≡ Menu
Julian Northbrook

Can You Listen Your Way to Fluency?

Here’s a question I often get in one form or another —

“Can I listen my way to fluency?”

Short fast answer: unlikely.

A while ago I went to a lecture by Roy Lyster.

He’s one of the leading names in immersion education. Learning a language by “immersion” has been popular for decades. It started with lots of ideas in the 60s, 70s and 80s about learning a second language in what was considered a “natural” way. The idea was you’d study, say, history, and get English for free. But as Peter Skehan points out in his book A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning, kids in Immersion schools get really good at understanding. But not much else. They never get that good at speaking.

You see, it turns out we never just “pick up” a language.

And the reason why is, the brain is really good at using whatever information it can to understand…


Many of the things you hear…

… you actually don’t hear.

And so you never learn them. And many of the other things you hear…

… you actually don’t understand them correctly.

But your brain just goes ahead and fills in the gaps. And so you never really learn them.

In order to get better at English, two things have to happen repeatedly:

  1. Learning
  2. Focused use and practice

You’ve gotta learn it, then use it.

And that means taking the time to study English conversation, the phrases, expressions and chunks we use, what they mean, how we use them and importantly ー WHY we use them in the way we do. That is, the intention behind what we say.

Tomorrow I’ll give you an example of this from the next Extraordinary English Speakers lesson, which is also out tomorrow. This also means members have one day left to get this week’s lesson done.


P.S. If you’re struggling to perform well in English conversation…

You might want to have a look at my EES Group.  I provide you with all the information and lessons that you need to master English and speak confidently.

Are Your English Learning Beliefs Wrong?

We all believe things that simply aren’t true.

And those beliefs shape our behaviour.

Take, for example, the expansion of the universe.

One of the greatest intellectual revolutions of the twentieth century was that the universe is expanding at a phenomenal rate.

But even Einstein himself resisted the idea.


Because he believed the universe was static and never moving, the stars hanging in space like Christmas decorations.

Everybody did.

Even though it didn’t make much sense. Nobody could understand why gravity doesn’t cause everything to collapse in on itself. In fact, Einstein believed this to be true to the extent that in his general theory of relativity he had to just make shit up to explain inconsistencies. He came up with a cosmological anti-gravity constant that he said was woven into the fabric of space. It prevented gravity from pulling all the stars and planets into each other. And… he had no evidence for the at all. But nothing else would fit his (mistaken) assumption about the universe.

It’s not that Einstein couldn’t have discovered expansion.

He certainly could have.

Even as far back as Newton, we already had everything we needed to make the discovery. It was just waiting to happen… but didn’t it didn’t match what everybody thought was correct.

Eventually, Alexander Friedmann came along and had the guts to question everyone’s assumptions.

And it turned out that common knowledge was wrong…

… and a breakthrough was made.

Just think if Newton or even Einstein had done the same.

How much further would we be?

We’ll never know, but the point is, the things you believe about shape your behaviour.

And if you believe the wrong things…

… you’ll do the wrong things.

Now, what are some of these incorrect assumptions?

Grab the first chapter of my best-selling book, Master English FAST, An Uncommon Guide to Speaking Extraordinary English completely free (click here).

… in it, I go over the top seven miss assumptions that people make, the reasons why people fail to improve their English. And I tell you what they are, why you may believe that and what you should be doing instead.

The place to get the first chapter is here.


P.S. Master English FAST includes the complete audio version for free until January 2019, 11:59 pm Ireland time.

After that, the audio version will be sold separately.

The place to get the first chapter is here.

Will Improving English Change Your Identity?

Yesterday I was talking to one of my coaching clients.

She’s living in the UK, and has seen an enormous amount of progress over the last 90 days or so. But one thing she said to me, is that she used to think of English as just being a kind of tool to use to speak to people… and that’s it.

But now she sees it as something greater than that. She said she sees the connection between the language—the words, phrases and expressions we use—and the way we think about the world.

“Improving my English”, she said, “has changed my identity”.

She not only speaks in a different way…

… but thinks and behaves in a different way.

Language, culture and knowledge are all mixed together. And one of the big mistakes people make is thinking that to speak great English all they need to do is memorise more words and expressions.

But this doesn’t work.

You’ve got to consider how those words and expressions are USED. The context. And how people are going to understand the things you say… based on how they THINK, which may be very, very different to how you think.

Great example —

An American man walks into a bar in Amsterdam, sits down and orders a beer. He gets chatting to a Dutch lady sitting near him at the bar.

They chat, and then—because he doesn’t know what else to say—he asks, “So, what do you do?”

Instead of answering, the woman gets offended!

“What difference does it make? Would you think less of me if I was a janitor, or more of me if I was a CEO?”

To the American, this was a perfectly innocent question — but he asked it based on his own way of thinking, without realising that this is somewhat of a rude thing to ask in the Netherlands (or so I’m told).

Culture defines the things we say.

And therefore, the things we say define our culture.

It’s a two-way process…

… and not only do you need to learn to think differently in English, but speaking English will change the way you think.

And if you’re struggling to speak well in English conversation?

That is, at an “advanced” level…

My book, “Advanced English Conversation” will show you step by step what you need to do. I teach you everything you need to know to reach an advanced level when it comes to speaking in everyday casual and business conversation (you can get it here).

The place to get your copy is here.


P.S. This book is also available on as a part of the complete “Advanced English” series. You can find information about that here.