Learn Chinese Anywhere


(And without the hassle of moving to China, enduring expensive classes, or slogging through boring textbooks.)

If you’re learning Chinese on your own and you’re looking to reach fluency and speak confidently with real native speakers, then you probably already know that immersion (being surrounded by the language all the time) is the best way to do that.

You probably already know that practicing speaking with real native speakers is the key to getting better at speaking.

But here’s what you might not know.

You don’t need a plane ticket, new zip code, or classroom to immerse yourself in Mandarin Chinese. With the right methods, materials, and attitude, you can reach a high level of fluency anywhere in the world.

Master Mandarin shows you how to create an immersion environment almost as good as being in Beijing or Taipei, even if you’re in Baltimore or Topeka.



You are not alone.

Most Chinese learners spend years “studying” the language but never reach fluency.


Here are the six most common causes.

Sound familiar?

  • Putting off speaking too long: Most people don’t practice speaking enough due to fear of making mistakes. They busy themselves instead with memorizing vocabulary, tapping away in language apps, or watching YouTube videos. These activities can help, but they won’t teach you to actually speak Chinese.
  • Not having a strong enough “why”The path to fluency isn’t necessarily complicated, but it DOES takes consistent practice, day after day. You need to get crystal-clear clarity on your reason for learning Chinese, the “WHY” that keeps you going on the days where you feel bored or unmotivated.
  • Not enough time on taskTo reach fluency, you need thousands of hours of input (listening, reading) and output (writing, speaking). That might sound impossible in your busy schedule, but there are many ways to squeeze in time each day through “habit stacking” and using “hidden moments” throughout your day.
  • Not practicing skills directly: Practicing “directly” means practicing the skill you want to be able to do. Most people get stuck studying ABOUT the language rather than actually practicing IN the language itself. Many apps or classes focus on indirect skills that don’t build fluency and won’t help you in actual human-to-human communication.
  • Using  boring materialsFun gets done, so you need to select methods that YOU will enjoy. It’s natural for language learners to sometimes feel bored and not want to keep going. This is why it’s extra important to use materials that are fun to use and fit your unique interests and goals.
  • Getting stuck in “analysis paralysis”: On the other hand, many language learners feel overwhelmed when considering all the materials they could use, and as a consequence, they never actually get started. Finding just a handful of tools you love to use, and sticking with those consistently, is the antidote. Less but better. 

Immersion is the key to getting unstuck and finally reaching fluency

If you can avoid the above mistakes and put in the required time and effort, you will reach fluency in Chinese.

The key to all of this is creating a fun, immersive environment―from home―that will actually get you to fluency.

How my “Anywhere Immersion” method will get you fluent in Chinese without classes or moving to China

Once upon a time, you had to two choices if you wanted to get fluent in Chinese:

  • Option 1: Take expensive Chinese classes.
  • Option 2: Move to China.

Today, anyone with an internet connection and a little creativity can learn Chinese anywhere in the world. While Chinese classes and living abroad can be great, they no longer have to be a barrier to entry for Chinese learners.

Master Mandarin shows you how to create what I call an “Anywhere Immersion” environment that brings China to you right where you are.

Not only can you learn from the comfort of home, but this approach has many advantages over traditional classroom and textbook-based learning:

It's More Fun

The Anywhere Immersion approach allows you to choose fun, engaging materials and activities that you love.

It's Less Expensive

Language classes and textbooks are boring and expensive. Choose fun―and often free!―modern resources instead.

It's More Convenient

Anywhere Immersion allows you to learn anytime, anywhere. You don’t need to travel to a class or move abroad.

It's More Efficient

Your custom immersion environment allows you to make use of tiny “hidden moments” throughout the day.

It's More Natural

Humans have learned languages through immersion for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s how our brains are wired.

It's Personalized

Anywhere Immersion allows you to tailor the learning process to your unique interests, needs, and learning style.

Here’s How I can Help You Get Fluent

Hi, I’m John Fotheringham, a linguist, teacher, and the author of Master Mandarin.

