How to Stop Making Mistakes with “A”, “The” And Other “Little Words”

Occasionally I review academic papers.

Now, this is about the only thing I do on a volunteer basis.

But why?

Well, mainly because I enjoy it. But hey, a bit of goodwill towards journals can only make getting my own research published easier, right?


Don’t know if you know how scientific publishing works, but an author submits a research paper then it goes it to be reviewed by two or three people. It’s all anonymous (well, it’s supposed to be… some people give themselves away though) and ensures top quality, blah blah blah.

But anyway, the paper I reviewed today was a good one.

The author did a study of function word mistakes in Korean English learners. Things like, “a”, “the”, “of”.

You get the idea.

Well, the twist was that the author looked specifically at CHUNKS and mistakes made as a part of them (and almost all function words are actually a part of a chunk… ‘cos that’s how they work).

The overall conclusion was that we can (and should) be teaching chunks as a way of helping people stop making mistakes with these words. Because by looking at the whole chunk—not the mistaken word—it’s really, really easy to fix.

This is something I’ve been saying for ages.

But hey, the academic world is slow to catch up with greatness like me, apparently.

The point is, some researchers (one in particular who I won’t name but he’s a twat) claim that those tricky little words like, “a” and “the” are unlearnable and impossible to master. But that’s bullshit — simply means the teaching methods don’t work.

Doesn’t mean other approaches don’t.

So there we have it.

Wanna stop making mistakes with those pesky little words?

Learn in chunks.

If you’re not sure how to do that check out my book Master English FAST, which goes into detail about how to learn fluent, natural (and mistake free) English from the start.


P.S. If you’re struggling to improve your English MEF walks you through he process step-by-simple-step — claim your copy here.



Meet the Author

Julian Northbrook

Julian Northbrook is an unconventional punk of the business English learning world. A leading expert in English education and direct response marketing, he’s fully equipped to drag you kicking and screaming from English-mediocracy to speaking at an outstanding level. After being turned down for his dream job in the art industry, Julian suffered three long years as a crap Japanese speaker. He understands exactly what it’s like to feel like a total idiot every time you speak. But Julian overcame his language problems, mastered the language, and went on to work first as a freelance translator, then as an executive member of a Japanese company. But he soon grew sick of the corporate world and left it to pursue something infinitely more satisfying — running his own business helping small business owners and entrepreneurs get so good at English that they forget that it’s not their first language. He writes the infamous Doing English Daily Newsletter which you can (and should) subscribe to.