Filed Under:
August 22, 2023 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Fixing Mistakes
June 9, 2023 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Here’s a random Airline fact for you:

The number of plane crashes are constantly going down. Compare 41 crashes in 1972 with just 3 in 2015. Bearing in mind that around 100,000 flights go out every day now (far more than 46 years ago). That’s a tiny number.

Why are they going down?

Because every accident is closely studied, learned from and trained for.

The industry learns from its mistakes.


Pilots don’t just train for these “mistakes” once and then never go back to them.

They train, re-train, then train again.

The parallels to speaking English should be obvious. Making mistakes is an essential part of the process, and if you’re holding back because you’re too afraid of looking stupid… you need to fix that.

But you do also need to actively learn from the mistakes you make (otherwise you’ll keep making them, and you risk creating habits that are difficult – though not impossible – to change later).

There are several exercises you can use to do this.

My favourite is something called “Retrodictive Learning”, and I teach it in detail in week 6 of MEFA.

If you’re interested in joining the course, the first step is to get on my Daily Email list and study the free Rocket Launch Method training.

Here’s the link:


Have a great day!


June 8, 2023 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Do you struggle with English grammar while speaking? This beginner’s guide will help you improve your spoken English skills with ease.

  1. Understand Your Challenges:
    Improving grammar in spoken English starts by understanding your specific difficulties and reasons behind them (and they’re not normally what you think).
  2. Focus on Spoken English:
    To speak fluently, shift your attention from written grammar to spoken English. Native speakers use natural language chunks instead of rigid rules.
  3. Embrace Authentic Speech Patterns:
    Native speakers often use phrases that may seem grammatically incorrect but sound natural. Learn these patterns to enhance your fluency, and stop worrying about what is technically “correct” or not and focus on what people say.
  4. Change Your Learning Approach:
    Studying grammar rules is honestly, mostly counter-productive except in special situations (like when you already speak perfect English. Embrace a method that emphasizes practical application and learning using methods that work.
  5. Seek Expert Guidance:
    The fastest way to improve at anything is to work with someone who knows exactly how to help you. The place to start is Rocket Launch Method, which will teach you the five key changes you need to understand to improve quickly and easily.

Just go to:


To get started.

You’ll also get free daily email tips to help you even more.

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: English tests
October 15, 2022 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

By now you know how much I hate the English testing industry — IELTS, TOEIC and all the rest of them.

They’re largely bullshit and a waste of time unless you need the piece of paper.

But there is one test you should pay attention to.

I call it the “So what?” test.

It’s very, very easy and you can–and totally should–administer this test yourself, at any time. Every time you say or write something, simply ask yourself: “So what?”. If you can’t answer that question easily, you’ve failed the test.

Here’s a great example.

I got this “feedback” comment from someone angrily unsubscribing from my daily emails:

“you failed to respond to my sincere comments only had your auto-reply answer”

And no, I didn’t reply to his email (one that I got just two days before the negative feedback) because it was a big fat pile of “so what?”.

(Not sure what the “auto-reply” answer is supposed to mean, since I don’t have one…

Here it was in its complete pointless glory:

Hi Julian,

Am interested to see what you’ve written.

I’m a yank in Japan since the 1970’s, taught in-flight service English

for Japan Airlines to hundreds of CA’s – Cabin Attendants, a highly stressful gig 🙂 also taught at Gov’t offices, a few Pharmas and to top brass execs.

As a social worker in SE Asia Cambodia Vietnam Laos Thailand I taught

English and basic Japanese to anyone who was interested and had a great time.

Across Asia salaries for ESL teachers are approx USD $1,500 – $3,500 per month or occasionally higher if one can land a job at a Univ or as a corporate instructor.

more later

Now, while they may have been “sincere” comments they’re still totally meaningless and have no point or relevance to me or to the email he replied.

Why are you telling me any of this, exactly?

First of all, this was in reply to an email about practising English more effectively — but the guy is American, and just happened to do a bit of English teaching. That’s it.

Why should I care that he taught cabin attendants?

Or what salaries for ESL teachers are in Asia?

I mean, I already know all this because I lived there for half my life in Japan, but still, the information was neither requested nor relevant to, well, anything at all.

Why would I want to hear more?

I didn’t care about any of the information in the first place!

So no, I didn’t reply.

Because what exactly am I supposed to say in response?

“Wow! That’s so cool!”

