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Old 10th February 2009, 09:42 AM   #1
aintza
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Default Thinking in Spanish

A few days ago, I wrote an entry in my blog that was completely in Spanish and one of my friends (who grew up partly in Spain) commented, saying that some sentences sound as if I had thought of it in English and then translated it into Spanish when I wrote it down.

I've realized that I do that quite a bit and it requires some effort to 'force' myself to think directly in Spanish.

Does anyone here struggle with the same thing? What would you recommend I do to practice thinking in Spanish?
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Old 10th February 2009, 10:52 PM   #2
JWood424
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I certainly have found it difficult to think is Spanish, although I have been trying more and more in recent days. I agree about the blog. I try to keep a journal, and clearly some sentences come out as English thoughts translated into Spanish. I find the more I write without conciously thinking of the English equivalent, the easier it becomes, but trust me, it is still a huge challenge. I have tried to spend portions of my day thinking specifically in Spanish as much as possible, even if it is little things. I count in Spanish when I can or I will try to name things in a room as I look around. It is hard because your brain automatically reverts to English when you aren't making a concious effort to think Spanish. Another difficult aspect of this is that while it may help with vocabulary, it won't necessarily help your grammar. I am fortunate to work with some Spanish speaking women who love helping me out and I have found recently I am able to speak more and more without thinking it all out in advance. For example, today I was able to tell a short story about a friend of mine who looked too young to be admitted into an R rated movie despite being 21 and I am fairly certain I got through the whole thing without any major grammatical mistakes as the ladies certainly found the story amusing. I think knowing a good deal of vocab in advance helps, as it makes the grammar portion a little easier to deal with. One idea I had recently was to try to re-tell simple stories, like short newspaper articles in your head after reading them. Pick a sports article or some local news that won't be extremely complicated and re-tell it in your head as best you can. I know after a while your head will start to hurt, but it's great practice.

I hope some of this helped. I'd love to hear more ideas!!
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Old 11th February 2009, 12:06 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by JWood424 View Post
I certainly have found it difficult to think is Spanish, although I have been trying more and more in recent days. I agree about the blog. I try to keep a journal, and clearly some sentences come out as English thoughts translated into Spanish. I find the more I write without conciously thinking of the English equivalent, the easier it becomes, but trust me, it is still a huge challenge. I have tried to spend portions of my day thinking specifically in Spanish as much as possible, even if it is little things. I count in Spanish when I can or I will try to name things in a room as I look around. It is hard because your brain automatically reverts to English when you aren't making a concious effort to think Spanish. Another difficult aspect of this is that while it may help with vocabulary, it won't necessarily help your grammar. I am fortunate to work with some Spanish speaking women who love helping me out and I have found recently I am able to speak more and more without thinking it all out in advance. For example, today I was able to tell a short story about a friend of mine who looked too young to be admitted into an R rated movie despite being 21 and I am fairly certain I got through the whole thing without any major grammatical mistakes as the ladies certainly found the story amusing. I think knowing a good deal of vocab in advance helps, as it makes the grammar portion a little easier to deal with. One idea I had recently was to try to re-tell simple stories, like short newspaper articles in your head after reading them. Pick a sports article or some local news that won't be extremely complicated and re-tell it in your head as best you can. I know after a while your head will start to hurt, but it's great practice.

I hope some of this helped. I'd love to hear more ideas!!
That sounds great, I'm certainly going try that.

Some of the things I do aside from the usual vocab and grammar studies, is to read books in Spanish and also to watch shows as well. The latter helps a lot with pronunciation and colloquialisms and it doesn't hurt that the programs are actually funny.
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Old 11th February 2009, 12:43 AM   #4
Jan
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Default Dreaming in Spanish

