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Foreign language thinking pattern

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19 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
J T
Newbie
Australia
Joined 3955 days ago

12 posts - 16 votes

 
 Message 1 of 19
30 April 2009 at 12:52pm | IP Logged 
Hello everyone. My name is Nick and I am new to this forum.

I want to ask a question (especially to those people on this forum, who have a very high level of proficiency in multiple languages, which I am sure there are here):

What exactly does it mean "TO THINK IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE"? Now, I have heard a lot of people talk about this concept and I will admit that I am a bit confused, in regards to the meaning of this concept. So, if someone can explain this to me (from your own experience), I would appreciate your help very much.

Also, I want to know: How exactly do you achieve this process (rather than the typical "re-translation" mindset, which I hear is not good at all)? And how long does it take to achieve this process?

Thanks. I look forward to reading your responses and replies.
1 person has voted this message useful



Zanna
Triglot
Newbie
Poland
Joined 3972 days ago

21 posts - 21 votes
Speaks: Polish*, English, Spanish
Studies: Catalan, French

 
 Message 2 of 19
30 April 2009 at 1:14pm | IP Logged 
A far as I'm considerered you achieve it when you don't need to tranlate in your mind, think in your first language first, you just "flow". It has much to do with immersion and I can't really say how long it takes. I believe it has something to do with ability to think in other language itself, not necesserily particular language - after reaching kind of fluency in English, when I took up Spanish I started to think in Spanish pretty much automaticaly.

I would recommend "turning on" the internal dialogue, I think that shadowing and programmes like Pimsleur can also help. And of course reading, listening and speaking practice is the most important.

Btw, what languages do you study?

1 person has voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4971 days ago

9078 posts - 16471 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 3 of 19
30 April 2009 at 2:17pm | IP Logged 
Question to JT: Can you explain what it is to think in your native language? It's just the same thing, but with another language.

Now, I'm sure you can't use that answer to anything, so let me take it from another angle: how do you achieve it?

First you have to get some building blocks: words, morphology, syntax - no thinking without those. When you learnt your first language you couldn't use translations because you didn't know any other language. Instead you learnt it by having parents and others point to things and actions and give them names, or from explanations that used words you already knew.

However now the situation is different: if you are learning a second language it is logical to use translations to teach you the meanings of words: "cheval" in French is normally the same as "horse" in English. Sometimes it isn't, but it is good enough to give you the first approximation, and then you can learn the details later. No reason to make small drawings of horses, unless of course you remember pictures better than words (some people do).

So when you think "horse" in English do you then see an image of a horse? Or do you see someone running around when you think "run"? Maybe, maybe not, but the point is that you don't need to use visual imagery, you have the meaning stored somewhere in your brain in a form that isn't tied to the way you learnt the word in the first place. It is exactly the same thing with language nr. 2: when you are fluent you have a lot of words and phrases and constructions and whatever stored in some circuitry in your brain, and that circuitry doesn't depend on how you first learned those things. In other words, you may have learnt the foreign words by looking them up in a dictionary (in other words: from translations), but when they have become engrained in your mind you don't need the translation any more - you just use the foreign word as if it had been in your native language.

On a more practical level: to 'turn on' thinking in another language you may have to start with single words. You see a tree, - OK, think "arbre" (the French word for tree, - it could of course have been any other language). If you know the word for 'green' you see one more tree and think "arbre vert". From there you proceed to still more complicated phrases, until you can form whole sentences in your mind. Of course you have to use the words and constructions you already know so this process could in principle come to a screeching halt very soon. But just be persistent and think along even if you make errors: just think "arbre vert est" and be happy, - next time you read in your text book you may stumble over the sentence "l'arbre est grand". Because you already have to tried to think or say something similar you will immediately know that you have made several errors: you need the article le, and the verb should be somewhere in the middle. So when you see the third tree you will think "l'arbre est vert". From there the sky is the limit.


Edited by Iversen on 30 April 2009 at 3:14pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



J T
Newbie
Australia
Joined 3955 days ago

12 posts - 16 votes

 
 Message 4 of 19
30 April 2009 at 2:33pm | IP Logged 
I will tell you what my problem is (and I will try to explain this as accurately as I can, as it's not an easy feeling to describe): Sometimes, I feel that I need to concentrate too hard, to understand every single word that is being spoken by the speaker (and I guess that's where the bad tendancy of "Re-translation" occurs). I really cannot describe it, but I've tried pretty hard to avoid this process.
1 person has voted this message useful



J T
Newbie
Australia
Joined 3955 days ago

12 posts - 16 votes

 
 Message 5 of 19
30 April 2009 at 2:36pm | IP Logged 
oh, and in response to your question Zanna, I am currently studying Mandarin Chinese (have been for 8 months).

