【CASE STUDY】Dom Loves Recommending MB

Below is a transcript from the podcast. Check out more testimonials here, and click to learn more about The Mandarin Blueprint Method.

Luke:
Everyone, welcome back to the Mandarin Blueprint Podcast. I have with me another very special guest, Dom. Hi Dom.

Dom:
Hi, Luke. How’s it going?

Luke:
Hi, I’m great, thanks. Would you like to just tell everyone who you are, give yourself a little introduction and I’m really interested to hear how you found us?

Dom:
Okay. My name’s Dom, I’m 27. I live in London. I work in market research and I actually found you guys through the podcast.

Luke:
Oh, great.

Dom:
And I was thinking and starting to learn Chinese, which I won’t talk about the reasons for that. I thought I could just dip my toe into it. I was thinking of going to China, so I thought, “Well, I’ll try and learn the basics. Hello, how are you? Can I have one beer please?” So I thought I’d find a podcast I can listen to on the way to work and back, just kind of what I searched and learn Mandarin podcast and looked at a couple of them. Saw you guys and yeah. And then just from the very beginning, it, it struck me as something very different and also exactly what I needed. It sort of spoke to my brain and how it works.

Luke:
In what way do you think?

Dom:
Well, okay. So let’s say if it only goes the podcast. I had done a little bit of Duolingo before that and there was a Coursera Course from I think Peking University that I did two lessons of.

Luke:
I’ve seen those, yeah.

Dom:
Yeah, so I do use Duolingo a bit for Spanish and didn’t really stick with it for very long. And I did this online course, which was exactly what I expected really. It was like being in a classroom.

Luke:
Is that a good thing?

Dom:
No, no, I don’t-

Luke:
All right. Some people like it.

Dom:
Yeah. I think the first lesson was hearing someone say, “Hello, nice to meet you. What is your name?” And then you watch two people say it back and forth and then you say it, and then in the next lesson you learn how to say, “Here are all the things that you’ll find in a kitchen.”

Luke:
Right.

Dom:
And there’s no way of reviewing it, which is obviously a big part of your course. Yeah, when I’ve learned languages in school, that was exactly how it works. And I passed the exams okay, but I can’t speak French or [crosstalk 00:02:24]-

Luke:
You can regurgitate the information pretty much, but that’s all they require really, isn’t it? So essentially, the problem you were facing that caused you to search for a Chinese course was, I mean, what were your goals? What was the problem you were having? You were just sick of the Coursera Course and you were looking for something a bit more-

Dom:
I’d been trying these things for a couple of days literally before I found you guys.

Luke:
Right.

Dom:
It seems I decided… I’d always wanted to go to China, just to travel. Been to Japan a couple of times and all over the world. And I thought the thing that was holding me back with going to China is I thought, “Well, if I speak no Mandarin at all and they don’t speak any English or there’s very little English spoken, I’m going to be sort of stuck on the tourist trail, on a tour bus with a hotel rep who speaks a bit of English. And I’m not really going to enjoy my time like this. If I can at least learn a little bit to get by, even though it’s apparently very difficult, then I’ll just enjoy that trip when I do make it much more.

Luke:
That’s exactly what I did, and it made my trip so much better.

Dom:
Yeah. And I forgot what I was going to say after that. Yeah.

Luke:
Sorry, I interrupted you. Sorry, I apologize. It might come back. It might come back.

Dom:
Yes.

Luke:
How long does it take to learn a character these days with our method?

Dom:
It’s hard to say. I mean, in the early days I really was taking my time over it and it had just taken several minutes, maybe 10 minutes to really map everything out. Yes, then you include the prop that you were assigned to it after and going through the action in the set, it’d be the longer. Now I’ve noticed there are a couple that just click immediately and I still make sure that, embedded in there and I’ll think, “Could this be any better? Am I going to forget any aspect of this?” So I don’t rush through them.

Dom:
So, yeah, I guess once I see a problem, this is what it means. This is where it is, maybe a minute.

Luke:
A minute, awesome.

Dom:
At its quickest, four more. More for the more complicated ones. [crosstalk 00:04:32]-

Luke:
And you’ve been spending the extra time sharing your awesome very, very well done scenes as well on the platform, and I really appreciate that.

Dom:
Yeah, I’ve found that really useful actually, especially in the early days to write it out and it just makes you think about every aspect of it. And it sort of makes you, you want it to be good scene if you’re sharing it with people. So it just makes you think you’re not putting a rubbish scene out there. So you just think, “How can make this pop a bit more?” And actually, the first one I shared, I think it was Shane, or maybe it was Cher, it was Shane Warne, the cricketer firing a magic wand at the door of 10 Downing Street in my kitchen or something. And I spent ages on that one. And you said on podcasts later, “Oh Dom, you must have done this before if this is your first character.”