Like most Chinese learners, I really struggled to learn Chinese through formal classes. But once I realized that I could learn faster and have more fun by creating my own immersion environment, my progress took off.

I now teach others how to learn through the same immersion-based approach, no matter where in the world you are.

I’ve been learning and teaching languages for over two decades, including studying Linguistics at Western Washington University, teaching adults in the U.S., Japan, and Taiwan, presenting at multinational companies, working as a translator and interpreter for the Japanese government, and now blogging, podcasting, and publishing books on independent language learning.

I have dedicated my life to empowering language learners, making language acquisition more fun and effective, and helping others avoid some of the mistakes I made along the way.


Master Mandarin 

How to Learn Mandarin Chinese Anywhere in the World

A Navigation System for Independent Language Learners

Master Mandarin is NOT a grammar textbook or a formal Chinese course.

It’s a navigation system for independent learners that shows you:

  • How to learn Chinese through Anywhere Immersion.
  • What methods and resources to use.
  • What mistakes and pitfalls to avoid.


  • You will select the right learning strategy that fits YOUR schedule, interests, and learning style.
  • You will pick fun materials you genuinely enjoy, which will keep you showing up every day for more.
  • You will learn how to create a personalized immersion environment in your own home that accelerates your fluency.

And this immersion environment will be your teacher. It will be your textbook.

The end result?

Being able to speak Chinese for the rest of your life and deeply engage with this fascinating culture.

The Only Book of its Kind

Master Mandarin is the only book of its kind that:

  • Helps you conquer your fear and focus on the specific habits that will actually move you towards fluency.
  • Helps you uncover your WHY so that you’ll stick with it in the long run.
  • Teaches you how to learn and use the hidden moments in a day to get enough input.
  • Helps you practice skills directly by giving you resources for speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
  • Focuses on the specific tools you need, fun and tailored to your personality, all in one place.

So if you’re finally ready to get fluent in Chinese without expensive classes, boring textbooks, or internet overwhelm, Master Mandarin is the navigation system you need.


“There are many guides out there about the basics or how to start with Chinese, but John’s Master Mandarin is the only one I’ve seen that covers absolutely everything from start to finish in terms of must-knows.

The best part is the very carefully researched list of the best resources for every aspect of Chinese imaginable. The best detailed guide for anyone who’s serious about learning Chinese!”

Benny Lewis

Author, Blogger & Language Hacker, Fluent in 3 Months

What’s in the Guide?

Master Mandarin shows you how to acquire languages in a fun, adult-friendly way, with ① detailed tips on creating a personalized immersion environment, ② strategies for working with—not against—how the brain works, ③ tips for how to get—and stay!—motivated throughout your learning journey, and ④ hundreds of John-tested, John-approved resource recommendations to help you reach your fluency goals while having heaps of fun along the way.


Here, you’ll learn how to get the most out of the book, get answers to common learner questions, shift your mindset for success, and uncover your WHY for learning Mandarin.


You’ll get a roadmap to Mandarin fluency and learn the phases that lie ahead (and how to get through the traps!) as you improve the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.


Now that you know the roadmap, you’ll create an ideal learning schedule for yourself, learn proven strategies to keep yourself on track, and learn the right way to measure your progress.


You’ll learn how to win the inner battle of learning a language by changing how you think. You’ll also get proven strategies to face your fears, keep your motivation high, and develop diamond-tough discipline.


Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill. You’ll accelerate your progress by learning how to create an immersion environment of fun activities at home, plus proven methods for developing skill and improving memory.


You’ll learn why and how to learn characters in a fun, effective, non-intimidating way that works WITH your brain (not against it), plus practical strategies to remember and recognize characters effortlessly.


You’ll select your “weapons,” the tools and resources that are right for YOU to learn the way you like. I’ll give you my top recommendations for dictionaries, podcasts, music, TV shows, movies, and video games, comics, books, and much more.

“Beautiful formatting, and page-turning. I read through the first third before I knew what happened.”

