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:

https://doingenglish.com/mefa

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.

Best,
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.”

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


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:

https://MasterEnglishFAST.com

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.

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


March 26, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Honestly, this is a…. strange question:

“Is there any other way to get fluent in English without watching movies and web series?”

I get asked stuff like this a lot.

And all it really tells me is you have no idea how to improve in English and you’re confused about all the conflicting advice out there.

Let’s think about this…

Why do you think watching films (or “movies” if you prefer American English) or series is essential?

And why do you think just doing that will get you fluent, anyway?

It’s not.

And it won’t, or at least not by itself.

Look, it’s not about doing any “certain thing”. It’s about doing the things you actually do… and actually enjoy doing, want to do, or have to do… just in English.

Ultimately getting fluent is going to require two things to happen in balance:

1. Daily focused, intensive study where you are actively learning English and using exercises to practise it and force your fluency.

2. Doing as much in English as you can, with the caveat that it needs to be real (none of this fake ‘conversation partner’ rubbish, unless you want to improve really slowly), and it has to be true to you and your personality, and of course relevant to your life.

If you do those two things well, you’ll improve.

Doesn’t matter whether you watch films.

Or read books.

Or go out being super extrovert-social and meeting new people every day (which personally I don’t enjoy at all).

Or live in an English speaking country (or not).

Because if you’re thinking any one of those things is the “key” to improving your fluency in English, and that not doing it will stop you improving… you’re missing the point and your thinking is far too simplistic (and wrong).

And in fact, if you’re stuck at that intermediate and up stage and not progressing now matter what you do, you could make your life a hell of a lot easier by having me help you (1) get unstuck and (2) make a big difference to your ability to use English well over the next 90 days.

Your choice, of course.

But if you want to join the next MEFA group, the place to go start here:

https://doingenglish.com/mefa/

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


March 22, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Last year I was living in Lisbon over October and November. It’s a beautiful city, and I can’t wait to go back again.

Now, apart from a few words, I don’t speak Portuguese.

I had fun with the language.

Sure.

But it would be a reeeeeeal stretch to say I can actually do anything in Portuguese other than say “hello”, “thank you”, and cause chaos and confusion with my linguistic incompetence. And that’s fine. I don’t really need the language, after all.

But one experience sticks in mind above all the rest: Going into restaurants.

I don’t mean the touristy places in Lisbon. They’re easy, ‘cos everybody speaks English. No, I mean the more local places.

Take one place I went, for example. I walked into a place not far from where I was staying where nobody spoke a word of English. And after spending what felt like an hour trying to make my order, I finally felt like I’d done a pretty good job.

Only I got something totally different to what I ordered.

And I got a beer, which I didn’t order.

And a coca-cola to go with my beer that I also didn’t order.

People think you start at zero with a language, then progressively get better while aiming for 100% proficiency. But the more I think about it, the more I think that’s wrong. You actually start at 100% Sucking at a language then progressively reduce the amount you suck until you don’t suck any more.

So you don’t get better in English.

No.

You get less worse.

The difference is subtle.

But when you think like this, every conversation is a chance to make fewer mistakes and fuck up less than last time, not yet another chance to make mistakes and look stupid.

Again, the difference is subtle.

But it’s an important mindset change.

Anyway.

Using your real-world English situations (whatever they are) is a big part of what we do in MEFA, and I’ll show you how to treat every one as a spring-board to sucking less and less and less and less.

The place to enrol is here:

https://doingenglish.com/mefa/

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


March 14, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

“I’ve always thought you cannot reach a good level in English unless you have some life or working experience abroad. I think it’s because everyone I know who speaks English fluently has lived in an English speaking country at least for a year.”

OK, breaking this down is easy.

Let’s start with an analogy:

If you use Instagram, you probably see all these beautiful women on there with a million followers doing their… whatever it is these Instagram women do. Take selfies? I dunno. But the point is, these “Instagram models”, they’re all hot as hell, drop-dead gorgeous.

Surely that means being on Instagram makes you beautiful, right?

Well, obviously not. That’s crazy.

It’s actually simple:

Hot women are, first and foremost, more likely to be on Instagram trying to do the Instagram Model thing than ugly women. I’m not shaming. Just stating a fact. And importantly, whether you like it or not, sexy women are much more likely to get likes, shares and promotion because people like looking at sexy people, and they respond to that. The result is a small percentage of these so-called “models” becoming highly visible.

What this means is, for the most part, you only see the drop-dead gorgeous…. but never the rest.

That doesn’t mean the rest don’t exist.

Oh, they’re there.

Somewhere.

You just don’t see them, because they’re not visible.

Here’s where I’m going with this:

“Everyone I know who speaks English fluently has lived in an English speaking country at least for a year”

This is exactly the same as the rather extreme Instagram model example, except because it’s not so in-your-face crazy to think the reason they’re so good is because they lived in an English speaking country… that’s what people believe.

But think about it.

You’re far more likely to go abroad if you love English and have put the time and effort into getting good at it, anyway. These people are predisposed to having some kind of experience abroad.

But most importantly: you wouldn’t ask someone who can’t speak English well how they got so good….. so you never realise that the amazing people are actually a minority. They might only be 1% of the people who went abroad. Could be even fewer than that. But the point is, you never see the other 99% because they’re simply not visible and so make an assumption based on bad (i.e. extremely biased) data.

This is called confirmation bias.

You believe living abroad will magically make you fluent in English (it won’t) so you search for evidence to prove yourself right.

Confirmation bias is dangerous because it makes you see things in a simplistic “A caused B” kind of way, which is simply incorrect.

In every MEFA group the members are almost always exactly 50/50 living in their home country (saying that’s why they can’t improve) and living in an English speaking country (still not improving).

Yeah, living in an English speaking country can help and can be an awesome experience. But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient to master English.

If you want some help, here’s the place to go:

https://doingenglish.com/mefa

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook