With Julian You May Reach Fluency in English Faster and Sound More Natural

rita-morais-108397 Gordon Ramsey, Gary Vaynerchuk and Julian Northbrook play in the same league. They are passionate about their work and could be blunt like hell in their opinions.

Engage in coaching they are not interested in mediocre results. Therefore, they put the “overachiever’s hat” on their learner’s head.

No pain, no gain, is their motto.

Julian went even further calling his students Extraordinary English Speakers. 

People differ so do their learning styles. Some may find the hardcore coaching style more effective than the others. Scientific research confirms that a bit of cortisol (stress hormone) stimulates the brain to more efficient work. Learners, who take on chest formative feedback and reflect on their work, have greater chances to progress faster and achieve better results.

If you like a bit of flavour in your learning and desperately want to improve your conversational English find Julian Northbrook’s Language School. He is the most controversial personality in online teaching I’ve met. His pungent commentary makes him more enemies than friends, but it conveys a clear and coherent message that could be summarised in these words:

If you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. However, if you don’t want something, even the best of strategies won’t serve you. ( B. Hardy)

But who is Julian and what he’s doing?

Meeting Julian

I came across Julian while looking for online English courses in 2013. At that time, he taught English in a Japanese school. I subscribed to his newsletter where he shared the story of his struggle with learning Japanese.

The story resonated with me so much that I wanted to know how he solved his problem.

Like Julian, I was a foreigner who experienced inconveniences and humiliation of living in a foreign country without knowing the local language. I mean, not knowing well enough to live a satisfactory life. Julian mentioned a podcast JapanesePod101 that boosted his fluency. It led me to EnglishClass101.com, provided by the same language school. This course re-shaped my learning English and I was grateful for the recommendation.

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily. (Zig Ziglar)

I kept reading Julian’s newsletters loaded with motivational stories that encouraged me to start every day with new learning enthusiasm.


Simple Solutions Are the Best

In one of his newsletters, Julian asked the subscribers to do an experiment. It consisted of taking a dictation of a short story he read and leaving a comment on this experience. I dictated and learned an important lesson out of this exercise.

To become an intentional learner, we need to:

  • Challenge ourselves
  • Spot our mistakes and weak points
  • Correct the mistakes and work on weaknesses.

Basic solutions are often better than sophisticated methods.

During dictation I realised how poor my listening skill was, not mentioning spelling. But  I understood what tool could fix these problems. Dictation was the best way to kill two birds with one stone.

Another area for improvement was my speaking. In Julian’s YouTube video about shadowing, I found invaluable tips how to speed up speaking and improve pronunciation. I began to put into practice what I had learned from Julian whilst listening to recordings by EnglishClass.com.

Learning Language Through Immersion in Culture

A few months later, I discovered Julian’s British Stories, a series designed for English learners taking them in the world of the native users of the language.

 What attracted me to British Stories was the flavour of the real Britain. A bit nostalgic Britain, and the Britain from the sticks. I understood that the lack of knowledge about culture caused my confusion in using English in real situations. British Stories gave me the taste of British culture and made me feel homely in the UK. It was an eye-opening experience.

Full immersion in the language is only possible through culture. People overly attached to their home customs and beliefs often have difficulty to assimilate foreign languages.

Looking at everyday life from the perspective of the native speakers helps to build a real connection with them.

 In his book “Master English Fast”  Julian explains in detail how knowing culture affects learning a foreign language. He advises, Put on your culture glasses! 

Forget English Is Your Second Language

 Stephen Krashen, a linguist who searched the second language acquisition, found out that students learn faster when they are relaxed and learn best about things that interest them.

This certainly worked for me. When I joined Doing English Plus, an online community moderated by Julian, and got engaged in discussions with other learners, my learning gained the momentum. Talking about favourite subjects forced me to expand my active vocabulary and to learn how to argue my point.

At the beginning, I was ashamed of my mistakes. That’s why I drafted my longer posts in a notebook and posted them after self-correction. With the time, I got more confident and took more pleasure in using English. Connecting with other learners in the community and chatting on Skype was my reward for completing learning activities I scheduled for a day.

