How to think in English: put in the time!


February 28, 2012

A user on the UsingEnglish.com forum posted a question that got me worked up to respond:

How to thinking in english....???


When I practise to speak english. I always repare a sentence with a native language then I translate it to english to speak.

I knew it wrong for speaking english. But how to thinking in english. Plz give me advice. Thanks in advance

My response:

Here's my opinion, based on just the little bit of writing that I saw in your question. I don't think that you should expect yourself to be thinking in English yet.  I think that you will need to spend more time studying the language.  How much more time?  Probably another 500 hours.  That includes the time that you spend watching English movies, studying vocabulary, practicing writing to people, and maybe speaking with a tutor or language partner.

The method probably doesn't matter too much, as long as you keep a good balance. 500 hours spent just studying the dictionary probably won't make you fluent. You need to use a variety of sources.

I believe that what makes us fluent is very simple. It's having a lot of knowledge about the language, with all the pieces connected directly to each other.

How do you connect pieces directly? By noticing patterns. Which words are usually used together?  I started my last paragraph with the words "I believe that..."  This is a common phrase that often comes up. Remember that phrase.  Don't just remember each word by itself.

The other thing is to keep reviewing the things that you've learned. To be fluent and start to think in English, it's better to know a small handful of language really well than to try to learn as many words as you can but not have a strong understanding of how they're used.

So keep working. Keep studying for 500 more hours and then if you still have problems, come back and let us know what you're having trouble with.

~Phrasemix

Somehow we've all gotten this idea that we're supposed to be able to think in the foreign language that we're learning. And while I agree that that's a worthy end goal, it's not something to expect when you're first starting to learn.


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