How To Think In English Without Translating In Your Head Ep 496

A photograph of a man practising speaking to a mirror. If you really want to learn to speak English well and be able to think with native-like fluency, there are simple proven strategies. I'll share these strategies in today's free English lesson.

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 2222 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 12 min

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How To Speak English, In A Way That Makes Sense. No More Translating In Your Head.

If you want to become an effective English language speaker and thinker, there are a few simple strategies that can make it happen. Listen to today’s English podcast lesson to find out more. You’re going to become a stronger English speaker.

Learning a language through translating can be bittersweet; it gives language students a basic knowledge of the language. However, this is limited knowledge, because this type of knowledge is the slowest to recall, and slow recall equals poor speech.

Using translation will hurt your ability to speak naturally and fluently. Translating in your head is distracting if you are also trying to focus on what someone else is saying.

The good news is you're already doing one of the most important steps to thinking in English. You’re listening to native English speakers like this podcast. Lots of English listening and regular, simple, daily activities like the ones we suggest in this lesson will definitely make a difference to your spoken English.

Learning to think in English takes time, but if you follow the suggested techniques in this podcast, it will become easier and easier.

Most Unusual Words:


Most common 3 word phrases:

You Want To2
In Order To2
In The Language2
Trying To Learn2
Work To Do2

Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: How To Think In English Without Translating In Your Head

Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Now you want to become fluent in English, don’t you? Well, let’s talk today about one of the great enemies of fluency, something which stops fluency from happening. And that thing is ‘translating’. If you want to speak English fluently, you must stop translating as soon as possible!

That’s what today’s podcast is about. And don’t forget - if you would like to support Adept English, so that more and more people can find us and learn English with us, then follow us, subscribe to our channel or our podcast, recommend us to other people, star rate us or even better, write a review for us. You can practise your English that way. That’s really helpful for Adept English.

Stop translating!

So the way that we are introduced to languages - we translate. We’re learning a foreign language, we learn a new word - and what do we do? We immediately learn alongside that foreign language word the equivalent word in our own language. We all do it. We all learn language like that to begin with.

We translate. And in order to have somewhere to start, in order to understand grammar, or to start to, some translating is necessary at the beginning. But after a time, that way of learning has to stop. We have to stop translating. We have to start thinking in the language we’re trying to learn. For you, that’s starting to think in English.


How to top translating

So the biggest thing you can do to help that happen? Well, that’s something that you’re already doing if you’re listening to this podcast. You have to listen to lots of spoken material in the language that you’re trying to learn. So here we are, doing this. Adept English is very happy to provide you with that material.

But what else can you do? Well, how about ‘talking to yourself in English’ as the next step? Get into the habit of thinking how you would respond to certain questions in English? So you might ask yourself ‘What am I doing today? What’s my schedule today?’ And then you might formulate your answer - put together an answer.

Well, that’s thinking in English. You might say ‘Well, I’ve got some work to do this morning - for me that’s completing a podcast. Then, I’ve got some of my other work to do. Erm...I’ll have lunch, then in the afternoon, I need to go and do a bit of shopping. And then I’ll come back and do some cleaning in the house, especially the bathroom - that needs it! well, this evening, I’ll be cooking dinner for three people. Hmmm - that’s my schedule for today’.

And importantly when you’re doing this, unless there’s a word that you absolutely can’t get by without and you don’t know it - you’re not going to use the dictionary, you’re not going to use Google Translate. You’re going to get by on the vocabulary that you already know. So you’re talking to yourself with words you already know. No translation will be needed that way.

Talking to yourself is not madness

You can vary the question - you could say to yourself, just as someone else might ask you ‘What did you get up to at the weekend?’ This is just a conversational way of asking what you did the previous weekend. ‘What did you get up to?’ It’s the sort of Monday morning conversation that people commonly have at work.


A photograph of a man practising spoken English. This is what successful English language learners do. Use these same strategies to speak and think in English like a native in no time.

©️ Adept English 2021

So you might say ‘Well, I stayed in on Friday evening and I watched TV, because I was really tired. But I had a couple of gin and tonics and I cuddled up with my cats - and there’s this series on Netflix that I’m really enjoying (substitute whatever title you fancy here!).

