Translation as a Tool to Learn Any Language
By: Kaleela Arabic
For so many, the traditional methods of trying to learn a new language, like getting a grammar book and learning from it, simply do not work. Consequently, a handful of these people found a new method, driven by need and frustration of learning a new language in a way that will not bore them. This method internalizes the patterns of a foreign language, and it is known as bi-directional translation. It consists of translating an entire text from your mother tongue into the foreign language you are trying to learn. So, today we want to discuss why translation can be a great tool to learn any language, what language material you can apply, how you can apply that material, and also when.
So why translation? Is it good to learn languages? Some schools of thought say that translation can get in the way because we might filter everything through our native language, and this does actually happen if things are done the wrong way. But your mind will translate in your native language either consciously or unconsciously. You can translate or you can choose not to; one thing doesn't exclude the other. However, you can always try a combination of both.
What language material can you apply? Well, you can use the language learning material currently available on the market - just as long as it has the following characteristics:
- It would be great if the material is bilingual (part in your target language and part in your language).
- It should be attractive. If you are a person that responds well to visual stimuli, make sure your material fits your liking.
- It has to be portable. This is very subjective, as there are some people who don't like big things and they prefer something portable and accessible to them like a book or a laptop.
- The material has to be interesting, useful, comprehensible and contain progressive content. There is a lot of language learning material that is not useful or suitable to an individual's needs (like the stiff grammar books we mentioned before); therefore, the material should contain things that you can actually use if you travel or talk to people. Comprehensible input is also important if you want to understand what's going on in the material. Additionally, it should also contain progressive content where one unit is built upon another. Lastly, the material should have live grammar explanations, because grammar is learnt from language, not the other way around. We strongly believe that if you internalize the patterns of a foreign language by translation, and, on top of that you have grammar explanations that fill in the void, you will assimilate the language easier.
With this being said, you can see how this method is universal.
Up next is how to translate. With this method you basically take a text in your target language and in your native language, and then you translate it in both directions. This has to be done by following a few steps. First, you have to understand the text. Second is translating from the foreign language (or L2) into your native language (L1), third is translating from L1 to L2.
Obviously, it is important to understand the text, as you cannot learn what you cannot understand because the main goal of this method is to understand the patterns of a language. As human beings, we are hard-wired to see the patterns in nearly everything, be it mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and even foreign languages. If the pattern of phonetics follows the same lines in your target language and your native language, then it will automatically be easier for you.
The second step is translating from the target language (L2) into the native language (L1). Even if you have a text in both L1 and L2, translate it anyway into your mother tongue. By doing so, you make the text your own, or personal, and you're going to get attached to your own words. You will be more focused when you type/write, and you will understand the text better.
The last step is translating from L1 to L2. Once you translated into your native language, a few days later try to translate it back into your target language. This is the most interesting step of them all, because human beings are very good at recognizing things versus recalling things. You might recognize khubez, which is bread in Arabic, but when asked to recall how to say the word, you might need to make an effort to remember; however, the good thing about the effort of recalling is that you're strengthening the bonds between neurons and the combination of recall and review is really strong for your memory.
Now, you might be wondering when you will go through all these phases. As human beings, we tend to forget things and our ability to remember decreases quickly as time passes. Natives of a foreign language recall all the time because they have to, but as language learners, we don't have that luxury because we have to take deliberate time to learn languages. Thus, when advancing in your lessons or chapters take some time recall your previous lessons.
In conclusion, language learning is not only about a collection of words, it's also about building a skill. If you visit Kaleela's blog (http://www.kaleela.com/
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