The Language Mastery Show

Interviews with the World’s Best Language Learners

The Language Mastery Show brings you interviews with the world’s best language learners. The show is hosted by John Fotheringham, a linguist and author obsessed with making language learning as fun, accessible, and effective as possible for listeners. Each episode includes a long-form interview with a linguist, language expert, polyglot, innovative educator, or top language blogger, with just enough silliness and puns to keep things interesting.


The real deal!

John is a true language aficionado. Knowledgeable, motivating, entertaining… he hunts out the best guests and does awesome interviews which are inspiring for aspiring language learners. Great stuff!

Olly Richards

I Will Teach You a Language


Great Language Learning Advice

John’s philosophy and approach are spot-on: You don’t need to be gifted, spend tons of money, or move to another country to learn a language. You just need to be dedicated and consistent.



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Wonderful Tool

I really love this podcast. I wish there were more resources like this. It is truly refreshing to hear people who know what they’re talking about and are not just trying to sell something. I was teaching a Russian class when I stumbled on to this and I had my students listen to selected episodes as homework. The host and all of his guests are realistic. They are not salesmen. They are not dogmatic. They enjoy languages and they are eager to be helpful to new language learners. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Show Notes

Interview with Claude Cartaginese, creator of The Polyglot Project

Claude Cartaginese is one of the kindest guys you will meet in the language learning blogosphere, and I really appreciate all he has done to encourage language learners, gather advice from the world’s best learners, and share his infectious enthusiasm for language learning. In 2010, he released a monumental e-book called the The Polyglot Project, a free PDF which brought together tips and advice from 43 polyglots, hyper-polyglots, linguists, YouTubers, and language lovers, including Mike Campbell, Steve Kaufmann, Benny Lewis, Moses McCormick, Stuart Jay Raj, Anthony Lauder, and many more. In the interview (recorded in 2010 as part of my Master Japanese guide), we discuss: 1) The mistakes he made when starting out in Japanese and what he would differently if he started over again. 2) Why you should focus on one language skill at a time. 3) Why you should start with listening and speaking before reading and writing. 4) Why it’s crucial to choose methods and materials that support your unique learning goals. 5) When Japanese learners should start learning kanji. 6) Why “mastery” and “perfection” are not the same thing. 7) Barry Farber on how we “marry” some languages and simply “date” others and why “expertise is a narcotic.” 8) The power of modern asynchronous learning. 9) The challenge of “resource overwhelm.” 10) Why language study should not be required in school. 11) Claude’s language learning habits and routines. 12) Why languages are not “difficult,” just “different.” 13) The similarities between learning a language and learning a martial art. 14) How the ego gets in the way of learning a language.

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Interview with Gabriel Wyner of Fluent Forever

Gabriel Wyner is a polyglot, former opera singer, the author of the book Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It, and the creator of the new Fluent Forever app, the most funded app in crowdfunding history. I highly recommend his book and app, especially to anyone who struggles with foreign language pronunciation or making new words stick. In the interview, we discuss: 1) How opera led Gabe to learn French, Italian, and German. 2) How a summer German immersion program proved he was not “crappy at languages” as he had previously believed. 3) Why opera is the perfect career for those who want to get paid to become multilingual. 4) The visceral difference between simply “pronouncing” a language and actually “thinking” and “feeling” in it. 5) Why you shouldn’t learn a language through translation (“It murders you before you start.”) 6) How images are a faster, more effective way to build new linguistics connections. 7) Why you should start with pronunciation training first. 8) How minimal pair training helps you learn pronunciation quickly and better notice your progress over time. 9) Why you can’t make old memories go away (the groove remains!), but how you can make new memories more powerful (making the groove deeper). 10) Why images (and the meanings they represent) create stronger memories than spelling and sound. 11) Why personal connection (“self-reference”) is the ultimate memory “supercharger.” 12) How self-testing with flashcards can make your study time five times more effective than simply presented yourself with information. 13) The critical difference between “recalling” and “reviewing.” 14)The power of “uh….?” moments and how spaced repetition can help optimize them. 15) Why modern digital flashcards are not really “flashcards” at all, but rather “computerized tests.” 16) Why language learning doesn’t take nearly as much time if you can actually hold onto what you learn. 17) Gabe’s “minimum viable” daily and weekly language learning habits. 18) How to get immersion “chunks” wherever you are. 19) Why frequency dictionaries are linguistic gold.

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Interview with Mike Campbell of Glossika

In this episode of the Language Mastery Show, I catch up with my old friend Mike Campbell, the founder of Glossika. A lot has changed in the seven years since we last spoke at a Starbucks in Taipei, Taiwan, and it was fun to learn more about the innovations he’s made at Glossika, his work to save endangered languages, and how his views on applied linguistics and language acquisition have evolved. In the interview, we discuss: 1) Mike’s journey from Latin to French to Mandarin to the aboriginal languages of Taiwan. 2) Why language teachers should laugh at their students. 3) Why children make good language teachers. 4) How native Mandarin speakers use pronunciation shortcuts to speak more quickly and easily. 5) The importance of learning the International Phonetic Alphabet. 6) How to sound more like a native speaker by learning allophones. 7) Why real Mandarin tones in the “wild” rarely match what you see in textbooks. 8) Why Chinese characters are more like roots than vocabulary, and why this makes Chinese much more “semantically transparent” than English. 9) Why you should learn to speak before you learn to read. 10) Why “culture” and “language” are distinct entities. 11) Why there is no such thing as a “primitive” language. 12) Why there are no vague languages, only cultures that express politeness through vagueness. 13) Why you should focus on verbs and mostly ignore nouns when starting out in a language. 14) How to learn indigenous or minority languages. 15) How people can help save endangered languages. 16) Why the media has grossly exaggerated the current rate of language extinction. 17) Mike’s effort to use Glossika as a tool for empowering speakers of minority languages. 18) Why Glossika’s “Mass Sentence Method” is more effective than isolated vocabulary and how it differs from other spaced repetition systems. 19) Why Glossika is like a gym (just like with building muscles, you have to stick with the regimen and put in sufficient reps before you’ll see results). 20) Why maintaining the “habit of the habit” is more important than your study volume on any given day. 21) Why Glossika is especially powerful for rejuvenating languages you’ve previously studied. 22) Why Mike leverages “role and reference grammar” in Glossika and how their tagging system overcomes the limitations of other grammatical hierarchies. 23) Mike’s favorite classic novels and stories for learning foreign languages. 24) The power of creating immersion in your daily life by changing your phone’s display language. 25) The role of language in identity and cultural pride. 26) The power of having a language in your biology instead of just in your technology. 27) How languages expand your worldview and improve your problem solving abilities.

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More please!

I just binge-listened to the whole backlist of episodes. Gosh, this is an absorbing show.

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