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:

https:// www.doingenglish.com/freetraining

To get started.

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

Dr Julian Northbrook

December 20, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Over the weekend The Girl and I mostly binge-watched Christmas films (hey, don’t judge — ’tis the season).

Last night we watched:

“Love Hard”

(This is not the kind of film you can “spoil” as, let’s face it, these films are all exactly the same and you already know what’s going to happen without watching it… but if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing stop reading now.)

A woman who consistently picks bad guys and has a whole string of disaster Tinder dates behind her meets the perfect guy (once again on Tinder). He has it all. The looks. The personality. She’s never met him in person, but their personalities match so well she decides to surprise him by flying across the US to surprise him for Christmas.

But it turns out she’s been catfished.

The guy’s personality and all that was real, but he used his good looking friend’s photos instead of his own.

So she ends up staying with a nerdy-looking guy who’s not her “type” at all.

Long story short, she then goes off trying to date the good looking friend from the photos instead… realises he has the personality of a chimp and that they have nothing in common, and eventually falls in love with the nerdy guy who catfished her but does have the personality that matches her own so well.

It’s a Christmas film.


But not a bad watch at all, in my opinion.

The point is, having the great looks is useless if you (1) don’t have the personality to back it up and (2) if you’re the wrong match for the other person anyway.

The second point is an email for another day, but regarding the first, it’s the same when speaking English. All the fluency and sophisticated words in the world won’t magically make you interesting in conversation if you’ve got nothing to talk about and are duller than a dustbin. Or if you’re trying to hide your personality and cover it up with something that’s not you. On the other hand, first impressions do count and unlike cheesy Christmas films if your speaking ability isn’t up to the job of communicating said personality and interesting stuff to talk about… they’ll probably go unnoticed.

That’s why speaking Extraordinary English is about more than simply learning words, rules or bits of English.

Develop your English alongside your personality.

Your knowledge.

Things to talk about.

Become an interesting person when you speak English.

Look at the process of improving as a larger whole, not a separate, isolated skill to work on (which in my opinion is one of the biggest failings of the way languages are typically taught and learned).

This, in a nutshell, is the approach I take when working with my boys and girls in MEFA (and of course, the Extraordinary English Speakers graduate programme).


This “larger whole” approach is known as “holistic learning”, and as well as everything we do in MEFA, when you enrol this month you’re also getting access to the recordings of a three-day event I did last year called “Kicking Ass in 2021” (it’s just as relevant in 2022) where, on day 2, I taught extensively on the topic of holistic learning and how to integrate your life and English learning.

The main course starts on January 3rd.

But you’ll get immediate access to KA2021 right after you enrol.

Go here:


Dr Julian Northbrook

September 20, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Using filler words (i.e., “umm”, “ahh”, “kinda”, or “really”) when you’re speaking English as a second language could mean a couple of things.

In one sense, you can think of these filler words as a processing lag where you’ve gone ahead and your brain’s trying to keep up with you. And in order to do that, your brain will buy you some time by using “umm”s and “ahh”s.

But in another sense, when you do this TOO often, it becomes a fixed habit in your speech.

And it can be quite frustrating when you say it, but there are two things you can do to stop using filler words. These are:

  1. Notice when you use filler words and… use them less.
  2. Slow down when speaking.

And the first one is quite contradictory to what I teach my coaching clients (i.e., focusing too much on what you’re saying). But if your goal is to lessen your use of “umm”s and “ahh”s in your English conversation, monitor when you use them, spot them, and break them. This way, you can consciously reduce using filler words.

In fact, this is what I did when I first started recording things. I listened to some of the recordings I did and heard myself say the word “kinda” a lot. Way too much that it was horrifying! I even have the same habit in Japanese where I use the word “nanka” in conversations too. But I became conscious of this habit and over time, I actively reduced how I use “kinda” whenever I speak. So don’t feel bad if you can’t immediately reduce your use of filler words. It is a slow process.

And the other thing you can do to stop using filler words is… slow down. You’ve really got to slow down so you can reduce the processing load in your brain. That way, you’ll be able to catch up to it and no longer feel the need to use filler words. Additionally, you have to know the subject of your conversation. Slowing down can buy you some time to think… but you need a base where you can pull up information for your conversation.