Luke:
Yeah.

Dom:
And actually, I hadn’t done this sort of memory [palace 00:05:29] stuff before. I’d heard of it, read a little bit about it, but I never tried it. But what I had done is because I started with the Pronunciation Mastery Course, I spent two weeks doing that. During those two weeks I was listening to the back catalog of podcast, so I must’ve listened to about 20 episodes of you criticizing and praising other people’s scenes, [inaudible 00:05:51] for what works and what doesn’t and what you need to consider. So actually when it got to me making my own scenes, I sort of hit the ground running.

Luke:
Right. Right.

Dom:
It’s not really useful to have… Yeah, if anyone else is doing it that way around, which I guess a lot of people are, listen to the podcast while you’re doing the Pronunciation Course and then when it comes to learning the scenes, you’ll understand them a lot better and all this stuff about sets and rooms and why you need to pick memorable things and why you need to use special effects and stuff. You’ve already got a grounding in it just from passively listening to the podcast on your commute.

Luke:
Comprehensible input does work, doesn’t it? Awesome. So that’s great to hear. And that’s good to know that, that part of the podcast is still worth listening to for some of us not on the course as well. Or at least maybe you just sort of put it on, it stays playing but that’s good to hear. What three parts… The reason I’m sort of… I want to make sure, because I know you’re pressed for time today, aren’t you? So I want to make sure we get through all the questions. I really am interested in hearing what you have to say. What are the three parts of the course so far that have made the biggest impact for you and why?

Dom:
What the three parts was. I think having the structure. So when I was a student, uni, school I’d cram for exams and I wouldn’t revise in any sort of particular structure. And that got me through the exams fine, but it didn’t commit a lot of the stuff to longterm memory and that’s why I never learned a language before this. But having the blueprint really, having it all laid out, this is the next step you should take, just takes away so much of the work thinking… If you commit to doing half an hour of Chinese every day, but you don’t know day by day whether that’s going to be read the text or watch the video or write out some characters or practice speaking or all the hundreds of different things you should do, then you’re going to procrastinate and fall off the wagon pretty quickly.

Dom:
But I know exactly what I need, I have to do my Anki every day and sort of drill that into me every five videos or something, “You have to do your Anki every day.” It’s just stuck in my mind. So I have been doing that. And then most days I managed to go through the video course a bit as well and learn four or five characters. So, that’s one part of it.

Dom:
Having the map laid out for you, is really, really helpful. It makes it so much harder to not do it. Or when your motivation is low one day and it’s midnight and you’re sat in bed, “Oh, I haven’t done it yet today,” it’s so much easier to do it if you know what it is. And well, I suppose obviously like the main components of it, the movie method, the Anki review system and once you have a grounding, there’s a comprehensible input system, this sort of three pillars I guess. I’m sure there are other pillars.

Dom:
Yeah. I mean, the structure of the course, et cetera, that’s the thing that’s helped me. So I guess, one, the blueprint, the roadmap. Two is kind of the idea that if you trust in this system, you will get there. And it won’t be easy and it’ll take ages and that’s fine because you’re learning a difficult language and this is a sort of life undertaking. I’m not in any rush to get there, I’m not launching a business next year, so I have to be fluent by the end of the year. But yeah, from pretty much the very beginning I decided that if I just do this every day I will progress. And it’s like, if you show up to the gym every day and stick to your calorie counting or something, you will be fitter by the end of the year.

Dom:
When I took up running, I went from not running at all, did the Couch to 5k Program and then ended up running the 5K and running a sort of half marathon after that. But that had a very similar system of if you just stick to this system, go out and walk for 30 minutes, go out and walk for 10 minutes, run for a minute, walk for… Every step, it’s only slightly harder than the last one. If you just trust in this system, you will get there.

Dom:
So I think that’s the other part of it. And then I guess it’s just, it’s fun. It’s not like sitting in a classroom with 20 other people writing out characters 100 times and trying to say things that you don’t know how to pronounce. Yeah, it’s great fun when you come up with a scene that has some lame pun at the end of it and then you can come and do it to everyone else. Yeah.

Luke:
I love the puns. Thanks for the puns. Anyone that brings… I’ve got a big weakness for puns. There’s a few people that are great at them on the course.

Dom:
I’m always afraid not making them too wordy, but I will sometimes add in a pun just as an extra line after I’ve hit the meaning just because it…

Luke:
Yeah.

Dom:
Now if you could do it every day, it needs to be fun. You need to entertain yourself.

