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When you read or listen to English, do you translate every word into your native language in order to understand? That takes time and it slows you down, doesn't it? You'll never be able to read quickly or understand fast-talking native speakers if you don't start to think in English. So how do you do that? You need to train yourself to stop translating and starting thinking in a whole new language. Here's a simple tip that will help you to get started.
There are lots of things that you can do to practice thinking in English. Here's something that can work for beginners and advanced students: use reading to practice thinking in English. First, let's talk about why reading is a great way to practice this. When you read, you control the pace, the speed. When you're listening to other people, you can't control the pace. If it's a video, sure you can stop, rewind and listen again. But you still can't control how quickly the words are said. Secondly, most students are more comfortable with reading than with listening. So this is a good place to start for most people.
The first step is to choose your reading material. A lot of students who are eager and really want to improve will pick reading material that's pretty challenging, something that will teach them a lot of new words and show them examples of more advanced grammar. That's great if those are your goals, but if you want to practice thinking in English, you need to choose differently.
Choose a book that's not too hard for you, something that doesn't have a lot of new vocabulary or complicated grammar. Why? Well, if you want to practice thinking in English, you need to pick something that you can read quickly without stopping to think about what each word means. When you have the right book, you're ready to get started.
The next step is to start reading. When you read this book, you're going to read faster than you normally do. You want to push the speed a little bit because then your brain won't have time for translating and you're more likely to start thinking in English. As you're reading, you need to practice something called "visualization". This means you're going to create a picture in your head of what's happening in the book as you're reading it.
If you read a sentence that says "The young boy wanted the cookies, but he couldn't reach them." then you should imagine this boy reaching for the cookies. The goal of this activity is to start teaching your brain to connect English words with picture, ideas and feelings, not words in your native language. If you really want to think in English, you need to stop connecting English words with words in your native language. You need to start connecting English words to ideas. Let's practice a few times to make sure that you understand what I mean. Here's a word for you. Try to picture something in your mind when you see the word.
When you saw that word, what did you think about? Did you think of the word for love in your native language? Ok, maybe you did, but let's try something more useful than that. What do you think about when you see the word for love in your native language. Do you think about the people that you love? Or maybe you imagine what love feels like. That's what you want to start practicing when you read in English. Let's try another one. Take a look at this short sentence and try to imagine it in your mind.
THIS IS FUN!
What did you think about that time? Maybe you pictured yourself doing something that you really enjoy. Whatever you think about, remember to avoid thinking in your native language. Your goal is to think about pictures and ideas. That's it. Ok, let's try one more.
THE BIRD STOOD ON A BRANCH AND ATE BERRIES FROM THE TREE.
What did you picture this time? Maybe something like this?
Hopefully this is starting to make sense to you. When you read, if you want to practice this, remember that you need to stop connecting English words with words in your own language. If you want to think in English the goal is to always think about pictures, ideas and feelings, just like you do when you hear your native language.
Here's one more tip for you and this is a great one to remember especially if you're an English teacher. One thing that every English student practices is vocabulary. A lot of people use flashcards. But, if you use flashcards with English words on one side and words in your native language on the other side, guess what. You're learning how to translate. You're not learning how to think in English.
Take those flashcards and pull out all of the cards that have words on them that can easily be replaced by a picture. This works great for nouns, simple verbs and even simple adjectives. When you (or your students) are ready to practice vocabulary, now you'll look at a picture and you'll have to think of the English word. Flashcards like these will help you to think in English, too.
Definitely give this tip a try. I've had a lot of success with it myself. This is what I do when I study Spanish and now I can read and listen to a lot of material without translating into English at all. If it's not too complicated, I automatically think in Spanish. It's a great feeling when you realize that you're actually doing it. Let me know how it works for you. If you have questions about this tip or need more help, leave a comment below. I'd be happy to help you.
If you need books to help you practice this, check out my suggestions HERE.
Don't forget to read my OTHER article about thinking in English!
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