Stop Translating in Your Head

Often our ESL students at Hancock International College will read a question, translate it, answer the question in their native language, and then translate their answer. This takes time. Too much time. But can you really stop translating? As someone who struggled to learn another language I can tell you it is possible. After years of studying I eventually got to the point that I dreamed in Spanish, and often would even think of a Spanish word before an English word when I was taking notes for my other classes like history. gives some advice on how to stop translating in your head, “The first method you could try is image association. In the beginning of your language learning experience, you’ll probably find that you tend to associate new foreign words with the equivalent in your native tongue. Instead of allowing yourself to do that, try associating a word with a clear image or feeling instead. This technique has been proven to work better than simple translations.”

Furthermore, they suggest sticking “sticky notes on everything around you! Okay…maybe not everything per se. Just plant a sticky note on objects you want to learn the foreign name of. […] You can take it even further after you’re confident with basic nouns and start adding things like adjectives, qualifiers, prepositional phrases or entire sentences, like ‘a soft couch,’ ‘a very long table’ or ‘I put the milk in the fridge.’”

The third method they suggest is using “constant internal narration” which “is especially great for those who can easily understand what everyone is saying but seem to hit a mental block when it comes to expressing themselves. When you hear those foreign words, you seem to understand them but when the time comes for you to talk, you’re at a loss and you resort back to translating to make sure you find what you believe to be the right words.

If that’s you, you definitely need to practice actually speaking without too many pauses. You can do it. After all, you already know the right words, clearly. One of the best ways to practice is by narrating your every action. You can start by being literal then progress by describing what you do, what you see, hear and feel in more detail.

After a while, when the time comes for you to actually have a conversation, you’ll find that you’re able to find the right words without ever having to really consider what they mean in your native tongue.

Maybe you come across something you genuinely don’t know how to describe without resorting back to your native language. There’s a solution that doesn’t require you to cheat like that. Monolingual dictionaries are a fantastic way of learning without translating. For example, there’s for English”

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Idiom of the Day

Every cloud has a silver lining

Meaning: there are good things hidden behind bad things. When the sun is behind a cloud you can see the light shining like silver outlining the cloud so you can still see the positive behind the negative.

Example: I am sorry that you have to go to your home country to take care of your business over the holiday. But every cloud has a silver lining. At least you can see your friends and family over the break.