Luke:
Yeah. And that’s good to hear as well. And what exactly… I’m curious, what was it that made you think or what point in the course or was it the comments, was it us, was it the method? What made you think, “Oh, this is going to work eventually?” Because that’s not self-evident immediately, right? I mean you have to build trust. Do you remember there was a point where you were like, “Okay, this is going to work if I put in enough time.”

Dom:
I don’t think there was an aha moment where it clicked. But I think for the very beginning you lay out in your materials that if you learn these 600 characters or whatever it is now you’ll have a thousand words, which is 80%. And then you’ll have your HSK3 level and you’ll be able to read with a little bit of guidance and specified materials and then from that point you’re over the hump and you can just read and listen to stuff. But once you get to the hump, input will sort itself out or the grammar will sort itself out. And here is, like I said, a roadmap to get to that hump and it’s just learn a character, review it until it’s committed to longterm memory. Learn a character using a visual technique that helps to commit it to longterm memory and learn all aspects of the character. It just made sense that if you do this until you’ve got X 100 characters, then you’ll be there. Yeah.

Luke:
That’s fine. Well, what results have you achieved so far and what impact has that had on your life at the moment? Or what will it have in the near future do you think?

Dom:
I mean, in terms of sort of tangible results, I just started level 13 last night, so I’m just starting reading sentences. So I guess, one achievement is I can look at a sentence that’s entirely in Chinese characters. It’s a very basic sentence like, “I scare my son,” or something, or, “My son speaks,” but I can look at that and it takes me about 10 seconds to wrap my head around it, but I can read it. “Ah, that says, ‘My son speaks,’ or, ‘my son eats with spoons.'” So that’s an achievement. The first time I did that, I looked at a sentence and thought, “I know what all of that means.” That felt like a breakthrough.

Luke:
And how long was it? You said it was a month before you could do that.

Dom:
Yeah, I started about a month ago and two weeks of that maybe was the pronunciation.

Luke:
So two weeks, you went from no characters to being able to read a sentence all through?

Dom:
Yeah, two to three weeks learning the first character to… And I had a little bit of a headstart by having listened to the podcast for two weeks.

Luke:
Of course.

Dom:
Being able to read a few different sentences now. And it is really difficult to read the sentences at this early stage.

Luke:
Yeah.

Dom:
But I really noticed last night that it was aching my brain to go through even just 10 sentences and figure out… I’m hoping that gets easier.

Luke:
Oh yeah, it does. It does. It’s like anything. It’s like stretching. When you do it that first time or the first 10 times, but then after, once you get into it, it becomes comfortable quite quickly if you do it every day.

Dom:
Yeah. The other thing that felt like an achievement yesterday, I sat on the desk going through my Anki and I was just writing out the characters whenever it told me to write out the character. And more than usual I was sort of focusing on getting the handwriting right because I know with the more complicated characters, the size of my characters just grew and grew and grew. It was slightly these messes. So I thought, “Okay, let’s just focus on the handwriting a bit more.” And then a couple of hours later I just looked down at my page and thought, “There’s 50 Chinese characters there and it had looked really cool and I know what all of them mean. I can write them again.” And then it was just, “Dude, what’s the most complicated character I can think of?” And it’s like, “Sure, that’s a complicated one. I can just draw it several times.” And then I just sort of leave it on the edge of my desk hoping people say, “oh, what’s that?” That’s another motivation for learning Chinese. It’s just really cool.

Luke:
It’s cool.

Dom:
Reading and writing, speak, yeah.

Luke:
Yeah. We all pretend that we’ve got higher ideals and it’s for business. No, it’s because it’s cool. It makes me look cool.

Dom:

[crosstalk 00:16:19]

motivation to impress people with it. But it’s a tertiary motivation.

Luke:
It’s tertiary. That’s a good word. Yeah, absolutely. What were you skeptical about, if anything, going into the course?

Dom:
I think about the course itself, there was very little, if anything that I was skeptical about. When I opened up the Coursera Course and listened to this Chinese professor saying, “This is how we say Nǐ hǎo. Now you say it and now you write it.” My skepticism there was extreme. I thought, “I’m never going to stick with this. I’m never going to be able to listen to a Chinese person and understand what they say and just say it back to them. It just doesn’t feel like it’s going to work.” And once you guys had, whether it was on your website or on the podcast, I don’t know, once you sort of laid out your system, I thought, “This makes much more sense. This is about how to learn, not how to speak Chinese. How to say the things you need to say in the right order. This is how do you learn, how do you memorize and acquire things?”

