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Phil Crimmins

It Only Took 3 Years! The Mandarin Blueprint Method is Ready

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mackie1402
40 minutes ago, mouse said:

 

I don’t really understand this attitude. Why post in this thread if you think it’s pointless to offer criticism of the product and the claims being made for it? You’ve offered your own feedback, why can’t other people give their opinions?

 

Firstly let's just make it clear that every comment I've posted is related to this topic. Unlike your last post which has no relation to the product, but simply to complain about someone with "this attitude". 

 

Please quote me where I've said it's pointless to offer criticism. If I thought so, I wouldn't have posted my own criticism. 

 

This is a community for discussion, not a place where every one is only entitled to a single post and opinion. 

 

As the original poster hasn't replied to recent comments, I gave my opinion about how I think they came to that conclusion, after all a forum is for discussion. I also agreed that it isn't good wording to sell a product. It needs to be clearer. 

 

Secondly, I was quoted with a comment which is misleading, saying learning Chinese characters would be only as helpful as learning an alphabet in another language. Surely I have a right to clarify to any beginners that might be reading that they aren't comparable. 

 

Each to their own opinion, and I've not said anyone's opinion is wrong. What I do know is that when I first started learning Chinese I came across a lot of conflicting comments online. It's better to clear things up for beginners than to leave questions unanswered. 

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mouse

What a strange reaction. I’m not “complaining about someone with ‘this attitude’” I merely said I don’t understand it. To be clear, I mean the idea that because something is a marketing slogan, and marketing slogans are hyperbolic, it’s pointless to criticise them. If that’s not what you meant by “it’s a business ploy”, then I’m sorry for misunderstanding you, but at the moment I don’t see what else you could’ve meant.

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Phil Crimmins

Hey guys, been super slammed over the past week and haven’t been posting much, but I wanted to update all of you on a few things we did as a result of the feedback from Chinese-Forums & Reddit. 

 

1. We Updated the Free Trial So That No Credit Card Info is Required

 

As I previously mentioned, the video course platform Kajabi doesn’t have an easy workaround for a free trial that doesn’t require credit card information, but we figured it out. Here it is. It includes the first 80+ video lessons from the curriculum along with any bonus materials that came in that section of the course. Thanks again for this suggestion, it means we now have 260+ free video lessons if you include the Pronunciation Mastery course, and that’s something we’re proud of. I hope some of you or someone you know can benefit from the material.

 

2. We Chatted a Bit About Some of Your Comments on Our Recent Podcast Interview with Charlie Moseley from Chengduliving.com

 

The podcast was an interview with Charlie, and at around 23 minutes in we started chatting about CF & Reddit, it was fun. 

 

YouTube

Audio Version

 

3. We’ve Been Working on Improving Our Website Speeds

 

First, it’s important to note that it is only the front-end of our website that has been running slowly, the course on Kajabi runs quite well. As for updated to the front-end, we’re such novices at understanding website backends that we didn’t realize that full-screen keynote slide pictures would make our website run slow. We’re working on compressing them, and it’s already improved our site speed scores from “failing miserably” to “failing slightly.” Also, it turns out that our Wordpress theme (The Fox) is notoriously a pain. It takes up too much space and is often incompatible with WP plugins. We updated our VPS to 8GB of memory which has helped, but we’re still working on it. Thanks to everyone who pointed out that this was a bigger problem than we’d previously realized.

 

I may not be around too much to look at replies with all the stuff we have on at the moment, but I’ll do my best to pop my head in from time-to-time. Cheers, everyone.

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Phil Crimmins
5 hours ago, murrayjames said:

Hey @Phil Crimmins

 

Long time no see. Congratulations on your new venture. I wish you much success with it.

 

You drumming much these days?

 

Murray, great to hear from you, brotha! Thanks for your congratulations. I'm playing drums all the time! I played last night in 都江堰 with my jazz band. It's the best 兼职 one could ask for :D. Hope all is well back in Canada, and if you are back in Chengdu at any point let's jam.

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Phil Crimmins
19 hours ago, Bobby69 said:

What is the basis for this 80% claim?

