Welcome to Language Mastery!


Adult-Friendly Language Learning Tips, Tools & Tech

John FotheringhamHowdy language lovers! I’m John Fotheringham, a linguist, author, entrepreneur, vagabond, and full-time silly goose. I have been learning and teaching languages for over a decade and have seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t. And what have I learned?

  • Anyone can learn a language regardless of age, income, or zip code with the right attitude, methods, and materials.
  • Most adult learners fail because they spend all their time learning about the language instead of actually practicing in the language.
  • You DON’T need to spend thousands of dollars on classes but a little investment in the right tools and materials can go a long way.
  • You DON’T need to force yourself through boring textbooks. Fun, modern, relevant materials are readily available online.
  • You DON’T need to be “gifted” at languages, but you DO need to figure out what methods fit your learning style, schedule, and personality.
  • You DON’T need to move abroad. Creative use of technology allows you to create an immersion environment no matter where you live.
  • You DO need to maximize your exposure to the language everyday through listening and reading input and maximize your active practice through speaking and writing output.

And that’s it! You just need to show up and put in the time on a consistent basis and your brain will do the rest. We are all hard-wired to pick up the languages around us (even as adults) if you get enough input and output. The key to staying the course is actually enjoying the process by picking materials, topics, and activities that are inherently enjoyable. To that end, much of Language Mastery is dedicated to helping you pick cool tools and fun materials. Happy learning!

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The Language Mastery Philosophy: 10 Quotes from 10 Heroes

I’m a sucker for pithy quotes. Or maybe I’m just a sucker in general. Either way, here are 10 quotes from 10 of my heroes that do a good job of summing up my philosophy about language learning and life in general.

“Fun gets done.”


All Japanese All The Time

“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”

Frank Smith


“Language is infinitely expansive and therefore horribly overwhelming if unfiltered… What you study is more important than how you study.”

Tim Ferriss

Author, Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

“Where you are isn’t what decides whether or not you’ll be successful. Attitude beats latitude (and longitude) every time. It’s more about creating an immersion environment and exposing yourself to native speakers”

Benny Lewis

Polyglot, Author & Technomad

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Albert Einstein

Theoretical Physicist & Philosopher

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Woody Allen

Actor, Filmmaker & Comedian

“In language learning, it is attitude, not aptitude, that determines success.”

Steve Kaufmann

Polyglot, Author & Entrepreneur

“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

Richard P. Feynman

Theoretical Physicist

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. Choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”


Greek Philosopher & Scientist

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Bruce Lee

Martial Artist, Actor & Philosopher

New Here? Start With These Articles

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Language Learners

Most of you are probably familiar with Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”. I’ve listened to the audiobook a number of times and return to it whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, adrift, or caught up in “the thick of thin things”. Many of the 7 habits actually apply quite well to language learning (especially when it comes to prioritizing and making time for study), but I’d like to tweak them a bit to make them more specific to what it takes to become a highly successful language learner.

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Help Me Help You: What Can I Do to Serve You Better?

Howdy Language Mastery-ites! I’ve got a quick—but extremely important—question for all of you: How can I be of more help? I’ve written quite a few posts over the past 4 years, but I know there are still many questions I’ve yet to answer, holes I haven’t yet patched in, materials I haven’t yet reviewed, methods I haven’t yet discussed, and probably some emails from you that managed to slip through the cracks…

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33 Life Lessons Learned Living & Working Abroad for 10 Years

33 years. 13 countries. 19 addresses. Here are 33 life lessons I’ve gleaned over the past 33 years living on the planet earth, especially the last decade living as a “stranger in a strange land” in Japan, Bangladesh, and Taiwan. I hope they offer you some vicarious expat wisdom, and more importantly, impetus to move abroad yourself.

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Why Most Fail in Language Learning & How You Can Succeed

If an adult fails to learn a foreign language (and most do), most of us assume they simply don’t study hard enough or just aren’t good at languages. It’s certainly true that some learners are lazy, and given the same methods, certain folks tend to pick up languages faster than others. But neither of these is the real issue; both are but symptoms of the underlying problem: 1) Crappy Methods, 2) Crappy Materials, and 3) Crappy Attitudes.

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The NOT To Do List for Successful Language Learners

To do lists seem like a good idea in theory, but they have one major disadvantage: there is an infinite number of potential to do items. With this in mind, Timothy Ferriss, best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek (and a speaker of 6 languages), recommends “not to do lists” instead. Since they isolate a finite set of behaviors that are getting between you and your goals, they are far more effective than traditional to do lists. This tool applies perfectly to language learning, where most learners waste a lot of time on ineffective methods, bad materials, and counter-productive attitudes.

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Showing Up is the Key

OK. Everyone knows that quote by Woody Allen or whoever about showing up. You know, 70% of winning is showing up. Well, Woody Allen, that daughter-dating scoundrel, lied to you. The truth is 70% of winning is showing up is a bunch of bull!

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