How to start thinking in your TL?

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Voytek
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How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby Voytek » Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:12 pm

Any ideas how to make this process easier than only forcing yourself to do this?
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby aokoye » Sun Jan 15, 2017 7:49 pm

So I guess a few things come to mind. First - I subscribe to the idea that we don't think in a language rather we map our thoughts onto language (google mentalese and also think about how many unconscious thoughts we have). That said I didn't work to try to "think in" German - it just happened. I mean I do talk to myself a lot (both out loud and not) and some of that talking is in German.
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby Cavesa » Sun Jan 15, 2017 8:02 pm

I believe my usual answer to various questions applies again: lots of input. Especially listening. And large doses once or twice per week (like 4 hours in a row) are much much better than twenty minutes per day (the usual "a bit every day is better than cramming" advice is absolutely misplaced here, based on my experience. I certainly cannot get immersed so fast.). You basically need your brain to get used to the situation, to get immersed, you must not give it the time needed for translation, you need it to get carried in the current, ideally thinking about the tv series plot instead of language learning. Similarily, it can work with reading, but I think listening is much better for this.

When I start watching tv series in a new language, I soon notice I keep thinking in the langauge even after the last episode for that day ends. I keep thinking in the langauge usually only until I realize what I am doing :-D But the time gets longer and longer with practice.
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby tarvos » Sun Jan 15, 2017 8:07 pm

Surround yourself with the language so your thoughts are forced to be quick and in the TL
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby whatiftheblog » Sun Jan 15, 2017 8:29 pm

Cavesa wrote:I believe my usual answer to various questions applies again: lots of input. Especially listening. And large doses once or twice per week (like 4 hours in a row) are much much better than twenty minutes per day (the usual "a bit every day is better than cramming" advice is absolutely misplaced here, based on my experience. I certainly cannot get immersed so fast.). You basically need your brain to get used to the situation, to get immersed, you must not give it the time needed for translation, you need it to get carried in the current, ideally thinking about the tv series plot instead of language learning. Similarily, it can work with reading, but I think listening is much better for this.

When I start watching tv series in a new language, I soon notice I keep thinking in the langauge even after the last episode for that day ends. I keep thinking in the langauge usually only until I realize what I am doing :-D But the time gets longer and longer with practice.


Yep, this. And as tarvos said, drown yourself in it. My approach is basically to be doing as much in French as humanly possible, given that I still need to work and talk to my friends/family in English/Russian. To give you an example, from a practical standpoint, my day today looks like this:

1. Woke up, showered, checked my email (in English).
2. Watched about 45 minutes of a political rally in French on Youtube. Switched over to a political debate live on BFM online (~3 hours). Since I still have life administration things to get done in between all the French, I did all my house chores (cleaning, cooking, freshening up, etc) with the debate on "in the background" - since these are mindless tasks, I can still focus on what I'm listening to, and I just carry my laptop around the house with me to always have it on right in front of me.
3. I'm seeing friends for a few hours this afternoon (in English), but walking to and from the cafe, I'll have either a podcast or the radio on in French. Then I'm cooking dinner for another friend, so I'll have about 3 more hours of documentaries on Youtube lined up for that. I'm using a recipe in French, too. In total, it'll be about 7-8 quality hours of immersion, and I still have some time to catch up with stuff online and see my friends.

How I know this method is working: it took me a good 3 minutes to remember the word "rally" up there, because in French it's "meeting", and "meeting" doesn't really work here, but I just couldn't switch myself back to my English vocabulary. And last night, for example, I sat down and voluntarily produced approximately 850 words of pretty complex written French without checking Linguee once. 8-)
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby Soclydeza » Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:12 pm

Lots of exposure. Once your mind assimilates a word or phrase and it becomes automatic, it will want to take the path of least resistance and use the word/phrase of your TL in place of those of your NL (if the word/phrase seems to make more sense in your TL). Once this happens with enough words/phrases, your mind will fill in the rest to keep to keep your "thinking" language uniform; at least that's how it works with me sometimes.

One drawback: you may actually say something in your TL when having a conversation with someone in your NL. Kinda fun when this happens but can be kind of awkward too.
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby smallwhite » Mon Jan 16, 2017 5:10 am

Soclydeza wrote:Lots of exposure. Once your mind assimilates a word or phrase and it becomes automatic, it will want to take the path of least resistance and use the word/phrase of your TL in place of those of your NL (if the word/phrase seems to make more sense in your TL).

I agree with the automatic then path of least resistance bit, but I believe that the best way is not lots of exposure, but more lots of output on your part, such that your brain gets used to producing output in the TL. It's simply a lot more direct. You want your brain to produce output in TL, so you keep producing output in TL, so much so it becomes a habit. Increased exposure to TL, which is input, trains your brain to get used to receiving input. If you want to train your reflexes in sports - another form of automaticity - you train by actually doing and not by watching people do it. By actually falling onto the floor then rolling, by actually ducking, etc. Path of least resistance, automaticity, reflex, habit, I think they're all the same.

