Filed Under: Coaching, Pronunciation
February 18, 2021
By Julian Northbrook

This is part of the “Fly on the Wall” series: your chance to listen in on a real coaching conversation.

Here, we talk about improving pronunciation in English.

My MEFAer was worried about her pronunciation because she finds some sounds difficult, and she felt this makes her English bad. Really, though, her pronunciation is actually very clear and easy to understand…. but her rhythm is not so good.

Like many people, she tends to speak in a word-by-word way and doesn’t articulate her English as chunks well.

Here was my advice:

This is a very common problem, but one fairly easy to fix.

For more on improving the “sound” of your English – your accent, pronunciation, rhythm and intonation – go here and pick up a copy of my book Awesome Accent for the “cheaper than lunch” option, or consider joining us in the next MEFA group.

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Habits, Learning English
January 11, 2021
By Julian Northbrook

Here’s a question: do you ever feel like you don’t get enough done? Know you should learn English daily… but end up wasting time on Facebook instead?

A Doing English daily email subscriber said:

“Nobody is going to help you if you can’t help yourself. ” this kicked my ass, maybe I’m not that much of a person waiting for answers instead or looking for them… but I’ve been a little bit like that. My question for you is: Have you ever experience difficulties to have your actual discipline?
– José

The truth is I’m not very disciplined.

Not at all.

In fact, let me tell you a secret: I’m a really, really lazy person.

It’s true.

This said, Here’s an idea of how productive I am: why I originally wrote this blog post (I’m re-editing and reposting it) I used to teach full time at a secondary school in Japan while also doing a PhD, teaching private lessons in the evening, running a successful business business on the side, and still managed to spend lots of time with my three kids every day, learn Japanese, read, and go running or cycling (often both) every day.

These days my life has changed a lot, but I’m still super productive running now a full-time business (that’s this; Doing English) with full time employees and freelancers who I work with. Still doing academic research, writing and publish articles. Still reading, running every day.

And… look, you get it.

How can a lazy, non-disciplined person do all this?


I understand the power of habits.

I don’t need to “discipline” myself to write this blog post. Or any of my books. Or the daily Doing English emails. Because I do it automatically. At the same time every day, I sit down at my laptop in the same place… and just write.

I don’t need to say, “I have to write today’s email!” – I just do it.

On autopilot.

I’m also habitually collecting ideas in my head. I don’t think about it. It happens automatically. So when I do sit down to write… I already know what I’m going to write.

It’s the same for everything else.

Including learning English every day. If you want to learn English daily, without having to discipline yourself, or force yourself to do it? Without saying, “I’ve really got to study…” or “I’ll do it later…”

Well… the answer is frighteningly simple: make it a habit.

People don’t have much willpower. Psychology experiments have proven this again and again. So just trying to force yourself to improve your English… work harder… or sit down to learn won’t work.

It just won’t.

Even if it works for a few days… you’ll quickly fail.

But habits run on autopilot. You don’t have to use willpower… in fact, they’re REALLY hard to stop, even if you want to. Meaning, once you make learning English a daily habit, you’ll find it hard NOT to practise your English.

Make sense?

But of course, the question is this:

How can you make English a habit?

Well, that’s a topic for another day, because this post is getting bloody long. But you can (and should) start by signing up for my free daily emails (which are designed to become a part of your daily English habit).

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Learning English
January 10, 2021
By Julian Northbrook

Right now I’m reading a book called: “I will teach you how to be rich” by Ramit Sethi.

It’s all about wealth building.

And it’s good (they call the guy the “Wealth Wizzard” for a reason).

But right near the beginning of the book, Sethi explains how we can understand people’s approach to money… by looking at their approach to their health.

Everybody starts off saying, “I’ll never let myself get fat and unhealthy!” explains Sethi. But then they develop the wrong habits, do the wrong things… and before they know it they’ve gained a ton of weight and they’re fat and unhealthy.

They don’t track calorie intake (just like people don’t track spending).

They eat more than they realise (just like they spend more than they realise).

And they want to lose weight… but instead of just doing the “big” simple, but important things that work for losing weight… they spend countless hours arguing tiny insignificant details with their friends, instead. Finally, instead of listening to expert advice based on research, they value anecdotal advice instead. That is, from friends, family and random people on the internet… who are just as unhealthy as they are.

Sethi uses this as an analogy for money.

But it’s identical to improving in English.

If you’ve reached the intermediate to advanced level, but you’re frustrated and have stopped progressing… know this – if you’re not moving forward, you’re not doing the right things.

Simple as that.

Want to get better results?

Change the things you’re doing.

There’s a ton of contradictory advice out there, and if you want to spend (waste) all your time listening to anecdotal advice on the internet… be my guest. (It always makes me laugh when someone with terrible English tells others how to learn English…). If you’re fine with getting overwhelmed or wasting all your time focusing on tiny, insignificant details of your English instead of the “big” things that have a massive impact on your English for minimum time and effort… then go ahead.

Or you could join MEFA.

And I’ll coach you through the process.

MORE: the course doesn’t start for a few weeks. But you can get started right away. And in fact, my recommendation is this: the very second you enrol, open your “bonuses” email (I’ll send it right away) and find the “Taipei Training” session. This is a 2-hour English mastery “Crash Course” designed to get you started improving your English… by the end of today.

