THINKING IN ENGLISH HAPPENS WITH YOUR MOUTH This video is dedicated to Juhapekka’s last comment on my blog whe re he says that he’d really like to be able to think about the most sophisticated and complex subjects in English, but he’s not really able to. Juhapekka is a Finnish guy and he’s a frequent commentator on my blog – he’s posted a good few comments and they’re very profound and I really, really appreciate his contribution to my blog.
So, thank you once more Juhapekka! ;-) But now let’s get down to down to the business and let me respond to the actual comment. Let me tell you right up-front that it’s going to be useful to everyone – not just Juhapekka – so just watch the video above (or listen to the audio file just above the video in case you can’t access YouTube content) and you’ll definitely find something useful for your own English improvement routine.
Way back I posed an article on my m y blog called How to Develop Your Ability to Think in English It’s important because if you think in your native language and t ranslate the whole thing in English when speaking, it’s not a natural process – that way you’ll just keep experie ncing the same fluency issues over and over again and obviously in order to become a truly fluent English speaker you have to think in English. So in the previous comment Juhapekka asked whether I think it’s possible to think the most complex subjects in English and in this comment he elaborates a bit further on it and here’s what w hat he says: Thanks. I asked whether it’s possible to th ink very sophisticated and complex thoughts in English because I spend a huge amount of my free time with my homework in Finnish but many course books are in English. So, anyway I have to read course books in English and I usually can “think” in English when I’m reading English books (it’s natural because when reading you haven’t time to translate) but when I have to do some real independent critical thinking, I always have to t hink in my native language. It’s a bit sad because it would be great opportunity to think in English and to speak my thoughts aloud but I can’t do that yet.
When I said in my previous comment t hat when you think, your thoughts – whether it’s your native language or English – tend to be a bit messy. It’s not as if there’s a very clearly structured process going on in your mind; your mind wanders. Abstract thoughts appear here and there and everywhere, and your thoughts don’t really follow the same process as when you’re speaking. When you speak, you have to create sentences, you have to -practice session, you still go through a lot of r easoning and draw logical conclusions and even if it’s a self -practice conclusion-drawing. So when you speak, you’re actually forcing your mind to follow your mouth!
You do the entire thinking-speaking process with your mouth, but if you just allow your mind to think on its own, more often than not, the thoughts are scattered. I personally find that even when I have to find a solution to some problem in my native language, when I just think about it, I keep going in circles in my mind. There’s a lot of interruptions and my mind wanders aimlessly. So I personally believe that whether it’ s your native language or English – as far as thinking just on its own is concerned, you’re much better off speaking out loud while thinking :!: And that pretty much answers Juhapekka’s question – basically, thinking on its own just doesn’t cut it on most occasions! And obviously when you’re a non -native English speaker and you’re trying to do the whole thinking thing in English, and if you’re trying to JUST THINK the most sophisticated thoughts and do the critical thinking process ONLY IN YOUR HEAD in English, it’s very, very difficult to achieve it! You’re much better off doing the same thing I advise my blog readers to do in almost every blog post and every video I publish on this website:
SPEAK OUT LOUD! Speaking out loud is the most effective way of putting a structure onto your thinking process and as a result you’ll be thinking out loud with your mouth. Thinking inside your head alone isn’t effective.
Going back to the blog post about t hinking in English I published years ago – I never actually meant that you have to be able to develop your ability to think in English inside your head. To be honest with you guys, even nowadays I personally can’t think in English just inside my head with the utmost clarity of thought – and I can’t really do that in my native language either, for that matter. I think that no matter what language we’re looking at, as far as you want to be able to do some critical thinking, there’s always some comparisons and conclusion drawing, and logical reasoning going on, and if you do it ONLY inside your head, your m ind oftentimes wanders. Those thoughts tend to be rather abstract, and various words and concepts are popping up in your brain which actually prevents a clear, un-obstructed flow of thoughts.
So let me re-iterate it once more. Speaking out loud is the solution, and there’s nothing wrong with that :!: You shouldn’t have the following mindset – “I badly want to possess the ability to think inside my head in English, and if I can’t do that, I’m useless…” Even if that’s what you IDEALLY want, real life is real life and you just have to do some speaking along with thinking inside your head.
Hope you find this useful, my friends!
Throughout the years while I’ve been running this blog, I’ve always focused upon needs of those nonnative English speakers who find themselves in a situation I was in a number of years ago – unable to speak fluently despite possessing fairly good grammar, reading, writing and comprehension skills in English. In other words, I’m catering to those foreigners who are long past the beginners English level in terms of general English knowledge and they’ve developed what I like to call a “writing mode” syndrome.
