Learning to think in English will make you more confident speaking English because you’ll speak more naturally and fluently with less hesitation. I can already hear you saying “But Emma, I need to think in my native language to translate! It’s too hard, I don’t know enough vocabulary to do it!” But listen, that is the long, slow and painful road to English fluency.
When you do this, your English sounds unnatural because the sentence structure is different in your language and it probably takes you a long time to say what you need to say because you’re translating in your head as you speak. We’re going to learn a few strategies to help train your brain to think in English. So start with very simple vocabulary. When you’re at home, think about the English word for things that you see around you. Shoes, flowers, desk, door. When you’re on the train or you’re driving to work, look out the window and think of the English word for the things that you see. Dog, factory, busy, windy, people. In fact, we’re going to try it right now! So, I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath.
Because when you open your eyes you’re going to look around the room in front of you and think in English – only in English – not in your native language. You’re going to think in English of the words for everything that you see around you. Okay, so take that deep breath again. And open your eyes and look around you. Thinking of the English words only. Great! Now, if that was easy, we can move on to the next level. If it was hard that’s okay too! But you’ll need to practise every day doing the same thing in different places – it will become easier.
You’re training yourself to think in English. So you can do it at home or at work, on the train or when you’re at the cafe waiting for a friend. Then you can move on to simple sentences. For example, your hair’s really long or what’s he eating for lunch? Or that chair looks really uncomfortable. So do the same thing now. I want you to look around the room and make three simple sentences about what you see. Remember, no translating! You’re not allowed to think in your native language at all. And if this is too difficult, go back to thinking of simple vocabulary words. Okay, so close your eyes, take a deep breath, go. Okay, if that was easy, you can move to the next level which is to plan your day in English – thinking in English. So when you wake up in the morning and you’re still lying in bed, think about everything that you need to do that day – in English.
After I eat breakfast I’ll walk to the bus stop and I’ll catch the bus to work. On the bus, I’m going to read my book. I’m meeting Matilda for lunch today and I think we’re going to get takeaway and eat it in the park. It’s going to be such a nice day. So when thinking in English sentences and planning your day with simple sentences becomes easy, move on to thinking in conversation. Now, this is great when you’re sunbaking on the beach or hiking up a mountain or you’re in the shower getting ready for your day and you have some time alone in your head. So there’s nothing to distract you! Now thinking in conversation is really great because you’re asking the questions then thinking of answers to those same questions and also ways to keep the conversation going, so it’s really great conversation practice.
Now, if talking to yourself in your head sounds strange or silly… well I guess it probably is! Get one of your friends to help. And no, I don’t mean ask one of your friends to have a shower with you, that would get maybe a little bit weird and awkward. You might not have the same relationship again after that. I just mean, imagine that they are part of the conversation in your head, so when you’re asking the questions, how would they answer? What would they think about the things you’re saying? As you’re walking down the street, in your head you could be saying “It’s so hot today, isn’t it?” “Yeah it is! I wish I brought my hat, that sun is scorching! It reminds me of a week that I spent in Dubai actually.
It was over 40 degrees Celsius!” “Hey are you sure that Sally’s meeting us here? We’ve been waiting for so long now!” Practising this skill and doing it regularly will help train your brain to think in English. I recommend that you find a time in your day where you always do this every day. So for example, every morning after you brush your teeth, spend five minutes thinking in conversation or planning your day.
Or it could be on your lunch break. Work on it every day and you will make it happen! You will train your brain to think in English so that when it comes to speaking in English, it flows naturally. Your words flow naturally because you’re not translating in your head. You’re thinking in English. Now, there’s heaps more videos to watch on my YouTube channel and if you sign up for my emails on my website, you’ll get five free pronunciation lessons so visit www.mmmenglish.com/signup See you soon!
As found on Youtube