Students’ habit of translating everything from a foreign language to their native one can be a real obstacle in the learning procedure. The problem of the translation method is that it takes too much time to formulate your idea. When you are having a conversation in English and you have to respond to it, it takes a while to make up the sentences in your native language and then to translate into the target one. Thus it hinders the fluency of the speech.
So how to make your student understand that translation method is not a useful one? You need to give some reasonably sufficient and strong proofs. As for me, I do it by making a comparison with the learning procedure of their native language. They learnt to speak their mother tongue by listening to their parents’ speech, by imitation, and only at school they gained writing and reading skills. With the help of this comparison, most students begin to believe in the usefulness of contemporary methods to learn a foreign language. Hereby you can find tips on how to start thinking in English.
- Don’t translate new words. While introducing the new vocabulary don’t give their translations, instead of it use real objects, flashcards or just give the definitions. When a student sees the real object or its picture in the flashcard, listens to its pronunciation, it is immediately printed in his memory.
- Learn vocabulary in phrases and not single words. Our brains are pattern-matching machines that remember things put into context. Ask your students to look up in the dictionaries to find some collocations with the new words and make some sentences. Ask your elementary students to check the words in the Oxford Elementary Learner’s Dictionary of English. Advanced students should work with advanced learner’s dictionaries. Oxford Dictionaries for Children provide a range of age-appropriate dictionaries for 4-16 year olds.
- Use an English to English dictionary. Every time your student encounters an unknown word, ask him to look up its meaning in an English to English dictionary. If they continue using bilingual dictionaries, their mind will never give up translating.
- Listen, listen and listen. One would ask how is it connected with speaking? But actually, they go hand in hand. If a learner wants to sound more or less native, listening to various types of conversations may come in handy. They can follow vloggers who make videos about learning English, they can watch serials, BBC news, street conversations. In the first stage, they may have many difficulties in understanding. But soon they will get used to it and start imitating.
- Make sentences in your head. Ask your students to make sentences in their heads throughout the day about what is happening around them. For example: When you wake up in the morning and think about your plans, or whatever, do it in English. At first, you can just make simple sentences, like ” It’s ten past eight. The weather is fine today. The sun is shining”. After getting up you can think about following things and again in English. “I am washing my hands and face. I want to make some coffee without sugar. Coffee was really tasty. I enjoyed it”. This habit will train your students’ brain to make sentences in English. Of course, at first, they may need the help of a dictionary. In a short time, they will learn these words and use them automatically. And over time they will translate less and less.
- Recap your day. Ask your students to remember and summarize their day before going to bed or while lying in bed. Imagine that you are telling your friend, who speaks only English, about your day. Try to use as many details and descriptions as possible. For example: “Today I had my foreign literature exam. I had prepared really well. When I chose my topic, I got extremely happy, as it was my favorite one. The topic was about the lost generation. I introduced it in a proper way and everybody was satisfied with my answer”.
- Speak to your pets or why not to your plants. If your students have pets, or at least some plants at their place, they can speak English to them. They can share ideas or experiences. Of course, as pets and plants are not human beings, students feel more comfortable and relaxed while speaking. So they can gain a lot by doing it every day.
- Make an audio recording. Give your students a short topic to speak about. Ask them to think about it, make some sentences in their mind and then to record their speech on the phone. Then ask them to listen to their recordings and find the mistakes. They should make this an everyday habit.
- Make a video recording. To sound more and more professional, to think only in English ask your students to watch some BBC news, write down some important words and collocations and then make a video recording on it, summarizing the information.
Apply the tips mentioned above and keep track of the progress your students make.
And what other tips can you recommend? Please feel free to leave your comments below.