≡ Menu
Julian Northbrook

“I’m Scared to Speak English with My Clients”

Do you have to speak English with clients?

Are you terrified that they’re gonna think that your English isn’t up to the job?

If that’s the case, you’re not alone.

This is a very common situation, and one that I’ve heard from coaching clients, Extraordinary English Speakers members, people who’ve read my book and … basically anyone learning English.

You understand most of what people are saying.

You can read no problem at all.

All of that’s easy… but when it comes to speaking you feel like there is a barrier plunked right in front you. And no matter what you do you don’t seem to be able to get over that barrier or get around it or even to smash through it. It’s just there and it’s a problem because you have this high level of skill in your profession whether you’re an expert in some area. You’re an engineer or a consultant. You have all this knowledge, all of this skill but in order to actually get on with that you need to be able to communicate it sufficiently to the people who you do business with. And because you’ve got this barrier in front of you, you’re not able to communicate your skill to the full extent and therefore people think that your skill is lower than what it is. And this of course, apart from being embarrassing and making you feel like crap puts you in a difficult situation in your profession because hey, if you’re not getting results, then you’re not gonna go far are you?

The key is this —

Understand that you are not at the limit of your skill in whatever it is that you do. You are at limit of your ability to communicate that thing that you do.

This is important so I’ll say it again.

You are not at the limit of your skill in your profession. Rather you are at the limit of your ability to communicate what to do to other people. And therefore, in order for you to truly shine in whatever profession it is that you are doing, you need to overcome that barrier. You need to get around it. Smash through it. Whatever direction it is that you want to take.

Improving in English is a simple process.

You need a method which works, materials that are going to give you the samples of language that you need and the correct attitude.

Then you’re gonna need to practise the English you learn to fluency.

This is what I call the two step method.

The world’s simplest method for mastering a language.

Of course, the devil is in the details… what language do you need to study? What are the best ways to practise? But at it’s simplest level, you’ve got to learn the language and then practise it. Then it’s just a case of constantly repeating, reiterating that process. Getting better and better and better with time.

That’s what you’ve got to do. So get on with it. Get it done.

At the same time, though, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everybody knows that you’re using a second language. So, if you are say for example a consultant who has to use English with the clients and you are struggling with English and you’re worried that that’s bringing down everything that you’re doing, go easy on yourself a little bit because getting stressed out isn’t gonna help the situation. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and if you’ve got to do the job you’ve got to do the job and just being stressed about is gonna make it even harder.

Go easy on yourself, give yourself permission to make mistakes, to screw up a little bit. But promise yourself that it’s only a temporary.

And that’s the key here.

Many people just give themselves permission to screw up, make mistakes and then they’re fine with that and they never make the effort to improve and then things go horribly wrong.

Give yourself permission to just feel okay about the fact that you’re not perfect yet…

… BUT promise yourself that you are going to improve.


P.S. If you want my help mastering English, consider joining us in Extraordinary English Speakers:


You Must be Learning English Every Day (Even if Just 10 Minutes)

Let’s talk a little about learning English every day.

It’s simple, really.

If you wanna get good at English fast…

… you need to be putting time and effort into your English. Every. Single. Day.

This isn’t just about spending more time learning (though that helps). But because of the way the brain works (something in psycholinguistics we call activation), we are constantly going in and out of fluency in a language.

Have a watch of this video:

Now, what this means is this: If you spend, say just one or two hours once a week studying and practising English, you’ll give yourself a big boost in ‘activation’ (which is an important part of proficiency). But then that activation will gradually disappear over time. And if you’re only learning and practising once a week… it’ll be gone LONG before you’re next learning session. So although you think you’re learning, actually you’re just going back to zero each time.

So what we need to be doing is constantly bringing it back up.

And this is why it’s better to learn just, say, 10 minutes a day, than it is to spend a whole day once a week.

You need to be doing it daily.

Yes, spending more time is better than spending less time… but the important thing is OFTEN. This is what keeps your level of activation not only up, but increasing.

Now, if you want more on this?

Check out my book Think English, Speak English.

It goes into detail about how language works in the brain, why you translate or get stuck thinking in your head, and how to stop it. And yes, activation is an important part of this — and in speaking fluently (Here’s the link again).


P.S. Here’s what Camila Bortoli said about Think English, Speak English:

“I loved this book! I was feeling lost in my English, after reading this book I found myself. I found how to improve my difficulties. I appreciate every single word in this book.”

Here’s the link to get it.

What My Research Tells You About English Learning Materials

There’s this idea…

A silly one, really, when you think about it, but a pervasive one all the same.

“I learned English at school, so all I’ve got to do now is practise.”

And in a way this makes sense.

You are correct in thinking that after learning—putting the stuff in your head—you’ve got to make it run on autopilot (make it a habit) by actually doing it.

But where you’re wrong…

… in thinking that you learned English.

Newsflash — you almost definitely didn’t learn English at school.

Instead, you learned something that vaguely approximated it, in an odd sort of way, but was actually something quite, quite different. In one of my own research projects I found that Japanese secondary school English textbooks were so different from real English that they were basically teaching a new language using English words and grammar. The language — dialogues, phrases, expressions… the whole lot — were practically useless in the real world.

But wait! There’s more!

When, in another study, I measured secondary school students fluency on the textbook language…

… I found they were highly fluent in it.

Too bad it wasn’t language they could use in the real world.

The materials you use Matter. They are, after all, the samples of English you fill your head with. Build a house with poor materials, and you get a shitty house. Build your English with poor learning materials, and you get shitty English.


P.S. The lessons I make in Extraordinary English Speakers are based on my own research.

The published articles I linked above, and a whole series of projects that are due to be published soon. Years of testing and design have gone into the way we write and create lessons… all so you can speak amazing English with less stress, less hassle and fewer headaches.

You can become an EES Member by clicking here.