Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning directly rather than simply translating

I'd thought I'll share with you a concept that someone once told me when learning a new language, something that we can may not even realise we're doing.

That is we can often find ourselves observing an object in our primary language and then translating the word in the language we're learning. While this is still effective, our thought processes can be improved if we attempted to learn in a slightly different way. Although, initially having a solid base of knowledge it may be worth still continuing with the traditional techniques, particularly if it is difficult to learn directly in the foreign language.

I'll give you an example. Let's say I'm learning Chinese and I see a chair, rather than immediately thinking of the Chinese word for chair, the first thought that comes to mind is the English word for chair, which I would then translate into Chinese.

While this process works well in your own identification of what a "chair" is in Chinese it's not as prompt and efficient as learning the word "chair" in Chinese directly in Chinese. That is, without even knowing the English word for chair we can still call the chair "chair" in Chinese.

This encourages faster responses and promotes more direct learning. Much as we would have undertaken as a child. They say that you learn faster as a child than as an adult. While a mind cluttered with responsibilities may contribute to this, it may be that we often learn faster and easier as a child since we do not have any former reference points that we need to refer to that creates the need to understand something in our primary language first, translate and then we can fully understand.

I find that learning directly where possible is always the most effective method, just as a child we would learn directly what words for objects and things are. So with these principles I hope that you will be learning another language directly than simply learning indirectly by translating from our primary language.

For that reason, I'd say you could say the same about your favourite text or movie. I find that things can too be lost through this indirect interactions through translations. Words can lose meaning and context, so identifying this, one of my goals in life will be to try learn as several languages and so that words do not get lost so readily in translation. Now all to do now is practice...

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