Any response could only ever be something empty and insincere because I neither care about anything said nor understand why it’s being said. As far as replies go, my mind is totally blank.

All this raises an important point:

When you’re speaking English, it’s less about making mistakes, your accent or anything like that… and more about are you saying something interesting and relevant to the conversation.

Because it doesn’t matter how perfect your English is.

If you fail the “so what?” test, you fail.

Luckily for you, there’s an approach we can take to improving English that builds right into your everyday life and ensures your head is also full of the information, knowledge and interesting things to talk about that you need.

And that’s the approach I teach.

To get started with my English improvement methods, sign up for the free training here:

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Learning English
April 27, 2022 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

First off, a quick heads up:

MEFA enrolment will open again tomorrow.


That’s not what I want to talk about today.

One of the big questions I get a lot is:

Why is it better to limit your study time to a short, focused block of time rather than studying, say, five or six hours a day?

There are a couple of reasons.

But the main one is that it’s simply not productive. See, there’s this thing called “Parkinson’s Law” which states that work always expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. So if you give yourself five hours, that’s how long it will take. If you give yourself one hour, you’ll still get it done in the same time, and probably at a higher level since you won’t be procrastinating and faffing around.

A good example of this is a friend of mine here in Dublin who is learning English at one of the ESL schools here. She needs to go every day to maintain her visa, so that’s fine. But the reality is she spends five hours a day there and does basically… nothing. Now, in this case, it’s also because the methods used are simply crap. But it’s also because a very large percentage of the time is spent actually spent just filling time for no real reason.

We both agree that she’d be better off skipping school and doing a focused hour of self-study every day, then using the rest of the time to actually do shit in life.

That’s not an option for her because again, visa.

But you get the point.

Another reason is that for most people, trying to do several hours a day simply isn’t sustainable.

Life gets busy.

And what always happens is you do it for two or three days, then end up busy and tired and skip a day.

Then because you’ve skipped one day, you skip the next.

Before you know it?

You’re just doing your study time one day a week, and that’s basically useless.


You get the idea.

Less is more, as they say, when it comes to English study time.

Now, if you don’t know what to do in your study time or how to structure your routine (because it’s not quite as simple as just “do one hour of study a day” – there’s much more to it) joining the next MEFA group will probably be a good idea.

Again, I’ll open enrolment again tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read my book Master English FAST, that’ll get you started right away:

Dr Julian Northbrook

P.S. Yes, I know these “daily” emails are pretty irregular at the moment.

This won’t be a permanent thing.

I’ll be going back to daily emails, just, yanno, right now I have other priorities.

March 8, 2022 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

So here I am, feeling, yanno, a bit guilty.

I’ve been busy the last week and didn’t get around to writing an email every day (I know, excuses, excuses).

Then yesterday (Monday) I was honestly tired as hell. So I decided I needed a rest day. I got EES member lessons out, did the day’s MEFA feedback… and that was it.

Spent the rest of the day cleaning the apartment, reading and doing a supermarket run.

Then what happens?

That’s right.

I get an email with a subject line that left me OUTRAGED, that’s what.

It said:

“No, Jules – you don’t rule today!”

How dare you!?!

I’m already feeling guilty.

No need to have a go at me and rub salt into the words!




Triggered, as the cool kids would say.

Now, the email was from my friend Vicki LaBouch and I’m being tongue in cheek here. I’m not the kind of sensitive snowflake who’d be bothered by that… and anyway, it obviously wasn’t directed at me personally even if it did seem to call me out by name just as I’d spent a day sitting around not doing much.

I’m copying the email in its entirety (with permission), so have a read:

Hi Julian

When lockdown hit and I couldn’t use the local gym, Kev very kindly built me a gym in the back garden.

Well, it’s not just a gym. It’s part gym – part office. We call it The Gyoffice.

It’s great – it is fully equipped with weights, mats and my lovely Peleton bike.

I bloody love the Peleton!

If you haven’t seen a Peleton before, it’s a stationary bike with a screen attached in front of you on which you can stream online fitness classes.

In addition to seeing your instructor and your stats for the ride, there’s also a Leaderboard on the screen, where you can see how you’re doing compared to other people who’ve taken the same class in the past. There’s also another tab that shows people who are “Here Now” – all the people around the world who are tuned into the same class as you at the same time.

On low energy days, one of the best ways I find to get me going is to toggle to the “Here Now” display, and watch my performance compared to other people.