After months of a regular posting in English, I realised that I was translating less in head from my home language.

I started thinking in English.

That shifted my learning on a higher level. I got the confidence to express myself in a foreign language similar to that I’ve got in my home language. It felt great!


Natural Chunks of Language

Small talks are often a nightmare to foreigners. They require familiarity with common phrases and a high automatization of speaking. The Extraordinary English Speakers programme is addressed to the intermediate and advanced learners who use English at work, business and in everyday life. The course is designed to boost their confidence and fluency.

Julian’s Weekly Lessons are based on dialogues showing everyday situations at work and at home. The dialogues are loaded with high-frequency chunks of language used in the natural context and followed by a detailed explanation of their usage.

Shadowing dialogues stimulates a learners’ imagination and their emotions helping them to put themselves in the shoes of native language users. It’s an example of context-based learning, the most effective method of assimilating a foreign language. That’s why initiating small talks after shadowing becomes easier and smoother. Learners using high-frequency chunks of language react faster and sound more natural than well-read ones who try to impress the listener with sophisticated vocabulary and complex grammar constructions. It’s all good in academic works but leaves the impression of robotic-like communication in real life. Learners who use common phrases flavoured by colloquialisms sound much more natural and cool.


Most people who declare they want to master English would never accomplish their goal. They would give up their dream in the half-way finding excuses why it’s not worth to pursue it.

If you want lasting change, you’ve got to give up this idea of ‘trying something.’ You’ve got to decide you’re going to commit-to-mastery. (Tony Robbins)

Low aspirations bring mediocre results. That’s why it’s better to set ourselves a higher bar. Mastering a skill would take time and effort but it’s worth pain and sweat. Master English Fast. An Uncommon Guide to Speaking Extraordinary English by Julian Northbrook explains the most effective way of learning English and any foreign language.












To Be or Not to Be Like Jane Austen? Lessons for To-Be-Writers



Should we or should we not follow Jane Austen’s steps?

Jane Austen, (1775 -1817), was born and died in Hampshire, a county in Southern England. This year falls the 200th anniversary of her death.

The enthusiasts of her writing have been celebrating Austen’s year, organising cultural events in places where she lived. In the mid-September, I went to see a house where she lived in Southampton.


Jane Austen’s House in Southampton, phot. G.Wilk


It’s a charming Tudor-style building, converted into a pub. Austen’s brothers rented it for their mother and two unmarried sisters after their father’s death. The ladies lived here between 1807-1809, before they moved to Chawton, to a house offered them by Edward Austen, Jane’s older brother.



Phot. G. Wilk




A few months before leaving Southampton, Jane Austen contacted a publisher in London to remind about her novel “Northanger Abbey” sent to him in 1803. Crosby & Co answered that the novel wouldn’t be published, and he offered to sell it back to the author for £10. Jane didn’t have £10 pounds to buy the novel back.

Ironically, this year, the Bank of England issued new £10 notes with the effigy of Jane Austen.

What to-be-writers can learn from the icon of British female novelists who gained a posthumous fame but wasn’t recognised in her lifetime?



Phot. G.Wilk



What Can We Learn from Jane Austen?


#1 Find your voice and have the courage to be different

Jane Austen overgrew female writers of her time. She replaced naive sentimentality and Gothic decorum popular in her era with rational narrative deepened by psychological insights about characters. Austen created a new writing style called realism before Stendhal proclaimed it in 1837, A novel is a mirror carried along a high road.

Jane discovered that twenty years earlier. Her novels were mirrors walking through the English countryside, manor houses and humble cottages. They reflected real people, their everyday lives and values. Thank them Austen immortalised life in the Regency times.


#2  Create a mastermind group to support your work

Austen was the best friend to her sister and a great companion to her friends and family members. Widely known for her witty humour and a rare observation skill. As a young girl, she entertained her family with short stories that described events from her surroundings. Her friends and family discussed them widely sharing their opinions.

That early critique and feedback helped Jane to deepen characters and build vivid dialogues in her novels. She was aware of her audience and what entertained them the most. Austen built a group of her supporters among family members and honed her writing skills at home.


