2. Why learning by translation is bad.

Many learners these days are conditioned to use translation apps or translation sheets in school when they don’t know the meaning of a word.

This approach is the worst approach. For multiple reasons:

  • Many words in one language do not have a direct translation in another language. So what you get is the word in your language which is the closest in meaning. But that might not be so close. Remember, context is key…

  • By relying on quickly translating words, you deny your brain the opportunity to actually think or try to figure out what the word means. This brain work is incredibly valuable and reinforces your learning. You actually remember more when you have to think about it.

  • Also, by relying on translations and not paying attention or thinking about what the word might mean, you lose the chance to learn the context surrounding the word. Maybe the situation in which the word is said is important. Maybe the mood, or the person saying it… all of these things can make a difference. Trying to recognise the mood, the tone, the situation… everything, not just the words, can really help to learn better and more naturally.

  • By quickly resorting to a translation app, you condition yourself to take this easy solution every time there is a word you do not understand. Some people even do this mid-conversation. On top of the fact that it seems incredibly rude to do this while making conversation with someone, it’s also important to remember than in many of the most important situations that you’ll experience in English-speaking countries, you will not be able to use your phone or device: Hospitals, Foreign Embassies, Airport security, Police… There are many places that don’t allow the use of electronic devices and many situations in which you may not be allowed to use a device. Unfortunately, these are also the most critical situations that you could be in when travelling around or moving to a foreign country. 

Train yourself to not be afraid to ask someone what something means, and to pay attention to what is said/written as the context around the word can help you understand the word and its possible meanings. Allow your brain to do all of the work necessary to develop good habits, good skills, and become native-like in your use and approach to the language.