April 14, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Last few days I’ve been revising one of my research papers for publication.

And I pulled out this of the introduction:

“Hymes’ (1972) fourth parameter of situational competence, which states language in the real world should be performed—or put more simply, language should be ‘done’—not just be possible, well-formed, or appropriate (the first three of Hymes’ parameters). As Skehan puts it, “learners who restrict themselves to item-and-rule approaches to language will be forever marked as non-members of the speech community they aspire to” (1998, p. 39)”

What this means is, being “grammatical” in English isn’t enough.

Success in conversation comes from speaking in fluent, natural and well organised “chunks” of English.

And a focus on grammar and vocabulary only, ironically, often leads to someone sounding less natural, and more like a second-language speaker. NOT more natural like people believe.

You’ll see from the references that even as far back as the 70’s people have been talking about this stuff. Yet I bet there are almost no English teachers that have ever heard of Hymes, or his Four Parameters of Situational Competence.

To my eyes, this is a problem.

We know so much from science: yet it’s ignored by everyone other than scientists.

I’ve made it a mission to change this via the courses I run (i.e. MEFA), via the weekly lessons I publish in EES, and in the near future via the very expensive ‘advanced topics’ print books I’ll publish.

This brings us to the next steps:

Which is to join us in the next MEFA group, if – and only if – you’re the kind of person willing to invest a bit of time and hard work into transforming their English.

Info and enrolment are here:


Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Learning English
April 8, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Asking random people on the internet how to level up your English is about as useful as asking your aunt on Facebook why you’re sick.

It’s unlikely to fix your problem and you’ll end up frustrated with all the conflicting advice that doesn’t match you personally.

To get help that is actually customised to you and your situation, consider joining the next available MEFA group.

The place to go is here:


Or if you’re not sure if the course is right for you, send me an email (julian@doinglish.com) and I’ll tell you.

Dr Julian Northbrook

April 6, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

“Japanese city manager gives speech telling new employees to “play around” to fix birth rate issue”

That was a headline in Soranews24, a news site that publishes Asian news in English. Honestly, the headline was bizarre enough I checked to see if it was Fake news.

It’s not from what I can tell.

According to Soranews24, Mr Shimura said:

“I’d like you to play around as much as you can. And not just play around in groups of men, or groups of women, that’s easy. I want you to play around with the opposite sex. If you do that, then I think maybe the birth rate problem will go away a little bit.”

He then continued with:

“I have a special request for the men. I know we’re always told about gender equality and equal gender participation, but when it comes to playing around, I’d like it if the men made the effort to ask out the women.”


For context, Japan has a birth rate problem.

There are a lot of people in older generations, but comparatively fewer people are having kids. And this is causing a load of economic problems, not least that tons of money is going out of pension funds right now, but very little going back in.

But still.

Play around to fix the problem?



As a guy I guess I can see the appeal. Not that I’d be much help in increasing any birth rate now, as I couldn’t have kids even if I wanted to (I had the snip just over a year ago).

Typically though, this is an example of a fix — a bizarre one not to be taken seriously, to be sure, but an example all the same — for a surface-level problem without looking to the deeper, underlying problem.

Fewer people have kids in Japan because it’s a logistical nightmare. Working hours are very long, daycare hard to get. For many women having kids is synonymous with ending their career.

So yeah.

Playing around probably isn’t the solution.

Just like I can say with a high level of certainty that learning yet more grammar and memorising yet more vocabulary probably isn’t the solution to your English problems. Again, you’re looking at a surface level problem and ignoring the deeper root cause.

Enrolment for the May MEFA start is slowly but surely filling.

If you want a place, go here:


After you enrol, I recommend you go straight to your bonuses (which I’ll send you immediately after you enrol) and study the two-hour seminar I did in Taipei last year — it goes into these “deeper root problems” and talks about what you need to do to fix them.

Dr Julian Northbrook

April 5, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

There’s an awesome link in Richard K. Morgan’s ‘Broken Angels’:

“Face the facts. Then act on them. It’s the only mantra I know, the only doctrine I have to offer you, and it’s harder than you’d think, because I swear humans seem hardwired to do anything but. Face the facts. Don’t pray, don’t wish, don’t buy into centuries-old dogma and dead rhetoric. Don’t give in to your conditioning or your visions or your fucked-up sense of . . . whatever. FACE THE FACTS. THEN act.”

Morgan is the guy behind Altered Carbon, which got turned into a Netflix series (now with two seasons) a couple of years ago.

There’s real wisdom in this.

The average person, from the way I see it, spends enormous amounts of time and energy refusing to face facts… but very little in actually facing them and acting accordingly.

And honestly, I’ve been guilty of this too.

A good, and very illustrative, example of this is back in 2016 after the UK voted for Brexit. My business was booming, but I was earning in pounds then converting all that money into Japanese yen. And when the pound crashed following the Brexit announcement, my income was effectively halved. But my expenditure (which was in Yen) remained the same.

So what did I do?

Absolutely nothing.

Instead, we carried on spending as always: business costs didn’t change, neither did our cost of living. We had two kids in a private school, which wasn’t cheap. And this carried on for about six months while I diligently ignored the facts and my balance sheet (which I was paying someone else to do as I couldn’t be bothered to do it myself).

Long story short, a good friend of mine who’s an accountant stopped me and made me go through all of my accounts, fire the person doing our books and start doing it myself.

