December 20, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Over the weekend The Girl and I mostly binge-watched Christmas films (hey, don’t judge — ’tis the season).

Last night we watched:

“Love Hard”

(This is not the kind of film you can “spoil” as, let’s face it, these films are all exactly the same and you already know what’s going to happen without watching it… but if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing stop reading now.)

A woman who consistently picks bad guys and has a whole string of disaster Tinder dates behind her meets the perfect guy (once again on Tinder). He has it all. The looks. The personality. She’s never met him in person, but their personalities match so well she decides to surprise him by flying across the US to surprise him for Christmas.

But it turns out she’s been catfished.

The guy’s personality and all that was real, but he used his good looking friend’s photos instead of his own.

So she ends up staying with a nerdy-looking guy who’s not her “type” at all.

Long story short, she then goes off trying to date the good looking friend from the photos instead… realises he has the personality of a chimp and that they have nothing in common, and eventually falls in love with the nerdy guy who catfished her but does have the personality that matches her own so well.

It’s a Christmas film.

Cheesy.

But not a bad watch at all, in my opinion.

The point is, having the great looks is useless if you (1) don’t have the personality to back it up and (2) if you’re the wrong match for the other person anyway.

The second point is an email for another day, but regarding the first, it’s the same when speaking English. All the fluency and sophisticated words in the world won’t magically make you interesting in conversation if you’ve got nothing to talk about and are duller than a dustbin. Or if you’re trying to hide your personality and cover it up with something that’s not you. On the other hand, first impressions do count and unlike cheesy Christmas films if your speaking ability isn’t up to the job of communicating said personality and interesting stuff to talk about… they’ll probably go unnoticed.

That’s why speaking Extraordinary English is about more than simply learning words, rules or bits of English.

Develop your English alongside your personality.

Your knowledge.

Things to talk about.

Become an interesting person when you speak English.

Look at the process of improving as a larger whole, not a separate, isolated skill to work on (which in my opinion is one of the biggest failings of the way languages are typically taught and learned).

This, in a nutshell, is the approach I take when working with my boys and girls in MEFA (and of course, the Extraordinary English Speakers graduate programme).

More:

This “larger whole” approach is known as “holistic learning”, and as well as everything we do in MEFA, when you enrol this month you’re also getting access to the recordings of a three-day event I did last year called “Kicking Ass in 2021” (it’s just as relevant in 2022) where, on day 2, I taught extensively on the topic of holistic learning and how to integrate your life and English learning.

The main course starts on January 3rd.

But you’ll get immediate access to KA2021 right after you enrol.

Go here:

https://doingenglish.com/mefa/

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


Filed Under: English confidence, Fear
December 16, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

We all live with fear. It’s just a result of our biology. And some fear is good — it’s rational.

Being afraid of getting hit by a car, for example, or of being stabbed in that dark, dodgy part of town, are both pretty damn good kids of fear to have.

But not all fear is rational.

Most, in fact, is irrational.

Like the fear of speaking English in front of someone in case you don’t do it very well.

Or to put it another way:

Fear of failure.

The fear of failure is an irrational fear. Because, ultimately, the only way you truly fail is by not doing anything. Because when you do nothing… you create the very result you’re afraid of.

i.e. you fail.

There isn’t anything more irrational than that.

Of course, that doesn’t mean everything you do will go to plan. In fact, a conversation you have might prove to be a total train wreck. But that doesn’t mean it’s unsuccessful or a “failure”.

At the very least:

* A train wreck of a conversation tells you what you need to learn, and where you need to improve.

* It provides the motivation to learn and be better next time.

* It expands your comfort zone and helps you to be more resilient next time (because let’s face it, nothing truly bad happened, right?).

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again:

Bravery isn’t not being afraid (yay for double negatives). Bravery is being afraid but doing it anyway.

Now, with that in mind let’s get you set up with all the tools (mental and literal) that you’ll need to keep learning and pushing forward with that English of yours.

Go here:

https://doingenglish.com/mefa/

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


September 20, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Using filler words (i.e., “umm”, “ahh”, “kinda”, or “really”) when you’re speaking English as a second language could mean a couple of things.





In one sense, you can think of these filler words as a processing lag where you’ve gone ahead and your brain’s trying to keep up with you. And in order to do that, your brain will buy you some time by using “umm”s and “ahh”s.

But in another sense, when you do this TOO often, it becomes a fixed habit in your speech.

And it can be quite frustrating when you say it, but there are two things you can do to stop using filler words. These are:

  1. Notice when you use filler words and… use them less.
  2. Slow down when speaking.

And the first one is quite contradictory to what I teach my coaching clients (i.e., focusing too much on what you’re saying). But if your goal is to lessen your use of “umm”s and “ahh”s in your English conversation, monitor when you use them, spot them, and break them. This way, you can consciously reduce using filler words.

In fact, this is what I did when I first started recording things. I listened to some of the recordings I did and heard myself say the word “kinda” a lot. Way too much that it was horrifying! I even have the same habit in Japanese where I use the word “nanka” in conversations too. But I became conscious of this habit and over time, I actively reduced how I use “kinda” whenever I speak. So don’t feel bad if you can’t immediately reduce your use of filler words. It is a slow process.

And the other thing you can do to stop using filler words is… slow down. You’ve really got to slow down so you can reduce the processing load in your brain. That way, you’ll be able to catch up to it and no longer feel the need to use filler words. Additionally, you have to know the subject of your conversation. Slowing down can buy you some time to think… but you need a base where you can pull up information for your conversation.

And again, do these two things and try not to overthink speaking in English. Be confident and just not give a shit about what people think.

But if you want to speak English like how native speakers do, you can download the free guide I created. You can go here if you’re interested.

Hope that helps.

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


September 17, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Any type of passive exposure (i.e., listening to podcasts, watching TV shows, reading books, etc.) while useful… isn’t going to do much by itself.

But if you want to want to improve your English, you will need a balance of focused intensive studying… accompanied by extensive passive exposure. And this is because when you study, you’re opening the door for passive exposure to let it do its job. Once you’ve studied English intensively, passive exposure can help make it fluent.

But if you’re only going to rely on watching TV shows and listening to podcasts in English, it’s going to be extremely ineffective. I mean, sure, absolutely, passive exposure can help. Reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching shows in English are great sources of exposure to supplement your study time… but it’s not something that you should ONLY focus on.

Ultimately, if you want to improve your English fast, you’re going to need a balanced, structured routine, which is what I call the Two Track Approach. You can learn more about this when you download the free one-hour training I created.

Hope that helps.

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


September 16, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

The honest answer is that you’re probably focused TOO much on grammar rules.

You’ve spent too much time studying it, so you’re overly reliant on it. And it’s not really your fault… especially if you learned English by focusing on grammar rules.

But speaking English is more than just knowing grammar rules. Most of us native English speakers don’t default to computing sentences. We don’t learn it by using individual words to sound natural. Instead, we store large blocks of language (or what I call “chunks”, which I talk more about in this video) in our long-term memory.





And if we feel the need to say something in English, we just pull out these chunks of words and naturally speak in wholes.

See, grammar rules don’t really explain how we native speakers sound so natural. Kind of like how we usually say the sentence “could you help me with this?” instead of “would you aid me on this task?” – both are equally grammatically correct, but the latter sounds very weird, while the former sounds natural.

See the difference?

So instead of focusing ONLY on grammar, use English as a system of high-frequency, highly natural chunks instead. And once you’re good at this, your fluency and naturalness in English will just follow along.

And to get you started with this, I put together a free guide on how you can speak like a native English speaker by doing proper “chunking”. Go here if you’re interested.

Hope that helps.

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


Filed Under: Speaking English
September 15, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

The big problem here is simply that you’re too focused on words (and probably grammar) – but that’s NOT what you should be focused on for speaking.

Let me explain: what matters for speaking well is how you combine the words you’ve got into nativelike chunks of English.

And this is true of remembering words, too.

We used to think native speakers had grammar rules in their head, and that they combined these with words to make sentences… but this never made much sense. Speaking like this, we shouldn’t be able to speak fluently because the brain’s RAM (working memory) simply isn’t that good. Using grammar and words, we’d speak slowly and awkwardly (like most non-native speakers who have learned to speak in this way). Also, we shouldn’t sound natural simply because most “grammatical” English isn’t natural – “make a picture” is grammatical, and so is “let’s try it”. But both sound awkward (we say “take a picture” and “let’s give it a go”.

This is because native speakers speak in chunks.

So if you also want to sound fluent and natural? That’s how you need to speak, too.

Learning in this way will make it much, much easier to recall words in conversation because they’re better connected to the rest of your English in your mind.

When you try to learn English as individual words and ignore how they combine with other words, it’s like having a pile of lego blocks with no instructions for the thing you’re trying to make. All the lego blocks are there: but they’re just a random mess of bits.

The easiest way to do this is to learn in chunks right from the beginning.

And I have a free training here that will show you how to do that.

Best,

Dr. Julian Northbrook