Do You Read Target Language Using Your Native Language?

Forgive me if this question has been asked before. I’ve always wondered if translating whilst reading was a bad idea? I find I can read my target language MUCH faster if I say each word in my native language in my head as I read.I hope that makes sense?

So for example: “¿cuantos años tienes?”

I keep with the syntax, I won’t read it as “how old are you?” But as “how many years do you have?” (In English)

Just to give another example “todo lo que dices.” I’ll read that in English: “all that which you say.”

Is this wrong/weird? Words in my target language aren’t automatic yet, but should I still be striving to read everything in the target language without letting English in my head? Even though it takes me so much longer?


As I German learning was, seemed that a very good idea to be. Then noticed I, that the word order different in German was. What further hereunto comes, is the fact, that themselves some words or expressions, only heavily translate let. Then have I to me thought, it could perhaps (doch) better be, oneself on German zu gewöhnen…wenn du verstehst, was ich meine…


It’s a bit like someone who is going to learn skiing, and since he is a champion in skating he prefers to put the skater on his feet instead of the the skis…it doesn’t work. Only with real skis, even though they are uncomfortable first, he will be a champion in skiing one day.

Actually this reminds me of all the grammatically awkward “Chinglish” signs I saw in Shanghai a few years ago. In a placed reserved for people in wheelchairs, the sign in English said, “Deformed Man.” Luckily the majority of the Chinese there could not have understood it to take it as an insult lol.

No, it’s not weird or wrong and I would say that most (if not all) learners do that in the beginning.
I certainly did it to some extent when I began learning languages. Just remember that it’s a help, similar to training wheels on a bicycle. Just phase it out as you feel more confident.
For example, I’m very sure that quite soon you’ll understand the “¿Cuántos años tienes?” sentence as a whole. At that moment, you’ll feel no need to “decompose” it and translate it.
That’s the process… It’s about exposing yourself to the language and concentrating more and more on whole sentences/ideas and less on individual words.

I do that at the start, especially if I’m trying to understand an unfamiliar sentence construction. I suppose the thing is that even if it is much faster at the moment to translate each word into English, it’s not much faster than people will speak your target language. It’s hard to stop thinking in English at the beginning, but the aim is really not to have to think at all - when somebody speaks their native language they rarely think about the words they are using so much as the feelings they are trying to convey - the words just come on their own. (I have recently started speed reading in English, and it is amazing how much of a difference it makes not to think each word aloud, without sacrificing comprehension.)


I think it’s a process. If I have a good translation for the word I’ll use it in my head. When I listen to Korean I usually translate everything in my head to English. If I know what they’re going to say or what the whole sentence means in a whole I’ll think about that as I listen and then later breaks down the parts that I find hard.
If I’m watching a show and the word for “time” pops up I’ll think “OH! They said ‘time’! I understand!”. I’d say that the first step to fluency is not having to translate everything and getting the words without having to search for them.
Surely, I sometimes struggle to express something in Swedish or English, but that’s usually not because I don’t know the words but because I want the language to flow and sound as good as possible.