Frequently Asked Questions

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Not at all. This belief has been debunked both in research and in practice. Well-known polyglot, Steve Kaufmann, continues to learn new languages in his 70s. This is because our adult minds give us many advantages over babies and children when it comes to language acquisition. We can use various tools and techniques to accelerate our progress. In addition, since we have already learned one language before (our first language), we do not have to spend as much time in a new language to make the same progress that a child would. With the Refold method, you will be speaking like an adult in your target language in 1-2 years. Compare this to a 4-year-old child who has been receiving input constantly and yet still sounds like a child.

Immersion is the act of consuming media and content in the language you’re trying to learn, also called your Target Language. As long as it’s made by natives for natives in the original language without any subtitles or translations from your native language, it’s immersion. This is different from the traditional idea of language immersion where a person travels to the country where their target language is used and lives their everyday life in that language. Using the Refold method, we create an environment that mimics the experience of living in the target language country using media. Immersion is also commonly referred to as “input.”

Comprehensible input is content that is made specifically so that it can be understood without knowing the language. A good example of comprehensible input would be a video of someone pointing to the different parts of a face using their finger and saying the names of the parts out loud. You may not know the word for “nose” in your target language, but you will know that a nose is being talked about when the person in the video points to it.

Think of a domain as a small section of the language that will contain certain vocabulary. Examples of domains include “everyday conversation”, “cooking instructional videos”, or “Yakuza slang.” Choosing a domain that interests you is an efficient way to break the language down into more manageable pieces.

Tolerating ambiguity means that you accept not being able to understand everything. This is an important skill to learn during the language acquisition process, especially as a beginner. Because the truth is, you will not understand a lot. Make peace with this and know that it will get better.

Active immersion is when you are fully focused on the content you are consuming with the intent to understand. Your attention isn’t divided between other tasks. Watching TV shows, movies, YouTube, or reading novels would be considered active immersion.

Passive immersion is anything that does not have your full attention. Your attention is divided between other tasks such as doing laundry, exercising, cooking, driving, washing dishes, etc. Taking advantage of passive immersion is an excellent way to fill in gaps in your day with your target language that would otherwise be dead air or native language content. Passive immersion is sometimes also referred to as “semi-active immersion.”

Apps such as Duolingo, Babbel, etc. are not recommended because the methodology is completely counter to what Refold recommends. These resources base their instruction around constructing sentences from grammar rules, memorizing vocabulary in a specific order, and using questionable translations and low-quality text-to-speech software instead of audio recordings of native speakers. These resources are not built with the Refold methodology in mind, and therefore will offer little to no benefit to your immersion learning journey.

We don’t recommend textbooks for a lot of the same reasons that we don’t recommend apps such as Duolingo. Textbooks are not written in a way that aligns with Refold methodology and will reinforce traditional learning habits, which is not ideal or efficient. Purchasing a textbook just to ignore the majority of it is also not in your best interest.

That depends. You can approach this in two ways.

  1. Watch content that is very easy. This would be content that is specifically made for learners or native children. This works for people who are motivated by high comprehension, which keeps them engaged. The content itself doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they can follow along. 

  2. Watch content that you are interested in, regardless of how much you understand. With this approach, it’s easier to lose yourself in the content to the point that you don’t feel like you’re studying. This works for people who are motivated by the nature of the content itself and get bored by the easier content. You can hack this approach by rewatching a show that you’ve watched before in your native language. This way, you are already familiar with the story and the contents of the dialogue, so not understanding isn’t an issue.

Generally, using target language subtitles also helps with comprehension. Some people find that they’re too distracting. However, if that’s not the case for you, they are highly encouraged in the early stages of Refold.

For beginners, a general rule of thumb is to only pause to do lookups every 3-5 minutes. 

Also, here is something a little more concrete. Only pause to do a lookup if one or all of the following criteria are met:

  1. The word sounds familiar
  2. The word sounds important
  3. The word sounds interesting

This isn’t recommended. Any hypothetical progress that could be made (which isn’t even supported by research) will be canceled out by low-quality sleep. Getting proper sleep is an often-overlooked, but extremely important, aspect of the language acquisition process.

Refold co-founder MattvsJapan has a great video addressing this question.


Output is producing your target language by using the knowledge you have acquired through input. Activities such as writing and speaking are considered output.

