When learning your first new language

I am a native english speaker from the US and am learning Spanish now. When learning new words I find myself translating them back and forth from English to Spanish. I know this is somewhat unavoidable for any beginner, because there is no other way to think of a new word in any other language than one you already speak.

My question is: when does this stop? Is this just going to continue until i gain enough words in Espanol so that I can describe a new word using Spanish words I already know? Is there any way to stop this before that (probably not)?

Do you have this same problem when begining any new language?

I agree with you.

When I look in the dictionary I have different possibilities, then I choose one. After that I translate the word back in the foreign language and can see, the meaning is wrong.
This to and fro I use often, because the opinion or consequence from the sentence depend exactly from chosen word and will be totally different with a wrong.
When I want to learn the word I have to know the correct sense.


When you first meet a new word, and look up the definition or translation using a dictionary, such as our online dictionary in LingQ, this is only the beginning of acquiring the word. That is why we call it a Hint.

Even if the word it a straight forward like table or tree, there may be figurative uses of the word. So you have to wait until you run into it a few more times before you both remember it, and get a better grasp of how it is used.

This is particularly the case in inflected languages like Spanish where different forms of the word (verbs in Spanish) are used differently.

That is why it is helpful to see the saved words in yellow. You will find yourself clicking on the yellow highlighted words often to refresh your memory.

You should read the phrases that contain these words. You should try to notice these phrases when you listen and read. You should use the Flash Cards and other ways to review the words. When you review words in alphabetical order you notice the different ways similar words, or similar sounding words are used.

Mostly you listen on your MP3 player, often imitating as you listen. Gradually these words, their sounds, their connections with other words in Spanish, will become clearer and more natural to you.

Let the language enter you mind. You do not need to explain the word in Spanish. You just need to be able to understand it, at first, and then eventually to use. That can be much later.

Thank you Irene and Steve.

This makes perfect sense. I am a Biology Major in school and am very used to explaining new words in terms of English words. Obviously this is a luxury that I dont yet have in Spanish.

So I just need to absorb Spanish as Spanish, and as something that just is, without really explaining it to myself for now.

This is an exciting opportunity because of the chance it gives me to get back to the basics. I have to understand and try to work with this new (to me) way of describing the world. Im pretty sure this will give me a better appreciation of commincation in general.

It seems like speaking is something I take for granted. The words in English just fall out of my mouth. So in a sense, even though I am so proficient in a language, speaking it has lost some of its significance for me.

I have much more to say, and you will here from me soon!

Thanks again!


I like the original question of arjan. I have the same feeling now while learning spanish. I can read and understand a lot already, though it always is a feeling of not understanding the spanish, but translating it into english to understand instead (even though english is not my native language too). I guess, the edge when you turn into a natural undestanding (is there a phrase “gut feeling” in english? :-)) is when you can read it in your mind imagining as if somebody was talking to you. Like you were not just reading words you know, but you hear the fluent sound of what you read inside your mind. I think one must practice a lot to make the new language understandable “on-the-fly”. This feeling of your mind working in that new language will eventually come, it only takes time to adapt your mind.