 

We'll be coming out with more detailed explanations about this at some point, but here are a few resources available on our site to understand the basis for this claim:

 

These two links are about how to think about the question:

 

The Pareto Principle & Chinese (Short Video)

 

The Pareto Principle & Chinese (Article)

 

Excerpt:

Quote

“Not all [ASPECTS] in [SKILL] get used with equal frequency, so focus on understanding the [ASPECTS] that are used most frequently first to get the fastest results.Example:

“Not all [Car Parts] in [Car Repair] get used with equal frequency, so focus on understanding the [Car Parts] that are used most frequently to get the fastest results.”

The Pareto Principle as Applied to Chinese:

“Not all [Hanzi (Chinese characters)] in [Mandarin Chinese] get used with equal frequency, so focus on understanding the [Hanzi] that are used most frequently first and you’ll get fast results.

 

 

This infographic & videos are more specific on how it applies to TMBM:

 

How Can We Make This 80% Guarantee?

 

(Note: In the course, we insist that the top-1000 words are seen in the context of sentences, paragraphs & longer-form stories before considering them acquired and accounted for that in our time estimations)

 

On frequency math

 

Through analysis of a series of characters & word corpuses containing around 15 Billion word occurrences (sourced from Newspapers, Weibo, Magazines, Books, Periodicals, etc.), the most frequent 1000 words are approximately 11,700,000,000  of those word occurrences. That's 78%, but the approximation of 80% is justifiable because the lexicons aren't perfect for a few reasons. The main reason is that (as many of you already know) artificial Intelligence that analyzes Chinese texts often get the border between words wrong. You see this all the time in LingQ or Chinese Text Analyzer. Also, many "words" are debatable. For example, I just saw Chinese text analyzer say that 下一代 is a word. Debateable, perhaps it should be "下" and "一代" or even three separate words. The point is, while you can't get a 100% objective analysis out of that type of lexicon, it's accurate enough to see the Pareto Principle in action. For example, the top-100 most frequent words are approximately 7 Billion of the word occurrences. This particular corpus was generated by someone helping with the course and is not ours to share, but you can get a similar idea by looking at The Academia Sinica Balanced Corpus of Modern Chinese 


I'll write some more articles about this in the future, but that should be enough to shed some light on the basis for the 80% claim.

 

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Lu
1 hour ago, Phil Crimmins said:

Through analysis of a series of characters & word corpuses containing around 15 Billion word occurrences (sourced from Newspapers, Weibo, Magazines, Books, Periodicals, etc.), the most frequent 1000 words are approximately 11,700,000,000  of those word occurrences. That's 78%, but the approximation of 80% is justifiable

That is a useful clarification, thanks. So leaning your list of 1000 words means you will be able to understand 80% of the words in a general Chinese text. Not nearly enough to be able to read and understand a full sentence or an entire general text, but it will give you a good foundation.

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Phil Crimmins

Exactly (although there are plenty of full sentences you can read with 80% knowledge of Chinese). Knowing 80% of a text is undoubtedly still frustrating as every ninth word you don't know, but that's where graded readers are super helpful. We're big advocates (as I'm sure many are here) for "extensive reading", and the only possible way to make that happen with only 80% coverage is through graded content. What we've been working on a lot lately is graded content that is tailored for the different levels within The Mandarin Blueprint Method. Because we know which characters and words have been "unlocked." we can be confident the likelihood of 98% comprehension of the graded text is as high as possible.

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realmayo
Quote

Learn 80% of Mandarin Chinese in as little as 3 months.

 

It's like they're telling you they can build 80% of your house in three months ... but won't admit how many years before they'll put the roof on.

 

These guys may be honest and well-intentioned and maybe these days everyone makes misleading claims about products they're selling. Perhaps they just followed marketing practices you see on TV, or didn't think too closely about the claim they are making. So I don't want to criticise their individual characters or honesty.

 

Also from what I see of the outline of their method seems to provide - in its earliest stages - a powerful and clutter-free foundation: (1) learn pronunciation for what it is (2) learn characters for what they are rather than bundling them together with too much other information in a 'Chapter 1' which never gives students enough time or motivation to excel at either before being rushed onto 'Chapter 2' etc.

 

But:

 

Quote

In January of 2016, each of us had been studying Chinese part-time (1-2 hours per day on average) for two years, and we sat the highest level of the Hanyu Level Test or Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, colloquially known as the “HSK.” It is the only officially recognized Chinese as a second language test. According to the Confucius Institute, it should take four years of consistent, full-time study to pass this test.

