Searching out opportunities to think in a foreign language

By | July 15, 2015

Sometime ago I wrote a post on thinking in a foreign language, which to me is one of the milestones of true fluency. Near the end of that article I briefly mentioned how I sometimes “pre-cache” Japanese phrases in my head before speaking, though I downplayed it at the time, and felt it was more of a crutch.

Recently I was on a business trip where I was away from my family, and when certain events occurred during the day I started imagining how I would describe these things to my wife later that night, either in email or phone. This was more than just topics, but rather the exact phrasing and words that I would use to communicate those things.

Though it was challenging and I wasn’t able to prepare everything in advance, I feel now that this is a valuable technique for getting yourself to think in a foreign language, as it is one of the rare times where you can practice recalling vocabulary and grammar rules without actually speaking to someone.

Another way I’ve fit more Japanese practice into my life is by describing things in Japanese to my son, who we are raising bilingually. Though he may not always understand or respond, it is great for his language development, and at the same time I am getting more practice speaking in Japanese. Without a native speaker around there is always the risk I would say something incorrect, but kids are smart enough to learn patterns they hear frequently, and I can always try and steer away from certain phrases which I am very uncertain about.

One of the more difficult techniques is just speaking to yourself outlaid in a foreign language. Besides the fact someone might think you are a little crazy, it’s hard to keep motivated and stay on track when you are alone.

Many of these things are hard to do for beginner students, but regardless of your ability I recommend you think about ways to integrate the  foreign language you are studying as much as possible into your daily life.

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3 thoughts on “Searching out opportunities to think in a foreign language

  1. kei

    This really is a great technique. It can help you to rearrange the sentences you want to use and to make sure that you aren’t making a big mistake (if you can catch it, of course!). It also makes you think about how you are stringing sentences together, and how to make more complex sentences. Even if you are a beginner, the only way to get better is to practice (even with yourself!). Thanks for the suggestions!

  2. Leonard

    Hello! I’m glad you are still continuing to post unlike me 🙂 I’m back after a long period of blank. I hope all is well for you. Great insight and great tip by the way. It must be interesting to raise your kid bilingually!

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Sorry, I must admit I don’t remember you too well ): Are you still studying Japanese and how is it going?


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