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John Fotheringham On Crafting Better Mental Tools For Language Mastery

John Fotheringham On Crafting Better Mental Tools For Language Mastery

Update: 2020-05-14


John Fotheringham author of Master Japanese and Master MandarinEver really stopped and thought about how language learning occurs?

When you’re a child the majority of the way learning occurs is listening and speaking, right? But what about when you progress in school and you are taught a second language as part of your curriculum? Is it the same process?

Or is the focus more on reading and writing?

Listening and speaking are innate, they’re organic, and it seems like they just happen “naturally” after much “natural” coaxing from parents and other people in the environment.

Or are they…?

Normally, we might say that reading and writing are human technology, an invention that differs from language itself. But learning these tools of representation language visually also involves a lot of coaxing and they are not any more or less invented than language. And when it comes to writing, it’s just a fact that some people go to school for decades, earn PhDs and still can’t write their way out of a cardboard box.

I know this from personal experience because I’m still struggling to de-academize my own writing after all those years of indoctrination! 😉

But guess what?

Mastering your target language doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be a struggle if only you make a shift in how you think about and approach the task of learning a language.

Don’t think it’s possible for learning a foreign language to get easier? Think again and prepare to welcome the ease and flow that “just happened” with your native tongue.


Cover of Master Japanese by John Fotheringham

My guest today is John Fotheringham, the man behind and the author of Master Japanese  and Master Mandarin. He is self-taught in these languages and and now teaches others his techniques through courses and his podcast, The Language Mastery Show.

John and I go deep into the “why” behind language learning. Sure, technique is high priority, but we dive into the reasoning and the psychology that drives (or can hinder) one’s learning journey, and the change necessary in institutions to truly revolutionize the learning process.

Cover of Master Mandarin by John Fotheringham

We even go, as John says, “off the rails” a bit and veer into questions of free will, mortality, and their place in self-taught education. So even if you’re not currently on a journey to master a second or third language there’s something here for you as well.

Finally, we explore the idea of depression, its role in learning, and how a modified framework through the lens of your personality type can help you achieve your learning goals.

The near-hour conversation with John is broad, enlightened, and, above all, encouraging. If you’re struggling with not fitting into the box of how you “should” be learning John reminds us that, indeed, there is no “one size fits all.”


You are not the problem. The problem is the box.

You are not broken. The system is.

Encouraged? Intrigued? Press play now and discover:

  • Why mastery and fluency are very subjective, and why they should be defined loosely

  • The importance of pronunciation in language learning, and why more emphasis should be placed on it

  • The reason why learning should be shifted in focus to listening and speaking versus the more traditional reading and writing emphasis

  • Why courage is important in language learning and the psychology behind it is just as important as technique or motivation

  • The secret to avoiding “fossilized errors” with pronunciation with hyper focused minimal pairs

  • How best to utilize your time when choosing material to practice reading in your target language

  • Why curiosity should motivate learning, especially language learning

  • Why morality and biology should be separated to avoid the guilt with undesirable tendencies, or even just “beating yourself up” for not obtaining language mastery as fast as you believe you should

  • Breaking the stigma of language learning and its ease for children (pro-tip: the key may not be in the age of the learner, but relies on the “audience”)

  • Why ego has no place in language mastery

  • Why you can feel a sense of empowerment, even with depression, to achieve your learning goals

  • The reason learning should be tailored to who you are (and how to do it)

Further Resources on the web, this podcast, and the MMM Blog:

John’s Language Mastery Website

The Language Mastery Show

John Fotheringham’s author page on

John on Facebook



Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies and Shinzen Young’s The Science of Enlightenment (referenced in this episode)

Teach Yourself Using the Best Language Learning Books

How to Consistently Get Quick Victories With Language Learning Courses

Bilingualism: Why Language Learning Makes for a Healthier Brain

Sunil Khatri’s Japanese Mnemonics Mastery Success Story









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John Fotheringham On Crafting Better Mental Tools For Language Mastery

John Fotheringham On Crafting Better Mental Tools For Language Mastery

Anthony Metivier's Magnetic Memory Method Podcast