Episode 180. "Standing Ovation" for The Mandarin Immersion Masterclass

180. “Standing Ovation” for The Mandarin Immersion Masterclass

Podcast Duration: 01:22:45
180. "Standing Ovation" for The Mandarin Immersion Masterclass

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2:18 Comments & Emails

Nick Jensen by Email

Hi Phil,

My first impressions of this course are really good — it’s focused on application, with enough foundational dialog at the beginning to make me want to do what you recommend. After watching the first eight videos, I already believe that MIM is the perfect (dare I say essential?) companion course for MBM, and applying its guidance will take my study from academic to organic.

I think I’m clear how everything works, I’m just not sure how I’ll fit the active immersion methods into my busy life yet. That’s a personal hurdle, of course, so that’s not a reflection of the course content. I haven’t watched the tutorial videos yet, and I expect that following those will enable an effective 5-minute study session.

Meanwhile, passive immersion has been easier to apply. I have started enjoying movies at low volume in the background. I also listen on repeat to the MBM sentences from lessons 13-16 (the lessons that I’ve covered by now). Those are amusing because of how whimsical the content sounds. When they draw my focus, I suddenly hear someone asking whether a person is afraid of tanning, that they pat their son with a notebook a little, or some such randomness. I came to MBM with a (probably) intermediate foundation of verbal Chinese and some prior immersion, so the sentences already register as “real” language to my brain, hence the amusement. Back to using movies for immersion, I was excited by how understandable I found “Star Wars IV: A New Hope” to be in Mandarin; and as a bonus, now I can understand someone who tells me they were going into Tosche station to pick up some power converters.

Thanks for your hard work!



Email from Anonymous


Well, I don’t know if you were expecting long or short responses, but I can be wordy so sorry for the length. Here’s a few points about your first MIM email and my initial impressions on the course.

1) That original “lifetime access deal only for X days” email really concerned me in the beginning, so I’m glad you’re doing away with that approach. Language acquisition is a space with a lot of unrealistic promises, poor execution, and aggressive marketing tactics, and seeing #3 didn’t give me much confidence about #1 and 2. I’m really glad I stuck with TMBM, and I’ll probably stick around for life if I can afford it: the course is (a) the only decent one I’ve ever found in any language and (b) not just decent but excellent. Would that I had known that then.

2) Off the cuff reactions to MIM: I find the course generally inspiring/encouraging/motivating; I think I might find the resource collection worth the price of admission alone; it looks like there might be a few tools/techniques that will be real value-adds (I couldn’t get migaku to work intuitively in half an hour, but it looks promising!). I also love that you guys are more measured and realistic than the other folks out there.

3) My impression is colored a bit by my personal experience with Spanish. I was able to learn it quickly enough without immersion, and that learning allowed me to then immerse into fairly advanced content that I actually enjoyed and could understand. Although I didn’t reach that higher B2 level fluency before pivoting to other priorities (e.g. Mandarin), I was able to meet my outset goals (I can watch native content without English subtitles, converse on most all common topics, and comfortably handle any travel needs), and could immerse in advanced and interesting content if I had the time and inclination to really push up that level. I’m pretty happy with that approach and would like to replicate it as much as possible with Chinese, although with the tones involved I feel like Mandarin will be less forgiving, which is a major reason I decided to dive into MIM (that, and TMBM is so excellent that I trusted you guys enough to take the leap).

4) Kind of on that point, I want to incorporate Mandarin smoothly into my life as much as possible, but I don’t need or want it to take over or become my life and, without spilling too much ink on this point, anytime the course seems to be pushing toward the all-Chinese-all-the-time approach those are the parts that where I sort of reflexively push back because that doesn’t align well with my goals (although I think on balance you guys are pretty good about striking more of a “you’ll probably need X hours and you gotta get them sometime” chord).

5) The bottom line right now as I enter MIM is that I haven’t found any Mandarin immersion materials and approaches that seem to make the immersion aggravation worth it at this point. Especially when my experience has been that the comprehension will lag but will eventually come around once you have the vocabulary to get a good foothold, and TMBP is so good at building that. I’m gonna give the whole MIM thing a shot, and hopefully it will help me either (a) find ways to make Chinese immersion more enjoyable or (b) after pushing through and trying your suggestions, hopefully find that the value proposition is so great that it’s worth it even if I don’t find it terribly enjoyable.

Anyway, those are the very, very preliminary thoughts. Looking forward to diving back in.



