than I’m already going. But I just need to consistently get my work done every day, and I’ll get where I want to be eventually.
This is where pacing becomes very important! Your pace depends on what else is going on in your life, and how much time you’re able to devote to Japanese each day. People who have more free time will progress faster than those who don’t, and trying to push yourself to go too fast when you don’t have the energy for that much studying is a good way to burn yourself out.
I think the early beginner stage is the hardest because you have to sink such a large investment of time and energy up front (you’ll probably want at least a base of common kanji, vocab, and grammar) before you can really start to actually use the language. I’m still at a point where I’m getting more out of my textbook than I am out of native media (though the native media is fun!), but I don’t personally mind textbook study.
Something I’ve experienced is that the more Japanese I know, the easier it gets to learn more. The more kanji I know, the easier it is to learn new ones, and the easier it is for me to learn vocab. The more vocab I know, the easier it is for me to read sentences and understand spoken Japanese and decipher grammar. The more grammar I know, the easier it is to make sense of what I’m seeing and hearing. And the more I know of all three, the easier it is for me to understand monolingual definitions in order to figure out nuance, as well as google confusing phrases or vocab words that aren’t in the regular dictionary and read pages (in Japanese) defining how those terms are used.
So you just need to find a method that keeps you learning every day, whatever works for you. If immersion is too discouraging right now, start with something more structured. If textbooks are too boring, start with material that you’re really motivated to want to read. If you put enough time into it, immersion will become more doable. You just have to trust the process, and pay attention to your own mood and general energy level, and course correct accordingly.
Oh yeah, not to derail too much, but I’m glad you like it! I really loved it as a way to find my footing because as you said, the author has sort of an overarching structure for the whole journey to advise you about (which was super helpful when I knew nothing to see what the whole thing could look like), but in each individual section, really just lets you know what there is to do, how much relative importance each part has, and then describes a lot of the reputable ways to learn that for you to judge yourself what you want to go with. Most people’s overall learning methods are as much about exclusion of what they think no one should do as they are about telling you what to do. The guided tour of options is very nice by comparison. And the way it’s in so much detail makes it remain a nice reference if you want to come back to specific sections at times.
Discovering it (via the learn japanese subreddit, which I don’t really use now that I have here) was the first thing I did, and its recommendation of the Tofugu kana pages is what got me my confidence and then seeing how well that worked for me made me confident Wanikani would be a good choice for kanji right after. And along they way I knew the grammar stuff I needed to do and the sort of next step goals I could look towards. I really owe figuring out the whole thing to that guide.
I mean, I disagree with most of what you said, really. I think theres a few points to be made about immersion that people aren’t always clear on.
People suggest you learn quite a bit of vocabulary and get a rough grammar understanding before going into immersion heavily. themoeway and refold end up suggesting around 2000 words I believe which makes up over 90% of the words in speech.
Even after you start immersing, that doesn’t mean you don’t use resources to look things up.
The point of immersion isn’t to understand everything from the get go, its to encounter stuff that you don’t understand. More specifically, stuff thats just barely within your grasp that you can maybe infer from context, get with a single look up, or piece together with information you come across later.
Learning by immersion is literally a series of solving miniature puzzles (comprehending sentence meaning), and the immersion learning community at large isn’t suggesting that you don’t use tools to help you solve those puzzles. I talked about this in my video but its kinda a meme in the djt to “just read more”, and theres truth to that claim, but you have to understand that when we are reading its a search and quest to solve those mini puzzles. We find things we don’t understand, and then we do what we have to do to understand them. Through that process, we grow. Native content is the medium through which we do that because its more enjoyable and ensures it be authentic use of the language that we will need to know barring rare exceptions.
One thing I will say, and I really want to emphasize this isn’t meant as a personal attack because I disagree with you, is that you can have the best method in the world but if theres no credibility behind you and you’re disagreeing with people who do have credibility then people are probably going to be reluctant to even give it a try.
From my perspective, you’re saying you have these beliefs about how immersion should only be the core once you’re basically fluent, but why? Have you reached fluency in japanese and had that experience? Did you teach yourself another language and realized that immersion was only worth it once you got fluent?
