How to start thinking in English

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The best way to improve your conversational skills is to start thinking in English.

What does thinking in English mean? It means never having to translate words from your native language into English. It removes that extra step when you’re thinking of what to say or write.

Thinking in English makes communicating automatic and more fluent. It allows you to respond to others quickly.

There are five habits you should develop so you can start thinking in English:

  1. Name objects around you in English

    Every time you go into a room, look at the objects around you and name them in English. You don’t have to speak out loud, but you can if you want to at the start. When you do this often enough, it will become an unconscious habit. It’s a simple way to shift your brain into making English the default language in your mind.

    Another way to do this is to put labels on each item in your room. You can use post-its or simply tape small pieces of paper with the name of the object on it.

  2. Think in simple sentences

    In addition to naming objects, try using them in short sentences. For example, upon entering you bedroom, maybe you see your bed. You can think of simple sentences like “My bed is white” or “my bed looks soft” or “my bed is big.” You can also start with “I am” sentences. For example, “I am entering my room.”

  3. Describe something when you forget or don’t know how they’re called

    Think of similar or opposite things to describe the object. For example, if you can’t remember the word “freezer” (the home appliance) you can say “It’s like an ice box.” Or you can say “It’s a place to keep things cold.”

    Tip: Use an English only dictionary or a learner’s dictionary to look up new words. Then use to hear and know how a word is pronounced. List down five to 10 words each week. Doing this will get your mind in English mode not in translation mode. It will also increase your vocabulary.

  4. Take an everyday thing and do it in English

    Everyday things are actions we do each day, like looking up the date on a calendar, or checking our phones. Consider using a calendar in English, or writing your grocery list in English. You can also change the language of your phone or social media accounts to English.

  5. Surround yourself with English

    Listen to music, and watch videos, movies, or TV in English. As much as possible, use English at home when speaking to your family. Read English books, newspapers, and magazines often.

Finally, it’s important to keep track of these activities every day. You can write a list at the end of the day. Describe what you did and note down the date. This will help you see which activities help you the best. You’ll also be able to map out your progress.

Don’t worry if you forget to do them daily. Just keep at it. Noticing your English improve will encourage you to stick to these activities.

More exercises to help you start thinking in English may be found here: How to think in English …in 68 minutes! from Rachel’s English.
Sources: How to think in English, Rachel’s, and Train your brain to think in English, Alice Bryant, VOA Learning English. Accessed August 30, 2023.

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