Clare Dunne by Email

Hi, Phil,

The MB Pronunciation and Movie Method courses were real breakthroughs for me, tackling my weakest areas of reading, writing and pronunciation. Generally, I love conversations and watch a lot of Chinese dramas already, and make my own flashcards, so I didn’t expect to hear radically new advice with the Immersion course. I didn’t expect this Immersion Course to be a breakthrough in the same way because so far, the suggestions themselves aren’t new to me.

However, you guys have been so helpful, I figured at least you could help guide me on a more structured and goal-focused path.

First impressions of immersion course:

1) yes, I already listen to podcasts, t.v. shows, read books in Chinese, and make my own flashcards, but I think I can learn through this course to be more focused and efficient. I will try out your suggestions with YouTube and Migaku (never heard of it) and I’m glad to see Anki back on the menu because I was one of the group that struggled to get Anki and now don’t want to leave it.

2) I feel the nudge from you guys toward listening a LOT more, whereas before I had spent my 2 hours plus daily doing new vocabulary for about an hour, then spending 1 1/2 hours going through all my flashcards. I was low intermediate (scraped by HSK3) when I started MB, started from scratch and love it, and am now on Level 54. I love the new words and the word flashcards but the sentence flashcards can tire me out. I thought, oh, man, I am going to have to find more time to listen to a podcast with focus.

3) I am impressed and sobered by the insistence on listening and I really like my impression that you guys are setting a high standard, kind of like Suzuki violin, of not moving on from simple content until “you can’t get it wrong” aka you understand nearly every word. Really mastering listening without subtitles is big. I often use subtitles to make the experience more fun, but that’s not the same intensity as purely listening immersion.

So overall, I get the nudge to increase listening and I am hopeful I will learn new and more efficient techniques in doing what I am doing already – consuming native content and making my own flashcards.

Extra listening makes me feel a little less guilty about not doing shadowing (ugh! I know I’m supposed to). I really love the idea that following these steps can help me master a very high level of Chinese without having to move to China or even go to China – since the pandemic continues to block travel and finding 3 weeks vacation and the money to pay for immersion in China is out of my reach right now. It is revolutionary to think you can create immersion from home, for real.

Lastly, I was thinking that since MB emphasizes actually acquiring language instead of “studying” it in colleges, maybe you could partner with other people who also actually want folks to acquire the language, like the U.S. State Department. They are the ones who rated Chinese so hard in the first place, right? My former German teacher used to work there, I could try to find out a current contact name for you if you are interested. You probably already thought of this. The really weird thing is how disruptive MB is to the industry of language teaching. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t go to a single class in Chinese or any other language.

Thank you for everything you do to bring high level of Chinese into reach for us 老外。

Clare , Kelan, 珂兰。


Gavia by Email

Hi Luke & Phil,

Just wanted to share a “problem” I had this weekend:

I was chatting with a Hello Talk friend (in writing) and wanted to say that I was reviewing sentences from my Chinese course. But I realised I didn´t really know how to say it in Chinese. So I asked:

我应该怎么说: 我在复习我的课程的句子,课程的句子或者课程的句子?

Answer: 都可以!

This must be a very “MB kind of problem” with output: my problem wasn´t “not knowing how to say it”, the problem was that I didn´t know yet that I already knew THREE different ways of saying the same thing, all of them correct.

I´m sure there are some nuances and maybe one is better than the other, but if a native speaker tells me 都可以 I think I´m doing OK for now. 🙂

THANK YOU for all those sentences, reviewing them has been a chore sometimes, but now that I´m starting to communicate I´m really starting to see their value!

Take care,



Louise Bywater by Email

Thanks for this

I’m currently testing out an approach to immersion based on the Journey to the West story, as there is sooooo much content out there (audio, visual, written, you name it they’ve got it), from graded level for Chinese learners (e.g. Little
Fox cartoon, Imagin8 book/audio book series) to native content aimed at kids, teenagers and adults (tons of cartoons, books, TV series and films), audible also has a kids audio book right through to the full epic work. Ximalaya.com also a good audiobook source.

It’s not my only source of immersion content of course, that would be too narrow, but I’m getting a lot out of developing my language skill around a story I’m familiar with, using ever increasing language complexity across all mediums.
Also, I’m able to output from it too, writing short chapter summaries based on the level of language I have, which improves over time as I work through MB course and learn/acquire more vocab and structures.

In my last lesson with my teacher I ‘retold’ the first few chapters and we discussed it. It was a fairly simple summary, but I was able to get the point across and then we discussed the story. It’s crazy to think that in less than a year
(started MB from zero 17 June 2021), I could have a simple conversation with a native person talking about this amazing story and the impression it’s had on me.

One day I’ll be able to read the full work, ok not any day soon, but I’m ok with that as my medium term goal
😊It’s thanks to you guys and MB course (I’m on L44 for ref).

