YouTube and Netflix have been game-changers for language learners. They grant access to a wealth of content in various foreign languages, both in original and dubbed versions. However, many language students don’t take full advantage of this abundance of video content. Perhaps they regard media consumption in their target language as an activity reserved for after they’ve mastered the language. But what if one could learn a language by immersing themselves in bingeworthy YouTube and Netflix content? This is the foundation of several immersion methods for learning foreign languages, and is one of my favorites.
The Refold Language Learning Framework
According to Refold, media immersion is the most effective way to achieve fluency in a foreign language. Their framework focuses on four pillars of immersion learning:
- Providing a step-by-step roadmap that acts as a comprehensive framework for second language acquisition through immersion learning.
- Offering additional support resources such as quick-start guides, vocabulary decks, grammar explanations, and content recommendations for beginners.
- Facilitating support, guidance, and assistance through a language learning community devoted to helping learners overcome challenges and stay on track.
- Sharing the best tools and resources for language learners.
Refold’s vision also encompasses the integration of immersion language learning methods into businesses and public schools. Moreover, they are committed to continuing to offer their core content and access to community support for free. Refold sustains itself through convenience-based offerings such as additional guides and professional support, as well as the aid of volunteers across a wide array of languages. You can learn more about Refold’s mission and vision in this YouTube video.
My Experience with Immersion Learning (2012–2022)
My first encounter with immersion-based language learning was in 2012. At that time, I was learning German and stumbled upon a website called ‘All Japanese All The Time’ (aka. ). Khatzumoto, the alias of the individual behind AJATT, asserted, ‘ You don’t know a language, you live it. You don’t learn a language, you get used to it. ‘ He claimed to have achieved fluency in Japanese to an exceptionally high level, within about 18 months, while residing in the USA, using his methodology. Remarkably, he accomplished this independently, without formal instruction or traditional learning methods, and even got employed in Japan after a job interview conducted in Japanese.
Initially, I thought of applying Khatzumoto’s language learning approach to German. I began using Anki and dedicated many hours a day to watching or listening to German content. However, my results after a year or so were far humbler than Khatzumoto’s 😁. Unlike him, I didn’t get a job interview in German or move to a German-speaking country. Eventually, I decided to put my pursuit of the German language on hold for almost seven years.
In early 2020, I embarked on learning Italian. Given the similarities between Italian and Spanish, I tried using authentic Italian content straight away. I watched a wide range of YouTube videos (from channels like Le Coliche, Minimad, and Casa Surace) and listened to comedy podcasts (such as 610) along with content on philosophy, culture, and art (Daily Cogito being one of my favorites). Moreover, I practiced conversation from the get-go and used an extensive Anki deck of 10k cards (which was overkill 😂). My efforts paid off. After several months, I was able to hold conversations on basic topics and continued actively learning throughout 2020 and part of 2021. This involved numerous conversation lessons on iTalki, hours of podcasts, video content, reading books, and language exchanges.
Towards the end of 2020, I pondered, “Why not revisit German?”. Having left the language untouched for nearly seven years, I was eager to dive back in. I spent most of 2021 and a portion of 2022 engaging with German content, and in September, I took a C1 Goethe-Zertifikat test to prove myself I was ready to transition to the next language: Thai.
From October 2022 to April 2023, I studied Thai diligently for one hour a day. My focus was on online courses to relearn the Thai script (which I had previously studied at the end of 2020), grammar, and pronunciation. By April and May, it was evident that I needed to integrate authentic content into my regimen. This realization led me to enroll in Refold’s course. Through the Ultimate Immersion Masterclass, my objective was to acquire new strategies, consolidate my experiential knowledge of this approach, and gain new tools, methods, and insights to assist other language learners in my work as a language coach. My target language for this online course was, then, Thai.
Refold’s Beginner Course: Ultimate Immersion Masterclass
This course is aimed at beginners interested in using immersion techniques to learn a foreign language. Although I was no stranger to this methodology, I embraced the opportunity to enhance my skills and broaden my knowledge. There’s always room for improvement 😉.
The course was delivered via daily video calls, typically lasting under 30 minutes, for 30 consecutive days. I found the format, which combined an instructional segment with an open Q&A session, highly engaging. The community aspect was facilitated through Discord, allowing for continuous conversation and questions. The Refold coaches were exceptional in providing guidance and answers to all sorts of doubts and questions. Special mention to Ben, the coach responsible for the daily calls; his knowledge, encouragement, and optimism were invaluable 😀.
In the first week, the course established several good reasons for learning through media content and how to effectively utilize it even as a beginner. Additionally, it stressed the significance of consistency and strategies for learning and retaining new words. The second week was devoted to learning new sounds, practicing reading and listening, and comprehending complex writing systems like Hanzi and Kanji. The third week introduced additional tools and techniques and emphasized integrating language-learning activities into daily routines. The final week provided further resources for devising personal learning systems, time-tracking methods, and creating long-term plans for our language learning goals.
My Experience with the Ultimate Immersion Masterclass
When I started the Ultimate Immersion Masterclass, I had been studying Thai for nine months. My initial focus during those nine months of study was on reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and comprehension. The incorporation of video and audio content in Thai seemed like a natural progression. According to Refold, it’s possible to employ this immersion method from the outset. In my case, I chose to gradually incorporate media after spending some time working on the structure of the language.
I participated in most of the live video calls during the first three weeks of the course. However, after June 10th, I was unable to partake in the live sessions. On June 12th, I traveled to Europe and attended the Polyglot Gathering in Poland, which had an array of language learning activities. Knowing that Refold’s online course calls were going to be recorded, I prioritized the live events in Teresin, Poland. Therefore, my experience with the course, as of June 2023, encompasses only the first three weeks.
The course was immensely beneficial from the outset. I was introduced to innovative ideas and activities that enable beginners to gain confidence and become adept at using video content to learn their target languages. I understood the importance of striking a balance between comprehensible input and challenging content. The Refold team did an outstanding job at compiling language-specific resources for all participants. Having access to a Google Sheet with an array of free content and recommendations for Netflix series and films in my target language was something I hadn’t expected.
Furthermore, the course helped me to refine my use of Anki, Language Reactor, and YouTube/Netflix content sources. The collective expertise and knowledge of the coaches was just incredible. If you encountered a challenge, it was likely that someone had firsthand experience or had guided other students through similar challenges.
This course was an eye-opener in terms of the potential that immersion-based learning holds. I wholeheartedly recommend it to both seasoned language learners and newcomers curious about learning through video content and immersion. And now I look forward to Refold’s future online courses 🙂.