Dom:
So it all made sense for me from the beginning and I really wasn’t skeptical about the course. I’ve heard some people say it’s like, “Oh well, movies, actors, sets, props. This is so much stuff to remember. How is all of this going to work?” I guess maybe one point of skepticism is I thought, “Well, for a complicated character, you go through this process, it’s going to take you 10 seconds to read each character, which is better than nothing, but am I really going to read fluently?” But now, if I go into my Anki, you can notice characters on-site and that’s a great feeling when you see what… And you think, “Oh, that’s I.”

Dom:
I remember seeing that character in Duolingo and thinking that’s the mess of squiggles that has the dot in the top right. And of the 10 characters we’ve seen so far, if it’s got a dot in the top right, that means I, which is obviously a terrible way to learn. But yeah, being able to… Yeah, I don’t know where I’m going with this. Yeah, being able to notice those characters on-site, it sort of overcame that initial skepticism of this is going to take ages to go through each bit. I guess, I maybe still feel a little bit [inaudible 00:18:53] speak.

Luke:
Sorry, mate. Sorry, I just jumped out of the meeting there for a second, because I’m in my spare room. So can you just say that last bit again? You said, “I suppose I’m feeling…” I don’t know if you remember where you were. Sorry, about that.

Dom:
One point of skepticism that I’ve got, I think skepticism maybe isn’t the right word, is it feels like a long way after I’ll be able to hear a Chinese person speak just at a near normal speed, maybe some dialect or another. And I’ll just understand what they say and just say something back to them, even if it’s in slightly broken Chinese. But that’s the end, that’s fluency, that’s speaking Chinese, that bit. So it’s okay to think, “Oh, it’s going to be ages until I get there.” So no, I’m not sure I’d call that a skepticism about the course. And I haven’t got into comprehensible listening inputs really at all yet. So no, I think is the answer to your question. [inaudible 00:19:57] or anything.

Luke:
Awesome. Do you have any ways that we could maybe improve?

Dom:
I found, this is just a little thing that I did that I’m glad I did is I went through all of my sets in one go at the beginning.

Luke:
Right.

Dom:
So because I listened to the podcast for a bit and I kind of knew how it worked. And you know, okay, you have these 13 sets and each one needs to have four distinct locations that are hopefully pretty consistent with each other and they all need to be memorable places from your life that you can easily imagine. And maybe it’s just because I was excited about starting the course, but what I did is I just wrote down all 13 sets in one go and some of them were obvious. But in doing that and then I rearrange some of them, so I thought let’s make that one ‘and’, not ‘an’ because then I can use this one for ‘and’ because that one doesn’t make sense really. That is a set I really want to use, but it doesn’t fit in with any of these, the spelling of any of these. So I’ll just have this as my miscellaneous one AO and nothing for AO. And it was the theater that I do [inaudible 00:21:14].

Dom:
I thought that’s a… I spend a lot of time there. I know that space. I’ll just make that one AO. And it took me a while to get an ANG one and eventually I thought move some things around and I think I made my school ANG and then made something else AN. But I found it really helpful just to get that all mapped out and noted down. Then I went through the course. It didn’t take that long, but it means all of my sets now are really clear with really clear boundaries within them.

Luke:
Right.

Dom:
And I’ve tried to stick for [inaudible 00:21:48] and I’ve tried to stick to backyards wherever possible. And it’s only for the ones that don’t have backyards that I’ve used a bathroom. Because when I was thinking it through after a while, I’ve lived in a few cramped flats in London in the last four years, and they all have pretty identical tiny bathrooms. And I thought, “Am I really going to remember the difference between that small bathroom and that small bathroom and that small bathroom? I can’t really picture what they look like.” So for those ones I’m using backyards. And maybe it’s too much to put that at the beginning of the course, your like, “Right, here we go. Lesson 12, map out all 13 sets.”

Luke:
We used to do that. When we did the live class for many, many hours, hundreds of hours, we would teach this live, to tweak it and practice it and make sure it works for real people and stuff. And that’s what we used to do. We used to, at the end of the lesson we would say, “Okay, go away and choose your 56 actors and your 13 sets and see you next week.” And with a week to do it, people still occasionally would be like, “Ah, I’ve got to do all this,” and it would sort of cast out over the method basically and cause people not to bother. But then of course there are people like you who are more sort of either trusting or more autodidacty and just willing to just, “Okay, this looks like it’s going to work.” Boom, put in the work and just do it.

