Do you know that thinking in your target language can bring you a huge step closer to fluency? Now the question arises- how to start thinking in a language that I am learning or trying to be fluent with? Well, the answer is simple- we need to reprogram our subconscious mind which is known as our habit mind to start thinking about everything in the language we are learning and stop translating from our mother languages. Is it possible to reprogram our habit mind in our target language? Truly-speaking, it is not so hard, but it does take conscious effort and practice. This article will help guide you in reprogramming your subconscious mind in your Target Language (TL) and give you a new insight into learning it.
If you live in a country where most people speak in your TL, you can use the language for several hours each day which activates your subconscious mind. Thus, it becomes part of your “inner speech.” Simply put, you start thinking in that language. Your habit mind automatically stops trying to translate things from your native language into the target language. For example, the majority of English learners live in countries where English is not their main language. This may be true for you. You may not have many chances to practise English as you live in Bangladesh. You may even be self-taught by learning about English in textbooks. In this case, when you speak in English, your speech might be slower than you would like. This is because your subconscious mind is programmed to translate from your first language to English as a foreign language, which can also sound unnatural. English, like every other language, has its sentence structure. The good news is that you can reprogram your subconscious mind by doing some mental exercises to start thinking in English even you live in a non-English speaking country.
Train your mind to think in individual words
Yard by yard, life is hard but inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Well, most language experts note that it’s best to start small. Thus, a good first step is to think in single words. Look around you wherever you are. What do you see? In your head, try to name each object in your TL in your surroundings. As you continue with this, it becomes more of a habit, so things are going to pop up in your head – computer, telephone, chair, desk, pen, paper, clock. Whatever it is…wherever you are. The best way is to start with nouns and then add in verbs. When you wake up in the morning try to name objects in your TL, whatever you can see around of you and whatever pops up in your mind, and before going to sleep recalling the name of the objects in your TL is helpful to instill them in your brain. As an ESL teacher, I always suggest my students label everything in their room or their apartments so that these English words, kind of, stick in their heads.” Remember! Everything starts with a baby step.
Think in sentences
The next exercise is to start thinking in simple sentences in your TL. To cite an example, if you are sitting in a park, you can tell yourself things like, “It’s a sunny day”, “It’s a beautiful morning’’ and “People are playing sports with their friends.” Once this becomes easy for you, you can move on to more difficult sentences. Try to say simple sentences in your head or try to put the words together without thinking too much about if it’s correct.” Yes, you have to reprogram your mind to self-talk in English or whatever your TL is.
Describe unknown words
Describe your day
The next recommended exercise by language experts is to describe your daily activities. There are several ways to do this. You can start describing your day using the simple present verb form. So, they would think to themselves things like, “I put on my scarf” and “Mom cooks my meal.” Other experts say you can mentally make plans in the morning when you wake up. This would require other verb tenses. So, the skill level is a little higher. For example, you might tell yourself, “When I leave the house, I’m going to get a hot chocolate. Then, I’ll drive to my office. I’m going to cook a special dinner tonight. She said she will eat out tonight.”
Think in conversation
Now, let’s move to think in conversation. When you do this, you are imagining yourself speaking to someone else. You are asking the questions and thinking of replies. This is a great way to practice what you might say in a real conversation. For example, let’s say the imaginary person asks you a question like, “What did you think of the award show last night?” How would you answer? Imagine the conversation and practice it in your head. You can do this out loud or in silence.
You will have to do these above-mentioned exercises to reprogram your subconscious mind. Remember that your subconscious mind is your habit mind. You need to train your habit mind to start thinking in your Target Language (TL). For all of these exercises, there will of course be some words and phrases that you do not know. Therefore, at some point, you will need to use a dictionary. If your skill level is high enough, you might consider using an English-to-English dictionary. I suggest you write down just five to 10 new words and phrases each day in your notebook. Keeping a notebook helps you remember the situation that you needed that word or phrase for. This makes it easy to remember when you are in such a situation again. So, how much time should you spend on these exercises? I recommend you do a little every day. So, when you’re doing it daily, little by little, over and over again, that’s the key, that reprograms your conscious mind (habit mind). When you make things a habit, then it just pops up into your mind without thinking, and then, before you know it you’re thinking in your Target Language (TL).”
The writer is a CELTA certified ESL Teacher