Mental Translation And Why You Shouldn’t Do It

Mental Translation is reprocessing words, phrases or sentences from the language you are trying to acquire into your native language.

When learning a foreign language such as English, students tend to get into their own heads too much and try and translate every sentence, usually word for word.

Do not translate! If you want to do one good thing for yourself as a language learner, then try your best not to translate sentences from your mother tongue to English in your head while talking to someone. Why? There are many reasons.

Firstly, you are constantly encountering barriers and thinking to yourself how much “you do not know”. You make pauses every now and then to look up a word, ask your teacher for help or check the dictionary for that one expression that you will use once, and almost certainly forget later. Secondly, translation is a skill that you probably haven’t quite mastered. Chances are high that your mother tongue and English are not mirror languages, so one word or phrase in your native language will not have a direct and absolute pair in English.

The best thing you can do, when you are in class or in a situation that requires communication, is to try and use the things you have learned and that you know as correctly and as accurately as possible. Look at it this way – learning a language is like building a house in the old times. You have to do everything yourself, from floor to ceiling, from door to bed, which requires effort and time.

Mental translation is like constantly attempting to do work from your home despite the fact you do not have the right conditions, and when you are looking for help for that translation all of the time, it is like you are persistently borrowing things from your neighbour. You borrow a tool to do some repairs, then bring it back and then borrow it again in five minutes, and this can go on indefinitely. In time, you will have everything you need in the house, but by then it’s far more desirable to use what you already have and to work even harder on making a new one. This is not an easy road, but in the end, you will are left with a fully-functional house.

Click here for more language learning tips. Are you a teacher? Then check out our Teaching Tips.

About the Author

Milica Madić, freelance blog/article writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.



Related Posts

How to Learn Useful Phrases

How to Learn Useful PhrasesIn English, there is a large number of fixed phrases and expressions that are sometimes not easy to understand, but they are very useful, even necessary. These phrases are a part of the cultural heritage of a nation, present in the speech of most people in one region and they are often not a part […]


4 Things to Remember When Writing an Email

4 Things to Remember When Writing an EmailWriting emails is one of the biggest parts of communication in the business world. They are the easiest way to send updates, keep in contact, and have a record of what has happened. If writing emails is a frequent occurrence for you, then keep checking these four things before pressing send! 1. Clear, short, and […]


Self-Study from Textbooks

Self-Study from TextbooksMost people think textbooks are boring. They can be. Generally, textbooks are only used in classrooms but why not use them for self-study? The best way to use textbooks on your own: For new vocabulary Make a note of new vocabulary words and do the exercises for them. Try to use one or two of […]


How To Increase Confidence When Presenting

How To Increase Confidence When PresentingGiving an oral report or a presentation can be stressful. It’s even more stressful when you need to give it in a language that you aren’t 100% comfortable with. Here are some tips to help you with your formal business English and your confidence when speaking in front of an audience. Know and practice the […]


Top Tips for Studying English When You’re Tired

Top Tips for Studying English When You're TiredPerhaps you’ve got a full-time job and study English as a hobby, or you’re a student with a million-and-one things to do and don’t know when you’re going to fit in your study time. If you’re struggling to find the energy to keep up your English studies, read our top tips. 1. Take Care of […]