It turned out I was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Another month, perhaps two, and that would have been it.

Now, luckily we caught the problem in time and made some pretty extreme cuts. I took my company’s financial health into my own hands, studied my ass off reading every business finance book I could get my hands on and now, five years later, business is booming and I’m very financially healthy again.

Point is, what facts are you refusing to acknowledge?

For many, it’s the simple fact that their English is too shit to do the job they’ve been hired for and that’s why they waste huge amounts of time, energy and opportunities.

For others, it’s the fact they’re doggedly persisting with learning methods that don’t work.

Or conversation lessons that feel good, but have long ceased to do anything useful for actually improving in English conversation.

Or taking the lazy approach and telling themselves watching a bit of TV or living in an English speaking country will be enough (it won’t).

Well, you can ignore these facts and keep doing what you’re doing.

Or you can take a long hard look at them, then act.

A good starting point would be to pick up a copy of Master English FAST (which includes a complete audio version via my app) and study it. Of course, it’s a book and doesn’t come with all the customisation or depth you’d expect working with me on a coaching basis — but it’s also a very low investment compared with my very expensive coaching.

The place to go is here:


Note: to access the audio version you must have a smartphone that can run the latest apps, and there are instructions in the book for registering.

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Master English FAST
April 2, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

I get a lot of Troll reviews on books.

Well, I say “a lot” but not nearly as many as I’d like.

It does happen, though.

And when it does, it makes me a very happy-chappy indeed because nothing sells more books like Troll reviews… interestingly and ironically.

Well, this isn’t a troll review.

But it is a big “bang my head on the table” review for my core book, Master English FAST:

While it’s a nice motivational book and the life story of the author is interesting and aspiring, this book almost has no actual English learning per se, which I found disappointing.

The title of this book should be different.

My guess is the person didn’t read past Chapter 1.

But more to the point, the title of the book is:

“Master English FAST: An Uncommon Guide to Speaking Extraordinary English”

The keyword there is “guide”.

Not “textbook”.

Not “collection of study materials”.

Not “pointless list of words or expressions that you’ll never bother to learn anyway”.


So can you guess from the title what the book is?

That’s right.

It’s a guide.

How should the title be different?

Honestly, I’m at a complete loss at how the title could be any more accurate. It’s a guide that teaches you how to master English, fast (hint: the fast way is the slow way) and speak it at an extraordinarily high level. And the advice given is pretty weird in places (i.e. it’s uncommon).

It does what it says on the tin.

Please for the love of God, tell me what could possibly have been ambiguous about that?


My book, Master English FAST now includes a complete audio version of the book via my new App. And this is the easiest way to get started with the methods I teach, for less than the price of a coffee and a piece of cake.

You can get it here:


Note: to access the audio version you must have a smartphone that can run the latest apps, and there are instructions the book for registering. If you’ve already got the book, forward me your receipt before April 8th (strict deadline) and I’ll get you set up.

Dr Julian Northbrook

P.S. Do me a favour: after your read the book (or listen to the audio) review it on Amazon or Good Reads – I read every one.

Filed Under: Pronunciation, shadowing
March 31, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

The answer to this is: no.

But also yes.

What do I mean by that exactly?

There’s a lot of misconception about what shadowing is good for, and it gets treated like a magic-bullet exercise that should fix all problems.

It won’t.

In a way, I feel a little bit responsible for this, because as far as I know, I was the first person to put a video on YouTube, teaching the shadowing exercise for English. Other people had done it before, but never in terms of actually using it to improve in English specifically. And that video got taken in the wrong way by many, many people, as the comments on that video attested to.

But anyway.

Shadowing is useful for one thing, and one thing only.

Yes, it has side benefits.

But the thing only thing that it should be used for is developing muscle memory for speaking English. What we call the “physical aspect” of fluency. That is, learning to make your mouth and your tongue and your muscles move right to articulate English correctly.

If you have problems articulating English properly (as “chunks” of language, because that’s how native speakers really pronounce English) then yes, shadowing is an excellent exercise to use. As long as you are using it correctly, of course, and I’ll come to that in a second.


If you’ve got other problems in English it won’t help at all.

For example, if you know all the English that you need, but you can’t use it in a well-organised way, that’s something different. Or, if you haven’t actually learned the stuff that you need in the first place, that’s something different. Shadowing may have some small benefits. But getting good at these things is not what it excels at.

Trying to use shadowing for things like this is essentially like saying, “Okay, I have no muscles in my arms, so I’m going to go to the gym and do loads of squats.” It’s the wrong exercise for the job. If you’ve got a problem with your arms being too skinny, then you need to do exercises that are specific to your arms — not squats.

This sounds obvious.

But it’s what a lot of people are doing with shadowing.

So will it improve your English?


If shadowing is targeting the exact problems you personally have.

Now, the other problem is this:

A lot of people are not doing shadowing correctly. Often what people are doing is just speeding up speaking in a word by word way, which is not what shadowing is good for. Shadowing again is good for learning muscle memory. For learning to articulate English properly. Learning to chunk your language well in speech. To put the pauses in the right places, to learn the right kind of intonation… and all that good stuff.

Because so many people have this problem, what I did is I put together a free guide, called “The Good Shadowing Guide”. You can get it (for free) by going here:


Dr Julian Northbrook