Thinking in a Foreign Language: 7 Methods to Help You Train Your Brain

Thinking in a Foreign Language: 7 Methods to Help You Train Your Brain

In learning a foreign language, there are four basic language skills- reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

But did you know that there is one more skill, equally important?

It is thinking in a foreign language.

Besides a general opinion that it is a sign of fluency, it can be considered a skill.

That means that you can learn to think in a foreign language and develop that skill, too.

It is something you can do and you should practice, no matter if you are still a beginner.

How you can learn and practice thinking in a foreign language and can tutors help you with that, find out with the following tips and tricks.

7 Methods to Train Your Brain and Think in a Foreign Language

Besides communicating with native speakers, which is, by the way, one of the hardest but most efficient ways to start thinking in a foreign language, we suggest you consider the 7 following methods that can help you think in your target language.

Start With Monolingual Dictionaries

One of the steps in thinking in a foreign language is to start using monolingual dictionaries.

Monolingual dictionaries have words listed in your target language by alphabetical order, but unlike other dictionaries where you have words in your target and translated meanings in your native language, the definition of the words here are in your target language.

You would be surprised to see that it can help you with thinking practice because, with these dictionaries, you learn the language itself.

Keep in mind, however, that monolingual dictionaries are mostly useful when you reach an intermediate level of proficiency. Then, you are at a stage when you can, for example, read an entire book and understand it without looking for the words now and then.

Not that beginners can use dictionaries, but they will have a hard time understanding the words and expressions, although that, too can be a great exercise.

The first thing you have to do is to find a good monolingual dictionary. If you are a Spanish student, WordReference has good Spanish monolingual dictionaries. For French language learners, Larousse is a synonym for learning a language, and if among you there are Russian students, you should try Словари русского языка.

Read More in First Person

As you already know, reading is useful for many reasons. As for language learning, it helps you boost your vocabulary, improve reading and writing skills, as well as improve to start thinking in your target language.

One thing that particularly can help you with thinking in a foreign language is to read as many books as possible that are written in the first person. That way, you will have a feeling that you are reading your own thoughts.

Besides, you will also see how to express abstract thoughts or complex opinions in the first person, that is, from your point of view.

If you want to succeed in this, we suggest you stay committed. Make reading a daily habit. Read every day for at least 20 minutes. In the beginning, you will need some kind of reminder to read, but once you get used to it, when you make it your daily habit and part of your everyday chores, things will get much easier.

Translate Your Thoughts

This step perhaps doesn't work for everyone. Some of you are visual learners and can't imagine some things just that way.

While words are running through your brain, try to catch them. 

This is the way that will provide you the best practice and the most apparent improvements.

What should you do exactly?

You simply translate your thoughts to your target language. Even though some would say that it is bad for your learning process, it is helpful, especially for beginners.

So, start with translating everything around you. Describe things you see, how you understand them, and give your opinions. 

Over time, you won’t need to translate words nor even phrases. They will gradually pop into your head, as you’ve always used them.

Think Directly in a Foreign Language

Now, here’s the thing linguists agree with. If you want to learn the language and progress to the fluency level, you have to think only in that language.

Well, that’s easier said than done.

When you’ve just started learning a language, that isn’t something you can achieve. In the beginning, you don’t even have the proper vocabulary, let alone think only in your target language.

However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try doing it. Over time, when you expand your vocabulary and start improving other language skills, you can start using all those language parts you’ve learned.

When you directly think in a foreign language you can’t lose yourself somewhere in between expressions like you can when you translate words.

Start Writing a Diary

Many of us used to write diaries as kids and teenagers. In those priceless notebooks, we’ve put all our thoughts, emotions, and events.

Now you can recall what it was that like.

But now, instead of your native, you write a journal in your target language.

In this diary of thinking, you should write down the things you have been thinking about in your target language. Write down what you have been doing that day, explain the movie you’ve watched the night before, mention what happened at work.

Besides practicing your thinking skills, this way is ideal for improving your vocabulary and, of course, your writing and reading skills, too.

Use Visualization

Using visualization to think in a foreign language is helpful and a pretty easy thing to do.

Research has shown that our brain often doesn’t know the difference between real things, things that actually happened, and the things we imagine. Whether you recall things or events that really happened or you imagine them, your brain sends the same impulses.

So, why not use this strange little thing to practice thinking in a foreign language?

Visualize things you want to say. If you, for example, want to explain the day on the beach and you having fun with your friends, close your eyes, and imagine that picture in your head. Concentrate on the whole picture, the feeling that goes with it, and use words in your target language and describe the whole event.

Final Thoughts

Besides improving all the language skills in one place, practicing to think in a foreign language also helps you improve your memory. Your brain gets all the necessary exercises so, over time, it gets in better shape. And with better shape, your brain works better.

So, don’t worry about mistakes you might make and start applying these methods. Once you get that catch in your head, everything will go smoothly, even speaking naturally and with correct pronunciation and accent with tutors.

If you’re interested in becoming fluent in a new language, check out these top online learning resources: Kick off your learning with Babbel, where interactive, enjoyable lessons are designed to blend smoothly into your routine, fostering fast and effective language learning. For those aiming for an in-depth understanding, Udemy provides a broad spectrum of courses from basic to advanced levels. To enhance your speaking skills, Preply connects you with native speakers for personalized coaching, ensuring significant improvement. Take advantage of a 50% discount on your first lesson at Preply with this link.

How to practice thinking in another language?

Start With Monolingual Dictionaries, Read More in First Person, Translate Your Thoughts, Think Directly in a Foreign Language, Start Writing a Diary, Use Visualization

What's the best technique for thinking in another language?

One of the steps in thinking in a foreign language is to start using monolingual dictionaries. Monolingual dictionaries have words listed in your target language by alphabetical order, but unlike other dictionaries where you have words in your target and translated meanings in your native language, the definition of the words here are in your target language. You would be surprised to see that it can help you with thinking practice because, with these dictionaries, you learn the language itself. Keep in mind, however, that monolingual dictionaries are mostly useful when you reach an intermediate level of proficiency. Then, you are at a stage when you can, for example, read an entire book and understand it without looking for the words now and then. Not that beginners can use dictionaries, but they will have a hard time understanding the words and expressions, although that, too can be a great exercise. The first thing you have to do is to find a good monolingual dictionary. If you are a Spanish student, WordReference has good Spanish monolingual dictionaries. For French language learners, Larousse is a synonym for learning a language.

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