I’m just working through the new MB immersion course, it’s already helping me to shape and refine my approach to be more effective. Looking forward to hearing from the ‘Legends of Language Learning’ – thanks again for giving me access to it.



 James Rogers by Email

Hey Luke and Phil! Just thought you guys might find this funny. I was talking with my wife Becca yesterday about how in France 14 year olds can ride scooters. As Charlie has just turned 14 and sometimes endangers his life just crossing a road I said to Becca, “If he wanted to get a scooter it would be easier if I just ‘delivered’ him to hospital and bypassed the accident”…then I paused and said….’delivered’ him to hospital, that’s not phrase. Her reply… ‘is that by any chance how it would be said in Chinese’. I realised that I would indeed 送 him to hospital, lol. Immersion surpasses a sensible threshold when it affects your English, lol.

Loving the Masters of Language Learning stuff guys. Brilliant work. Thanks as always, Jimmy


Matthew Shubert by Email

Phil & Luke,

I was so excited to see the immersion course and it was a day-one buy for me!

One big issue I’ve been having is that MBM has given me a lot of confidence with reading and writing, but listening is still such a HUGE struggle for me. I can happily read all the longer-form content you guys provide, but then when I try to understand the TV shows my partner watches, or even my Chinese inlaws’ basic speech (with vocab I should already know!), I just can’t seem to parse it thoroughly or quickly enough to understand without having them repeat. I really love the format of the MIM, it’s so cool to see that you guys have managed to put structure around such a nebulous topic like immersion.

My big wish would be around content sourcing, I know you guys are building out the Notion resource list, maybe it would be cool to have community-sourced content that people can rate on level, usefulness, entertainment etc. so that we can all build out these resources together? And maybe some organised watch parties for Chinese content? 🙂




Rita Vallari by Email

What a wonderful way to start your Mandarin Insights….

Thanks for the illustration, I didn’t watch the movie, but I will now..I want to know what comes next…🦖🦕

And I promise I will protect and nourish the Mandarin baby I had 10 years ago although I was 60 then and never thought, deep inside me, that I would be able to make it…

I’ll do it with your help.

Thanks again, for the great encouragement, I’ll start right now to increase my knowledge of characters and to listen to Chinese as much as I can.

Much more success to you both, and a big hug…to you and your dear families…



Teo Ruokolainen by Email


I have really enjoyed the new course so far. What I really appreciate with MBP is the way you are able to structure language learning into a step-by-step process. I don’t have to think about what character to learn next, or how to find
comprehensible input. It is all there laid out for me.

Immersion however is really daunting. I have put it off since it’s so much harder to watch a TV-show without being able to use the subtitles as a crutch. At least in languages with romanized alphabets you are often able to use the subtitles
to aid your hearing since they have a familiar phonetic style.

For Chinese the subtitles are more daunting. They go by so fast and I still don’t know the majority of the characters. But as you say in the course, it is OK not being able to understand everything. I just need to train my ear. So I jumped
straight into a show.

I started off with a show not on your resource list, a Netflix show called “The Hollow”. It was the first show I was able to follow along pretty easily when learning Finnish, so I am very familiar with the plot.

The dialogue is amazing for a beginner. The show starts off with three kids waking up in a basement. They don’t remember how they got there, or even their own names. This leads to a lot of questions like “Who are you?”, “What is your name?”,
“Why are we here?”, “What is this?” etc…

To my big surprise, I understood a lot more than I thought possible! Of course, since I already knew the plot I was able to anticipate what they were going to say beforehand, but still. By the few words I know I can often get the gist of
what the sentences are about. This is especially noticeable when I listen to the audio passively when doing other tasks without the visuals to help me.

There is still a lot of work to be done before I could follow along a TV show I haven’t watched before, but I can really see the benefits of repetedly being exposed to words and phrases I have learnt. I will work with this show a bit more
to build up my confidence, and then I’m excited to jump into (Level 1) native content!

Best regards,



Gavin Meakin by Email

Hi Phil,

To answer your question, have I ever had a moment where I felt like quitting Mandarin… Yes. 100%. With a full-time job and two young kids, my progress is incredibly slow and there have been many times where I’ve thought it would be easier to just give up. I’m proud that I haven’t. I now see myself as a Mandarin learner and I don’t care how long it takes me to reach my goals. So long as I don’t turn my back on Mandarin, it won’t turn its back on me, and I have you guys to thank for helping me see that.




Ann Lee on Building the Chinese Habit (This Video is Life-Changing!)

