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Thinking in Another Language

Discussion in 'The Lounge - Off Topic' started by Fergal1982, Mar 13, 2008.

  1. Fergal1982

    Fergal1982 Petabyte Poster

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    So I was talking to one of my Language buddies at a comedy gig last night about learning languages. Shes multi-lingual, and we were talking about how difficult (I thought) it must be to learn a language when the language its taught in isnt your native language.

    She advised that its not actually that much of a problem most of the time. That the trick is to actually get into the mindset where you actually think in the language in question when you are in situations where you use the language. This means that you arent constantly having to translate the language into your own language, before transferring back. She was saying that this is the case for speaking any language, and if you can start doing it as soon as you start learning the language, it actually makes becoming fluent that much easier.

    How much do the multi-lingual people here agree with this sentiment? Do you find that this is the case?

    If so, any hints on how to achieve this? I cant comprehend thinking in anything except English. So looking for hints on how to induce this. I assume that once I experience it, it will become so much easier to duplicate.

    Oh, before I forget, our Chinese teacher got wind of a cool new social networking site VoxSwap. Looks like it was only recently launched, and apparently is a bit light on features so far, but the aim is to allow you to network with people who can give you opportunities to learn different languages. Once I get the chance, I'll be signing up to it. see what its about.
     
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  2. nugget
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    nugget Junior toady

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    Well fergal, in one way she's right. The best way to learn the language is to think in it. In fact it's become so natural I find my self doing that every day. Also a lot of the time I need to remind myself that I need to think in English.

    The other way to learn is to actually be in a situation that you need to speak it, and therefore think it too, every day. This can be hard for people that want to learn Mandarin though.:oops:
     
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  3. C4sper

    C4sper Byte Poster

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    I think she's quite right

    I find it the best way of learning a language - basically once you got the basics (gramar+words) just start to think in that language

    takes much less brain processing power :)
     
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  4. Tinus1959

    Tinus1959 Gigabyte Poster

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    In my point of view this could be true for languages with the same root.
    I can speak English, German and Dutch. I have noticed that, at the moment I cross the german border (and all the signs are written in German) I start talking in German. I noticed this also when I was in London a few years ago.
    However in Poland I have difficulties in making myself understood. I can not think in their word order. I have the same with my course Japanese.
    What is also important is the basic structure of a language. English, German and Dutch are so called SVO languages. The standard way for a line is subject - verb - object. I see a tree, Ik zie een boom, Ich sehe ein Baum. Other languages have different orders (I'll have to look up which languages use which).
    Japanese uses SOV. I tree see. In old English a line as 'A tree I see' (OSV) was also OK.
     
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  5. sunn

    sunn Gigabyte Poster

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    Very true for me. I was born and raised in Canada but with my parents coming from India, I first learned their native language. Once I started school it was English only. So for more than 20-yrs I spoke and thought in English - although I could always understand my parents native language, I had to translate in my head before responding (in English). I never really thought about it - just the way it was done.

    After high-school I went 'back home'. After a week, not only was I speaking it, I was thinking in it natively. When I'd call home (Canada), I was actually translating the English in my head. I was completely shocked; but happy. Grandparents were filled with joy that I didn't quit trying. They spoke English fluently so the fear was I wouldn't bother. 8)
     
  6. Arroryn
    Honorary Member

    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

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    Hi Fergal

    The advice given here, mainly about absorbing yourself in the language, is all sound.

    I am currently trying to get my German up to fluency. I think it just 'clicked' at some point, although I don't easily think in German.

    For me, it is when I read. I love Terry Pratchett books, so picked up a copy of 'Die kleine freie Manner' (Wee Free Men). When I read it, I read it in German, and I'm reading the German out loud in my head, but I understand it.

    So I think it's being able to pick up the words in a format that your brain can easily appreciate. Perhaps music? As I also have German audio books (der funfte Elefant) and cannot keep up/think German quite as well!
     
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  7. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    I find that's absolutely the case.

    My brain has two settings: English and Foreign. Right now, the Foreign setting has Chinese "installed". Although I took Spanish in high school for two years, and French in college for a year, I can no longer think in those languages. I can still somewhat understand Spanish I read it or hear it... but when I try to speak Spanish, it all comes out Chinese, because my brain is "wired" to not have to translate Chinese. I have to force myself to speak Spanish... one... word... at... a... time... thinking each one through as I go.

    Immersion. Force yourself to use nothing but Chinese. And practice, practice, practice. I don't know how long it took before I started thinking in Chinese... it just happened. But it was somewhere between week 1 and week 47, being in class 6 hours a day with native teachers who forced us to speak only in Chinese, plus studying and listening to tapes every evening.

    We sometimes discussed news events. Forcing yourself to have conversations - not just learn vocab words - is what makes the difference, I think.
     
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  8. michael78

    michael78 Terabyte Poster

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    It must be fun for you Nugget living in Switzerland with everyone speaking German, French and Italian :rolleyes:
     
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  9. nugget
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    nugget Junior toady

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    It's really confusing when you add in the Rätoromansch and English.
     
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  10. michael78

    michael78 Terabyte Poster

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    Rätoromansch is a type of latin? I heard a small portion of people speak Latin in Switzerland.
     
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  11. ffreeloader

    ffreeloader Terabyte Poster

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    This is sorta off topic, but something I've pondered quite a bit in thinking about programming. I see the issue with programming as being the same as trying to communicate in a second natural language. You're trying to describe how to solve a problem with a limited language set and to do that well you have to be able to think very well in that programming language.
     
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  12. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Not off topic at all... I would agree with your assessment.
     
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  13. sunn

    sunn Gigabyte Poster

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    absolutely agreed.
    To describe programming to others (i.e. parents), I would often compare it to reading/writing an another language. Of course, they would then ask why can I learn to read/write various computer languages and not 'our own native' language :rolleyes:
     
  14. richardw

    richardw Nibble Poster

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    it could also be that some people are wired to be better at 'language', as a communication skill, in the same way that some people are better at music. Everyones brain is different.
    Translators have to be highly fluent in their chosen languages, youll find that they can also communicate fluently in others, but may not be able to translate them.

    When learning a language, you have to 'live' it, the way languages are taught in the UK is of no use to most people. How many variations do you need on the french for cat?
    Think about how you learnt your native language, it wasnt by learning phrases & structure, it was learning through use.
    In the french education system, they have maths & science lessons in english, so the students learn english through using it.
     
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  15. nugget
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    nugget Junior toady

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    It's kind of a composition of Italian with a very heavy French influence and also some Swiss German.

    Basically it's taken all the nicest parts of the languages and put into one while keeping its Italian roots. It's a very nice language to listen to as well. I could sit there all day listening to someone that speaks it.:biggrin
     
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