A Chinese Speaking Weekend with Mandarin Retreat || Speak 100% Chinese

Learning Chinese Outside Of China || Discover Mandarin Retreat

One of the great questions we get at LTL is…

How can I keep up my Mandarin studies when I leave LTL?

It’s a good question. Going from 4-6 hours a day of intensive Mandarin study, back to normality can leave some students struggling to maintain their level.

Whilst you can learn online 24/7 with LTL’s Flexi Classes, alongside the usage of apps, graded readers and a whole lot of other resources – nothing quite beats that physical 1-on-1 interaction with a native speaker.

If you don’t have any Chinese speaking friends in your hometown, 怎么办?

That’s where Mandarin Retreat come in.

Mandarin Retreat are a relatively new venture, started by two British chaps called Mischa and Karl.

We attended our first ever Mandarin Retreat wanted to share our experience and thoughts.

This article will introduce you to Mandarin Retreat and prove why they are a superb way to learn Chinese outside of China (if you can get yourself to the UK).

Mandarin Retreat || What Do They Do?

Mandarin Retreat || The Itinerary

Mandarin Retreat || Arrivals

Mandarin Retreat || Breakfast

Mandarin Retreat || Activities

Mandarin Retreat || Accommodation

Mandarin Retreat || Why You Should Go

Mandarin Retreat || FAQs

Mandarin Retreat co-founder Mischa sat down with our very own Rushi at LTL Taipei to chat all things Chinese and introduce Mandarin Retreat

Mandarin Retreat || What Do They Do?

Rather than us tell you what they do, it seems more fitting to let Karl and Mischa introduce themselves.

Here’s what they say on their website homepage.

Boost your oral Chinese skills with us on a Mandarin speaking weekend trip. Learners of all levels are welcome and will be fully supported!

Our retreats give you an immersive Mandarin experience without the cost of a plane ticket to China. You can expect to make new friends, take part in fun activities and of course give your listening and speaking skills an enormous boost.

Essentially Mandarin Retreat and LTL have incredibly similar beliefs, which is why we love them!

Learning a language is about so much more than sitting in a classroom making notes.

It’s all about getting out, meeting people, using the language, building bonds, making mistakes, getting corrected, having a laugh…

It’s all about enjoying the journey.

Having discovered Mandarin Retreat, we wanted to see if they lived up to the hype – so we sent Max from our Marketing team along for their April 2023 meet.

Mandarin Retreat and LTL
Mandarin Retreat – April 2023 was a sell out

Mandarin Retreat || The Itinerary

Before we all arrived on Friday evening, Karl sent out an email to all attendees with some important details, including the itinerary.

The itinerary was printed in English and also in Chinese which I thought was a nice touch.

There was plenty packed in, with Saturday in particular looking rather busy.

We all arrived on the Friday evening at varying times.

What was impressive was that we really saw a wide variety of people attend some of which made some impressive journeys.

I came from London myself which took 2 hours to Leeds, and then a further 45 minutes to our farmhouse in Yorkshire, not too far from Bingley.

Compared to some my journey was short – we also had a student fly from Norway via Amsterdam and another lady from Scotland! We also had English native speakers from New Zealand and the south of England.

The group was also packed with native Mandarin speakers from all over the country:

  • Chongqing
  • Wuhan
  • Jiangsu
  • Tianjin

There were also a couple of Taiwanese speakers too. This was super for the 外国人 as it gave us exposure to lots of different accents.

Mandarin Retreat || Arrival Night

Our final arrival came at about 10pm on Friday evening.

Karl and Ryan (another helper for the MR team) spent hours in the car picking people up from various locations – something which I also benefitted from.

IN FACT || when you book your program you can choose whether to include a pick-up or not.

After everyone arrived Ryan introduced himself to the group and we played a few icebreaker games to get the group together – obviously all in Chinese.

These were fun and set the tone nicely.

After these games we headed to bed around midnight.

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How To Learn Mandarin (By Those Who Know) // 10 Killer Tips

How to Learn Mandarin 🙇🏻‍♂️ A Beginners Guide Written by the Experts LTL’s founder and owner Andreas, toiled with Chinese for years and got nowhere fast. Years later he found the way… and wanted to share it (hence the birth…

Mandarin Retreat || Breakfast

Karl and Ryan organised a truck load of food for the whole group!

The kitchen was full of all kinds of snacks, beverages, and treats.

They expertly prepared a full-English breakfast for the group of 16 to fill everyone’s bellies for the impending hike.

Breakfast was also prepared and included in the price on Sunday as well.

A perfect way to start each day!

Mandarin Retreat || Activities

I must admit the activities prepared really exceeded my expectations.

Let me paint a picture of some of the things we did together as a group.

Overall, the group all really brought into them and the 活动 were really nice and varied.

Hiking Through Yorkshire Countryside

The rain and mud didn’t dampen our spirits as we took a hike up through the countryside of Yorkshire, closely monitored by a large group of curious cows!

At the top of the hike

After hiking we went back to the accommodation and dried off, grabbed a cuppa and engaged in more Mandarin chat as people started to become more familiar with everyone’s stories.

Calligraphy Class

We then engaged in a calligraphy class expertly run by our Taiwanese friend Huiwen.