Nick Winter

Founder, Skritter

What You Get

PDF Book

You get the beautiful, print-ready PDF version of Master Mandarin, which can be read on nearly any device or operating system.

Kindle Book

You get the book in MOBI format which you can read on your Kindle or in any of the free Kindle apps on iOS, Android, macOS, etc.

EPUB / iBooks Version

You get the book in EPUB format which you can read in the iBooks app on iOS, macOS, and any of the numerous EPUB readers available.


Worksheets & Cheat Sheets

The 7 print-ready PDF worksheets and cheat sheets help you apply what you learn and optimize your language learning time.

“There is so much content in this guide, that it’s nearly impossible not to gleam something about language learning.
I appreciate your attention to detail when you explain not only how and why things work, but also how and why we might employ some of these strategies in our daily study routine.
The guide provides a great overview of the Chinese language, and language learning without going overboard.
You’ve made a wonderful guide, and I look forward to telling anyone who’s interested in this type of material to seek it out.”
Jake Gill

CEO, Skritter

Bonus: 7 Print-Ready Cheat Sheets & Worksheets

You get 7 print-ready PDF worksheets and cheat sheets to help you apply what you’re learning and optimize your language learning time.



Goals & Systems

A 5-page worksheet to craft actionable goals and a personalized daily and weekly study schedule for yourself and hang up in your house.


Sounds of Mandarin Chinese

A 3-page cheatsheet for how to make each sound and tone in Mandarin (and their approximate English equivalent).

500 Most Common Words

The 500 most common words in Mandarin, plus their meanings and pronunciation, empowering you to understand much of the language you will see and hear day to day!

Chinese Radicals

A 6-page cheatsheet with all 214 standard radicals with frame number, radical, English meaning, pronunciation, and number of strokes.


Remembering Simplified Hanzi

A 51-page reference list of simplified characters from the Remembering the Hanzi book with the frame number, character, and English keyword.


Remembering Traditional Hanzi

A 51-page reference list of traditional characters from the Remembering the Hanzi book with the frame number, character, and English keyword.

Deconstruction Dozen

The translations for Tim Ferriss’ famous 12 core sentences that reveal the essential patterns frequently used in Mandarin (“The apple is red”, “It is John’s apple”, “I give John the apple”, etc.)

“Master Mandarin offers readers everything they need to enjoy success as a Chinese language learner.

It’s written with clear and concise language, a touch of humor, and a whole lot passion.

It’s chock full of incredibly useful information that you’ll find yourself constantly making notes, bookmarking links, and nodding your head as you work your way through it.”

Shannon Kennedy

Blogger & Polyglot, Eurolinguiste


Will this work for me if I’m not good at learning languages?

Lots of people think they “aren’t good at languages,” but the truth is that they’re just using the wrong methods. Instead of studying ABOUT the language by reading a textbook on grammar or taking a class at your local college, when you create an immersion environment for yourself, your brain does the heavy lifting and picks it up over time FOR you. (Exactly like how you learned your first language!)

I know I’m supposed to practice speaking with native speakers, but it’s so scary. It’s the one part of learning I neglect most. How can I speak more confidently?

You’re right; it totally is scary. And this is where most people get hung up and quit. So many people struggle with being afraid of speaking, and let it keep them from fluency, that I’ve dedicated a whole section of this book to overcoming fear and unhelpful thought patterns that hold us back. These are proven methods that have helped other people learn to speak freely and with confidence, and they will help you, too!

I feel overwhelmed with all the resources out there. I have so many already. Why should I buy this one too?

In today’s world, most of us are already swimming in books, apps, and audio programs. Instead of thinking of Master Mandarin as an addition to your resource pile, think of this as a tool to help you use your resources better. With Master Mandarin, you’ll be able to pare down to only the essentials―those that will actually help you improve your speaking, listening, reading, and writing and learn in a way that fits your unique personality and lifestyle.

Don’t I need to move to China or Taiwan if I’m going to learn through immersion?

