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


February 24, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

This question comes up fairly regularly in different places, and different ways.

Here’s my answer:

Don’t.

Forget about “practising” English, and do stuff (real stuff) in English instead. While constantly learning more and more new English.

That might sound like I’m being pedantic.

But I’m not.

Yes, a lot of people mean “do real stuff” when they say “practise” … but that’s not always how it’s understood or executed in the real world.

First, the idea of “practising with native speakers” is, at its core, selfish and rude. Nobody wants to be used to help you practise. And that’s how it feels when your on, say, the train or whatever and someone walks up to you and says, “Can I practise my English with you?”.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

But it’s true.

It’s kind of like a guy asking a girl to practise having sex with him so he can improve his technique.

Not really the most effective approach, right?

Like sex, people want to have real conversations WITH you. Whether that’s casually, or because a job needs to get done in the office.

Doesn’t matter.

If you want to practise technique, there are things you can do at home by yourself.

More:

When people talk about “practise” they normally end up looking for easy, comfortable ways of doing it. This is why the English conversation school industry in, say, Japan (where I lived for 13 years), is booming… as is the online Skype teacher gig and, well, you get the idea.

How often do people who go to that kind of conversation school get good?

Not often.

The problem is, we get good at what we do.

And if you’re only practising with teachers or conversation partners, well, that’s all you’ll get good at doing. Teachers are trained to understand you. No matter how bad your English is. So that doesn’t really prepare you for the real world.

The long and short of it is, there are better ways to approach mastering English. And the only time I advocate “practise” is with specific exercises, done alone, and as part of your focused, intensive learning time.

If you want my help transforming your English, go here:

https://doingenglish.com/MEFA

Best,
Dr Julian Northbrook


December 22, 2020 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

A study reported in Men’s Health magazine says 91% of women prefer their sex loud and vocal.

In fact, most said the louder the better.

Others said the only time silent sex is “sexy” is when you’re doing it in public and trying not to get caught…

And only 9% of women surveyed said they were satisfied by quiet sex where their guy didn’t make any noise, moan or say anything.

Now, while I might now know way around the bedroom pretty well, I’m certainly not an expert on the **psychology** of good sex. So the following is pure conjecture on my part.

But…

These percentages make perfect sense to me, because generally speaking—though this is somewhat culture-specific—people are ALWAYS very uncomfortable will silence.

It’s the way we’ve evolved.

For our ancient ancestors, small talk was how we worked out whether someone was friend or foe. According to small-talk researcher Justine Coupland, silence suggests distance between people. Which suggests a potential enemy. Conversation fills the gap — closes the distance — and creates bonds between people. It connects us and brings us close.

So good relationships (whether work-related or personal) come from good communication.

Now, I’m not saying you should make small talk while you fuck.

But I am saying that being loud and talking dirty is a form of communication, and like any kind of communication when done right it serves an important purpose – it closes the distance created by silence.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s personal or business, either…

In English speaking cultures if you’re sitting in silence and not contributing to a conversation, people probably aren’t seeing you in a positive way.

I can help you fix this in MEFA:

https://doingenglish.com/MEFA

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