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Julian Northbrook

What My Research Tells You About English Learning Materials

There’s this idea…

A silly one, really, when you think about it, but a pervasive one all the same.

“I learned English at school, so all I’ve got to do now is practise.”

And in a way this makes sense.

You are correct in thinking that after learning—putting the stuff in your head—you’ve got to make it run on autopilot (make it a habit) by actually doing it.

But where you’re wrong…

… in thinking that you learned English.

Newsflash — you almost definitely didn’t learn English at school.

Instead, you learned something that vaguely approximated it, in an odd sort of way, but was actually something quite, quite different. In one of my own research projects I found that Japanese secondary school English textbooks were so different from real English that they were basically teaching a new language using English words and grammar. The language — dialogues, phrases, expressions… the whole lot — were practically useless in the real world.

But wait! There’s more!

When, in another study, I measured secondary school students fluency on the textbook language…

… I found they were highly fluent in it.

Too bad it wasn’t language they could use in the real world.

The materials you use Matter. They are, after all, the samples of English you fill your head with. Build a house with poor materials, and you get a shitty house. Build your English with poor learning materials, and you get shitty English.


P.S. The lessons I make in Extraordinary English Speakers are based on my own research.

The published articles I linked above, and a whole series of projects that are due to be published soon. Years of testing and design have gone into the way we write and create lessons… all so you can speak amazing English with less stress, less hassle and fewer headaches.

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