Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Think in English to Gain Fluency

Think in English word cloud

Stop Translating and Start Thinking In English

Despite memorizing long lists of vocabulary words and studying grammar for years, many of my students struggle to speak in English. They spend a lot of time translating in their head before speaking. They are able to understand spoken English (if it’s slow enough), but when it comes to speaking, they struggle.

If this sounds like you, keep reading!

The secret to fluency is to learn how to think in English.

Think in English Step-by-Step

There are many ways to practice thinking in English. In her YouTube video, Learn To Think In English | Speak Clearly & Naturally, Emma gives the following 4 steps:

  1. Think in individual words and simple vocabulary
  2. Think in simple sentences
  3. Think about and plan your day in English
  4. Think in conversation

Emma explains each of these steps clearly with examples in her video.

By increasing your ability to think in English, you will improve your ability to speak in English.

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Shayna at Espresso English gives the following 4 steps, which are similar to what Emma recommends:

  1. Think in individual words
  2. Think in complete sentences
  3. Think about functional English
  4. Think about telling a story (narrative English)

You can learn more about these 4 steps in Shayna’s video and lesson: Learn How To Think In English. Her video has clear and slow speaking that includes the words printed on the video so you can read along as you listen. There is also an explanation below the video with four levels of how to practice along with examples.

Using Short Animated Films

Using unscripted videos is another way to develop the skill of thinking in English. If you often find yourself translating in your head, using short films can help you practice thinking in English. There are many short films that are visually appealing and easy to understand because they have no dialogue.

Here is how to use short films to practice thinking in English:

  1. Watch actively
  2. Use the steps above (proceed from words to sentences)

Watch Actively

Choose a short film, and as you watch, try to narrate what is happening in English. Stop yourself if you begin to think in another language. Even if you can only begin with simple vocabulary words, it is good practice to activate your target language vocabulary. As you improve your vocabulary and grammar, you can progress to more complex sentences.

Proceed from Words to Sentences

Depending on your level, you might start with words (boy, woman, glasses, newspaper) or sentences (The woman is reading a newspaper. The boy is texting. They are sitting on a bench). Do what you can. The more you practice, the easier and faster it will be to produce English without translating (buffering in Konglish).

Develop English Vocabulary and Grammar Using Short Animated Films

In addition to using videos to practice thinking in English, you can also use them to develop vocabulary and grammar. There are many short films with no words, so comprehension (understanding) is easy. You can start with the short video Snack Attack. You’ll find some guidance and vocabulary in this post about Snack Attack.

You might also enjoy the short film Alike. The lesson is for intermediate level students, but the film can also be used for thinking in English. You can also search YouTube for additional short animated films to use. There are many excellent ones you can use to practice activating your vocabulary.

Never stop learning!