Oh my word, you guys. I feel so incredibly grateful that I *ran into your material* online a few years ago. Although your providing people with the support, encouragement, and materials to speak Chinese fluently is the obvious benefit, I believe that your unbelievable, strong raison d’etre is to help each of us build better lives and showing up as our authentic selves in all of that wholeness. Kudos, Kudos, Kudos.

This information was absolutely packed with Wisdom. And both of your honesty and comfortable style added to the excellent content makes it relatable, relevant, and encouraging. Thank you.

Some of my favorite quotes and concepts:
“Create Identity-based Habits.”
“I am a Chinese speaker.”
“I am a *daily improver*,”
every time you take an action forward, you are casting a vote for who you really are
“The next moment is coming and you’re going to do SOMETHING.”
“You don’t need a unanimous vote to win … you just need a majority.”
thanking our brain, realizing it is what it is … and that we can appreciate it yet not be paralyzed by some of its comments/content.

I’ve followed James Clear for a number of years & have always felt his content has had value. I purchased Atomic Habits when it was first released. And now, to think that you two are applying the principle to life in general as well as to Chinese learning in particular is amazing. Thanks!


Andy Williams on 火 in Context

Hi, In the sentence 我拿出一支蜡烛,点上了火. I know 点火 is to lit, how can I understand the 上 used here? Thanks.


Hannah van der Bijl on Level 21 Complete

I’ve heard it explained before that the best translations are “idea for idea”, not “word for word” for the exact reasons you’ve mentioned. We use English words to convey ideas differently than Chinese, so attempting to map our learning onto English just inhibits our ability to shift our language modules. After I’ve reviewed several sentences at least twice, it starts to click! It’s amazing how I’ve started “getting” sentences that I don’t thoroughly understand the structure of yet, and it’s freeing to realize that acquisition doesn’t require me to understand every single thing. I realize this is part of the process of getting out of “English brain” into “Chinese brain”, and that’s one of the reasons this course is the best out there!


Kolia on Vocab Unlocked from 于

I see “生于上海” as an example in Pleco.
Would “生在上海” also be right/mean the same or is there a difference? or one being more right than the other?


Erin on Cue – Make it Obvious

Listening to this section got me thinking about how cognitive defusion might also be helpful to keep the lazy ghost at bay, which is a way of noticing thoughts as simply thoughts and placing mental distance between one’s self and thoughts. I like to use the metaphor of a mindbus, where I am the driver and my thoughts are passengers. And then visualize myself taking control of the bus, stopping it and letting off the negative passengers.”


Daniel Léo Simpson on Welcome! How to Get the Most Out of this Course

Hey guys… after last week’s “eager anticipation” for the release of the Immersion Course I can only tell you I was more impressed with it then I could have imagined. I’m in my 4th day of absorbing it’s content while learning all sorts of new and exciting tips and techniques to not only push my skills to a new level but enjoying the journey more than ever before. And then if that wasn’t enough, you lay a “Bonus” course on us after-the-fact LOL :).

I know I probably echo the sentiments of everyone one here that the continued effort on your part to constantly enhance, improve and advance your material is what has moved you in a short amount of time to a position of leaders in your field. And all this knowing that it’s only going to get even better as you move forward.

Thanks so much for all the effort you put into your work and best wishes for continued success.
Daniel Léo Simpson – Composer


Louise Bywater on Level 1 – Navigating the Desert

something I’ve tried is watching a programme/film first with English subs to understand the plot, then rewatch again without subs, you’ll have the rough outline of what’s going on allowing your brain can tune into the language, you’ll be surprised how much vocab you can pick out when the context is a bit clearer


Annette Bicknell on Celebrating the SUCK! (Feat. Jake Gill)

Just like Jake Gill says to celebrate the small wins, I get a kick out of picking out a new word I just learned in a TV drama. It does feel good and also makes you feel that you actually do make progress. When sentences have whole strings of characters I know and can understand, those are wins along the way even if there are plenty of words and whole sentences I don’t understand yet. The “yet” is important.


Katariina Erkas on Vocab Unlocked from 致

Does the sentence “下面欢迎王教授为我们致词。”mean something along the lines of “Below is the welcoming speech we gave to professor Wang”? I’m somewhat confused by the positioning of the 为.


Jerod Cox on 男孩 in Context

Hey guys, sorry I was translating this sentence, 男孩不要用瓶子打女孩,

in my flashcard session this morning and was wondering why it is

translated as “Boys shouldn’t use bottles to hit girls.” versus

“Boys don’t want/desire to use bottles to hit the girls.”? Thanks

for everything.


Annette Bicknell on 你的爱好是什么?