#3  Observe people’s behaviour

Austen flavoured the language of her characters with humour and irony that has never worn out. She pictured nuances in people’s behaviour unfolding their hidden intentions. She was a mistress of bitter realism.

Who doesn’t smirk today, reading:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice)

In certain circles, guys with dough are still wanted on the marriage market.

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” (Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey)

Many well-read people find pleasure in pinching less-read than themselves.

Of course, other readers may smirk (or not) for different reasons. But who would protest that Austen perfectly pinpointed human flaws with her sharp quill?


#4 Show universal values

Best Austen’s novels: “Sense and Sensibility”(1811), “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), “Mansfield Park”(1814), “Emma” (1815) have remained ‘evergreen’ and have been inspiring generations of their readers.

– Austen’s contemporary admired her for the ability to show real life as it was. The female readers from aristocracy praised her good taste and elegant style.

– After the Great War (1914 -1918), a reading Austen’s novels was prescribed to shell shock victims to heal their mental discomfort. It was said that the harmony of Austen’s novels would bring their shattered inner world back to order.

– During and after the Second World War (1939 -1945), Austen’s novels became attractive to cinematography. Vivid characters, well-plotted stories set in beautiful scenery inspired film directors. Some novels were filmed a few times. “Pride and Prejudice “ had 13 adaptations and was referred to in other productions like “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” For many women, Colin Firth became a personification of Mr Darcy.

– Nowadays, the enthusiasts of Austen’s writing can taste her world in a virtual roleplaying game “Ever, Jane”,  designed by Judy Tyrer. In this game, the players follow the 19th -century savoir-vivre, write old-style letters and learn how to earn the sympathy of other participants. Players, who joined that virtual world, create their characters and interact with others. One of the participants introduces herself: My name is Floppy McCanada, a Regency girl of the large oval face and low social standing. My aim? To find my way through the confusing customs and daily rituals of Jane Austen’s age without committing a major social transgression over tea.

Influencing the readers for centuries is a great accomplishment for a writer.

To-be-writers can learn from Jane Austen’s achievements, but also draw conclusions and learn from her struggles.

Further Lessons Learnt from Jane Austen

#5 Don’t give up 

In the19th, women had limited rights and were financially dependent on men. Writing was not suitable for ladies. Jane Austen couldn’t thrive as an author in her world unfriendly to female writers, but she didn’t give up.

Jane started writing when she was 12 years old. Her father early recognised her writing aptitude and found a publisher who bought Jane’s novel in 1803. Mr Austen died and his daughter’s novel was not published. A young writer couldn’t break through the publishing hurdle for years. In 1811, her brother stood up for her and used his influence to publish “Sense and Sensibility.” A welcoming reception encouraged Jane to show the world more of her works.

#6 Ship your best work

Austen nearly missed the opportunity to see “Pride and Prejudice’ published. She edited it for years.

The first version of “Pride and Prejudice” was written when Austen was 21 years old. During the next ten years, she edited it a few times and rewrote the whole novel after publishing “Sense and Sensibility.”  The final version appeared when Austen was 38 years old, showing mastery of style and writer’s maturity. “Pride and Prejudice” is regarded Austen’s best novel.

The linguists researching Jane Austen’s novels admitted that she was a talented writer and a skillful editor of her works. She didn’t let out mediocre works.


To-be- writers can learn a great deal from old Jane Austen. Her posthumous fame validates her accomplishments.

If you want to succeed as a writer, in the long run, find your own voice. Have the courage to question current trends and follow your writing instincts. Be aware of your audience, their likes and opinions. Their feedback may help you to deepen your insights. Hone your style and ship your best works. And never ever give up.




How One Online Course Raised My Enthusiasm For English And Pushed My Life On The New Track

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I like our “global village” where the access to information and services is at the click of a button.

In 1962, Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher, diagnosed the problems of the western world in these words: Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools and yesterday’s concepts.

He predicted that the world would enter an electronic age that would revolutionise every aspect of human life.

Hardly anyone believed him then. For us it’s reality.

Contemporary technology has caught up with McLuhan’s vision of the automatized world.

Having the right tools at hand, easy access to information and a wide range of materials, we can pursue our dearest dreams.