Don't know about thinking in Spanish.
I've just spent 3 weeks in Cuba staying in Casas
Particulares and speaking spanish all the time.
Now in Merida Mexico for a month and the last
2 nights I have for the first time found myself
DREAMING in spanish! So after 4 years I may
at last be getting somewhere at least in my
subconscious
Jan
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Old 11th February 2009, 07:15 AM   #5
Gringo Sean
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you know something I like to do, I like to listen to a fast paced song in English and try to translate word for word (or to the equivalent) without stopping. Sometimes I'll listen the song 3 or 4 times translating it in my head. It gets to the point where I'll get so good at translating it fast in my head but I won't be able to sing it out loud as fast in Spanish. It just sounds weird.
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Old 11th February 2009, 07:31 AM   #6
Pippa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan View Post
Don't know about thinking in Spanish.
I've just spent 3 weeks in Cuba staying in Casas
Particulares and speaking spanish all the time.
Now in Merida Mexico for a month and the last
2 nights I have for the first time found myself
DREAMING in spanish! So after 4 years I may
at last be getting somewhere at least in my
subconscious
Jan
I know what you mean. I knew I was getting somewhere in English when I started dreaming in English. But it is quite weard now. The dreams that are placed in England, I dreamed in English, and the ones in Spain, in Spanish (for some strange reason I dream about some of my friends from school or university quite often) That is regardless of where I am.
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Old 11th February 2009, 07:35 AM   #7
aintza
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo Sean View Post
you know something I like to do, I like to listen to a fast paced song in English and try to translate word for word (or to the equivalent) without stopping. Sometimes I'll listen the song 3 or 4 times translating it in my head. It gets to the point where I'll get so good at translating it fast in my head but I won't be able to sing it out loud as fast in Spanish. It just sounds weird.
That sounds like a good idea, although I haven't been listening to any songs in English for a long time now. I've been listening to mostly Spanish, Catalan, Basque and French songs.
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Old 25th February 2009, 01:26 AM   #8
Cide Hamete Benengeli VII
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I'd say it's definitely worth making the effort to think in Spanish. Mentally translating everything when you're trying to express yourself in Spanish or understand Spanish is a crutch that you'll want to ditch as soon as you can since it will only hold you back. Putting an English filter between you and Spanish really keeps you from connecting with the language and achieving higher levels of fluency. If you keep working at it, after awhile you'll realize how much mental energy you were burning up doing the translating and how much easier it is just to think in Spanish.

One trick you can try to break yourself of the mental translation habit is get some flash cards or make a list of Spanish vocabulary that you're already familiar with and as you look at each word in Spanish, vividly imagine the thing, person, concept, etc. that the Spanish word represents rather than, for example, seeing gato and thinking cat.

You can do something similar while listening to Spanish. One particular exercise you can try is listening to or watching a program in Spanish that has a rate of speech that is significantly faster than you're comfortable with. The object is to listen without translating, and if it's faster than your comfort level it's a little easier not to translate, because you just can't keep up.

Another exercise is to pick say 2-5 minutes of audio/video material in Spanish that is faster than your comfort level, but at or a bit above your vocabulary comprehension level and listen to it every day five or six times a day back to back for a week or two.

It may be a little frustrating at first, but stick with it and you'll see results.

Think of yourself as the Clint Eastwood character in the movie Fire Fox. Only instead of having to think in Russian in order to pilot a super sophisticated aircraft you have to do it in Spanish. There's one point in the film where Eastwood slips into English while flying the plane and he loses control.

Mentally translating everything is like being in the plane all strapped in, ready to rock and roll and you're gunning your engines and burning fuel like crazy, but you can't even take off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aintza View Post
A few days ago, I wrote an entry in my blog that was completely in Spanish and one of my friends (who grew up partly in Spain) commented, saying that some sentences sound as if I had thought of it in English and then translated it into Spanish when I wrote it down.

I've realized that I do that quite a bit and it requires some effort to 'force' myself to think directly in Spanish.

Does anyone here struggle with the same thing? What would you recommend I do to practice thinking in Spanish?