Generally, Refold does not recommend speaking (or outputting) early before Stage 3. Refold’s core philosophy is based on learning to understand your target language before you start outputting. We have found that waiting until you have received a few hundred hours of input will produce better results when you start learning to speak. 

For more information on the reasoning behind this advice, you can check out this blog post from the Refold CEO himself!

Formal and polite speech is going to be an important part of any language that you learn. That being said, whether you should spend time studying specific parts of speech is going to depend on your goals. Unless you have been offered a job at a company where you will need to use formal speech in your target language, it is generally recommended to simply immerse and focus on understanding. By paying attention to your immersion content, you will naturally learn to differentiate between the various levels of speech as you go.

Absolutely. Your brain is a pattern-recognition machine. It is optimized for language learning. Whenever you spend a lot of time in a foreign language, your brain will automatically begin working to decode it. However, this work is done in the background without you being consciously aware of it, which makes it difficult to feel progress. Just keep in mind that the more you listen to the language, the more data you are feeding your brain to further decode the language, and eventually understand it. The only way you will understand a new language is by listening to the language for thousands of hours. Merely memorizing vocabulary lists will not help you.

The simple answer is that there is no answer. We all start at nothing. And we all must go through the process of first training our ears to hear the sounds of the language before we can start understanding the language. Even though it might feel scary, it is perfectly normal to barely understand your immersion as a beginner. The more time you put in, the more this will improve.

As much as you can without negatively impacting your more important life responsibilities.

The short answer is no. The long answer is: possibly. If you immerse to the point of burning yourself out or impacting more important life responsibilities such as your job, your school, your family, or your health, then that may be considered too much. That being said, the more you immerse, the more you will improve. It’s important to find a balance that works for you.

In general, video games are not a high-quality source of immersion due to their low language density. However, if you are playing a game with high language density, such as an RPG (role-playing game), you will likely enjoy hundreds of hours of immersion.

This is not recommended for a couple of reasons. First, when you’re at a certain level, there is a maximum amount of information you will be able to learn at any given time. We call this information “low-hanging fruit.” No matter how many times you rewatch a piece of content, certain concepts will be out of your reach until enough time has passed for you to improve, and new low-hanging fruit will be available to you. Another reason is that your brain needs to be exposed to concepts in the language in many contexts for you to get a full picture of how the language works. If you are spending time rewatching the same episode of a show over and over, you are depriving yourself of this important aspect of the language acquisition process.

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An SRS, which stands for “Spaced Repetition System”, is a flashcard program that uses a special algorithm to show you information right as you’re about to forget it rather than entirely randomly. This makes studying material much more effective and efficient.

Anki is the recommended SRS to use with Refold due to the incredible amount of tools and plug-ins available. This makes your language-learning experience not only efficient but extremely customizable.

This page on the Refold roadmap already has all the recommended settings laid out for you.

If you’re using the recommended Refold settings, then no, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with your settings. A low retention rate is to be expected as a beginner, and not something you should worry about at this stage. On top of that, the recommended 80-90% retention rate only applies to mature cards. Also, consider how much time you’re spending in Anki vs how much time you’re spending immersing. Your immersion time should ideally be surpassing your time in Anki with a ratio of 30 minutes of Anki for every 1.5 hours of immersion time.

This is normal for a beginner. Keep in mind that the role of the SRS is not to teach you the words. It only serves to prime the words so that your brain will look for them in your immersion to solidify the concepts.

No. Time spent in Anki is a supplement to your immersion.

We recommend trying to spend less than 15 seconds on each card. Just remember that the SRS is not where you acquire words. Even though the recommendation is less than 15 seconds, you want to be efficient with your time. More time spent in the SRS means less time spent in immersion, which is the priority.

This mindset is a little misguided. You cannot speed run language acquisition with more SRS. The recommended setting for new cards per day in Anki is between 5-20. If you set the number any higher than 20, you risk overloading yourself with more reviews than you can handle and burn yourself out, at worst. At best, you will be spending much more time in Anki than you should be, cutting into your valuable immersion time. Keep in mind that Anki, or any other SRS, is just a supplement to immersion. Many beginners fall into the trap of thinking that more time in Anki means faster progress, but that isn’t how this works.

This is not recommended. Ideally, you want to be fully focused on your SRS repetitions to indicate to your brain that the current task is important. If you are distracted by passive audio in the background, your retention may suffer.

