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.”

Subtle.

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?

Yeah.

Subtle.

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:

https://doingenglish.com/mefa

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.

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


December 22, 2020 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Stop trying to “edit” your English speaking as you speak.

That ain’t a good strategy.

In fact, it’s a bloody terrible strategy — and it’ll lead to all kinds of bad habits.

Like being slow and awkward when you speak… and normally making MORE mistakes and sounding LESS natural than if you just let go or the need to speak well.

The same is true of writing.

Im terrible for trying to edit my work as I go. But really, this just slows me down and kills the flow I what I want to say.

So been experimenting with an app called ILYS.

Basically, you set a word count you want to reach—for this email I’ve set it at 300 words—then start writing. But the app hides the screen, and it disables the delete key. You can’ delete, can’t see what you’re doing, and you can’t stop until you reach the word count.

You’re forced to just write.

There’s nothing else you can do.

What this does is force you to write in free-flow. All you can do is type. Keep moving forward.

The result is, what you want to say flows much more smoothly, and comes out sounding much more coherent and concise.

On the other hand, If I try to edit as I go, my mind isn’t able to flow in the same way, because I’m constantly stopping and starting, interrupting my thoughts.

Now, the downside of this of is you have more editing to do at the end…. BUT it’s never as bad as you expect. In fact, there usually isn’t much to change at all… if anything. Yesterday’s email just needed a quick spellcheck. That was it. So not only does the end writing—like this email—flow better, I get it done much, much, MUCH faster.

Now, speaking is a little different.

There’s no written record, and you can’t change what you’ve already said before it goes out to your listener.

But there is a way you can “edit” your conversations after you have them to turn them into extremely effective learning experiences so you don’t make the same mistakes next time.

It’s called “retrodictive learning”.

And I teach this method in Week 6 of the MEFA course:

https://doingenglish.com/MEFA

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook