What is Refold?
Have you ever tried to learn a language? Maybe for a few years in high school. Maybe using Duolingo. Maybe by moving to a new country.
Millions of people around the world have studied a second language. Few have succeeded.
Language schooling doesn't work. Duolingo doesn't work. Moving to a new country sometimes works.
All these methods fail to produce consistent results. So, why are so many people still using them?
It’s considered "common wisdom" that adults suck at learning languages, that language learning is only possible for children, and that adults are deficient and broken. Instead of blaming the methods, we blame ourselves.
That's bullshit. You are not broken.
We're here to tell you there's another way: you can learn a language to a high level of fluency at home, with a computer, by watching TV, reading books, and listening to podcasts.
This guide details every step in the process to go from complete zero to native-like fluency by using the infinite stream of media available over the internet.
The linguist Stephen Krashen argues that there are two ways to develop language ability: acquisition and studying.1
"Acquiring" a language means building intuitive knowledge of the language. Acquisition is how we learned our native language (NL). In our NL, most of us don't know grammar rules: we just know what sounds right and what doesn't. When speaking, we don't have to think about grammar or vocabulary. We just think about the meaning we want to convey and the words flow naturally.
For example, if you’re fluent in English, you’d agree that the phrase “the big red dog” sounds more natural than “the red big dog”, but, you probably aren’t aware of the complicated grammar rule2 that explains why.
“Studying” a language, on the other hand, is the act of learning about the language. Learning a language solely through studying is known as the “skill-building” approach. Most language learning solutions focus on skill-building rather than acquisition. They teach you vocabulary and grammar as building blocks to construct sentences. Using this method, you can translate your thoughts from your NL into your target language (TL).
No amount of skill-building will help you become fluent.
This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, this skill-building approach is how you learned every other subject in school. However, language is not like other subjects.
What sounds “right” or “wrong” in a language often doesn’t have any rhyme or reason. You may be able to translate a phrase, word-for-word, from English to Korean but it probably won’t make sense. Even if it does, it won’t sound natural. Language is highly specific in unpredictable ways. It is impossible to keep every grammar rule and language-specific phrasing in your head while trying to have a conversation.
Fortunately, your brain has a built-in mechanism for this exact problem. Every single one of us was born with the ability to naturally acquire language. Contrary to popular belief, this ability does not disappear when you become an adult. In fact, by pairing your mature analytical mind with your innate language acquisition ability, you can learn languages faster than children.
Our brains are pattern recognition machines. This innate ability allows us to predict the future, appreciate music, and yes, learn languages.
Children learn language through exposure from their parents. Over months and years of continuously hearing their parents speak to them, their brains decode the patterns and they learn how to speak.
As adults, we don’t have a parent to talk to us 24/7, but we do have access to the whole of the internet. We can use widely available media to simulate the language acquisition process that children experience.
The Refold method is a step-by-step guide explaining how to combine media, strategic study, and educational technologies to achieve high level language fluency faster than any other method in the world.
The best part: it’s fun. We teach you how to enjoy the language instead of treating it like a chore.
The key aspect of the Refold method is to focus on comprehension first. By understanding first, you cultivate your intuition for the language through enjoyment of the content you watch, read, and listen to.
There are 4 stages to achieving fluency:
- Build a foundation
- Develop comprehension
- Learn to speak
- Refine to mastery
The major advantage we have over child learners is that we can strategize, study, and use tools.
In Stage 1, you will use traditional language learning tools like flashcards, vocabulary lists, and grammar guides, BUT, you will use them differently.
Instead of using these tools to learn how to speak, you will use them to understand. You will only study one direction: from TL to NL. You will not attempt to speak or write (a.k.a. “output”).
Simultaneously, you will begin immersing in TL media (a.k.a. “input”).
The vocabulary and grammar you learn will immediately make your immersion more comprehensible. When your brain sees a word and understands it in immersion, it will start developing the instinct for how to use the word.
You can think of this process as building a little machine in your head that converts the foreign gibberish into pure meaning (a.k.a. “mentalese”). The combination of conscious study and immersion gives your brain all the tools it needs to build this machine.
In Stage 2, you will gain a near-perfect understanding of a small part of the language. The smaller this part of the language is, the faster you can achieve understanding.
The Oxford dictionary lists 171,476 unique words in English. The first Harry Potter book only contains 6,1853 unique words.
If you want to read the first Harry Potter book, then studying a random vocabulary list isn’t going to be very helpful. Narrowing your focus of study to the vocabulary that is immediately relevant to your experience accelerates your understanding.
By consistently immersing in the same type or genre of content, the vocabulary you learn from Harry Potter will stay relevant and you will be able to obtain near perfect comprehension of that genre in just a few months.
If you've ever tried to learn a second language, you know that speaking a language learned through “study” is exhausting while speaking your NL is nearly effortless.
One of the coolest parts of acquisition is the moment when your brain starts outputting naturally. Suddenly, when you've received enough comprehensible input, the little machine in your head starts to run in reverse. Your TL will start spilling out of you.
You can think of this like those old coin pusher games in arcades:
At the start, the game is empty. It takes a lot of coins to fill up the game and start getting rewards. Eventually, though, you put in a coin and it causes an avalanche. It's important to note, you don't know which coin will cause the avalanche, and the coin you put in is not the one that comes out.
Once you reach this point, you’re ready for output. You’ve spent all this time building a pool of latent ability through input. The next step is to convert that latent ability into output ability.
In Stage 3, you will deliberately expose yourself to situations that force you to output: writing, then speaking. Exposing yourself to these situations causes your brain to search through your pool of acquired language and make those words and phrases available to you for output.
Sometimes, your brain won’t be able to find the right thing to say. These moments show you where you haven’t yet acquired the necessary language. Armed with this knowledge, you can target your immersion and fill in the gaps. This output/input loop allows you to quickly achieve basic fluency.
By this point, you will have acquired the language to a B2 level and will be able to comfortably understand and communicate.4
If you want to go beyond B2 level, just repeat stages 2 & 3 with more areas of the language. Each time you repeat those steps, the process gets easier. Pretty soon, you'll be at a C1, C2, or native level of fluency.
You’ve been told you can’t learn a language. We’re here to tell you that you can.
Learning a language takes time, but it’s not complicated. The challenge of language learning isn’t like learning calculus. It’s more like losing weight. There’s no single thing that’s difficult, but you have to be consistent in your effort over months and years.
The Refold Method is a step-by-step guide showing exactly how to learn a language at every stage in the process, from zero to fluent. We tell you how to overcome every obstacle standing between you and your TL and how to stay motivated so you actually achieve your goal of fluency.
Thousands of language learners have already embarked on their journey. We’re excited for you to join us!
- 1: Stephen Krashen uses the term "learning" to contrast with "acquisition". Because the term learning is overloaded, we use the term "study" here.
- 2: Adjectives order, Cambridge Dictionary
- 3: Literature statistics, tylervigen.com
- 4: B2 is a reference to the European framework for language levels. CEFR, Wikipedia