Mandarin Retreat Calligraphy

The class lasted a good 90 minutes and she gave some great feedback to every individual as she watched over carefully.

She taught everyone the various strokes and their respective names to help, whilst also explaining the importance of stroke order in Mandarin.

This seemed really popular with everyone.

Huiwen also showed us a number of Youtube videos which included songs to help remember the stroke names and their purpose.

Excellent activity that was appreciated by all.

Making Dumplings

Mandarin Retreat Jiaozi
Huiwen’s mother helping Nicole

My personal favourite – food just has a habit of bringing everyone together no matter where you are and who you are with.

This was no different.

Our Chinese friends helped prepare the dough and the filling and then proceeded to teach us how to build them.

Huiwen’s mother took centre stage here, helping all the foreigners at the start before we all got the hang of it!

FOR THE VEGANS & VEGGIES || Don’t worry, that was all taken into consideration. We had some alternatives which included tofu – everyone was well catered for.

After preparing the dumplings we boiled them and enjoyed them as a group – there were a LOT.

So many in fact, we had leftovers for breakfast on the Sunday!

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Traditional Food in China 🥟 The Top 10 You Simply MUST Try

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And then it got competitive!

It’s worth noting there are many different spins on Mahjong across the country in China. Something I didn’t realise before personally.

Lu taught us the Chongqing version which has slight nuances to other versions.

We had a brief lesson where we could all watch 4 Chinese play with all cards open before we engaged in some more serious games.

Hats off to our team of foreigners who learnt fast! I was struggling in the corner trying to keep up 😂

Mandarin Retreat Mahjong

Mahjong went on until around midnight would you believe!

After this the group all retreated to bed after a long, but hugely rewarding Saturday.

BONUS || want to find out how to play Mahjong? Check out our Mahjong guide here.

Gentle Stroll Through Bingley Market Town

On Sunday, after breakfast and check-out, we headed for Bingley.

Bingley is a small market town in Yorkshire. We took a stroll around the centre and up across the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

Of course the whole time we were all engaging in Mandarin chat which was a lot of fun.

Mandarin Retreat LTL Hike
Some of the group in Bingley

After a few hours on foot we took a pitstop at a local pub for some lunch before the group started to disperse back to their respective homes.

Mandarin Retreat || Accommodation

Mandarin Retreat Accommodation

A quick word on our accommodation too.

Karl and Mischa typically change up the location for each retreat but I imagine they’ll be coming back to this farm house as it proved popular with the group.

The farm house was in the middle of nowhere but offered peace, serenity and some lovely views.

This is without even mentioning the lovely little donkeys, goats, dogs and cows on-site – all of whom were super friendly upon being approached by our group!

One of the owners of the farmhouse, a lady of 92 years, came and introduced herself as we checked out and shared some lovely stories with us about the farm and her time there.

A nice spot and ideal for our party of 16.

Mandarin Retreat || Why You Should Go

Of course – first things first.

These retreats are held in the UK – so if you are based in the America’s or Australia for example, then this becomes a tad harder to attend.

However, if you are able to get to the UK from anywhere in Europe, I would honestly recommend these retreats so highly.

You’re going to get complete exposure to Mandarin.

Of course, English slipped into the conversation at some moments as the level of all the foreigners varied.

That’s no problem at all- but the key is to keep engaging in Mandarin as much as possible.

When you hear English, don’t revert to it, stick with your Mandarin mindset.

I’m not even joking here – on my journey back to London, my mind was thinking in Mandarin! I was shocked, I hadn’t felt this sensation for years.

I’d say to myself 这是什么 or 为什么是这样 in my mind rather than the English. I think that in itself shows the power of 48 hours of speaking in your target language.

My confidence level has sky-rocketed in those two days and I have a new wave of motivation to learn Mandarin again.

That feeling is great because when motivation is low, learning a language becomes a chore and that’s never a nice problem to face.

FOR ME || the best way to learn a language is visiting that country and immersing yourself, make no mistake. However, this isn’t always possible. Mandarin Retreat is easily the next best thing.

I hope to meet you on another retreat with them one day 😍

Visit the Mandarin Retreat Website here. Any questions, feel free to comment below.

Mandarin Retreat || FAQs

When is the next Mandarin Retreat?

You can find out details about their next retreat on their website here.

Where do Mandarin Retreat run their events?

Events are run in the UK, typically in the north of England.

The location does vary though.

Pickup transport is provided for anyone within 30 miles of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Hull, York.

How much does Mandarin Retreat cost?

Prices for a weekend with Mandarin Retreat are from 259GBP.

This will include your accommodation and some food also (depending on the trip).

Who runs Mandarin Retreat?

Mandarin Retreat is run by UK blogger Mischa Wilmers who runs the website I’m Learning Mandarin and Karl Baker, also a passionate Mandarin learner from the UK.

Want more from LTL?

Want to learn Chinese from the comfort of your own home? Then our 24/7 online Chinese lessons might be the thing for you.

We offer a 7 day free trial to all new online students where you can study Mandarin 24/7.

Come and check it out free of charge and see what you think!

If you wish to hear more from LTL Language School why not join our mailing list?



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