I started with just reading the story, then reading it again before confirming what I thought I understood with Google text translate. Then I watched the video and was happy to get a few more interesting facts about the sentences. Now I understand the entire story and can read it more easily again, not to mention listen to it. Thank you for the details. Oh, had to read about the author in Wikipedia to get to know a little more about 鲁迅. Ingenious way to get us to learn more about Chinese culture.


Ann Lee on Some Final Words of Advice

Even though I need to go back to some of the tutorials for the resources, I wanted to get the Big Picture view of THE JOURNEY. There’s just so much invaluable wisdom as well as practical information in this MIM course, it’s both overwhelming in the happiness factor as well as grounding – in the calm, steady, ‘go this way’ factor. Thank you both. Alot.


Christopher Weeks on Is Language Learning Hard? (Feat. Matt vs. Japan)

To answer Phil’s e-mail:
What do you find easiest and most difficult about language learning?

I find the act of writing down the character or outputting speaking easy when you are in a great flow state, and people are responding and understanding, but at the same time, when you can’t produce the word you are looking for in that moment, or produce the wrong word, it can be very frustrating depending on other factors. Dealing with that frustration, of not being able to do something, when you think you should be able to is what I feel is the most difficult. Knowing you studied it, and “should know it” but didn’t produce it when it was needed, or it led to a misunderstanding is frustrating.


Christopher Weeks on Time-Management and Finding Your Purpose (Feat. Jared Turner)

Answer to Phil’s e-mail question:
What type of learner are you? Has it changed over time?

Between the ages of 9 and 25 I struggled learning French, German and Spanish at various different points, but also, didn’t really have a fixed purpose, no family members or friends who had learned a foreign language from a similar background to me, and I really didn’t see the point. As a teenager I aspired to live in the U.S. and visit theme parks!

It was only after university and I started meeting people who spoke multiple languages, where I found it was more interesting, but at that point I realized, no one had ever taught me the skills or process of how to learn a language. My Spanish notes from the age of 25 or completing grammar exercises, were me just writing out words from a text book. No flashcards, no spaced repetition.

Even with Chinese when I first arrived in China to teach English, it took multiple false starts, before getting hooked on using Memrise after reading an article in the Guardian newspaper about learning Chinese. My journey has looped back to the beginning a few times, as I changed methods, forgot things and saw others surpass me by just sticking to one method and seeing it through to the end, but I believe I am now further up the mountain to B2 fluency than I have been at any point. I am enthusiastic about reaching it, but that doesn’t mean that the journey isn’t long and tiring at points. Next year will be 10 years since I first learned nǐhǎo, and I am interested to see where I will be at that point.


Keith Wilkens on 左右 in Context

Is there any particular reason it’s 100元左右 in the first sentence and 左右员工 in the 3rd sentence ? Just curious about the rule for placement in a sentence .


Andy Williams on 买 in Context

发现自己被骗了. Do you have some suggestion to understand the 被骗? I see in Pleco that 被 can be a preposition to introduce the doer of an action or the action. How does this work in this example? Thanks, Andy


Matt Shubert on Now Just LOOK at how SOLID that Foundation Is! Phase 5 Complete!

Add me to the “tortoise” group…

I went through old emails and found my “level 1 complete” email from back in May of 2020. And now, over two years later, 我在这儿!

I do regret taking a couple of months-long breaks from learning during that period, as both instances resulted in a massive backlog of flashcards (and in one case I started back from scratch completely) and having to brush a LOT of dirt off those brain synapses. I would not recommend this to anyone else and I am going to try my best to avoid those long strings of zero-days.
But that said, I am so ecstatic to finally get here, I actually ended up doing all of level 36 in one day and genuinely enjoyed mastering that Sleeping Beauty full story before coming to this final Foundation course completion page. Seriously, I kept thinking, “I cannot believe that I am reading and listening to a multi-paragraph faery tale in Chinese!”

Because of MBM, I am able to actually hold conversation with my (luckily, very patient) fiancée in her native language, and I’m slowly getting to understand her parents’ speech (although, their heavy 南话 is still a huge challenge for my ears). I can start to catch onto scenes in TV shows, almost get the full idea of the daily Chinese story calendar on our kitchen table, and happily read through graded content on TCB up to HSK 3 and even some of 4.

I am so ready to dig more into both the Intermediate MBM lessons as well as the Immersion course and keep laying those bricks. I think I’ve said this before in a Facebook review but thank you so, so much Phil and Luke, what you guys have done (and are continuing to do with content like the MIM!) is nothing short of extraordinary, and is legitimately making my life, and no doubt other students’ lives, much grander by opening up an accessible channel to Chinese people and culture. 多谢!:)