April 14, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Last few days I’ve been revising one of my research papers for publication.

And I pulled out this of the introduction:

“Hymes’ (1972) fourth parameter of situational competence, which states language in the real world should be performed—or put more simply, language should be ‘done’—not just be possible, well-formed, or appropriate (the first three of Hymes’ parameters). As Skehan puts it, “learners who restrict themselves to item-and-rule approaches to language will be forever marked as non-members of the speech community they aspire to” (1998, p. 39)”

What this means is, being “grammatical” in English isn’t enough.

Success in conversation comes from speaking in fluent, natural and well organised “chunks” of English.

And a focus on grammar and vocabulary only, ironically, often leads to someone sounding less natural, and more like a second-language speaker. NOT more natural like people believe.

You’ll see from the references that even as far back as the 70’s people have been talking about this stuff. Yet I bet there are almost no English teachers that have ever heard of Hymes, or his Four Parameters of Situational Competence.

To my eyes, this is a problem.

We know so much from science: yet it’s ignored by everyone other than scientists.

I’ve made it a mission to change this via the courses I run (i.e. MEFA), via the weekly lessons I publish in EES, and in the near future via the very expensive ‘advanced topics’ print books I’ll publish.

This brings us to the next steps:

Which is to join us in the next MEFA group, if – and only if – you’re the kind of person willing to invest a bit of time and hard work into transforming their English.

Info and enrolment are here:


Dr Julian Northbrook