 

We passed it. Both of us.

 

Perhaps we’re relatively diligent, but we’re just regular guys. It was the method we were using that led to our success, not any natural ability.

 

I think this is problematic. What else were they doing? Were they living in China? Did they have people around them to talk to in Chinese? Boyfriends/girlfriends? Did people correct their Chinese for them? Did they have teachers? Are they of above-average intelligence? Had they studied foreign languages before or play any musical instruments?

 

In short - are there any other factors apart from their 'method' which contributed to their success? If so then why do they think that their method - stripped of those other factors - will bring people buying their product the same success that they had themselves?

 

For instance, like I say, I think it's great they start with eight hours of pronunciation focus. A million times better than most courses which get you reading out full sentences on Day 1!

 

But where's the feedback?? Did these two guys get feedback on their pronunciation? In which case, will the people buying the course get a similar amount of feedback? Or otherwise, aren't these claims about the superior method misleading - unintentionally - too?

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DavyJonesLocker

HSK6 in two years at 1 to 2 hours a day? 

er ..... ok ........  

 

In your face Benny Lewis 😎

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Moshen

Well, how about this claim:



 



"Learn 80% of English your very first week!"



 



Edited by Moshen
decided to delete this post but don't see delete button

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roddy

Have any regulars signed up for the free trial and had a decent look at what's available? Marketing claims aside, there does seem to have been a substantial amount of work put in here. 

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Bobby69
Quote

In January of 2016, each of us had been studying Chinese part-time (1-2 hours per day on average) for two years, and we sat the highest level of the Hanyu Level Test or Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, colloquially known as the “HSK.” It is the only officially recognized Chinese as a second language test. According to the Confucius Institute, it should take four years of consistent, full-time study to pass this test.

 

We passed it. Both of us.

 

Perhaps we’re relatively diligent, but we’re just regular guys. It was the method we were using that led to our success, not any natural ability.

 

 

I'm going to make a guess here, but from what I see it appears you forgot to mention here that you had spent several years in China while doing full time university study in a Chinese speaking environment?  You know, I think most people could also do HSK 6 in that time too, whatever method was used.  Especially in this kind of environment. These are not ordinary circumstances for the average Joe.

 

If you are going to make claims like this and leave out some inconvenient details about how you got there, some people are going to call BS on you. People have spent serious time and money into studying this difficult language, so when we see guff like this we know its simply too good to be true. Of course, beginners won't know the difference.

 

It's no different to Benny Lewis fluent in 3 months nonsense, or Chris Lonsdale's Mandarin in 6 months, although he conveniently forgets to say he studied full time in China for years.

 

Quote

Learn 80% of Mandarin Chinese in as little as 3 months.

 

So it's not 80% Mandarin is it? It's being able to read 80% of a text,  using the most common words, which would still be incomprehensible if I couldn't read 1/5 words. Of course it could be 98% comprehension if we graded it as in DuChinese, but then that's moving the goalposts, besides this is pretty much exactly the same thing as any other Mandarin textbook or course does.

How about the 80% speaking and listening, you know, the other important parts of Mandarin.  If I could understand 80% of a Chinese news report or movie in 3 months I'd be well  impressed. Can you see where I'm getting at? Your claim is vague and to the uninitiated,  downright misleading. It's the small print that no one bothers to read.

 

I can't stop thinking about Johns post from Sinosplice or the other analysis linked in this thread, where it's showing drastically diminishing returns after hitting around 2000 words.. Although it sounds impressive, 80% is still rubbish and 80% is optimistic at best when we just look at at native material.  

 

Quote

Have any regulars signed up for the free trial and had a decent look at what's available? Marketing claims aside, there does seem to have been a substantial amount of work put in here. 

 

The material is not being criticised. The marketing claims are and should rightly be scrutinised.

 

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abcdefg
On 3/13/2019 at 7:21 PM, Shelley said:

I think the problem here is the well travelled and experienced folk here on the forums have seen so many "new and improved, fool proof, 100% sure fired winner, best ever"  learning methods that there is bound to be a high level of scrutiny and criticism. 

 

Agree. This forum is a tough audience for promoters of a language learning course. 

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roddy

The registration process, if you're the kind of person who clicks on 'terms of use' type links, includes strong suggestions that commercial posters get in touch before posting. This is largely so we can try and help them avoid this kind of scenario.

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Phil Crimmins
On 3/20/2019 at 7:43 AM, imron said:

And that's the issue I have with the 80% claim, not that it's not technically true, but rather, after 3 months the remaining 90% of the work (but probably more) of learning Chinese is still ahead of you.  80% gives the impression of 'nearly done' when in reality it's more like 'barely started'.

 

I loved this whole reply, and we've agreed with you about every aspect of this from the moment we started making this course. There are some details in your post I think are debatable, but it's not necessary, I just wanted to get this across: We make it extraordinarily clear to people throughout the course that 80% is your foundation and you have a much longer road ahead if you want to approach native fluency. Now, you might say, 'but you don't make this clear in the one-sentece marketing claim.' That's correct, and hence the free trial & 30-day money back guarantee. So far only two people have asked for their money back, and so it's fair to say that the people who didn't ask for their money back weren't under the impression that they would be nearly done after the foundation. I think the reason they stay in the course is that the following is true about pre & post-foundation building:

 

Your State as a Learner with Zero or Little Foundation (non-exhaustive):

  • Everything is fog.
  • Your understanding of pronunciation isn't strong enough to be able to pick out recognizable sounds in your listening material
  • You don't know what characters are, how you might figure out the pronunciation, or even simple components. 
  • You don't have a systematic methodology for acquiring a new character
  • You don't know what a Chinese word is, much less how the characters within the word relate to each other
  • You can't read anything, so there's no chance of determining a word through context.
  • Naturally, without characters or words, you have no sense of sentence structure
  • There is virtually no pleasure that can be derived from reading
  • There aren't any situations where you can successfully communicate without relying entirely on body language
  • You've not built up healthy study habits, and thus all momentum must be self-derived
  • Unless you used it before, you are unfamiliar with how to use SRS (most people).

Your State as a Learning After you Build your 80% Foundation:

  • There's a lot of light breaking through the fog.
  • You understand the principles of how to pronounce every Mandarin sound, thus increasing the likelihood of recognizing more of the sounds produced in the listening material. You can even start to associate purely auditory input with characters.
  • You know hundreds of components and understand how they can have semantic or phonetic functions, therefore providing a layer of context for most unknown characters. You haven't learned every component, but you've mastered the ones you are most likely to see in a new character (Pareto principle again).
  • You have a methodology for quickly committing a new character to memory. You know how to make an SRS flashcard out of it.
  • The characters learned to construct the top 1000 words are the component characters in another 4000 lower frequency words. Because you have a strong sense of how the characters in compound words related to each other, there's a high probability of being able to understand those 4000 words, especially in context.
  • There is a lot of content you can read, and the resources available for graded material are continually expanding (including the tailored content from MB). As a result, you increase the likelihood of understanding an unknown word through your keen sense of sentence structure combined with your knowledge of components and how words related to each other.
    • Sidenote: @imron This is a refutation of your claim that someone has "no idea" what the remaining unknown 20% of the sentence is. If they know one or more of the characters in the word, some (or all) of the components, or even what part of speech it likely is based on sentence structure, that's far more knowledge than "no idea." I find this to be Chinese's primary 优势 compared to English; there's just so much more context once you have a foundation. To be clear, I'm not saying they will fully understand, but their chances of either getting the gist or entirely understanding the missing parts of the sentence are far higher than they would be in English.
  • Not only can you derive pleasure from reading, but you start to feel how Chinese can change how you think.
  • There are loads of situations where you can successfully communicate. If you don't know how to say something, you have the vocabulary necessary to explain what you mean. "Hey, do you guys sell those big boxes you put in the kitchen to keep things cold?" You can't communicate well in every situation, but getting by in China is far more accessible.
  • You've already built up enough Myelin Sheaths around your neurons associated with the habit of daily study that it's not difficult to continue. The momentum is already gained, just keep going.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response @imron, and to everyone who has politely engaged in the content of the course and how we're presenting it. I'm going to keep working all day every day on it, and it's never going to be perfect, but I know that it's helping people get through the "everything is fog" phase very effectively. 

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Moshen
Quote

So far only two people have asked for their money back, and so it's fair to say that the people who didn't ask for their money back weren't under the impression that they would be nearly done after the foundation.

 

This is so wrong.

 

It's not valid to say ANYTHING about people who do not ask for their money back.  I have been in business for 35 years and have observed a lot about the conditions under which people do and do not ask for their money back, including:

 

* Many people believe it is unethical to ask for their money back, regardless of how unsatisfied they may have been, if they consumed the product or service.

 

* Regardless of how much or how little you are charging, many people do not actually use the subscriptions they sign up for and so never get to the point of deciding whether or not their investment was worth it.

 

* In language learning particularly, a good many people will blame any frustration on themselves.  "I'm just not good at this."

 

* Many people will have forgotten the promises you made and your money-back guarantee.

 

* Others may come to believe that you oversold the course but that's what all marketers do, so what the heck.

 

Again, you can't assume that your claims are validated by a low refund request rate.

 

 

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Moshen
Quote

Now, you might say, 'but you don't make this clear in the one-sentece marketing claim.' That's correct, and hence the free trial & 30-day money back guarantee.

 

Here's some food for thought from the US Federal Trade Commission:

 

Quote

A representation, omission or practice is deceptive if it is likely to:

  • mislead consumers and 
  • affect consumers' behavior or decisions about the product or service.

The FTC Act prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium. That is, advertising must tell the truth and not mislead consumers. A claim can be misleading if relevant information is left out or if the claim implies something that's not true. For example, a lease advertisement for an automobile that promotes "$0 Down" may be misleading if significant and undisclosed charges are due at lease signing.

 

Disclaimers and disclosures must be clear and conspicuous. That is, consumers must be able to notice, read or hear, and understand the information. Still, a disclaimer or disclosure alone usually is not enough to remedy a false or deceptive claim.

 

 

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imron
2 hours ago, Phil Crimmins said:

We make it extraordinarily clear to people throughout the course that 80% is your foundation and you have a much longer road ahead if you want to approach native fluency

Do you have anything on your site that explains the pre and post foundation states as clearly as you did in this post? I had a quick look, and googled some of the sentences but didn't find anything on the main site or the blog (didn't check out the videos though, so maybe it's in there?).  I did read the links above about how you make your guarantee, and how the pareto principle applies to Chinese and your course, however those pages only make the case of how to get to 80% and what that means in terms of raw words/characters learnt, rather than explaining in detail what 80% means for the rest of your studies.

 

I think it would be worth having a "What does 80% mean?" link (ideally somewhere close to wherever you make that claim), that leads to a page breaking down what exactly 80% means for learners, where you also lay out the pre/post states, and almost make note of the remaining 80% of effort still to go.

 

There are just so many people claiming "Learn [amazing Chinese] in [short amount of time]", many of whom really don't know what they're talking about.  You guys seem like you know what you're talking about so distancing your product from those other products is maybe something to consider.

 

2 hours ago, Phil Crimmins said:

Sidenote: @imron This is a refutation of your claim that someone has "no idea" what the remaining unknown 20% of the sentence is.

"no idea" may have been a little bit of hyperbole, but I think the claim mostly holds up.  Yes there are parts of some sentences you'll understand and other sentences where you'll get the gist, and other sentences that you can read completely (but also sentences that you'll draw a complete blank on), but at 80% there's still going to be a lot of groping in the dark and not really knowing what's going on.  Studies have shown the point at which you can entirely understand the missing parts is around 98% (see here for an example, and also Sinosplice here and here),

 

I know you make the point that English and Chinese are different in that the characters carry meaning which makes it easier to guess, but often the meaning from the characters can be *misleading* e.g. 好容易 means the opposite of what you'd guess if you only knew the words 好 and 容易.

 

Also, that second Sinosplice link I gave simulates 80% comprehension in Chinese quite well, and existing characters don't help that much.  At 80% you can get a vague sense of someone doing something, but almost all the details are missing.  It's worlds apart from the 98% example where you can fill in the unknown words very easily.  Note: make sure to read the 80% example before the 98% and 95% examples, otherwise you'll 'learn' some of the 'unknown' words used in the 80% example.

 

And even though 95% (or even low 90's) might be manageable, it's still a long way from 80% in terms of effort required to reach that level.


 

 

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