- How to start thinking in English?
- 1 - Immerse yourself into listening to English actively and passively
- 2 - Use the words you already know
- 3 - Start small and build up
- 4 - Talk to yourself
- 5 - Next is to write in English
- 6 - Engage in conversations as much as possible
- 7 - Use a monolingual dictionary
How to start thinking in English?
Speak more fluently, get into conversations more easily. Let's find out how to do it. First, to build up your fluency, check out my fluency course. It'll help you naturally use your grammar, improve your pronunciation, and help build your fluency from a struggling English student to a successful English speaker.
Thinking in English, it's a challenge for some students. But, in many schools worldwide, students learn a foreign language by the grammar-translation method. And so it seems natural, at first glance. And logically, at a beginner level, you're translating to learn the language. But, if this becomes a habit breaker as you move up the to advance level?
You need to break this habit, or you will not build up the fluency you need. When you start thinking in English, everything becomes more manageable. Here you will find seven intelligent ways that you can start thinking in English.
1 - Immerse yourself into listening to English actively and passively
The first step to thinking in English is to surround yourself with English. You do not have to live or visit an English-speaking country. You can do this in your own home, 10 minutes a day, and you can build up to 20 minutes, 30 minutes a day, build up slowly.
For example, you can start to listen to podcasts, radio, songs. Also, read novels, magazines, blogs, or maybe watch TV series or films in English There are three things you can do. First of all, you can listen passively. That's fine, words that you hear or see.
Now, passively listening to English is excellent! Because when you listen passively, there is no stress and pressure to respond to anyone. And we know from research, this can help us learn more deeply. Phrases are also fantastic to activate the vocabulary to use it more fluently.
To have an English environment sounds very big and very difficult. But, it can be in your home. I prefer to call it English moments. By creating these English moments, maybe 10 minutes or 20 minutes, you're enabling yourself to start thinking in English for that moment.
2 - Use the words you already know
So when speaking in English, sometimes students want to express an idea, but they lack the vocabulary and look up the word for translation. And so you're getting a translation, building your vocabulary.
A great way to improve your fluency and to start thinking in English is only to use the words you already know when you're speaking. Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, come on, that's too simple! Yes, and that is the beauty of it. It's simple. And you can focus 100% on fluency because you're not translating.
To think in English about an idea you want to express but you lack the vocabulary when speaking, there are two things you can do.
- 1 - Try and find a way around it to say it in another way
- 2 - ' ding'... is that you can let the idea go. Say something else. Stay with the words that you know.
Trust me!, This is a game-changer. Try this one out. It seems strange but at least try it. Let's move on.
3 - Start small and build-up
So it's probably tough to think in English the whole day. Not easy at all. So don't think big; start small, just single words in English.
And always remember to use words that you already know. For example, to get a picture, you think of the things you see as you look at the picture/photo and speak the different things you can see.
Try this, think about different things.
T-shirt, lights, and a car? Those are the things that I thought of, a simple activity that anywhere. You can do it for a few minutes when you're waiting in line, bank, or commuting on a train.
But probably a more natural way, it is to look around you! For example, you're queuing in the bank. Very, very simple. That you already know. As a daily habit? Even just for a minute,
It's starting small. "Atomic Habits," have you read that? James Clear? Come on. If you haven't read it, go check it out, "Atomic Habits." That's the first thing. Start small and build up. So, in the previous example, we started with individual words, after to collocations, followed by chunks or phrases.
Whether it's a picture or your yoga class, you might say yoga, blue T-shirt, bright lights, indoor plants. Thinking, right? Not saying, but you're thinking these, you can start making phrases.
Here's the picture again; use short phrases. So you can see you're starting a small habit, thinking in English. Lovely, next! to yourself. (giggles) So in the last activity, right?
4 - Talk to yourself
We were focusing on just thinking, right? Those words and phrases in your head. Now we're going to extend that by saying the words out loud to build vocabulary. The goal is to work on fluency. To the Russian psychologist and educator Lev Vygotsky, the voice you use to think comes from your outer voice, the speaking voice, the physical one.
That inner voice in your head, it's the same voice as when you speak. The only difference is in your muscles because you're not using them. So the speaking practice can reinforce it and help us to think more in English.
It's just talking to yourself. For example, that's a silly hat—what a lovely day. I love the sun. Ooh, I'm getting hungry. Just use little phrases to yourself thought in English, okay? You can do this here, maybe, and then you may want to do these at home, speaking out loud in the street.
So, for example, in the morning, explain to yourself your expected daily routine and your plan for the day. Then, here comes another simple example:
Oh, today I'm going to go shopping for some vegetables. After, I cook. So I need two eggs. I need a bit more flour, more salt, oh, I think. (lips smacking) you've done today. So today was a good day. In the morning, I did this and that, and oh, that was a good idea. And so you can do simple things just talking to yourself and reinforcing this thinking as well. Right, let's move on.
5 - Next is to write in English
Writing and speaking are active skills. That means speaking in English throughout your day will help you think in English. Now, of course, the way that we speak and write are very different. And I do not encourage you to speak the way you write because speaking and writing are very different communication styles. However, research suggests that writing and speaking are connected and influence each other.
Remember, only use the words that you know and start small and build up, as before. Some simple activities could be easy, writing your shopping list, leaving, or a message to a family member? You can build up. Why not? Maybe then you could write a diary or a blog.
6 - Engage in conversations as much as possible
To be able to speak in English with other people is the final goal. So to stress it a little bit more, practice speaking with others, and as you're doing that, practice thinking in English as you're doing it.
Engage in conversations with friends, students, colleagues. The more you're going to have the chance to practice thinking in English as well. And when you're practicing. Please keep it simple. Use the words you know. Tell the other person that you are trying to improve so that they've got patients with you.
7 - Use a monolingual dictionary
Let me explain. One of the biggest game-changers for me when I was learning French was using a bilingual dictionary, that is a French-English, dictionary. So you look up to a word in French and translate it to English.
It gives you a definition in French, not the translation word per se. It can force you to start thinking in the language that you are trying to master. Yes, it was more complex, and it took more time. It was a considerable effort, but the change over several months was huge.
Using the monolingual dictionary, it's hard. It takes effort, but it pays off! Making the transition from thinking in your native tongue to thinking in English will occur overnight. It takes time and effort. And, but the rewards are enormous.