How to Stop Translating in Your Head


how to stop translating words in your head

How to stop translating in your head when speaking a foreign language

Stop translating in your head because that’s not what language learning is about. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not that easy at all!

Translating in your head – either from your native language or into your native language – when speaking or listening to a foreign language, is something many language learners struggle with. In fact, it’s a very natural thing to do when you first start learning a new language.

It’s a habit that somehow develops early on and stays with you for a long, long time. And it’s one that’s pretty hard to get rid of!

But don’t you worry – I’ve got some advice for you. So, if you’re wondering how to stop translating in your head, then read on!

Or maybe you prefer a video – if that’s the case, feel free to just watch it here. And wait – don’t forget to like it and subscribe to the 5-Minute Language Youtube channel!

Alrighty! Time to talk about my tips. Get ready – here’s tips number one:

Use a monolingual dictionary to stop translating in your head

picture of a lama saying 'mono what?'

A monolingual dictionary is a dictionary where the entries and their definitions are written in the same language. Because monolingual dictionaries don’t contain literal translations of words into any other language, you won’t be tempted to learn – and subsequently use – those translations.

When you use one of those dictionaries, you train your brain to focus on the meaning, or the concept that a word represents, rather than its literal translation into your native language. That way, you’re less likely to translate it yourself when you use it.

In fact, as you get more advanced, you will find that there will be words that you know – you will understand their meaning but you won’t necessarily know their exact equivalents in your native language. And that’s fine!

Use images instead of translations when learning new vocabulary

When you learn new vocabulary, try using images or symbols when writing it down in your vocabulary notebook. For simple ones, you can just do a little drawing next to the word. For more complex ones, you can either use symbols or simple pictures with some basic words.

This, again, will train your brain to stop translating words when speaking a foreign language. That’s because you will learn to associate words with images or symbols rather than their exact translations.

Read a lot and memorise phrases

Reading will force you to be confronted with idiomatic expressions and phrases. Try to memorise those phrases that you come across – this will help you when constructing your own sentences. Instead of having to make them from scratch when you need them, you will be able to recall some of the phrases that you learned when reading.

And again – because you will have the ready-made phrases in your head, you won’t have to look for translations of individual words and your brain will be less likely to be preoccupied with that.

Tell yourself off!

My final tip is quite a funny one. Whenever you catch yourself translating words in your head, say ‘translation, translation, translation’. By doing that, you will draw your own attention to the frequency with which you translate in your head. And, as a consequence, you will begin to do it less frequently.

Because who wants to be told off, right?

So, this is it – my four tips on how to stop translating words in your head when speaking a foreign language. I’d love to hear your tips and experiences with this so make sure you share them in the comments below!

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