And again, do these two things and try not to overthink speaking in English. Be confident and just not give a shit about what people think.

But if you want to speak English like how native speakers do, you can download the free guide I created. You can go here if you’re interested.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

September 16, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

The honest answer is that you’re probably focused TOO much on grammar rules.

You’ve spent too much time studying it, so you’re overly reliant on it. And it’s not really your fault… especially if you learned English by focusing on grammar rules.

But speaking English is more than just knowing grammar rules. Most of us native English speakers don’t default to computing sentences. We don’t learn it by using individual words to sound natural. Instead, we store large blocks of language (or what I call “chunks”, which I talk more about in this video) in our long-term memory.

And if we feel the need to say something in English, we just pull out these chunks of words and naturally speak in wholes.

See, grammar rules don’t really explain how we native speakers sound so natural. Kind of like how we usually say the sentence “could you help me with this?” instead of “would you aid me on this task?” – both are equally grammatically correct, but the latter sounds very weird, while the former sounds natural.

See the difference?

So instead of focusing ONLY on grammar, use English as a system of high-frequency, highly natural chunks instead. And once you’re good at this, your fluency and naturalness in English will just follow along.

And to get you started with this, I put together a free guide on how you can speak like a native English speaker by doing proper “chunking”. Go here if you’re interested.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

Filed Under: Speaking English
September 15, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

The big problem here is simply that you’re too focused on words (and probably grammar) – but that’s NOT what you should be focused on for speaking.

Let me explain: what matters for speaking well is how you combine the words you’ve got into nativelike chunks of English.

And this is true of remembering words, too.

We used to think native speakers had grammar rules in their head, and that they combined these with words to make sentences… but this never made much sense. Speaking like this, we shouldn’t be able to speak fluently because the brain’s RAM (working memory) simply isn’t that good. Using grammar and words, we’d speak slowly and awkwardly (like most non-native speakers who have learned to speak in this way). Also, we shouldn’t sound natural simply because most “grammatical” English isn’t natural – “make a picture” is grammatical, and so is “let’s try it”. But both sound awkward (we say “take a picture” and “let’s give it a go”.

This is because native speakers speak in chunks.

So if you also want to sound fluent and natural? That’s how you need to speak, too.

Learning in this way will make it much, much easier to recall words in conversation because they’re better connected to the rest of your English in your mind.

When you try to learn English as individual words and ignore how they combine with other words, it’s like having a pile of lego blocks with no instructions for the thing you’re trying to make. All the lego blocks are there: but they’re just a random mess of bits.

The easiest way to do this is to learn in chunks right from the beginning.

And I have a free training here that will show you how to do that.


Dr. Julian Northbrook

September 14, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

I created the first video on YouTube about using Shadowing for English as far as I know, so I think I’m definitely the right person to answer this question 🙂

What I’ll write here is a greatly updated shadowing guide (taken from my free ‘Good Shadowing Guide’).

First, shadowing is great exercise. But the way most people use it is kinda wrong, and so they don’t get the results they expect.

Here’s how to make it work for you:

Step 1: Understand the 5 Elements of Fluency

Have a look at this diagram:

Shadowing is just one of the exercises my clients use to develop the 4th Element of Fluency: Motor Skills.

True fluency in English is a combination of 5 elements working together. First, you have to ‘encode’ the blocks of English you need in subconscious memory. Next, you organise these into topics in your mind. Your English has to be properly “activated” to prevent translating from your first language, as well as that slow feeling when you try to speak…

Motor Skill is the physical aspect of fluency — this is all about your mouth and face muscles moving correctly, with the right rhythm and quality. Again, shadowing is one of the important exercises we use to develop this part of speech.

Finally, fluent English also requires you to reduce “cognitive load”. This is a technical term, but it is similar to your computer’s RAM — if you have a lot of software programs open at once, your computer will run slowly and overheat. Speaking English is the same.

Step 2: Is Shadadowing the right exercise for you?

Shadowing is a powerful exercise … but only if used correctly.

Many people say to me:

“Julian, I’m doing Shadowing but I’m not getting fluent – why?”

The answer is always the same: they’re using it incorrectly. It’s like they’re trying to use a screwdriver to put in a nail… when what they should be using is a hammer.

What Shadowing Is:

Shadowing is used to develop physical fluency in English to sound smooth, fluent and easy to understand. But that’s all it’s useful for.