You (OP) can read about habit-formation. Say, set aside a chair at home and make it a point that whenever you sit there, you must think in your TL. Then go sit there more and more often. Or, start a brand new activity that you've never done before, and do it by thinking only in your TL - write a novel or a blog, write regulations for an imaginary sports club, research and write about something you're not familiar with... then whenever you do it, you will automatically think in your TL, or else it just won't feel right.

Voytek wrote:Any ideas how to make this process easier than only forcing yourself to do this?


Like aokoye, however, I don't think we think in any particular language. So the process of thinking in TL will be forced, because thinking in any language will be force. I don't think that having single TL words pop up here and there means that you're thinking in that TL. Those words are just what happened to be on the path of least resistance at that moment.
Last edited by smallwhite on Mon Jan 16, 2017 10:33 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby Iversen » Mon Jan 16, 2017 5:28 am

For me thinking in my languages comes long before I venture into speaking to real human beings (apart from single prelearned sentences during voyages), and the reason is that nobody can hear or see the halfbaked rubbish I produce in my head.

In addition to the things that others have written above I would mention that I sometimes try to do 'on the fly' translations of something I hear on TV, even into some of my weaker languages - and the result is of course rubbish, but the exercise forces you to keep a fast pace (and you don't have to speculate about the theme -others did that for you). Without the support of an external voice that has to be translated I end up thinking about the words I don't know (or don't remember) instead of keeping the necessary steady breakneck speed in my thoughts.

The thing that really can get my thinking going is something I call the 'buzz' - and that's the result of getting an overflow of spoken words in a reasonably strong target language into my head, where I may not understand everything, but enough to get my head responding automatically to at least some of some of the babble. Written words can in principle have the same effect, but only at a later stage where the reading process has become almost automatical. With words from the media industry I would say that listening is a push thing because you can't shut your ears. Reading is a pull thing as long as you can't stop reading and understanding written text which happens to get in front of your eyes - and even then you could just shut them or look at something else. But a few hours with a really captivating book or magazine in a good strong target language may set my head spinning as much as an hour of concentrated TV watching or sitting on a bench in a zoo in Targetlanguagehomistan would have done.

One final advice would be to get your vocabulary holes filled as fast as possible. At home I can do this because I have my dictionaries within reach (including the tiny ones), but when I'm away from home I ought to walk around with pen and paper to jot down all the words I discover that I miss in my thinking - otherwise I'll forget to look them up. But alas, in practice that doesn't function - I don't start writing anything in the bus or while I'm walking. Those who already have suitable electronic gadgets could make a note by recording the missing words on that gadget, but prsonally I'm just now getting accostumed to the tiny old mobile phone I got in February last year - and it's not really advanced enough to function as a notice board. Instead I sometimes carry one of the two-way micro dictionaries in a pocket - but that only covers one language at a time, and mostly I forget to do it. Again the the futuristic gadget owners might be in a better position if they have internet access or a downloaded dictionary on their space age thingy.
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby vonPeterhof » Mon Jan 16, 2017 8:43 am

smallwhite wrote:Like aokoye, however, I don't think we think in any particular language. So the process of thinking in TL will be forced, because thinking in any language will be force.
This is something that might vary between individuals. I for one find the mentalese/language of thought hypothesis highly counterintuitive, at least with respect to conscious/surface-level thoughts, and I actually find it near-impossible to force myself not to articulate my conscious thoughts in a spoken language, even if the hypothesis is true and this process is just me restating thoughts that have already been formulated in mentalese.

Having said that, I don't think I've ever actually set the goal of learning to think in a particular target language - that's just something that tended to happen spontaneously after periods of intensive study and/or massive exposure. Back when I was studying for my German final exam in university I realized that my thinking was slipping into German when I would start thinking a thought and then find myself unable to finish it due to a deficit of known German vocabulary. These days I think in English about 50% of the time, in Russian about 30% and in Japanese about 15-20% (mostly during work, though even then not at all times), with some very sporadic thoughts in German, Kazakh and Norwegian.
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Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby smallwhite » Mon Jan 16, 2017 10:25 am

vonPeterhof wrote:... I actually find it near-impossible to force myself not to articulate my conscious thoughts in a spoken language, even if the hypothesis is true and this process is just me restating thoughts that have already been formulated in mentalese.

Then it's even easier. Instead of having to start thinking in a language plus having to start thinking in the TL, which are 2 new habits, you only have to switch from thinking in L1 to thinking in L2. All you (OP) need then are just reminders, eg. paper notes "Think in L2 instead!" stuck all over the house or some reminder phone app.

Voytek wrote:Any ideas how to make this process easier than only forcing yourself to do this?

Maybe rewarding instead of forcing. Or punishing yourself every time you think in L1.

Or just adjust the ratio. For every minute of thinking in L1, tell yourself to think for 2 minutes in your L2.

But what actually is it that you find hard "forcing" yourself to think in your TL?
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