You say you only did refold for 8 months and you’re level 10 on wanikani (+the minna no nihongo thing), so in my eyes you’re a complete beginner. And its not to say that maybe you can’t have good ideas, but if I listened to every beginners ideas on learning japanese, there’d be no end. At the end of the day, this is all part of a very very long journey to high level fluency for some people, spanning 10,000+ hours for some people. To put that in perspective, if you study for one hour a day without skipping a single day for a year, that will put you here.
So I would dig into maybe how you got fluent in another language, for example, to not only ask yourself what you know about the entire journey, but to convince others and provide credibility to any method you make. Past languages you learned, academic research, etc. Like jonapedia may not have advanced japanese reading necessarily, but if perhaps he has gotten to an advanced reading level in french, then I might be inclined to listen to his methods for improving my japanese reading speed, for example. I was a beginner at one point in japanese too, so I know all too well that I had absolutely no idea what my journey was going to end up looking like. What I thought the process was going to be like was just completely wrong. So it can be hard for me to listen to people who are at that same point because I’m going to assume you just lack experience unless you give me some proof you don’t.
For immersion at lower levels, I think it actually depends on how you do it. For example, I have German lessons in full German and I started as a complete beginner. However, the teacher makes it possible for us to understand. She speaks very slowly and when introducing a new point (especially grammar) she makes us repeat again and again. For vocab, as most of it is quite simple, drawing a picture or gesturing is usually good enough (of course, we sometimes have to look it up in English). And I can definitely tell we have good results. I can understand and use with confidence what I learned. So it is working, but yeah, I have a teacher who speaks to me like a baby 3 hours per week. However, I progress quite slowly since we spend hours on a grammar point to make sure we understand it and use it correctly. That´s the drawback.
So, for me, if you are willing to do it and if you can find someone who can speaks to you at your level using the material you know then it is definitely the best way. Another thing worth trrying is watching kids shows, a basic level should be enough to understand. But you may not find these very interresting. I did that for English, because I had the opportunity to stay a month with an American family and the 4 years old daughter was watching cartoons in the morning, so I watched along. It really helped me !
In my opnion, this is what worked best for me. I am not in a hurry, and I don´t really mind spending some time on the same point because I know I will remember it more efficiently and I will be able to use it without too much efforts. But this is just my personnal opinion on this matter, with my own experience, needs and preferences. This may not be suited for others, or some won´t even have the opportunity to do the same (my company pays a fairly high amount of money for my German classes).
Another point, why do you want to create a new method of learning ? I am pretty sure there is already a lot that is satisfying enough and won´t ask you to do any immersion. For example, if you use Minna no Nihongo, the traslation grammar book won´t ask for immersion. They explain grammar in the choosen language and offer vocab with translation. I understand why you might dislike Anki, but I think Wanikani is a good replacement. Unless you also dislike Wanikani ?
Moreover, even if I truly believe that people who struggled with learning might understand better other learners difficulty and will be much better teachers, I am concerned as you are still a beginner. You haven´t yet an overview about the language, the difficulties and differences with the languages you already speak. Let alone, you don´t have knowledges about the languages, so teaching what you don´t know is going to be… Well… Impossible.
I don´t mean to discourage you, but it is something you might want to reconsider later, when you improved and have a better overview of the process. I mean, I can speak 2 and half languages (Japanese is in the half hahaha) and learning another one (German) and I still wouldn´t say I know exactly how one could improve. I just now understand what works for me. And I also understood that different people have different methods of learning. That stops here.
I checked the site and now I have still no clue what Refold is all about
What Refold has to do with the API and Third-Party Apps? This Category description is
WaniKani has an API . With it you can make apps to improve WaniKani (or make it worse, as is sometimes the case). Ask your questions about the API here. Look for and find WaniKani apps, browser extensions, userscripts, websites, and more. Just be careful out there, kids.
What category is better suited for this thread? Campfire? We can move it if necessary.
Japanese Language > Resources in my opinion since Refold is a resource to learn Japanese via immersion techniques.
Methods are overrated. People on the internet (especially the refold crowd) love talking about them. They promote ‘immersion’ as opposed to traditional textbook based approaches. So when one reads about methods one can think there is the cool crowd watching anime on one side and the bookworms who never ever expose themselves to native content on the other side. The truth is in reality most people have a balanced approach which is a mix of both. That’s not something very sexy to talk about though.