Everyone wants to speak English fluently, but learning English is very difficult and takes a very long time. Obviously, you need to practice all the time and you need to practice everything. That means reading, writing, speaking, and listening. There is no shortcut to learning. But there is one very important skill that you can develop to help you speak English fluently. A key element of speaking English fluently is learning to think in English.
Why You Need to Think in English
If you’re thinking in your native language when you speak English, it causes several problems. It requires that you translate everything into your native language and back into English. It also makes it more difficult because you use complex sentences and difficult words in your native language that you don’t know in English.
- Thinking in English is faster, which makes the conversation more natural. If you are thinking in your native language and the person you are speaking with says something to you in English, your brain must translate it into your native language. Then you think of a response, translate your response into English, and respond to the person you’re talking to. This process is very slow, awkward, and can lead to a lot of mistakes in your English. If you think in English, the back and forth of conversation is much faster and more natural.
- You will use easier words and sentence structures and not make as many mistakes. We all have a very high level of ability in our native language and we use difficult words and complex sentence structures, and we use these when we compose our thoughts. But translating those thoughts into a lower level of English is very difficult and makes it more difficult than they should be. By thinking in English, we force ourselves to use simpler sentences and easier words, which is much better for communication.
- You will learn to think differently. This is actually the most important point. Training your brain to think in a different language forces you to approach everything differently. You have to look at the world in a different way, learn from context, and problem solve. This is the most important aspect of speaking another language and can have a very powerful impact on everything else in your life. This is the reason learning another language is so cool!
How to Teach Yourself to Think in English
You don’t really need to teach yourself to think in English, you just need to start practicing. With a conscious effort, you can become more comfortable thinking in English, and help your brain make the transition from thinking in your native language to thinking in English. This transition is very important and will help you speak English fluently. Here are a few practical tips to help you start.
- Practice for five minutes per day. Find a time when you can think about something simple and simply try doing it in English. Take five minutes to think about your schedule for the day, what you will eat for dinner, or daydream. Get creative. You just have to actually force yourself to use English in your mind. This activity will help get your brain started. Just try it. And be sure to set a reminder to do this every day!
- Think out loud in English. Saying your thoughts out loud in English will let you actually hear yourself. I use to talk to our family dogs in German to practice!
- Limit your use of your native language when you travel. If you have the opportunity to travel, avoid using your native language, and try not to spend time with people from your home country. It’s very common for people from the same country to group together when they travel, but that limits your exposure to the local culture and your opportunities to practice speaking English. When I traveled with a friend, we promised not to speak to each other in English, even though we were both American. We had some very quiet days, but it really helped us learn the local language more quickly. I realize this isn’t always possible but try your best.
- Watch English TV and movies with English subtitles. The subtitles help you understand, but you don’t translate it. This is a fantastic exercise.
- Use an English-English dictionary. Starting learning the definitions of words in English. This will help you to think about the meanings of words in English and help you ‘let go’ of translating things into your own language.
Relying on our native language is simply an obstacle. To speak English fluently, you have to start thinking in English. I hope these tips help.
Keep in mind that you do need to have a certain level of English in order to follow this advice, but if you’re reading this post in English, you’re probably ready. Relying on our native language is simply an obstacle. To speak English fluently, you have to start thinking in English. I hope these tips help.
If you have any tips or tricks, leave them in the comments below!