Filed Under: English confidence, Fear
December 16, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

We all live with fear. It’s just a result of our biology. And some fear is good — it’s rational.

Being afraid of getting hit by a car, for example, or of being stabbed in that dark, dodgy part of town, are both pretty damn good kids of fear to have.

But not all fear is rational.

Most, in fact, is irrational.

Like the fear of speaking English in front of someone in case you don’t do it very well.

Or to put it another way:

Fear of failure.

The fear of failure is an irrational fear. Because, ultimately, the only way you truly fail is by not doing anything. Because when you do nothing… you create the very result you’re afraid of.

i.e. you fail.

There isn’t anything more irrational than that.

Of course, that doesn’t mean everything you do will go to plan. In fact, a conversation you have might prove to be a total train wreck. But that doesn’t mean it’s unsuccessful or a “failure”.

At the very least:

* A train wreck of a conversation tells you what you need to learn, and where you need to improve.

* It provides the motivation to learn and be better next time.

* It expands your comfort zone and helps you to be more resilient next time (because let’s face it, nothing truly bad happened, right?).

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again:

Bravery isn’t not being afraid (yay for double negatives). Bravery is being afraid but doing it anyway.

Now, with that in mind let’s get you set up with all the tools (mental and literal) that you’ll need to keep learning and pushing forward with that English of yours.

Go here:

Dr Julian Northbrook

August 17, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

There are two ways to speak English efficiently when you’re attending conferences.

Here’s an extract:

The first thing is repetition.

Repetition is the key. You need to expose yourself to the type of English they use in those conferences as much as possible. What can be useful is to find recordings of past conferences or similar conferences which you can try and integrate into your usage time. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can just play those recordings in the background as you clean your house, or whatever it is you’re doing.

But you can also use these conference recordings as your study materials. Find out the topic-specific language that may be slowing you down. Try to point out what it is you’re having problems with. Then learn where the possible holes are so you can be more efficient when it’s your turn to speak (or ask questions) in conferences.

Now, the second thing is to stop worrying too much.

You have to go easy on yourself because it will get easier over time. And if, for example, you’re asking questions at a conference, you just have to prepare beforehand. Ease your difficulty in speaking up in English at conferences by preparing for it. But, the reality of it is… you probably can’t prepare for what you need to say all the time. So if that happens, just go easy on yourself. Instead, try to attune your brain to different ways of approaching English and being in English speaker mode. Because speaking the type of English you want to do is just really going to come from doing more English over time.

So yes, you need to stop worrying about English. But at the same time, you also need to study and prepare for what type of English you need for these types of conferences. Find the balance between focus intensive studying and relaxed English usage. There are several ways you can do this, but if you’re interested in the methods I use the best place to start is the one-hour free training that I created. You’ll learn the 5 key changes my best clients make to improve their English as higher-level English learners.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

July 15, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Presenting ideas in English can be intimidating.

This is why you feel less confident about presenting your ideas in English in front of people.

It happens to the best of us, hell even me.

But what you need to do, first and foremost, is to focus on what you do well rather than what you don’t do well. And you know, this is similar to the conversations I’ve had with my coaching clients. They tell me that they feel devastated because they completely messed up their 3-hour presentation in English.

And when I ask them “how many things did you mess up within those three hours?” and they reply with: “well, just one”… and of course you’re going to feel like you messed it up if you’re only going to focus on that one mistake!

Again, it’s human nature to focus on that tiny percentage that we can’t do. But it’s important to recognise the things that you’re doing well. Because chances are, 98% of what you’re doing is already spectacularly good. It’s just that 2% that’s still not quite as good yet.

Simultaneously, you also want to learn from those things that you couldn’t do.

A good method to learn how to deal with this is something called “retrodictive learning”. It’s where you interpret your past actions and then you figure out an alternate solution to it. And it can be as simple as writing it down and then spotting things you could have said instead.

But next time you present in English, perhaps you can try this:

When you feel like you forgot a word or two and you’re not confident in saying it… DO IT ANYWAY.

You might even surprise yourself by explaining it better than you expected. Or not.

But, the point is, treat it as a learning experience either way.

So that’s what I would suggest you do, alongside being kind to yourself. Give yourself the credit you deserve and notice the good things. Don’t just focus on the bad things.

If you need some help in doing this, you can start with the one-hour free training that I created. You’ll learn the 5 key changes my best clients make to improve their English as higher-level English learners. You can go to this link if this interests you.

Hope this helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

July 14, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

If you feel like you’re losing confidence the better you get at English, it’s actually perfectly normal.

It’s human nature.

We’re designed to find the negative in anything and not notice the positive.

You may have heard of something called the Dunning-Kruger curve. This is a graph that shows confidence on one axis and knowledge on the other:

So what happens is this: when you’re learning any kind of skill, you start high in the confidence axis, thinking you know it all. But as you gain more knowledge about that thing, your line at the top suddenly curves down. You start to lose confidence because you start to realise that you actually don’t know anything at all.

The more you learn, the less you know. It’s cliché, but it’s true.

A good example of this is when I was first teaching in secondary school in Japan, I actually said “if you just let me do everything I wanted to do, I can have these kids fluent in a year!”.

Except that’s impossible.

The reality was, I had no idea what I was doing.

So I decided to study second language acquisition and applied linguistics. It made me realise just how unbelievably wrong I was. My confidence plummeted. I started questioning myself like “how can these people let me teach these kids in class?”.

But then I started to gain more and more knowledge about what I was teaching and my confidence went back up again.

And it’s true of anything you’re trying to learn, including, of course, English.

So understand the fact that when you feel like you’re losing confidence when speaking English — it’s actually a positive thing. Because it means you’re progressing through the Dunning-Kruger curve, and your confidence will start to go back up.

If need some help improving in English faster, I can help.

The best place to start would be the free training I created. You’ll learn the 5 key changes my best clients make to improve their English as higher-level English learners.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: English confidence
May 20, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

― Frank Herbert, Dune

The best English in the world means nothing if fear stops you from using it.

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” — maybe, maybe not. I’ll leave that for the philosophers to decide. But what I do know is that a good idea left unsaid because you’re too afraid to make a sound (i.e. to speak up in your next meeting) helps nobody. Least of all you.

The topic of fear comes up a lot in member coaching calls.

Recently, one of my EES members asked, “How can I stop feeling afraid before I have an English meeting?”.

Here’s an extract:

Dr Julian Northbrook