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#15. Language learning does not mean translating

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

A translator is a person who masters both languages equally. And even when they do - I speak from experience - translation remains difficult. So why attempt it, when you're learning a new language?

The reason my students translate from their mother tongue into the new language they're learning is twofold. First - and especially if they were taught in the UK, school has repeatedly asked them to do translation exercises, which I find mind-boggling, to say the least.

Secondly, because it's a reflex to reach back to your mother tongue, when struggling to express yourself in a new language. When they do, I tell my students it's akin to clinging to the edge of the pool while trying to swim. You use a lot of energy in the process, but you won't go anywhere any time soon!

At some point, you need to let go and take a risk. But what always happens when my students do, is they realise they can swim! Not fast, perhaps, nor elegantly, at least not as elegantly as they would like to initially, but they're certainly afloat.

You wouldn't believe how often I tell my students that the mistake they've just made was caused by using their mother tongue and not by their not knowing the answer in the language they're learning which, incidentally, they invariably know!

When you understand the logical system of a language, and what 'tool' to use, you focus all your attention and energy on expressing yourself in said language. You don't waste any time in translation. The process is less confusing and difficult, and, crucially, you make progress more quickly.

Don't hesitate to send me your questions.

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