Doing today’s job with yesterday’s tools

 In my thirties, I moved to the UK, but for years I was struggling with mastering the language.

College courses for adults didn’t consider my learning difficulties (traits of dyslexia and short working memory), so I didn’t benefit from them a lot. The participants were a bunch of individuals, who differ so much that teaching a whole group was like training a horse, a mouse and a fish to climb a tree. We differed in aptitudes, attitude, needs and expectations. All of the learning was focused on preparing us to pass the exam. I didn’t enjoy the classes and felt that I was wasting my time.

Although I obtained a certificate that confirmed I reached a certain level of proficiency, I was disappointed. It just ticked a point on the list of my expectations. I dreamed about being fluent in English.

Time spent in college wasn’t a complete waste, though. I learnt from this experience that traditional schools won’t teach me fluency. I had to find an alternative way to reach it.


The age of Do It Yourself

The age of automation is going to be the age of Do It Yourself.
(Marshall McLuhan)

Nowadays, online learning is available for everyone who has an access to the internet. In this situation, home education is easier than ever.

My online education began in 2013. I joined English Clas101, provided by Innovative Language, an American language school based in Japan. They teach 36 different languages, using a variety of tools based on technology.

The English Class101 learning facilities included:

  • Recordings available for listening in four speeds
  • Recordings split into short chunks which are easier to repeat
  • A recording tool that allows comparing the learner’s pronunciation with the original
  • Flashcards containing the definition of the word, examples of its usage and a sample of its pronunciation
  • A PDF of all the lessons with an explanation of some grammar points and cultural insights
  • A tool for creating a customised bank of words
  • A reference dictionary.

The self-study part of the course appealed to me so much that I subscribed to the course for a year after two weeks of testing it for free. And I chose the Premium version with a personal tutor.

At the beginning, I communicated with my tutor via e-mail then the school introduced a messenger. I sent written and oral assignments once a week and had a detailed feedback within few days. I could ask anytime for the clarification if anything wasn’t clear. The explanations were prompt, diligent and delivered in the most polite manner.

The course set deadlines for assignments and expected that the students would fill weekly reports for the activities they completed. It encouraged accountability.

The structure helped me to establish a habit of learning and splitting huge tasks into small jobs.

The newly formed habit took over my daily life

Learning with English Class 101 became a part of my daily routine.

I listened to the lesson recordings commuting to work, cycling, hiking, ironing and doing other jobs. I shadowed the recordings until I could repeat phrases automatically.

I dictated each lesson, checked my spelling and understanding of the vocabulary.

I recorded short impromptu speeches and send them for review to a speech specialist.

Over weekends, I dedicated more time to writing and reading. I googled topics for assignments, took notes and made word banks.

Putting thoughts together into words in a foreign language was the most tedious part of my learning because I still translated in the memory from my home language. It really sucked.

With time writing became more attractive to me

I went an extra mile and was more creative when topics caught my attention.

Also, I enjoyed learning with my tutors, Peyton and Remi, who motivated me to greater efforts. It encouraged me to prolong the membership for another year.

In the second half of 2014, English Class 101 modified their offer and introduced term assessment works. They covered four areas of language learning: speaking, listening, reading and writing. The assessment criteria were based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Innovative Language has created an online school. They certified that I achieved a Level C1 in English (according to CEFR) and it felt empowering. I’ve learnt how to track my progress and made learning more meaningful.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. 
(Søren Kierkeraard) 

In hindsight, English Class 101 planted the idea of writing in English into my brain. The encouraging words sprinkled onto feedback on my works over these two years built up into courage to aim higher. A huge thank you to my tutors, who have always celebrated my progress.

Call to Action

Is there anything you wanted to learn but missed your time? Online education can help you to fill these gaps and pave a track to your new career. You can find a plethora of online courses and individual tutors who may customise their services to suit your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask. They will wait until they get new learners. And they want you to succeed because your success is their success.

And here's a keyboard, connected to the entire world. 
Here's a publishing platform you can use to interact with just about
anyone, just about anytime, for free... Do the work.
(Seth Godin)







You Can Learn a Foreign Language Even If Your Memory Is a Total Mess

In our contemporary world, many people face the demand of using at least one foreign language in everyday life.

