Why Translating in Your Head is a Problem and Thinking in English is the Answer
In conversations and other situations where you need to be able to process information quickly and respond immediately, translating in your head is a big problem. It slows you down. It makes you hesitate. At times you’ll completely miss out on the conversation because your chance to jump in has come and gone and you’re still trying to translate.
On top of all that, a lot of slang, idioms and phrasal verbs can be difficult to translate quickly — if at all! It’s really best for your fluency if you stop translating in your head and learn to start thinking in English.
Thinking in English is very important to developing your fluency in English… so let’s go! Here are my nine tips for thinking in English.
Do Daily Activities in English
Can you change your phone settings to English? How about talking to your pet in English when you’re going for a walk? If you commute to work by train or bus could you buy your fare in English?
Listen to More English for Immersion with Native Speakers
Turn on the internet radio, download podcasts, put Netflix or YouTube on in the background while you’re doing your chores or work!
Your brain is so amazing that it will begin to recognize patterns and want to follow them too!
Try Guessing or Planning What English Speakers are Going to Say
When you predict the conversation based on experience, you’ll be more confident and ready to respond.
Imagine the conversations that you want to have in the future and create them before they happen so you feel more prepared. It may not go word-for-word how you plan it, so be ready for change. You could write the conversation down and practice it a few times.
Stop Learning Exclusively Through Translation
Observe, watch, hear, smell and relate vocabulary directly to its meaning — not the word in your first language.
Use a Monolingual Dictionary
A bilingual dictionary is good for one thing — to put your coffee cup on so it doesn’t leave rings on your table.
Label Objects in Your Everyday Life in English
You can do this in your mind or actually on pieces of paper taped to the objects (or use sticky notes). Start with everyday objects that you use every day! For example, if I have a book at home and I am learning Portuguese I would label it “livro,” or if I am learning Arabic then I would label it “kitab.” Every time I look at it I am reminded to think that word!
Talk to Yourself in English
Ask yourself questions and answer them.
Make up a short story about a person you see on your way to work.
You may want to do this in private when no one else is within earshot. It’s ok if you are not sure if your grammar is perfect, or if you make a mistake. No one will know! If you’re not sure if what you said to yourself is correct or not, then make a note to yourself to find out! You can do some research online, or ask your teacher or a native speaker friend later.
Just Start Thinking in English with a Mantra
Even the smallest effort is better than nothing. Start with a mantra, or motto, that will help you get started each day in English. For example, “My English is getting better each day.”
Think a Little More in English Each Day
Start small. Make it a habit to think in English a little each day. Set an alarm if it’s hard to remember to switch into English. Then use the timer on your phone or computer to 1 minute to start and think only in English for that amount of time. It doesn’t matter what you think about, or even if you just say a few of the same phrases over and over. See if you can extend the time each day by 30 seconds!
Learn more about using your mindset and thinking to improve your fluency in English — it’s not what you think! Click here for a lesson on Mindset and English Fluency.