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


September 7, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Improving your English grammar is probably not something that you should ONLY focus on.

But you also have to ask yourself these questions:

What do you struggle with?

Why are you having problems with grammar?

If you’re like most of my coaching clients (high-level English as a second language speakers)… the reason you’re struggling with grammar is probably – ironically enough – is that you’re TOO focused on grammar.

See, there’s this misconception that when you learn English grammar, you’re automatically going to be fluent in English.

But that’s not the case at all.

The reality is, most native speakers don’t bother too much with grammar rules at all. Instead, we store blocks of English called “chunks” in our long-term memory. We then pull these chunks out when we need to use them (this video talks more about this in detail), which is how we sound natural when speaking English.





But again, I’m not saying grammar rules are totally useless. They’re not. But there is a correct time and place to use and study them (and that’s usually when you’re already fluent and natural-sounding in English) as a way to deepen your knowledge of what you can already do.

If you want to take this further and learn English without focusing too much on grammar, have a look at the free training I created. It’ll teach you the top 5 things you need to know about improving your English (that’s more than just grammar).

Hope that helps.

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


August 27, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Yes, it is possible to improve your English fluency without learning grammar.

In fact, there are circumstances (though there are exceptions to this) where it’s actually quite advisable not to learn grammar.

And this is because English learners tend to focus too much on grammar. You tend to have this over-reliance on grammar rules. Teachers in your school probably taught you English like how you should solve mathematical equations. And if you get the answer wrong, you’re immediately screwed and your grades are going to tank. But this is an absolutely horrible way to teach (and learn) English.

The reality is, native English speakers don’t even speak the way students were taught in school. Instead, we native English speakers store large blocks of English which we call “chunks” in our long-term memory (I talk more about “chunks” in this video). Then, when it’s time to use these blocks of English, we just pull them out of memory and use them.

Now, of course, this isn’t to say that grammar rules aren’t completely useless. They’re not. You just need the proper time and place to learn and study them. But that’s when you’re already fluent in English, and you need to just polish it up a bit more by learning about grammar and whatnot.

So, again, yes, it is possible to improve your English without grammar. And instead of overthinking grammar, what you should do instead is to change the way you learn.  Find out better ways to approach learning English. In fact, you can start learning more about the best methods to learn English with the free one-hour training that I created. You’ll learn the 5 key changes that my best clients made to get fluent in English… which I know will help you too.

Hope that helps.

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


July 29, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

The answer to both questions is: stop focusing on words and grammar.

The big difference between people who are intermediate in English and people who are advanced (and beyond) is that they’ve learned to CHUNK their English well, and this has little to do with grammar.

For example: “take a picture” and “make a picture” are both grammatical – but only one sounds natural; “thanks very much” is ungrammatical, but every native speaker says it.

So studying grammar isn’t enough, or even the best way to do it.

Same if you keep forgetting your words — it’s because you’re trying to remember words, but you should be learning “chunks” of words.

Linguist John Rupert Firth said:

“You shall know a word by the company it keeps.”

And this is true.

What it means is, to really understand a wordーits true meaning, nuance and useーyou’ve got to understand how it combines with other words. Words rarely appear alone. And indeed, native speakers aren’t, for the most part, speaking using grammar rules and individual words like you were taught.

Rather, as I said, we speak using ‘chunks’.

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 (again, “make a picture” is grammatical — but only, “take a picture is natural”).

Native speakers speak in chunks. And if you also want to speak in an advanced, native-like way, that’s how you need to speak, too.

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,
Julian Northbrook


October 19, 2020 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

At school, you were taught grammatically correct (but often weird sounding) English. But in reality, the way people use a language isn’t this simple.

Sometimes we simply make mistakes.

Some things—like “there’s people”—we say are clearly wrong, but so frequent everyone says it.

Some things we say are very natural but ungrammatical, others are grammatical but unnatural. In fact, Michael Lewis argues that English can never be “correct” or “incorrect” – it’s all about the context, and what we’re trying to do with what we say. You see, sometimes we say things deliberately wrong or in a weird way for dramatic effect.

This topic came up in a recent member’s Group Coaching Call, so I made a video talking about it:





The point is, real language is messy and fully of subtitles. Research in Conversation Analysis is very clear about this, and the idea is not new. But what it means is,  if you want to perform at a “nativelike” level in English, then the approach you take to learning must go much, much deeper than simply learning surface level grammar rules or words.

What if you need my help doing this?

If you’ve already reached a fairly high level in English, but you’re struggling to go beyond that and understand the subtitles of how people speak, as well as speak at a native-like level yourself, you might be a good for for the MEFA Group Coaching course – Information Here.

Best,
Julian Northbrook