It might be work that involves international contacts. It might be in education where significant research may have been published in another language. It might be in private life when we travel, buy items online, or look for entertainment. And in a world of a mass immigration, people speaking other languages might become our neighbours or life partners.

What percentage of the 7.5 billion of the world population could be in this situation? Half? Even if it’s a quarter, it’s still a legion of people. Embracing how to effectively learn a foreign language is a must for millions of people.

Institutional teaching doesn’t satisfy students

 Most learners leave classes unprepared to use the language they were taught in real situations. Online teachers partially fill this gap by offering more customised services. Still, there are thousands of people struggling to learn languages.

Many obstacles stand in the way of mastering a second language. They’re mostly a combination of personality traits, health issues, learning difficulties and personal life circumstances. When we don’t understand this, we got frustrated. Frustration causes self-doubt and weakens motivation. That pulls learners into the mud of self-pity “I have no talent for languages.” This silent despair threatened me before I identified my learning obstacles and worked out the way to overcome them.

People can successfully learn whatever they want when they understand themselves well and practice regularly.

Understanding your own “operating system” is crucial to your success.

Spend time in regular self-reflection.

Find supporters who can boost your efforts.

Find a mentor who can lead you through the hardest times and point out the right solution. Talk to him about what you’re learning so he can help you through your struggles and celebrate your victories.


“Clarity comes with action”

(Jeff Goins, “The Art of Work”)

To me, the first sign of clarity came four years ago, when my co-worker commented that I made mistakes like a dyslexic. I hadn’t thought about myself this way before.

Later, at home, I analysed my learning experiences and noticed that after Lyme disease, which I had thirteen years ago, my memory and concentration had drastically decreased. I was ashamed of this but hoped that my learning ability would be back to normal over time.

It wasn’t.

In the meantime, I moved abroad. The struggle with activities requiring multitasking dragged me down. I didn’t drive a car. I couldn’t master my second language no matter how hard I persevered.

My confidence plummeted.

When an online test confirmed that I had dyslexia traits, I felt the relief many other people feel when their problem has a name. Finally, I could tackle it properly.

First, I searched the topic in depth and found practical tips about which learning methods might suit my needs.

Second, I implemented changes into my daily routine.

In short, the change required that I break complex tasks into manageable jobs. Then repeat learned skills over and over until full automation.

Little by little, these changes began bringing the results I desired. My first breakthrough was getting my driving licence. I was lucky! Some convalescents of Lyme disease never sit behind a steering wheel again.

Then I learned to drive my mastery of English.


“If It Doesn’t Suck, It’s Not Worth Doing”

(Benjamin P. Hardy, an article on Medium)

When you measure my current level of English against academic ranks, you can see many gaps. I admit I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve learned to appreciate what I have achieved. Surprisingly, we can do lots of good things even though we haven’t mastered a skill yet. Inspiring others might be one of them.

This year, I passed an efficiency exam in English and completed the course work with the highest grade. It wasn’t rocket science. Still, it was a real challenge for someone with working memory that is lower than average.

The college I attended sent me to a specialist to confirm my dyslexia. The results showed I wasn’t. However, my working memory could process only three items of information at a time. The average score is four to seven.

Bloody inconvenient when it comes to carrying out multitasking operations. Don’t you agree that using a language is super-multitasking? You have to memorise hundreds of words, use them in the right form, collocations, and sequences. While speaking, you must control pronunciation, accent and intonation. While writing, you’re concerned with spelling, punctuation and grammar. On the top of that, you have to organise sentences into a logical text. Whew!

It took me ten years to find out the reason for my struggle with learning a second language. I feel fortunate the right people supported me through the hardest times. Now, I’m ready to help others who face the same challenge.


Call to action

Do you relate to the issues raised in this article?

Have you found it hard to learn a foreign language or a new skill? In next article, I’ll reveal more details about online learning.

In next article, I’ll reveal more details about online learning. You may consider subscribing to this blog if you don’t want to miss out on it.

Thank you for reading.