But what about those who only start t he journey into the English language now? Obviously, they wouldn’t be able to read and understand this article for the simple reason that they haven’t built and developed their vocabulary and all the rest, but I can definitely imagine a sce nario whereby someone who just starts learning the English language is rece iving some useful info from a person having read this article. Maybe it’s YOU who can help some friend of yours to acquire the English language the right way and AVOID all the pitfalls that we’ve been falling for and that have prevented us from developing natural English fluency from the outset:
Learning meanings of individual words; Learning grammar rules and creating sentences by applying them; Translating directly from our native languages; and many more! Well, I know only too well that the worldwide dominance of the traditional grammar-translation way of teaching languages – English included – is so deeply ingrained in people’s minds that you’ll find it very hard (on most occasions – even impossible!) to convince people NOT TO learn vocabulary lists, NOT TO try to understand the exact meaning of new words and NOT TO analyze the syntax of se ntences too deeply by trying to find the exact equivalent of the given English sentence in their native languages. It’s a constant uphill battle, and most of the times you’ll fail. It’s worth a try, however, because if you do succ eed in persuading your friend to try out the contextual way of learning the English language right from the start, they will NEVER develop the English fluency issues in the first place!
So, where to begin? Well, I guess a very good place to start would be by understanding that it’s SUPER-IMPORTANT to learn English word combinations right from the start – there’s no need to learn individual English words :!:
Why? OK, here we go!
Our Brain Works Based on Associations The thing is, our human brain is wired to function based on associations. Anything we see, touch, feel or think about is perceived through associ ated memories of what those things go toget her with. Let’s take a very simple everyday item such as a coffee mug – you think you perceive this simple thing for w hat it is (an item fulfilling function of holding coffee) just because it IS a coffee mug.
Well, in reality, it’s a bit more complicated. There’s thousands of memories deeply ingrained in your memory of you and other people using the coffee mug in a particular way – filling it with water, adding coffee, sugar and milk and then bringing it up to your mouth – and THAT’S what makes the item for what it is. All those ASSOCIATED ACTIONS create the unique perception of the mug, and the very same way any individual word in any human language associates with other words describing certain actions, concepts, items, humans and animals.
English is Best Acquired Contextually – Even at Beginners Level! Let’s say, for example, if your friend wants to learn a new English word “to run”, it’s not the best idea to let them learn the word “to run” just on its own i n its indefinite form “TO run”.
Why? You see – typically what happens is the following. The word “to run” gets written down with its translation in the native language, and the beginner English learner creates a wrong association in his or her mind: “to run” – “to run (in their native language)” Is that useful? Not really. If you learn a new vocabulary word this way, y ou simply won’t teach your brain how this word “to r un” acts in the English language and you’ll be permanently STUCK IN THE TRANSLATION MINDSET whereby every time you want to use a particular word, you refer to its translation in your language which is not how natural language acquisition is supposed to happen. It’s best to start to learn how to think in English from day one. In order to learn the new word “to run” and also start learning how it would be used in real life, it’s best to learn it as part of a very simple word combination: “I’m running”
Now, please bear in mind it’s NOT NECESSARY for a total English learning beg inner to understand that the word “running” is a Present Pro gressive form of the verb “to run”. It’s not necessary to understand that “I’m” is an abbreviated version of “I am”. If the beginner learner goes down the road of analyzing the language and trying to understand WHY this or that particular
word is said a certain way, it will simply put them into a perpetual cycle of over-analyzing and being unable to speak and write in English spontaneously later in their lives. It’s best to keep the beginner learner blissfully unaware of other variations of the verbs “to be” and “to run” when they’re saying the simple se ntence “I’m running” for the simple reason that all they have to be thinking about at that moment in time is the activity of them running, nothing else! Don’t Analyze Too Much! There’s no need for the beginner English student to analyze verbs, conjugate them and then create sentences – that process is totally unnatural and does nothing but start the “writing mode” formation in their mind. Instead, the simple sentence “I’m running” needs to be repeated many times over till it’s embedded into student’s mind and they can produce it automatically, without any thinking whatsoever. Same applies on everything that the beginner English learner would be learning – if it’s a word “the sun”, they should learn a simple word combination “The sun is shining”. “Love” – “I love you”. “Speak” – “I speak English”. “Friend” – “You’re my friend”.
And so on and so forth, till the person in question has acquired a good few English phrases they can actually start using from the very start and that will provide a solid foundation for further English studies whereby they’ll be able to learn more advanced sentences and vocabulary. Unfortunately, in real life in happens much differently. The English language gets broken down to the basic grammar concepts, and the inevitable process of cramming verb conjugation tables begins: I am, you are, he, she it is. We are, you are, they are. I was, you were, he, she it was…
Then the poor English learner is r equired to create English sentences by sticking individual words together while translating from their native language and that’s the WORST part of it all! NEVER Translate Word-by-word From Native Language! You see, even if some translation is indeed needed to learn basic English concepts such as “They’re my family” (how else would you explain to a person who doesn’t understand a single word in the English language what it means, right?), it’s of the utmost importance to translate and help the student understand the meaning of FULL SENTENCES rather than individual words.
All you need to know is that there’s loads of English sayings and small talk phrases that are typical for the English language only and that you need to know a good few of them to m ake your conversational English sound natural and also so that you can fully understand what other English speakers are communicating with you!