For information go here:

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: MEFA
January 8, 2021
By Julian Northbrook

Years ago when I still had an office job, I took the same route every day on the train, transferring to a different train every day.

Then one day I had a day off and decided to go do some shopping.

I took the same train, changing at the same station halfway: but I was supposed to go a different way from there, and get on a different train to the one that took me to my office.

Was supposed to.

Because what I actually did was walk the normal way and get on the normal train.

The wrong train.

Chances are you’ve done something like this before.

Why does it happen?

It’s simple, really: habit.

MEFA Information Here.

Habits are one the ways the brain saves energy, and where it can it will always prefer to kick-in an automatic routine — a habit — and let things just flow. Certain things trigger these habits (like getting off the train I always got off) and from there they just go on autopilot unless you stop them.

This is the same for both learning and speaking English.

When you say, “good morning” to someone, that’s a social habit and it’s a language habit (the neurons in your mind are fused together and when you say, “good…” your the habit pulls the rest into “morning”). The mistakes you keep making are also habits.

And when you panic, feel fear or get embarrassed, yup, those are also too.

Well, the first stage of building confidence is re-wiring your bad habits. And as Rytas, a recent MEFA graduate said to me last week, we’re all FULL of these “bad habits” that are holding us back and stopping us from performing in English properly. Some are performance habits. Some are language habits. Many are thinking habits. But left unfixed, they’ll make progress very, very difficult.
Which is why you need to REWIRE those habits to change from counterproductive, too productive so they push you forward with your English, instead of holding you back.

How do we do that?

Well, that’s for me and my boys and girls in MEFA to know, and for you to wonder about.

But we start the process of right from Week 1.

For information, go here:

Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Ranting and Raving
January 2, 2021
By Julian Northbrook

You’ve probably heard me say this before, but I love this time of year and hate it at the same time.

Well, it’s not the new year you should hate.

It’s all the “New Year New You” rubbish.

“This’ll be the year I do something great!”

“This year will be different!”

Thing is though, the people who say this… said exactly the same thing last year.

And they’ll say the same thing next year.

Because as soon as the excitement of the new year disappears… so does their enthusiasm. Then they fall back into the same old habits and do exactly the same things as they always do.

And this year it’s even worse.

It’s almost like people think because 2020 is gone, all the problems in the world will magically disappear.

It doesn’t work like that.

The Pandemic ain’t going away any time soon, unfortunately.

In fact, in many ways it’s getting worse.

Personally I’ve had to massively change plans already this year, just two days into 2021. I was supposed to fly to Taiwan on a business visa to do work with my BFF, Mayi Lin.

Not happening now.

Thank you new Covid Strain for throwing yet another spanner in the works… much appreciated (sarcasm).

Instead, I’m sitting in my Copenhagen apartment wondering what to do instead.

But this is just a minor inconvenience. Nothing compared to the shitty situation many people find themselves in… and perhaps you find yourself in.

Well, as much as you don’t want to hear this: expect it to get worse.

One of the things we talked about A LOT in the KA2021 event I ran over the last few days was the fact the idea of a “job for life” no longer exists. It hasn’t for a while. But now it’s worse. Entire companies are going down, taking their employees with them. Others are realising that they didn’t need the big office spaces and large numbers of staff they had and are cutting down. And this will continue past the pandemic.

What have you done to position yourself as indispensable? What have you done to protect your income?

Doesn’t matter whether you’re employed in a company or own it – these things aren’t arbitrary. And they aren’t optional any more (though really they never were).

Me personally?

I’ve worked super hard over the last 12 months putting systems in place to protect myself and the people I employ. And as a result, I’ve come out of it stronger than ever.

So instead of following the crowd and cheering, “Thank god 2020 is over!”, “This year will be different!”, I’m saying something else:

I’m going to make 2021 as good as I made 2020 for myself.

I’ll leave today’s email here.

To work with me to transform your English become part the next MEFA group:

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Mistakes in English
December 31, 2020
By Julian Northbrook

One of the mistakes people make is trying to forget their mistakes in English.

What do I mean?

Let’s say you have a conversation that goes horribly wrong. It could be a conversation, a presentation or whatever.

You mess up.

You say something stupid.

The person you’re talking to looks at you like you’re a dumbass idiot.

It’s embarrassing.


It really is.

And yeah, I’ve been there. And not just in my second language.

(Actually, Japanese in a way was easier for me because it gave me an excuse to say stupid cringeworthy shit, but that’s another story.)

Time is a good healer.

This is a good thing.

You don’t want to be stuck beating yourself up about the embarrassing things you said forever. And if you do that, that’s a whole other issue that you need to fix.

But you also don’t want to completely forget about the mistake. Because it’s imperative you learn from it. Every screw-up, every messed up conversation you have, and every mistake, every failed situation, is valuable because it’s a learning experience. And if you’re consistently making the same mistakes, screwing up and never changing it… that’s going to reflect very badly on you.

So yes, you should hold on to your mistakes.

But only if you use it properly to learn from.

So how do you do this?

I use a technique called ‘Retrodictive Learning’, which while difficult sounding is actually very easy. It allows you to use your mistakes as a springboard for improvement. My MEFAs start this right from Week 1 and learn all about (and practise) the technique in Week 6.

You can learn all about MEFA here:

Julian Northbrook