Unless it has been a substantial amount of time since you have studied your deck (a year or more), it is not recommended to restart a deck. You may feel that you have forgotten everything, but you will end up remembering more than you think. Additionally, if you restart a deck, you will lose all the progress you have made on words that you do know, which is a waste of your time.

If you’re not using the official Refold 1K deck for learning your foundational vocabulary, you need to test yourself on both the meaning and the reading (for languages that don’t use the Latin alphabet) to pass the card. If you don’t get both correct, you will need to fail the card.

When it comes to sentence cards, whether you grade yourself on the meaning of the whole sentence in addition to the meaning and reading of the target word is a personal choice.

Sentence mining is the process of taking words and sentences that you want to learn directly from your immersion content and adding them to a custom deck in your SRS. This is the recommended way of continuing to expand your vocabulary after you have learned your first 1000 words. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, sentence mining ensures that you are learning information that is relevant to you and your learning process. Second, since you are handpicking words and sentences yourself, you will have an emotional connection to the resulting cards and form stronger memories.

This is a matter of personal preference. Some people continue to review the deck until all cards are mature, and some delete it right away after finishing it to focus on mining. We recommend continuing to review the deck for at least a couple of months after you have finished it.

10 is a good number to go for. Don’t think of it as an upper limit, but rather a soft goal. Generally, it’s good practice to mine slightly more cards per day than your new cards per day setting in your deck, creating a small backlog. This is helpful in situations where you were unable to mine on a certain day, or you discover that some sentences weren’t actually good quality, and you have to delete them. Keep in mind that mining is a skill that you get better at over time. Don’t be afraid to delete cards that don’t feel worthwhile.

The whole point of adding a sentence to your SRS is to steadily chip away at the language. This means adding sentences that are i + 1. In other words, you understand the sentence completely, except for 1 word or grammar point. If you looked up the 1 unknown element (word or grammar point) and still don’t 100% understand the sentence, then it’s not i + 1, and you should not add it. Skip over it and move on.

You will have to get through the review backlog and catch up. There’s no other way around it. Start by setting your new cards per day to 0 and getting through as many reviews as you can stand every day until you’re caught up.

Leeches are cards in Anki that you have graded “again” a given number of times. The exact number can be set in your deck preferences under “leech threshold.” Depending on your “leech action” setting, cards that have become leeches will either be tagged, marking them as a leech, or they will be suspended from your deck automatically.

First, you need to look at leeches differently. They’re not an indication of failure. They are instead an indication that your brain is not ready to learn that word yet, and you are wasting your time trying to continue to force it. In this way, leeches are actually your best friend. They save you time and stress over a word that you don’t need to be worrying about right now. You should set your leeches to automatically suspend in your deck settings and forget about them for now. You can always learn them later. 

**Important** If you are using an official Refold 1K deck, you should follow the recommended instructions for that deck, because it may handle leeches differently.

In the end, the SRS is just a supplement to the core of the method. The most crucial part of Refold is immersion. The SRS is just there to prime words to get them on your radar so that your brain knows what to look out for in your immersion, which is actually where words are fully acquired. However, many people have become fluent without using an SRS. If you find that using Anki, or any other SRS, is a detriment to your motivation, you are unlikely to reap the benefits from using it. In this case, deciding to not use an SRS may be better for you personally.

Contrary to more traditional methods, Refold does not recommend the intensive study of grammar or spending time on grammar exercises. This is because immersion will not only teach you vocabulary, but it will also teach you grammar naturally through context. Similar to how we use an SRS to prime vocabulary, we can also use guides and videos to prime grammar concepts. Simply looking over a grammar guide or watching grammar videos for 10-20 minutes a day will serve you well, and immersion will take care of the rest.

Refold recommends familiarizing yourself with the most common, basic grammar concepts for your target language. After this point, your focus should be on immersion to solidify more advanced and basic grammar. Once you have a strong foundation, it will be easier for you to look up grammar concepts with a grammar reference guide as you feel the need.

Generally, it’s not recommended to make grammar flashcards. Basic grammar is so common that making cards for it is not necessary. Spending time in immersion is all you really need.

Studying grammar is not required using the Refold method. Just like using an SRS, it is a recommended strategy to speed up your process. However, just like the SRS, it is not required to achieve fluency. Many language learners have become fluent without ever studying grammar.