I was born in China, went to Canada at age 3, lived there for 10 years, then returned to take high school in China (6 years).
I have found that I tend to speak better in both languages if I DO NOT make any sort of connection between the two, and split my brain in half.
Most of the people I meet enjoy translation-thinking, and I find that I often lag when I do that.
What do you guys think? What do you guys do?
I think translation is a necessary stepping stone for adult learners. But if you were lucky enough to have a lot of exposure to 2 languages as a school kid, you probably do not need it. Are you translating when learning third languages?
Related: if you were ever to tutor Chinese people in English or vice versa you would probably have to start “translation-thinking”.
I find that I tend to learn the feel of a language rather than the meanings of words and sentences.
But I guess that if I were to learn a third language, I would have to translate first.
True, so I have a hard time tutoring languages.
Not saying that I can’t translate, but If I translate I tend to fall a little more into one or the other, and lower my fluidity of one or both.
I think translation is a necessary stepping stone for adult learners
It depends on what kind of translation we are talking about. I am not a fan of “use only monolingual dictionaries” method, but I certainly don’t translate from my native language when speaking or writing except of in some specific situations. You normally stop doing it after a month of learning a language, I think.
^ yes, I have found that each language is so unique that it’s impossible to make connections without messing up structure, tone and meaning.
Plus a speaker is only truly speaking a language when they also speak the culture, and it’s hard for me to take in two entirely different cultures at once.
~So when you are just starting out with a new language, how do you get meaning from things you read / hear / see without relating it to a language you already know?
I can only learn a new language by relating it to something I already know, my own language, or another language I already know.
After you become fluent in a language, you stop relying on translation to form phrases. It’s a natural process. It’s also natural to go through a (sometimes fairly long) phase were you have to do some sort of translation in your head to formulate what you’re trying to say.
Native English speaker learning German here. Initially, for me, translation in my head was a necessary learning tool. Also when trying to speak initially, it was a matter of thinking in English and translating into German. I have been using the LingQ method since September 2009. Did a lot of listening, linking, reading, for the first year. A year and a half ago signed up for my first German conversation. It was 15 minutes of stress and torture. Have been having regular weekly conversations with native speakers since then. Usually speaking to natives 1 hour per week. Continued the other methods here also. Took the listening challenge in 2011 and listened to German at least 2 hours a day, plus linking and reading. Somewhere along the way, I finally started to think in German when trying to speak. Also the translation when listening stopped. When I am listening to German, I just know what is being said without translating–unless there are too many words I don’t know, or there are idiomatic expresssions that I am not familiar with. I would guess about 2 months ago-so about 1year and 4 months after starting speaking.
I agree with dooo that it’s unavoidable for adult learners. It might be a different story if you’re in the country, and people don’t mind you hanging around and observing (and listening) for 6-9 months before you start speaking much yourself.
In my case, I find that I can speak French and Spanish reasonably well, but basically all the more developed thoughts and ideas I want to express are (originally) already there in English. I spend eight hours a day using English at work, I mostly socialise in English and more importantly, I think in English. In short, I can chit chat in Spanish and French without translating, but if someone asks me to describe what I do for a living, or something else about my life here, there are layers and layers of thought patterns that have all been developed in English, and my production of the language tends to lack smoothness as a result of this.
I’m sure that it would not take me too long before I could think 100% in Spanish or French (if I lived there), but I’m not sure if we’re talking about 1-2 months or 6-12.