Luke:
And there’s also people that are just like, they feel the pressure, they can’t think of 13 places and a bit more neurotic and stuff. So we spaced out carefully over the course. But you know what? I think that we could possibly add in another little video that just says, “Hey, if you want, you can just choose all these now.” I don’t know if we have that written anywhere, but we can at least do a video perhaps to show that for the people that… Because it allows people like yourself to plan it out a little bit more. And I’ve just realized for the last three minutes, if someone’s been listening to this and they don’t know what Mandarin Blueprint is, those people are like, “What the heck are these guys talking about right now?” But trust me guys, if you’re listening, it does make sense. It does work.

Dom:
And I think, the counter to my point would be you get someone who’s just signed up for the course, “All right, what’s all this about?” And then they get an hour into the course and they’re asked to think of 13 places from their life, which either all have bathrooms, all have backyards or a nice combination of them. And hoping most of them got kitchens or something related to food that you can call it a kitchen. And you’re just, “Whoa, this is weird and crazy. I’m going to quit this course.” So in terms of holding onto people through the course, I think the handholding you do is really good. And it doesn’t feel like it handholds too… If it feels like too much handholding, you can just skip through. Sometimes you’re going to remake a movie that’s a six minute video and I think, “Right, I’ve got my movie. Here’s someone talking about theirs. They’ve got different props to me, so I’m just going to skip this one.” Or skip to the end where you normally have some little tip about special effects or facial expressions or something which can be quite useful.

Luke:
Right, right. That’s very useful for you. Thanks man. So one more question for you. Would you recommend Mandarin Blueprint and if so, why? And if not, why not?

Dom:
I would absolutely. I was half joking to a friend the other day that I was telling them about the course as I’ve told lots of people about the course because it’s just my new thing now. It’s the thing I do every day is this course. I don’t think I’ve ever recommended a product more strongly than I recommend it. I’m not the kind of person who recommends products or says, “Sign up to this,” whatever. I know I noted you had like some referral link or something and I found that I really want to recommend this course to people, because I want to find some other person doing this course where you can talk about, “What did you do for this? What did you do for this?” You find something cool, you want to share it with people. But you almost don’t want to use a referral link because then it feels like you’re selling it [crosstalk 00:25:41]-

Luke:
That would be something. Well, yeah, I guess though yeah, if it’s your mates and stuff, you feel like you’re… I don’t know. Yeah, selling out or something.

Dom:
Hopefully in three months, six months’ time, I’ll have a decent level of Mandarin or maybe I can speak a bit and they’ll say, “When did you start learning Mandarin?” I’ll be able to say some impressively small number of months ago and they’ll say, “Wow, how’d you do it?” And I’ll say, “mandarinblueprint.com and the proof will be in the pudding.” But at the moment yeah, I’m just strongly recommending it to people, boring friends over drinks by talking about, “There’s three things. There’s this movie method and there’s facial recognition-

Luke:
Please don’t try to explain the movie method to people. You’ll scare them off. It won’t work.

Dom:
I found that when I had tried to explain to a few people, it’s difficult. I was doing a video just in my living room here and one of my flatmates saw what I was doing as well. And it was actually, it was a character where you’re introduced the halberd, this obscure [inaudible 00:26:52]. And we thought, “What the heck?” And we were both, we were in stitches. Because it just made me reflect on just how weird this thing is. This is a razor blade and then that’s a foam finger obviously because it’s an adaptation of it. Oh no, that’s a hand. You know that hand from the Harry Potter film where he grabs the hand. And then there’s this samurai sword and whatever-

Luke:
And your friend’s just backing away slowly to the door.

Dom:
And then thought, “Well, what the hell is that halberd? We’ve now got Gary [Lineker 00:27:20] who’s outside the [LPs 00:27:21] house and he’s firing an arrow at a samurai warrior. It’s like, “Oh, it’s a halberd.” And then we got stuck in a corner of halberd YouTube watching someone teach us how to use the halberd. So I think now I have a pretty clear mental representation of a halberd.

Luke:
Oh dear.

Dom:
Yeah, the next scene, Walter White is in my office using a halberd to stab her hand with something and learning the character of war.

Luke:
That was a good one. I showed that… I was actually, I was genuinely impressed by that one. A couple of them made me really crack up as well. That’s great. So I mean, that’s it. That’s a great interview, man. Thank you very much for joining us. And yeah, I’d love to do a follow-up with you and see how you’re doing in a couple of months if that’s okay.

Dom:
Yeah, I’d love to too. Yeah, maybe we can do at least a little bit of it in Chinese by then if I can say a few more things. [crosstalk 00:28:25]-

Luke:
Great. Will do. All right. Thanks very much, Dom. I appreciate it. Sorry, were you going to say something there?

Dom:
No, I was just going to say, have a lovely evening wherever you are.

Luke:
Yeah, you too, mate. I really appreciate it. I’ll speak to you soon. Bye-bye.

Dom:
See ya-