Translation as one of the best means to learn English

Translation should not be underestimated when you learn a foreign language. If you want to improve your English translate FROM YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE INTO ENGLISH. I am telling this from my personal experience. Intensive reading is another way of improving your English.

What do you mean by this? Translating single sentences? Or translating (in mind) while talking in your mother tongue? Or…?

I personally think it’s more effective when you try to think in the foreign language (here English) straight away because it helps you finding the right phrases etc. and prevents you from making mistakes (translating things word by word and so coming out with a wrong word order, not using an idiomatic language etc.).

Ooops, sorry, the author of the above post is me, ahmadov.

When I was taught French at school it was a very long and very painful process. We were given long lists of words with their translations and long lists of verbs - very little to do with communicating. I started learning Spanish a while ago and I asked my teacher only to speak in Spanish. It was amazing. After just a few hours I could chat away with her, in simple but effective Spanish. Hearing someone talk in English during my lessons broke the spell and it took a while to get back into Spanish again. Learning a new language is like developing a new brain. Give your new brain as much as exercise as you can (as Ahmadov suggests) by reading as much as possible, but IMHO, translation is not the answer.

I don’t think we’re talking about just getting lists of words and translating them. It’s well known that memorizing or translating lists of isolated words is not an effective way to learn.

However, suppose someone speaks French that sounds very good, and you give him an article that starts out, “DINKs have begun to cry foul as the Feds tighten the screws on student loan cheats.” This suddenly creates the type of communication dilemma that makes our language grow. The person has to find a graceful way to express the term “DINK” (double income, no kids) in French, he has to come up with an equivalent to that sports analogy, and to come up with an idiomatic equivalent to “tighten the screws”.

One way to sound good in a language is to know a lot of the language. However, another way people are able to sound good in a language is to avoid things they don’t know how to say. When you give them translation assignments from authentic texts, it forces them to confront communication problems they would normally avoid. This is why it works. Translation alone, however, and especially of word lists, is not effective.

Well, if your first language and English are very different, like if your first language doesn’t even use alphabets, suck as Eastern Asian languages, then I don’t think it’s a good way to learn the English language by translating single words into English from your frist language because these two languages are not designed to match one another word by word and if you learn it by translating, what you are actually saying sometimes will not be the same as what you think you are saying. :smiley:

Working with word lists is usually not a good idea, whether you’re just translating or memorizing. However, translating sentences and paragraphs helps, because you are not translating words, but ideas, and you learn to reduce the interference of your own native language, if someone is guiding you.

A simple example: A Chinese woman had passed English grammar classes up to the advanced level, but she still spoke English with almost completely Chinese grammar:
“You teach not teach this semester?”
She was also liable to say something like:
“The works in this office man not here.”
This was because she had learned to do English grammar exercises, but she had not learned to translate Chinese sentences and ideas into English sentences and ideas. If some teacher makes her do this, then she can get into the habit of saying, “Are you teaching this semester?” or, “Do you like this?” instead of saying, “You teach not teach…” and, “You like not like…” And she can learn to say, “The man who works in this office…”

It trains her to think, “Uh-oh, I’m thinking this Chinese structure, so that’s going to be this other one in English.” I have seen this practice get very good results.

This could also have been (almost) literally translated from German! In fact this phrase structure is a typical example of their often peculiar word order. Spanish syntax is also quite flexible, by the way, as opposed to, say, French or English.


The second option has to be ruled out, I’m afraid. I haven’t been a “miss” for the past 25 years, but all the same, your comment is rejuvenating and one’s vanity has been tickled, thank you [this has just given me an idea for a new thread on the (almost lost?) art of paying compliments to women].

If you’ve found such a treasure, good for you! There’s only a very small selection of books that I would reread (and that would be only once, at most, and after a long while). But if I run across a captivating story, I do all I can to make it last longer, like rereading the same paragraph or going back one or two pages before actually indulging the last lines. Then I desperately long for a continuation of the book, no matter how much duller or disappointing second issues can be.

5,000 hours, to be precise (according to a sudent of mine)! And Mark Twain said that it takes 30 hours to learn English, 30 days to learn French and 30 years to learn German…

I think translation is only the first step of learning english. First we have to know the words that corresponds to our native language, but we also have to check if we have correctly constructed the sentence in english.