Stop translating in your head and start thinking in English

If you are a foreign language learner, then you probably sometimes find yourself translating words and sentences from your native language to the language you’re studying or vice versa.  As a matter of fact, it’s a natural thing to do though you would be better off if you stopped doing it as it could add to your fluency.

I could give you some tips on how to get rid of this habit.

First of all, you should use a monolingual dictionary. That way, you won’t learn what a word or a phrase means in your native language but learn it in the language you’re studying and won’t be tempted to translate it.

Second, try to read a book without a dictionary. I know it might be hard at first, and you won’t be able to understand the text you’re reading as if it was written in your native tongue. This practice will add to your fluency even more and will help you speak in a foreign language without hesitation. It doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a film with or without subtitles in the language you’re studying. While you’re reading or watching, try to memorize phrases as they can be ready sentences you can use instead of making them from scratch.

Third, try to adopt a habit of thinking in English. For instance, while you’re doing something in the kitchen or sitting in a bus, you can try to make sentences in English. You can tell yourself: “I’ll cook some potatoes and set the table” or “after I finish this, I’ll call Maria to come over.” Then you can try to explain situations that happened during the day or retell entire day in English in your head. Start from the beginning: “I woke up early today and I didn’t have time to have breakfast at home because I had to hurry in order not to be late for the meeting”, etc… You can do the same with the previous day and try to “think in English” about your future expectations. That’s how you’ll train your mind to get used to English phrases and begin using them more easily. I assure you that your translating habit will eventually disappear.

Finally, you can prepare yourself for future conversations by creating sentences in your head and memorizing them. Think about useful sentences you could use, such as: “Hey, what’s up? How you’ve been doing? Have you done your homework? I’m fine, thanks.” You can use these sentences automatically and naturally in your speech.

Adopting just one of these four habits will definitely shorten the time you need to process the information in your head and help you express yourself faster and more naturally.

One thought on “Stop translating in your head and start thinking in English

  1. As usual, you are spot on regarding translating into L1 . I also strongly encourage my students to adopt this method. I’ve found that by starting with something not so daunting, like listening to a song on YouTube without translation helps the student feel less inclined to translate, and is a fun activity at the same time. Well said Antri. !

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