Michael Black
How do you process the language you're learning in conversation?

1.Listen-->translate to your language-->respond

2.Listen-->no translation to your own language-->respond

or both?

Please let me know how far you are along in your journey. 

I have been studying spanish for about a year now. When I watch videos on youtube, I find myself processing in the 1st way. Although, I find that to be too slow. I'm not sure what the next steps are for improving that, but I am just wondering what your experience has been and/or if you have come upon any research in this.

Thank you!

PS: If you speak Spanish and are learning English, feel free to let me know. Looking for a language partner. Si hablas espanol y buscas por una persona con quien puedes aprender, envieme un mensaje y podemos hablar con la otra.

May 26, 2019 1:33 PM
Comments · 19

 I suggest students not to translate in their own language. If you really want to learn a language well, you have to practice thinking first in that language prior to speaking. That is the very reason why I suggest not watching a movie with a subtitle.

Of course, you would not understand everything in the beginning but you have to train your mind in thinking first.

Another point is that , not all translations are 100 percent accurate, even google translate is not accurate.

If you translate a new language you are learning in your own language, your thinking process is still in your language and not the language you are learning. The end result is that when you speak, it would take a lot of time for you to give a response because you are thinking in your native language. 

May 27, 2019
I 100% agree with Guyomar, who was kind enough to take the time to write it all up for the OP. This is very valuable advice. Especially pay attention to "try to keep the conversation at the level you understand and where you can reply using words you recall." In other words, think only in the target language, and be aware that your thoughts will necessarily be limited —at first. A baby learns to crawl before trying to run. The baby is right to do so.
May 26, 2019

Yes, in my case, I've been a beginner several times in different languages, and I keep translation to a minimum. During conversations, I don't try translating to my native language. I just focus on what the person is saying. That's another tip I have. Pay extra attention to precisely what the person is saying and asking, even more than you would in your native language. Most of the time, the person has supplied you with all the structure you need to provide a good response, without any translation. A good teacher will know how to work with someone who isn't yet advanced or even intermediate, and will give you easy questions with a choice of answers, or questions where they know you have the vocabulary to answer.

Translation is an extra headache, because different languages often have very different ways of expressing the same sentiment, and the extra work of seeing how they differ, while interesting, takes energy from creating a mental representation of the new language that you need to build from the start.
May 26, 2019
If you rely on translating to your native language as a crutch a year into your language studies, it's going to get painfully slow for you to have a normal conversation and actually enjoy the language. Part of the problem is probably that you don't have a mental representation of certain basic concepts in the language yet, because you've become used to mapping one word (in Spanish) onto another (in English).

When someone says something, it's images or meaning that should come to mind, much like in your native language, not other words. I would suggest going back to the basics and creating visuals for common verbs and vocabulary that come up in conversations that you have. The visuals can be in the form of pictures or video clips. For example, if people are speaking in a movie, you can think "hablar." You can gradually build it up so that you have a quick, instinctive sense of the meaning of various common verbs and words that's separate from English.

The second step is to make sure the conversations you're having are at your level. It can be tempting to want to express complex thoughts, but try to keep the conversation at the level you understand and where you can reply using words you recall. I've known people who constantly use a translator during lessons because they won't limit themselves to what they know, translating entire complex sentences. In my opinion, this is a waste of time and it's not helping anyone improve.

Good luck.
May 26, 2019
I used to “practice” in the morning by making a “to do” in my head or on paper, then during the day, by narrating my activities, then at night, by making a summary of the day.  Very basic, but it was within my capabilities, and gradually, I consolidated existing vocabulary and learned more vocabulary for daily activities.
May 26, 2019
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Michael Black
Language Skills
English, Spanish
Learning Language