While moving to a Mandarin-speaking place would of course be ideal, with the internet, it’s possible to create an immersive environment right where you are right now, and surround yourself with the sights and sounds of Mandarin everywhere you go! I teach you exactly how to do this in Master Mandarin. You can listen to Mandarin podcasts, talk with native speakers in another country, watch YouTube videos, listen to music in Mandarin while you’re tidying up around the house, and even change your phone and computer’s display to Mandarin! (And don’t worry, I’ll teach ya how to turn it back, too―just in case. 😉)

Shouldn’t I be doing a course or grammar textbook that teaches me Chinese?

Most people think that they need to use “traditional” methods to learn a language like working through a textbook or taking a course taught by a teacher. The problem is that these methods are not only expensive, time-consuming, and boring, but also rather ineffective. (Don’t believe me? Consider how much you remember from your high school Spanish class.) With Anywhere Immersion, your teacher is the immersive environment you create for yourself. Your textbook is Netflix or comic books. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your materials have to be boring to be effective. There is so much out there for you to discover―get ready for you to find some of your new favorite songs, movies, and people!

I’ve heard Chinese is one of the hardest languages in the world and takes decades to learn. Are you sure this is going to work for me?

Lots of people like to say that Chinese is the hardest language, but really, it’s just very different from English. And it will become more and more familiar as you expose yourself to the language! Sure, it has totally new characters you have to learn (which can be intimidating for new learners), and new sounds, but it is totally doable with the right approach. People with less smarts and fewer resources than you have taught themselves Mandarin, and you can, too! With enough time and consistency, you’ll be able to begin speaking confidently in a matter of months, not years.

How will I get access to the book, worksheets, and interviews once I buy them?

When you buy Master Mandarin, you’ll be able to instantly download all the materials right to your computer or smartphone. I’ll also send you an email with a link you can click to download the materials in case you click away or want to refer to it later. Since it’s all digital materials, you could go from checkout to reading Master Mandarin literally in the next minute. No need to wait for the mailman to deliver you a package. (Hooray!)

Can you remind me of everything I’m getting when I buy Master Mandarin?

You’ll get the book Master Mandarin (it’s a big one: 800+ pages!) in three different formats: PDF, Kindle, and EPUB. You’ll also get 7 different reference cheatsheets and worksheets.

I have another question that’s not on this list!

I’ll gladly answer it for you! Shoot me an email through the contact form on my website and I will get back to you ASAP.


  • You’re just getting started with Mandarin and you want to make sure you are using the right methods that will launch you to fluency and make the best use of your limited time by using the materials, not searching for them.
  • You’ve been learning Mandarin on your own for months (or years), but you aren’t yet fluent or haven’t made as much progress as you’d like.
  • You already know you need to create an immersion environment from home, and you’re looking to build and refine your list of resources to help you speak, listen, read, and write in Mandarin.
  • You’re willing to put in the multiple hours it takes each week to reach fluency as long as you know that your time is going towards the activities that are going to give you the MOST payoff for your effort.
  • You’re already spending five or more hours a week actively learning Mandarin, by practicing learning characters, listening to music in Mandarin, watching videos, using language-learning apps, or speaking with a tutor.
  • You care about using your time wisely and having fun while you do it. You want to use the best and most up-to-date tools that are efficient, effective, and fun to use in 2020, rather than spending time searching for those tools. (And, you want to avoid wasting your time with outdated, boring, ineffective methods that just involve rote memorization of characters over and over!)
  • You’re aware of all the doors speaking Mandarin fluently will open for you, whether commanding higher pay at your job or opening new career paths, having more fun when you travel, making your upcoming move to a Mandarin-speaking country so much easier, connecting more deeply with a loved one or their family, sharpening your brain, and making new friends you wouldn’t have otherwise.
  • You’re excited to try the Anywhere Immersion method. Even if you’ve used methods that didn’t work in the past, like a one-hour-a-week class or reading ABOUT the language with a textbook, you’re excited knowing that tomorrow, you could start supercharging your fluency by working with your brain, not against it!

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