Now, I know they say it’s bad to compare yourself to others, and most of the time I agree with that, but there’s something about the leader board that can bring out the beast in me (that wasn’t a typo!).

It’s interesting to note how my competitive spirit changes depending on who I’m competing with.

If the only other people on the ride at the same time are like, say, “StuProCyclist Male (20’s) Brisbane” then I get a little defeated from the outset when they stomp ahead at double my 5 minute output in their first 5 seconds, I’ll just do my own thing and enjoy the ride.

And if I’ve only got “MurielCrochets (70’s) Kent” as opposition, then I’m not likely to push myself particularly hard – in fact I’m more likely to dial it back a bit so she doesn’t feel left behind!

But this morning I had JulesRules (40’s) Epsom on the same ride as me and we set off at virtually the same time. I eyed her output with interest to see if she pulled ahead dramatically or lagged behind from the start, but we seemed pretty much level pegging.

Then she started pulling ahead…

Oh, no you don’t JulesRules!

I cranked the resistance on my bike up and pedalled faster, taking the lead. I was 2 points ahead, then 3, then I ran out of oxygen and had to slow down.

Sweat was pouring off me 15 minutes into the 30 minute ride and I was gasping hard. We were neck and neck. I needed to get ahead so I dug in deeper – more  resistance, faster pace…

She was right on my heels all the time, sometimes ahead…

Of course, she may not have been looking at the leaderboard at all – you don’t have to put it on, but in my head she was doing the same as me – pushing hard – sweating buckets – glancing up to see how she was fairing against VickitheViking (50’s) Dorset…

I’m not proud of myself for this bit, but I was kind of naughty at the end of the ride. In the final minute, they take you on a cooldown where you lower the resistance and get your breath back before stretches.

This was not happening today – I dug in hard right till the final second and ended up 4 points ahead of her. She’d have been able to tell I was screwing with the results in the cooldown, but I didn’t care. My name had to go above hers and that was that.

“You don’t Rule today, Jules forties from Epsom!” I screamed at the screen, beetroot faced, raising my sweaty hands in victory, “Eat my yoga pants!”

So, the moral of today’s tale is to notice the comparisons you make, and see how it affects you. The right kind of comparisons are the ones that bring out the best in you. If you’re always comparing yourself to people who seem miles ahead, then you’ll get discouraged easily. If you have healthy competition against people who are at a similar level to you, it can be really motivational and feel like fun.

Of course the best person to compare yourself with is the you from yesterday, and make small advances every day. You should see me celebrate when I beat a personal best! (I cheat the cooldown when I’m close to that, too. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t do the same…)


Vicki x

P.S. If you’d like to apply to work with me in one-to-one coaching, then please apply through the form here

P.P.S. If you know anyone else who might appreciate these emails, point them to my home page to sign up here

Links and shit intact because Vicki’s stuff is great, and you couldn’t do better than have a look.

In fact, Extraordinary English Speakers members will find an interview with Vicky (A Phoenix From The Ashes: Overcoming Your Mental Barriers With Vicki La Bouchardiere) that I recommend you check out …. if you’re a member, anyway.

It’s on the site and in the app.

But the point is, it’s easy to see something and get, well, a bit pissed off (even if I was joking by saying I was outraged).

Especially when it seems to match something that’s going on in your head at the time.

Like when you make a mistake with your English and someone says something.

Or when you’re tired and explaining something just doesn’t come out clearly. And a co-worker comments on people in the office creating extra work.

But I can tell you this from long experience:

While there will be the occasional asshole, nine times out of ten that comment that upset you wasn’t directed at you or even anything to do with you. It was about something else entirely, and the person who said it wasn’t aware of your mistake, your not explaining something well or even that you were feeling sensitive about it.

And even when it WAS directed at you, it STILL wasn’t anything to do with you. No. It was still to do with them and what’s going on in your head.

It’s important to understand this.

Otherwise, you end up stuck in a spiral of doubt, avoiding speaking up in meetings or doing anything at all with your English.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re fucking up regularly and causing people hassle because of your English, it is your responsibility to improve it. But as long as you are working to improve, and getting better (even a little at a time) then you’re doing your duty.

And you don’t need to get a shit what people think.

Just keep working, a little bit at a time, consistently, day to day.

Then you’re fine.

Now, if you need some help getting that done there are still 6 places left in the next MEFA group (starting April 4th, and although I haven’t decided when the next group will be it probably won’t be until July so this could be your last chance for a while).

The place to go is here:

Dr Julian Northbrook