Then on Saturday morning, I went for a run - and I came home and made some soup. In the afternoon, I did a bit of gardening. And on Saturday evening, I went out and saw some friends - in a socially distanced way, of course! Then on Sunday, I drove to see another friend for lunch whom I haven’t seen in a while. And I was back home by the evening. I like to have a quiet one on a Sunday, and get ready for work the next day.’

Vary the verb tenses

Notice there how you can vary the verb tenses? If you ask yourself what you’re doing today - that’s fine practice at the present tense. But if you ask yourself about the weekend that’s just gone, or what did I do yesterday, then of course your answer is going to be in the past, so you get to practise past tenses. It’s a good to work on your tenses.

You could also do future tense as well. ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ Or ‘What are you doing next week?’ or ‘What will you get up to next weekend?’ ‘Next week, I’m going to take a few days off work and I’m going to stay with a friend. She lives in London, so I think we’ll go and visit a couple of exhibitions. We’ve booked tickets for a couple of things. And I think she’ll want to go to a restaurant, one that we’ve been to before - that she particularly likes.

Then I’ll come home on the Thursday, because I’ve got to be back at work by then. But it’ll be a nice couple of days. I’m looking forward to it - and I’ll feel better for work on Thursday, when I’ll have taken some time off.’ So there we are - some practice at future tenses by talking about your next week.

You can even get the future perfect tense in there! ‘I will feel better because I will have taken some time off’. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing - whether it’s something interesting or it’s something which is normal, ‘business-as-usual’ for you. You’re not really having to entertain anyone with your answer - you’re just speaking to yourself. So you can test yourself - how can I say what I want to say? See if you can find the words for what you’ve been doing or what you’re planning to do.

And what you’ll notice is, that if you’re not using the dictionary, but you don’t know the word for something, you just ‘go a different way around’. You just find another way of saying it.

Talking to myself on a Monday

I try to do this on a Monday, when I’m driving to the station, the railway station where I catch the train to London. And because my focus at the moment is on learning French, it might sound a bit like this. This is typical of my Monday self-talk.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

Uh. Qu’est-ce que je fais maintenant? Er, je suis dans ma voiture. Er.. je vais à la gare pour prendre le train à Londres. Qu’est-ce que je dois faire aujourd’hui? Wwuhh - j’ai beaucoup de clients. J’aurrai faim, Peut-etre je dois arreter a Waterloo pour acheter de la nourriture. Mmm - quelques choses a manger?m Qu’est-ce que je veux manger, aujourd’hui? Mm - pas de chocolat pare que c’est mauvais pour ma sante. Je dois manger une salade peut-etre, ou peut-etre un sandwich. Ce serait une journee longue aujourd’hui, je pense. Tant pis!

Simple language, but effective for thinking in a different language

So that’s me, talking to myself in French. You get the picture or you might if you understand French? It’s quite simple French, but it’s me just talking to myself about my day. If you’re a French speaker, you’ll probably hear all kinds of errors in there I’m sure.

I haven’t checked, I’m not going to look them up - it’s important that you allow yourself to make errors. Do it ‘off the cuff’, if you like - that means, without preparation. You’re only talking to yourself after all. And you’ll notice that there are things you want to say, but you don’t know the words or you can’t remember the exact words - so your brain has to find a different way around.

I’ve written down what I said there for the transcript - but what’s really important - I didn’t pre-prepare it. It’s just as it came out. So it’s important that you allow yourself that freedom and it’s fine to make mistakes. My conversation with myself on my way to the train station on a Monday tends to be similar. You get the idea.

Just practise, practise English by turning that internal dialogue, your internal thoughts into the language that you’re learning. So ‘What am I doing today?’, ‘Who am I going to see?’, ‘How do I feel about it?’, ‘What am I doing right now?’ And ‘What am I going to be doing, later in the day? You can get a long way learning English, just practising on your own.

If you would like more English conversation, then don’t forget our Course One, Activate Your Listening. There are plenty of English conversations to listen to on this course. You’ll hear us talking about what shopping to buy. You’ll hear my daughters talking about education. And all of it is explained to you, all the vocabulary is covered, in English - no translating! So yes, Course One, Activate Your Listening. Still good stuff.

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Anyway, hope that gets you into the habit of talking to yourself, at least once a week in English, about your day.

Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.



The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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