Filed Under: Teaching English
July 20, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

This is a great question and somewhat of a contentious issue. I was a guest speaker in a discussion on Clubhouse last week and among other things, the topic of language educational policy came up.

This is what someone asked:

“My teachers didn’t prepare me for English in the real world — why doesn’t the way English is taught in school change?”

But what they never realise is…. it may only be you who wants it to change.

Now, I’m no expert in Educational Policy the world over.

But before I started down my current research path (chunking – have a look at this Quora post), before I was super interested in language-teaching policy. I even wrote my Masters dissertation on it (got a distinction — just saying).

What you’ve got to understand is this:

  1. Students have their own agenda (for some it’s getting through the boring English class as easily as possible… for others, it’s to actually get good at English).
  2. Teachers have their own agenda (often to do their job as hassle-free as possible; they’re overworked, undertrained and just want to be done and go home before they collapse from exhaustion… this isn’t always the case, but in my experience of Japan it often is).
  3. Governments have their own agenda (in many countries, like Japan, it’s simply not in the government’s best interest to turn everyone into intelligent, critically thinking fluent English speakers. Only a small percentage of people like that are required, and the rest are better off — in their eyes — funnelled into lower-tier factory work and the like).

So you see, all people involved have a different agenda.

I’m oversimplifying this.

But you’d be silly not to recognise that.

Of course, it’s the same in the private English teaching industry, too — in my posts here I’ve talked about my friend who got shouted at by his boss because his lessons were too good; the boss wanted him to slow down so they could get more money from the students for extra classes. This isn’t always the case. But it often is.

And yes:

I also have my own agenda in my business.

Two, actually.

First, and on a higher “mission” level I want to change the way people think about English education for the better and be recognised for that (otherwise I’d never write an email like this — instead, I’d feed you more of the same ‘just listen to these CDs and you’ll be fluent without trying’ bullshit or pointless conversation lessons).

Second, I’m in this to make a profit (of course I am — with three members of full-time staff, two part-time, and an additional full-time salary that I won’t get into now… doing this shit ain’t cheap yo).

Luckily for you, I choose to do this in a way that, while harder work for me, gets you results.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

P.S. I help high-level non-native English speakers use English better at work and in day to day life. If that’s you, you might like to sign up for the free daily email tips I send.

Filed Under: Teaching English
September 9, 2020 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

One of my clients asked how she can make her English classes more relevant to students.

She’s a school teacher in Hong Kong, as like many schools in Asia she has to use official textbooks… which are not always great.

Well, there are a couple of simple things you can do.

Here’s a video that discusses them in detail:

You see, it’s all about making things easy to visualise.

When students can imagine themselves in a context, it all becomes relevant and they can see themselves doing it — which in turn, raises motivation and makes the English they’re learning easier to remember.

But to this well, you have to describe a situation that’s actually going to be relevant to them and be of interest.

Make sense?


If you want my help being more inspiring to your students while making more money and teaching with less stress and less hassle, you might be interested in the Extraordinary English Teachers Project.

Julian Northbrook

May 6, 2020 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Can a non-native be a successful English teacher?

This is a question which came up in a recent MEFA Group coaching Call.

The short answer is, of course.

But we can think of this from two perspectives:

  1. One of marketing (will schools or students want to pay money for a non-native teacher)
  2. One of education (am I unable to teach well because English isn’t my first language).

Let’s talk about these in detail, based on the research of Peter Medgyes:

So basically, neither is better than the other: they’re just different.

Native speakers have a native level of intuition that non-native teachers might not have unless they’ve worked to develop it, but on the other hand, non-natives have a much level of empathy for their students.

Form a marketing perspective, there are plenty of students who prefer non-native speakers.

But the important point is, don’t try to compete with your weaknesses — instead, flip it over and work on your strengths instead. Or, to put it another way, you’re not a native speaker; so don’t try to be.

Now, of course, this doesn’t mean you can get away with not improving your English: not only is this essential, but you’ll be more inspiring to your students if you can demonstrate you’re learning together with them.

If you need my help with that, consider taking the MEFA course.

Or, if you want my help being more inspiring to your students while making more money and teaching with less stress and less hassle, you might be interested in the Extraordinary English Teachers Project.

That’s it for today.

Julian Northbrook