What shadowing is definitely not:

Shadowing is not a method, and it is not a “magic pill”.

Just doing shadowing will not make you master English. This is like taking painkillers for a headache when actually you have a brain tumour and need surgery (this happened to my friend). Different problem, different solution. If your problem is related to one of the other ‘Elements of Fluency’, you will need a different exercise to improve fastest.

Step 3: How to “Shadow”

Shadowing is fun and Rinse and Repeat easy to do. All you need are high-quality materials with a natural audio version (don’t use the audio from textbooks, as this isn’t natural English). My Extraordinary English Speakers use the ones I give them every week.

Once you have this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Study your materials. Aim to understand 100%.
  2. Listen very carefully to the way the speaker “chunks” his or her speech — listen to how the words are crushed together, the pauses, intonation, rhythm and the way the speaker speeds up and slows down.
  3.  With the script in front of you, listen to the audio. Simultaneously mimic the speaker. Again, pay special attention to the things mentioned above. Try to match your speech perfectly to the speaker.
  4. When you feel comfortable with the script, try shadowing using the audio alone. Don’t try to memorise the English — just focus on the rhythm, flow and ‘chunking’ of what the speaker is saying.
    Then it’s just a case of rinsing and Repeating.

There is no correct amount of time to do this. Just do it for a few minutes each day, spending as much (or as little) time on each of your materials as you need to feel comfortable with it.

But here are some additional tips to make it even more effective:

Step 4: Don’t say every word 3 — “Chunk” it

People who pronounce every individual word carefully are very difficult for native speakers to understand.


Because native speakers are not speaking or listening using individual words and grammar rules like you were taught in school.

How native speakers really speak

Native speakers store blocks of words called ‘chunks’ in long term memory. This allows us to speak fluently because we don’t have to ‘compute’ everything we say like a mathematician working on solving complex equations. This works two ways: we can only listen in a fluent, chunked way if YOU speak in a fluent chunked way.

This is why something like “make a picture” sounds awkward and unnatural (yes; it is grammatical) but “take a picture” sounds natural.

Practise “chunked” speech with shadowing

Pay close attention to chunking when shadowing. It will make you much easier to understand, and your friends will thank you for it.

Step 5: Understand that Native Speakers don’t speak ‘Fast’

Do you believe natives speak fast?

Well, It’s not true.

We don’t speak fast… or at least, not all (or most) of the time. But we do use the speed of our voice to add meaning to what we’re saying. When a speaker wants to convey how excited they are or make it dramatic, they will speed up. When they are emphasising a point or talking about something sad, they will slow down. They will use long pauses for effect.

Shadowing forces you to pay attention and copy this: which is one of the reasons I have my clients use the exercise regularly.

Chunks Sound Fast… but they aren’t

Remember: native speakers speak in chunks. When we say something like, “let”s give it a go” we naturally blend all the sounds together, and it is pronounced as a single unit. When we say, “let’s try to do it” (not a chunk), we don’t blend the sounds. This is a common feature of chunks — the more frequent they are, the stronger the blending. As I said before, you need to pay attention to this.

Step 6: If you’re finding 5 Shadowing hard…

Shadowing is an intensive exercise, and it should make you tired physically (your mouth and face muscles). It should also make you mentally tired.

But shadowing shouldn’t be difficult.

If you are finding it difficult, you probably need to do other exercises to develop the other 4 Elements of Fluency.

For example, if you haven’t done the “Chunk Encoding” part right (the 1st Element of Fluency), you will find it very difficult to keep up with the speaker, and will make mistakes and say things wrong.

This is the same in real conversation If you make mistakes or say unnatural things, you probably need to focus on encoding first. If you translate in your head in conversation or find your English feels slow and ‘asleep’, you need to work on activation. If you panic or are stressed when speaking, you need to work on reducing cognitive load. If your English gets confused and messy, it’s because it is not properly organised in your brain.

In a nutshell: you need to use the right exercises for your specific problems.

If you found this guide useful and want to go further

If you want to download and keep this guide, I created an illustrated pdf here (it’s free).

To go further into fluency, and how to improve as a high-intermediate learner I created this free training. It’ll teach you the key changes you need to make to the way you learn to see real improvement.

Hope this helps.

Julian Northbrook