How to start thinking in your TL?

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
User avatar
Brown Belt
Posts: 1494
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:36 pm
Location: Denmark
Languages: Monolingual travels in Danish, English, German, Dutch, Swedish, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Romanian,
Ahem, not yet: Esperanto, Norwegian, Afrikaans, Platt, Scots, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Greek, Latin, Indonesian ...
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1027
x 2963

Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby Iversen » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:22 am

Iversen wrote:Or in other words: just think "bob-bop" if you simply can't recall a certain word.

Tomás wrote:If I did that it would be like Dizzy Gillespie had taken over my brain.

I think the expression "bop-bop" entered my brain while I studied French in the 70s, and it is quite practical not to have to invent a new "hole-filler" each time I run into a problem while thinking. If "bob bop" makes you think about Dizzie Gillespie then you may have to find another term to do the job - unless you actually like jazz.
2 x

Orange Belt
Posts: 247
Joined: Sun May 22, 2016 3:01 am
Languages: Native: English.
Advanced: Spanish.
Intermediate: French.
x 493

Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby Finny » Wed Mar 08, 2017 2:09 am

windslav wrote:You'll start doing it naturally once you know the language. There's no need to force anything, just keep studying.

Indeed. I'd only estimate myself as B1 speaking in French, but I think in the language when speaking it to my kids. However, I'd also estimate my aural and reading comprehension as C1, which I think is essential, as I'm not burning lots of energy trying to understand every other word in the language, which frees up mental energy for producing output.
1 x

Green Belt
Posts: 332
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2016 2:21 pm
Location: Estados Unidos (near the Mexican border)
Languages: English - (N)
Spanish - B2++ (estimated)
Some day (far from now): Portuguese, Lao, and/or Italian
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=2513
x 428

Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby NoManches » Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:13 pm

I can make a few observations on this:

For the most part, I have to force myself to think in my target language. That is, I have to make a conscious effort to construct sentences in my head, ask myself questions in my TL, and summarize things in my TL. (Others have pointed out that we don't really "think" in any language, but I think this question refers to the process of mentally talking to ourselves in a particular language).

There are exceptions to what I just wrote:

1. I find that even after a short amount of time reading in my TL (10-15 uninterrupted minutes) , I start to think in my TL until I start using English again (English is my native language). I have spent hours watching television in Spanish but for some reason, reading always does the trick while television doesn't automatically "switch my brain over to Spanish". I think the reason for this is because when we read, we are coming across many, many, more words per minute than we ever would while watching television. Also, TV can be distracting and we may be watching something but our brains may be elsewhere.

2. If I am actively conversing with somebody in my TL, I start thinking in my TL without any second thoughts. The longer I am interacting with them, the more automatic it becomes. After an hour long chat with a friend, I find myself thinking in Spanish long after we have parted ways. If I exchange a few words with somebody in Spanish, that usually isn't enough to get me to start thinking in my TL.

And finally, if I spend time in Mexico or another Spanish speaking country, I find myself thinking in Spanish (my TL) almost exclusively. This seems obvious, but whenever I'm in Mexico I go out of my way to avoid English and only use Spanish.

So a summary of what I just wrote would go like this: the longer I use my TL on a particular occasion, the easier and more automatic it is for me to think in that language. If I'm not in an environment or situation that requires me to use my TL, I have to constantly remind myself to "think" in Spanish or it doesn't happen that often.

I want to point something out again: Reading has been incredibly helpful to me as a warm up exercise and a way of immersing myself in my TL. When I had a tutor, I spoke so much better on the days I was able to read for a few minutes before practicing compared tot he days I just jumped into conversation. Give it a try and I think it will help you think in your TL with less effort.
3 x
Super Challenge:
: 3400 / 5000 Spanish books
: 6720 / 9000 Spanish films

User avatar
Orange Belt
Posts: 223
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:53 am
Location: Houston, Texas
Languages: English (N), Spanish (B1)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?p=65330#p65330></
x 278

Re: How to start thinking in your TL?

Postby coldrainwater » Sun Mar 26, 2017 11:45 pm

The methods I follow resonate closely with habit formation and output as described by smallwhite. In my case, I have very little experience with language learning (false beginner with reboot last June), but I have substantially more experience building habits and using mindfulness. There are certainly strategies that work by way of hammer, but I have heard the idea of ´force yourself´ a bit too often and I prefer a different tact.

My professional and personal training tells me that forcing is more likely to involve using a lot of personal volition (ego depletion/will power), which I believe is a costly and rate-limited resource. Motivation is also a fickle beast. Habit formation and mindfulness, on the other hand, tend to have a much lower failure rate (in my experience at least). To build a habit of turning my inner voice and thoughts to a TL, I simply mindfully pay attention to any times when my internal voice or dialogue happens to be in my L1. So step one is recognizing when the undesired pattern is running amuck inside the mind. When I notice this happening (at times when it shouldn´t), I then accept it peacefully and without judgment. Rex is running loose in the park and that is OK. I then center myself by returning my focus to breathing and, after a pause, I re-engage my internal voice in the TL and go on about my life. Over the course of time, the new habit replaces to the old in a smooth manner that is not forced, but is very much a conscious transition.

3 x

Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest