I have a quick question for you all. What kind of dictionaries do you use (online or hard books)? More specifically, monolingual dictionaries or bilingual dictionaries? Why do you prefer one to the other?

I think the goal in learning languages for me is to be able to think in the language I am learning. When you are learning a language that is very similar to your mother tongue in terms of grammatical structures and words/expressions, it is easier to learn and think in the language. I am a Japanese native speaker learning to speak English. If I look up words in the bilingual dictionary (Japanese-English dictionary), it is easer to understand what the words mean but I don’t think I am not really thinking in the language. Just translating them into my mother tongue. When I speak English, I think I am still unconsciously put together phrases in Japanese and translating them into English. I recently read several books, according to which learners of any foreign languages should use monolingual dictionaries to eliminate the unconscious translation process in their heads.

What are your thoughts on using the monolingual dictionaries?

I always use online dictionaries they are just a lot easier to use. I haven’t really used monolingual dictionaries but I hope I will get in the habit of using them. I think that once you’re at an intermediate level in a language it might be good to start using them. I would first look up the meaning of a word in a monolingual and then if I were uncertain or would not understand the meaning in the monolingual dictionary I would look it up in a bilingual. I feel that I might remember the meaning of the word more easily than if I just look it up in a bilingual dictionary because it forces you to think. Using the language for whatever it might be (reading, speaking or listing news on the radio) and noticing that I understand at least most of it gives me a satisfaction that motivates me to continue.

Good question! I find a native language bilingual dictionary is the best - and the shorter the explanation, the better. So more a glossary (a list of words, like kato = cat). The words I tend not to remember easily are those which have too many glosses like (grandega = massive, huge, enormous) . Chose the most used, shortest and easiest to remember definition.As your language develops, you will learn the other meanings of the same word.

See 20 rules of formulating knowledge in learning rule number 4 and 9 describe the problem. This article is more about remembering any type of content, mainly for studying, but I find many are true for vocabulary.

My native language is English and I learnt Finnish initially using Finnish The textbook was called Finnish in Finnish, suomea suomeksi, and the teacher spoke almost exclusively Finnish. Grammar was shown only using examples, no written descriptions. Even with a vocabulary glossary in English, I personally found it a very inefficient and frustrating way to learn. I often felt completely lost.

Learn enough words to stop using a dictionary most of the time, and then read a lot in the target language. Try to infer the meaning of a word before looking it up in a dictionary. Use a dictionary that helps you best remember the word so you don’t need to look it up again. Make reading a pleasure. Read at a level that is not too hard and not too easy. Read interesting content that you want to read.

“Translating in your head” disappears over time as you get more and more exposure to content and start to read, listen, write and talk more and more.

I also use online dictionaries. Like you said it is much easier to use and navigate. I can also copy and paste the definitions of words and phrases looked up onto my LingQ. I tried to look up words in the monolingual dictionaries first and if their meanings are not very clear to me, I turn to my bilingual dictionaries.

You seem to be learning a few languages at the same time. I assume you didn’t start them all at the same time. How do you allocate your time to the different languages you are learning. I reached to a point where I am comfortable with English, but I am still not great in carrying out conversations in English. That’s why I don’t think I am not fluent in English.

My lack of conversational skills may have to do with my cultural background as well. I am Japanese and grew up in Tokyo. By nature I am very reserved and quiet. I know for a fact that people who are outgoing and curious tend to do well in learning languages. Especially when it comes to speaking.

Like Steve (Kaufmann) says in one of his videos, at one point you have to start speaking a lot in order to speak well. I have been procrastinating doing that exact thing for a very long time. I’ve recently started talking more with friends. I hope to see some results in the near future.

Monolingual dictionaries are a terrible idea and a huge waste of time. If you cannot understand a word from context, and thus have to look it up, then you’re only going to encounter many, many more words in the definition that you don’t understand.

The goal is to be able to learn words so that you can make sense of patterns/grammar/structure of the language and then understand the language itself. As you get better and better at understanding (listening, reading), you will be able to activate (speaking, writing) more and more of the language. As both increase you will mentally translate less.

In other words, “thinking” in the target language without mental translation is not the means to know the language, it’s the result of knowing the language.