Stop Translating in Your Head by Johana Konecna - Profesor/a de inglés

Stop Translating in Your Head



The traditional way of learning a second language at school is connecting it tightly to a native language. Well, it is not the smartest thing to do. I believe we all know the situation ( maybe it’s your case as well) : imagine a person who knows lots of grammar and vocabulary but they simply are not able to speak, or speak fluently at all? Why is that? Well, since everything is being translated as we learn; what do we do whenever we are trying to use the second language ? We translate it first. And part of the problem is, that we learn so many grammar rules but we actually do not practise the language itself enough. Practising the language can simply help us understand the rules way better than simply trying to memorise them, while we actually use the language.


  • It is slow. How can you learn to speak fluently if you have to translate everything in your head first?
  • You will never get a grasp of target language grammar because you will always compare it to your native language grammar and end up making word-to-word translations. That’s NO GOOD.

Imagine a red thread in your mind going from a thought of “I need to say this” to a “native sentence” to a “sentence in second language” before reaching the actual result.

Now imagine that the red thread can actually make one stop less, excluding the “native language" part. 


I am going to give you tips on how to re-programme your learning and how to start learning language without translating in your head. 

1. Identify objects around the room in your target language. Or situations. Start associate words of your everyday life with the target language.

2. Repeat phrases that you hear native speaker use. If you hear something new like a new combination of words or a new phrase, repeat it. Get your mouth using the language. Improve your pronunciation. 

3. Expose yourself to situations where you cannot use your native language. 

4. Watch something in your target language WITHOUT SUBTITLES in your native language. Maybe watch something you already know OR use target language subtitles so you can see the words written rather than just spoken. 

5. Train responses to common questions. Answers to questions like “How are you”? You should not get stuck at the basic questions.

6. Study with materials that don’t have translations in your native language. Use videos. There is plenty of videos out there using different speed and difficulty of language according to the levels. Look them up.

7. Study phrases in addition to vocabulary. How is vocabulary used in phrases? That can really help you understand in order to use vocabulary properly.

8. Do your daily activities in your target language. Try commenting what you are doing. That’s a good way to practice verbs. You will also identify, which vocabulary you don’t know and you can look it up. 

9. Search new vocabulary meaning in your target language. When looking up a new word or a phrase, search for meaning in the target language first. That way you will not connect it with the native language.

Good luck smiley


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