Language Mastery officially turned ten years old this past Friday (April 5, 2019)!
The blog is still too young to legally drink alcohol in the United States, so we popped open a bottle of Martinelli’s Gold Medal Sparkling Cider instead.
A lot has changed since that fateful spring day in Taipei, Taiwan, both on the blog and in my life, and I’d like to quickly summarize the crazy adventure that has been the past decade, as well as a list of the most popular posts and podcasts to date. When I published my first blog post back on April 5, 2009, I had no idea whether I would stick with blogging or not, or where the adventure would take me. It turns out that habit would stick—albeit with some stops and starts—and that it would lead me to more fun, fulfillment, and friendship than I could never have imagined.
Most Popular Posts & Podcasts
Top 10 Posts in the Last 10 Years
Here is a list of the most popular blog posts on Language Mastery since 2009 (by total views):
- Top 10 Tools for Learning Japanese Through Online Videos
- The Successful Language Learner’s NOT To Do List
- The Power of Mind Mapping in Language Learning (And Life!)
- My Top 10 Favorite Japanese Movies of All Time
- Review of The Michel Thomas Method
- Review of LingQ.com
- The Top 8 Japanese Dictionaries for Web, iOS, Android, Mac & Windows
- 33 Life Lessons Learned Living & Working Abroad for 10 Years
- Being “Efficient” vs. “Effective”
- 10 Secrets Language Schools Don’t Want You to Know
Top 10 Podcasts in the Past 10 Years
Here is a list of the most popular episodes on the Language Mastery Show since 2009 (according to iTunes):
- Interview with Kerstin Hammes of Fluent Language
- Interview with Mattias Ribbing, Grandmaster of Memory
- Interview with Luca Lampariello of The Polyglot Dream
- Interview with Kris Broholm of The Actual Fluency Podcast
- Interview with Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months
- Interview with Richard Simcott of Speaking Fluently
- Interview with Randy Hunt of Fluent Every Year
- Interview with Olly Richards of I Will Teach You a Language
- Interview with Susanna Zaraysky, author of Language is Music
- Interview with Lindsay Williams of Lindsay Does Languages
Who & What I’m Grateful For
All of You!
I am so grateful for the readers and listeners who have stuck with me over the years. Your valuable feedback and awesome questions have helped me create better, more helpful content, and your kind comments and emails have reminded me that I am not writing in a vacuum. I appreciate your patience with my many mistakes and my far from consistent posting schedule. To express my gratitude and serve you better, I am publicly committing to the following weekly posting schedule as of today:
- A new blog post every Monday (see the archives here)
- A new newsletter every Wednesday (subscribe here)
- A new podcast every Friday (subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher here)
One of the best unintended side effects of starting this blog, launching my podcast (The Language Mastery Show), and recording expert interviews for my book Master Japanese is that they have all provided great contexts for getting to know other language learners, linguists, bloggers, and authors. I’ve been able to develop and nurture new friendships all over the world, many of whom I’ve gone on to meet “IRL” (in real life). I’d like to express special thanks to the following “comrades in arms” who have give me so much inspiration, support, encouragement, and guidance over the years:
- Dr. James Heisig: The author of Remembering the Kanji who made learning Chinese characters fun and easy.
- Dr. Jay Rubin: The author of Making Sense of Japanese whose wit and wisdom made learning Japanese all the more enjoyable.
- Khatzumoto: The man behind the All Japanese All the Time blog who showed me the power of immersion and fun in language learning.
- Olly Richards: The creator of I Will Teach You a Language who has always been a friendly ear and supporter.
- Kris Broholm: The founder of the Actual Fluency Podcast and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet!
- Benny Lewis: The creator of the Fluent in 3 Months blog who has been a generous mentor in the world of blogging and publishing.
- Santiago Madrigal: A skilled Japanese learner and Spanish translator who has provided priceless feedback and support. His site can be found at Inglesk.com.
I come from an entrepreneurial family and my parents and siblings have always been extremely supportive of my writing, publishing, and traveling. I know that such support is far from the norm (sadly), and I am extremely grateful for all the love, support, and advice they have showered upon me.
A special shoutout also goes to my wife Rosemary! Thank you for reading every single post I write (helping spot typos that would otherwise slip through) and offering brilliant suggestions on what to add or subtract for maximum clarity and impact. You are the most loving, supportive, hilarious, vivacious woman that a man could ever ask for. No matter what you say, I am the one who married up.
The blog was originally called Foreign Language Mastery, inspired by Internet Business Mastery, a blog and podcast I had been following at the time to learn more about blogging and online entrepreneurship. I have since dropped the “foreign” part since it seemed unnecessary and made for a pretty absurdly long name.
The website address was originally L2mastery.com, but I knew that few people outside of linguistics knew that “L2” refers to a second or foreign language, so I kept my eyes open for something better. The domain LanguageMastery.com finally became available, and I was able to snatch it up for just $80. Two-word domains like this are often sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars these days, so this was a really good deal.