Last edited by Cide Hamete Benengeli VII; 25th February 2009 at 01:29 AM.
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Old 25th February 2009, 04:31 AM   #9
aintza
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cide Hamete Benengeli VII View Post
I'd say it's definitely worth making the effort to think in Spanish. Mentally translating everything when you're trying to express yourself in Spanish or understand Spanish is a crutch that you'll want to ditch as soon as you can since it will only hold you back. Putting an English filter between you and Spanish really keeps you from connecting with the language and achieving higher levels of fluency. If you keep working at it, after awhile you'll realize how much mental energy you were burning up doing the translating and how much easier it is just to think in Spanish.

One trick you can try to break yourself of the mental translation habit is get some flash cards or make a list of Spanish vocabulary that you're already familiar with and as you look at each word in Spanish, vividly imagine the thing, person, concept, etc. that the Spanish word represents rather than, for example, seeing gato and thinking cat.

You can do something similar while listening to Spanish. One particular exercise you can try is listening to or watching a program in Spanish that has a rate of speech that is significantly faster than you're comfortable with. The object is to listen without translating, and if it's faster than your comfort level it's a little easier not to translate, because you just can't keep up.

Another exercise is to pick say 2-5 minutes of audio/video material in Spanish that is faster than your comfort level, but at or a bit above your vocabulary comprehension level and listen to it every day five or six times a day back to back for a week or two.

It may be a little frustrating at first, but stick with it and you'll see results.

Think of yourself as the Clint Eastwood character in the movie Fire Fox. Only instead of having to think in Russian in order to pilot a super sophisticated aircraft you have to do it in Spanish. There's one point in the film where Eastwood slips into English while flying the plane and he loses control.

Mentally translating everything is like being in the plane all strapped in, ready to rock and roll and you're gunning your engines and burning fuel like crazy, but you can't even take off.
Thanks for the tips! I've been really working hard at this, watching shows in Spanish and just blogging freely (without correcting anything until the end) and it's improved a lot.

I realized it's not vocabulary I'm lacking in, it's sentence structure. I think I've managed to completely confuse myself by studying three languages at the same time, so I'll hold back on some up until I'm satisfied with my Spanish.
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Old 25th February 2009, 11:29 AM   #10
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Pressure is the key - I do Spanish classes and intercambios in the summer in BCN every year. The tutors bring in newspaper articles for digestion and discussion. Sitting alone doing a comprehension style exercise you have the luxury of time and naturally do the translate-formulate-translate-respond thing. Put on the spot in a lively well moderated conversation or intercambio at first produces complete fear and you will freeze, soon youll be able to stammer a response and later youll gabble an answer, oftem butchering the syntax and grammar but youll get persistent streaming corrections from the tutor and at that point you are learning to speak the language the way native children do - by using it and being corrected, until your sentrances are in better shape and you get a real buzz from actually having got through the session.

Beware though - I made the mistake of doing 3 classes and 2 intercambios in the same day, spending eight straight hours in a foreign language is utterly exhausting if you are not used to it...
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Old 25th February 2009, 11:47 AM   #11
aintza
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Originally Posted by gary View Post
Pressure is the key - I do Spanish classes and intercambios in the summer in BCN every year. The tutors bring in newspaper articles for digestion and discussion. Sitting alone doing a comprehension style exercise you have the luxury of time and naturally do the translate-formulate-translate-respond thing. Put on the spot in a lively well moderated conversation or intercambio at first produces complete fear and you will freeze, soon youll be able to stammer a response and later youll gabble an answer, oftem butchering the syntax and grammar but youll get persistent streaming corrections from the tutor and at that point you are learning to speak the language the way native children do - by using it and being corrected, until your sentrances are in better shape and you get a real buzz from actually having got through the session.

Beware though - I made the mistake of doing 3 classes and 2 intercambios in the same day, spending eight straight hours in a foreign language is utterly exhausting if you are not used to it...
Thanks for that tip. I don't really have an intercambio right now, but I do make sure I converse only in Spanish with my Dad (who is Spanish) and I can definitely count on him correcting any of my mistakes.

I think from now on, if I blog in Spanish, I'll make sure to just write freely and only check it once I'm finished with the entire thing... that way I don't get into the habit of translating it into my head.
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