August 27, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Yes, it is possible to improve your English fluency without learning grammar.

In fact, there are circumstances (though there are exceptions to this) where it’s actually quite advisable not to learn grammar.

And this is because English learners tend to focus too much on grammar. You tend to have this over-reliance on grammar rules. Teachers in your school probably taught you English like how you should solve mathematical equations. And if you get the answer wrong, you’re immediately screwed and your grades are going to tank. But this is an absolutely horrible way to teach (and learn) English.

The reality is, native English speakers don’t even speak the way students were taught in school. Instead, we native English speakers store large blocks of English which we call “chunks” in our long-term memory (I talk more about “chunks” in this video). Then, when it’s time to use these blocks of English, we just pull them out of memory and use them.

Now, of course, this isn’t to say that grammar rules aren’t completely useless. They’re not. You just need the proper time and place to learn and study them. But that’s when you’re already fluent in English, and you need to just polish it up a bit more by learning about grammar and whatnot.

So, again, yes, it is possible to improve your English without grammar. And instead of overthinking grammar, what you should do instead is to change the way you learn.  Find out better ways to approach learning English. In fact, you can start learning more about the best methods to learn English with the free one-hour training that I created. You’ll learn the 5 key changes that my best clients made to get fluent in English… which I know will help you too.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

August 26, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

A lot of people make the huge mistake of thinking that conversation apps will magically make them fluent in English.

But that’s not normally true at all.

See, relying on conversation apps ALONE is probably not enough to make you fluent in English.

And it’s the same with just relying on conversations with your teacher or with somebody on italki. And the reason why you won’t get automatically fluent by using apps or speaking with your English teacher/peer is that you’re in a comfortable setting. You feel relaxed when you’re talking to them. And that comfortable setting gives you a false sense of just how good your English is, when in reality… it’s probably not as good as you think it is.

Instead, what you need to do is start with the hardest things, the difficult conversations. Because if you find yourself in high-pressure situations, everything else becomes easier.

Let’s take this analogy for example:

I used to run marathons. I had years of practice with running. I trained in the nice, flat, paved streets of Tokyo. It was so beautiful and everything was easy! I didn’t have to stumble and fall while training, so that was great. But then I ran a marathon for the first time in West Cork, Ireland.. and it was an absolute shit show. I ran through hills, mountains, flooded sections everywhere, and it was even raining! It was absolutely horrible. But after all of those, did I perform well? Hell no. However, when I trained in that environment (no matter how absolutely horrific it was) every other marathon I ran was easy in comparison. And that was because I already got through the worst one.

And the same can be said with learning English. You’ve got to go through difficult, high-pressure situations so everything else becomes easy. But apart from going through hard situations in English, you’ve also got to find the balance between focus intensive learning and using English in relaxed settings.

In fact, you can learn more about this approach (or what I call the Two Track Method) and other useful ways to learn English efficiently. You can start with the free one-hour training I created, which will tell you more about learning English the best way.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: English fluency
August 16, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Interesting question.

Yes, getting drunk can increase your English fluency… but only within reason. Because once you reach a tipping point (i.e., if you drink too much), you’ll just rapidly descend into a mumbling mess. You’re just not going to make any sense in English or even in your native tongue for that matter.

Now, the reason having a drink helps with your English fluency is the same reason why having a drink helps with social anxiety. See, alcohol switches off a part of your brain that stands in the way of your self-sabotage. Alcohol helps block that part of your brain that makes you think stuff like, “I’m not good enough!” or “I better shut up, they’re going to think I’m stupid!”

Alcohol, in a way, is kind of like an anaesthetic. It suppresses that part of your brain that overthinks, so you’ll naturally feel more confident to just go for it. You give far less of a shit about your mistakes. You get to focus on the DOING of the process rather than the self-destructive analysis and what people might think of you.

So, yes. Essentially, in terms of fluency (and if you want to look at it on a table for scale)… getting drunk does reduce your cognitive load. (Cognitive load is what we call the multiple things happening in your head, you can learn more about this in my coaching classes).

Once you remove self-destructive thoughts in your brain, you’re going to find yourself caring less about your English. Then it will no longer hamper your English fluency.

But if you want to sound like a native English speaker (even when you’re sober), you can start with the free guide I made here.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

August 10, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Learning more vocabulary doesn’t necessarily make you fluent in English.

In fact, memorising more words in an attempt to be better at English is actually a big mistake that a lot of people make.

And the problem actually isn’t that you don’t have enough vocabulary… it’s that you’ve got no idea how to combine these words into native-like units of English to use in conversations.

So that’s the main thing you should focus on if you want to be fluent in English (here’s a free guide I created that shows you how to do this).

This said, however, that doesn’t mean knowing more is bad. Learning more vocabulary is always going to be better than knowing less vocabulary. Kind of like money: if you have a lot, it’s always going to be a good thing. But if you think that money can make you happy… obviously it won’t. But it’s still nice to have it. Same with vocabulary. You won’t be able to be fluent in English automatically if you know a lot of words… but it’s good to know more vocabulary all the same.

So, yes, learning more vocabulary is a good thing.

But again, don’t make learning vocabulary your ONLY primary focus. It does depend on each and every person to a certain extent but in my experience, most people don’t actually need more vocabulary… they need better chunking skills.

Here’s a free guide I wrote that shows you how to do this.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: English fluency
August 6, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

A lot of people have this preconceived notion that fluency is a single thing – either you have it or you don’t.

But that’s not actually true.

And, you know, when you say fluency (the technical, scientific sense of the word), what you actually mean to say is ‘proficiency’ instead.

See, fluency (spoken fluency) has 5 elements.

These are:

  1. Encoding (how you learned those chunks and store them in long-term memory).
  2. Organisation (how well you organise that information into networks of English in your brain).
  3. Motor skills (the physical aspect of fluency).
  4. Activation (how awake your English is).
  5. Cognitive load (everything else that’s happening in your brain, i.e., if you’re nervous, this will reduce your English ability).

So, if you want to speak English fluently, you’ll need all five of these elements to work nicely together.

I can help with this if you like, and a good place to start is with the free guide I created that shows you how to be fluent in English.

Dr Julian Northbrook

July 26, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Let me answer this by asking a similar question: how many pieces of spaghetti do you need to make a meal?

Obviously, there’s no answer to this.

Arguably just two pieces don’t make a full meal… but it all depends on how hungry I am. There’s no clear point where we can say “not a meal”, “now is a meal”.

Fluency in English doesn’t necessarily depend on the number of words you have memorised.

It just doesn’t work that way.

I remember this quasi-experiment I watched on Japanese TV many years ago. They sent reporters out on the street to talk to Japanese and American people. They asked the Japanese people “Can you speak English?” they would say no. When they asked the Americans (despite having had no Japanese education whatsoever) they’d reply with simple Japanese words like “konnichiwa” or “kimono”. If the only thing you need to do in Japan is to get some sushi, knowing the word “sushi” allows for a fairly fluent conversation.

But, say, you’re a sales rep for an international company. You’re going to need more vocabulary than simple words because your job depends on how you use specific words in your daily conversations.

The point is, how much you need will always depend on you and your life. The words you need to know to depend on your specific needs.

If you want to learn more about my approach to improving your English (without having to worry about pointless questions like this one) go here and sign up for the free daily English email tips I write.

Dr Julian Northbrook