Incidentally, I am currently in the process of moving over all old links to the new domain with 301 redirects, so please bear with the mess! If you find any broken links, please send me a quick note here.
WordPress Theme Evolution
Language Mastery has had a number of new “paint jobs” over the years as I’ve tried to make the site easier to use and easier on the eyes. It takes a lot of time to switch over to a new theme, but it can be a lot of fun, too (I think of it as “digital coloring for adults”). The current theme, Divi, is an extremely powerful and highly customizable WordPress theme from Elegant Themes, which I highly recommend for any of you with a self-hosted WordPress site looking for a serious upgrade.
As the name, domain, and theme changed, the Language Mastery logo also evolved over the years. Here’s a look back at a few of the iterations:
What Hasn’t Changed?
Though many things have changed over the past ten years, the following have remained constant:
The Belief That Language Should Be Fun!
During my time studying linguistics and foreign languages at university, teaching English to adults, and working in a variety of businesses, one peculiar theme has stood out to me: most people believe that one has to be serious to be effective. For whatever reason, the majority of adults think that having fun is reserved for children, and that we grownups have little time nor need for playfulness. While most adults certainly do have more responsibilities than most children, who ever said that being responsible or effective requires being serious? The truth is that fun, play, and curiosity lead to a higher level of performance and effectiveness in almost every endeavor, including language learning. Play improves brain function, neural plasticity, adaptability, creativity, and memory, and the more you enjoy the learning process, the better new words, structures, and language concepts will stick. And the more you honestly enjoy something, the more of it you are likely to do. As Gretchen Rubin puts it in Outer Order, Inner Calm: “To get it done, make it fun.”
The Belief That Anyone Can Learn Any Language, Anywhere
One of my goals for this blog is to show that anyone can learn a foreign language regardless of their age, income, schedule, background, or zip code. Far too many people believe they are too old, too broke, too busy, or too far from where the language is spoken to learn. This is still one of my guiding principles, and it’s truer than ever today. Using free online resources and tools, you can easily immerse yourself in a foreign language no matter where you happen to live. Classes and overseas immersion—though both potentially great for those who can afford the time or money—are no longer a barrier to entry. The only requirements now are interest, creativity, courage, and discipline.
Zero Third-Party Advertising
I have never allowed—and will never allow—any banner ads, paid links, or promoted posts on Language Mastery (much to the chagrin of the spammy requests I receive almost daily). Nor will you ever hear any ads on The Language Mastery Show. I haaaate podcast ads and always end up skipping over them anyway (unless my hands are covered in soap while washing dishes and I’m forced to endure them!).
I am all for making a living through blogging and podcasting, but I am guided by the principle that the best way to make money online is by serving—not using—the audience. While I know that many bloggers and podcasters opt to use advertising as a source of revenue, there are lots of business models out there, and I’ve decided that for me, serving my audience means being committed to useful content without advertisements. This zero-advertising approach better aligns with my values and is what I would appreciate as a reader and listener. But this is just what works for me; I acknowledge that other people might do things differently according to their unique situation and values, and I am certainly not saying that including ads is always the wrong business model for everyone.
Okay, so if I don’t get ad revenue, how do I make money?
- I publish my own books that empower independent language learners. Self-publishing allows me to ensure the highest possible quality, better connect with my readers, and continually iterate based on reader feedback. If you like what I’m doing and want to support Language Mastery, please consider getting a copy of one of my language guides.
- I recommend resources I believe in. I’ve tried out hundreds of language learning apps, books, courses, programs, and sites over the years to see what’s worth the time and money, and what’s not. Most don’t make the cut, and I never recommend anything I would not use myself. That said, I am more than happy to recommend the few resources that do meet my high standards and will help my readers acquire languages using approaches I like. Some of these companies offer a small affiliate commision for referrals I generate (which helps me cover website hosting, domain renewals, etc.), while others simply provide free months of membership (which often covers the amount I would be paying them anyway to use their services myself!). And please keep in mind that you don’t pay any more for a service when using my affiliate links.
Likewise, I maintain a strict, zero-spam policy with my newsletter. Your email address and name are NEVER shared with anyone, and are collected using ConvertKit, the gold standard for email marketing. Since the beginning, I have been very careful about what I send to my list (and how often), and never send out spammy emails or third-party promotions. When you join The Language Mastery Insider, you get instant access to my free Quick Start Guide, and then only one email a week thereafter with links to useful tips, articles, podcasts, etc. You can quickly unsubscribe anytime by clicking the link at the bottom of my emails.
So what is next for Language Mastery? Where will the next ten years lead me?
Nobody can predict the future, but here is what I aim to accomplish:
- Reach 1,000 blog posts.
- Reach 1,000 podcast episodes.
- Consistently publish every week NO MATTER WHAT!
- Launch a YouTube channel and video series.
- Launch a new Japanese-specific podcast.
- Publish language guides for additional languages (e.g. English, French, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, etc.).
- Create a scholarship program for language learners who need a little extra support with resources, tuition, or international travel.
Here’s to another decade of language learning fun and shenanigans. Thank you again for taking this adventure together with me!