tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sat Jun 15 14:52:39 2002

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Re: Translating vs. Thinking

I'd written:
>>>> I'm no expert in languages, but trying to THINK IN the new language
>>>> rather than TRANSLATE TO the new language is always the better
>>>> approach for true understanding.

Sangqar (Sean Healy) replied:
>>> While this is true, I don't think it is a helpful piece of advice for
>>> beginners. They > definitely have to start by translating to Klingon (or
>>> any language). Thinking in > comes when you're good at a language. How do
>>> you get good? By practicing. > How do you practice? By translating your
>>> ideas.

Then Qov <> wrote:
>> I disagree.  Translating your ideas is a poor way to practice, because it
>> encourages you to think in your own language.  Much better is to examine
>> the available vocabulary and grammatical structures in the new language and
>> see what sentences those inspire.  That is the beginning of thinking in the
>> new language.  Once you are thinking in the new language, even the most
>> limited thoughts, that is the greatest inspiration to learn more, because
>> you have a LIMITER on your THOUGHTS, that limiter being your control of the
>> language.  That drives you to expand your control.

This is kind of what I'd meant -- don't get trapped in your own language...

And again Sangqar (Sean Healy) replied:
> My experience has shown me that the best way for someone to get comfortable
> with a language is for them to use it.

I do believe this...  What *I* meant by think in the new language is that
one should strive AS THEY LEARN to think about the words and grammar they've
learned in the context of the destination language, not the source language.

Think of it this way, a good language teacher won't just give a two-column
word list with A = X, B = Y, C = Z on it.  They will give new words, and
EXPLAIN them, especially where there isn't a direct word by word correspondence.
The learner shouldn't try to think "English word A = <new language> word B",
but rather "<concept> = <new language> word B".  This way when you begin to
form sentences, you're not just finding each word in turn, but more importantly
trying to form a thought process in addition to a sentence.

> And most people simply don't have the patience to wait until they can think
> in a language to use it.

I agree.  My own personal shame is that I still haven't gained fluency in
any languages I've spent time with (Esperanto, Japanese, Klingon a little
bit, and currently German).  That takes way too much time, and I haven't
been good at making time.  So I hope you won't think I'm hypocritical in
saying the above, but I believe it's true.

> When I was living in Finland, I certainly didn't wait until I could think
> a thought in Finnish before attempting to express that thought; if I had
> simply kept my mouth shut until I could think what I wanted to say before
> saying it, I probably would never have opened it except to eat.  It was
> attempting to say what I didn't know how to say that resulted in the
> feedback that taught me how to say it.

I imagine both approaches CAN be successful, but I think that use & repetition
alone is not as powerful as use & repetition combined with trying to put
yourself in the mindset of the new language.

> So my advice is: Speak.  Try your hardest.  If you make a mistake, someone
> will correct it.  That's why we have a BG.

You're absolutely correct.  But I'd add: try to think like a Klingon while
doing so!
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