In the past, I have also studied German (8 years, from age 5-13), Japanese (2 years, from age 13-14), French (3 years, from age 12-15) and Indonesian/Malay (6 months, at age 13).  English is my first language.
1 person has voted this message useful



J T
Newbie
Australia
Joined 3955 days ago

12 posts - 16 votes

 
 Message 6 of 19
30 April 2009 at 2:39pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
>Question to JT: Can you explain what it is to think in your native language? It's just the same thing, but with another language.

Now, I'm sure you can't use that answer to anything, so let me take it from another angle: how do you achieve it?

First you have to get some building blocks: words, morphology, syntax - no thinking without those. When you learnt your first language you couldn't use translations because you didn't know any other language. Instead you learnt it by having parents and others point to things and actions and give them names, or from axplanations that used words you already knew.

However now the situation is different: if you are learning a second language it is logical to use translations to teach you the meanings of words: "cheval" in French is normally the same as "horse" in English. Sometimes it isn't, but it is good enough to give you the first approximation, and then you can learn the details later. No reason to make small drawings of horses, unless of course you remember pictures better than words (some people do).

So when you think "horse" in English do you then see an image of a horse? Or do you see someone running around when you think "run"? Maybe, maybe not, but the point is that you don't need to use visual imagery, you have the meaning stored somewhere in your brain in a form that isn't tied to the way you learnt the word in the first place. It is exactly the same thing with language nr. 2: when you are fluent you have a lot of words and phrases and constructions and whatever stored in some circuitry in your brain, and that circuitry doesn't depend on how you first learned those things. In other words, you may have learnt the foreign words by looking them up in a dictionary (in other words: from translations), but when they have become engrained in your mind you don't need the translation any more - you just use the foreign word as if it had been in your native language.

On a more practical level: to 'turn on' thinking in another language you may have to start with single words. You see a tree, - OK, think "arbre" (the French word for tree, - it could of course have been any other language). If you know the word for 'green' you see one more tree and think "arbre vert". From there you proceed to still more complicated phrases, until you can form whole sentences in your mind. Of course you have to use the words and constructions you already know so this process could in principle come to a screeching halt very soon. But just be persistent and think along even if you make errors: just think "arbre vert est" and be happy, - next time you read in your text book you may stumble over the sentence "l'arbre est grand". Because you already have to tried to think or say something similar you will immediately know that you have made several errors: you need the article le, and the verb should be somewhere in the middle. So when you see the third tree you will think "l'arbre est vert". From there the sky is the limit.


Oh, thanks for your advice. I see in your profile that you know quite a vast number of languages. Very good!!! Do you have a very high level of proficiency on all of those 9 languages that you said you know?


1 person has voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4971 days ago

9078 posts - 16471 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 7 of 19
30 April 2009 at 2:41pm | IP Logged 
J T wrote:
I will tell you what my problem is (and I will try to explain this as accurately as I can, as it's not an easy feeling to describe): Sometimes, I feel that I need to concentrate too hard, to understand every single word that is being spoken by the speaker (and I guess that's where the bad tendancy of "Re-translation" occurs). I really cannot describe it, but I've tried pretty hard to avoid this process.


Simple solution: don't try to understand everything at once. Take some listening sessions where you focus on cutting up the talk into words and phrases and sentences. If you do know some of the words you encounter then their meaning will just pop up in your head (in one form or another). You don't have time to translate while listening, so either it goes automatically or you will get stuck.

Btw. I don't take the dividing line between 'speaks' and 'studies' too seriously - I still study every one of them, including my native Danish. And I could probably speak some of the 'studies' languages well enough to survive a monolingual holiday. With others I still have to use a dictionary to write simple sentences here on the forum, and there are all levels of competence in between. However I do force myself to think in all my languages whether I can or not, because that's the key to becoming actively fluent.


Edited by Iversen on 30 April 2009 at 3:13pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



Olekander
Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4151 days ago

122 posts - 136 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Russian

 
 Message 8 of 19
30 April 2009 at 3:26pm | IP Logged 
Very interesting :). I think as much as possible in any language I learn, even though I'm still developping the simplest skills in them. This means that : I can speak fluently what I know, and not have to think about it. Some languages I could fool a native speaker to the fact that I speak it, whereas all I'm doing is saying what I know, I hit a stumbling block when I have to talk about a topic I don't know the vocabulary in.


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