Learning to Think in English?

by Sebastian

Hi, Ola (Hola, Ola)
I'm a Spanish native speaker, learning English, of course, and I'd like to ask you how can I think in English (I mean: giving little orders to myself, self-ruminations...) before performing an act or a situation).

For example, after reading many pages on this site, I tried to think or draw conclusions of what I learnt, or decide the next thing to do (go back, go forward), but I can't it's really hard to me, I can UNDERSTAND the whole article, but then I only think in Spanish, ¡Que buen articulo!, ¡Lo tendre en cuenta!, ¡Vuelvo atras!, ¡Lo leere otra vez!, etc. You know what I mean??
I can get an article like this one above, but I can't even build up a Simple phrase on my mind!!!!

How can you help me??

Sorry for the grammar mistakes...


Hi Sebastian,

Diana here! I thought I would answer your question myself (I hope you don't mind) because it isn't really a grammar question (it is more of an advice question).

It is a great question! How can you think in English?

The first thing that you need to do is speak more English. How much do you speak English on a regular basis? Speaking English regularly will allow you to take those spoken words and use them in your mind.

When I first started learning Spanish I could not think in my head (in Spanish) but the more I spoke Spanish (even just talking to myself to practice) this lead to thinking more in Spanish.

So in theory you just need to start forcing yourself to speak English aloud and also put yourself into situations to think in English.

Here are some action steps you can take in order to start thinking in English.

1) Talk to yourself in English aloud. Yes, you can narrate what you are doing as you do it, on a daily basis. Here is an example:

"It is 8am and I am thinking of getting up. Should I get up? Maybe I should sleep in 10 minutes longer. Where is my phone? I thought it was under my pillow. Oh wait, there is is on the floor. It must have fallen off the bed. Actually, I feel more awake now. I should get up. I'm going to throw off the covers and sheets and roll out of bed. Oh no! The floor is freezing. Where are my slippers."

Do you get the idea Sebastian? You can talk to yourself aloud and have conversations with yourself describing your surroundings. This will help you get used to speaking in English (in a natural and fluid way) and will also improve your ability to think in English. The more you speak to yourself, the easier it will be to think to yourself.

Also, if you look at what I wrote above you will notice that I used lots of phrasal verbs.

Studying phrasal verbs and trying to incorporate them into your self-talk would be really useful, as phrasal verbs are essential to everyday English.

Actually, what you could do (to make yourself accountable) is join the Learn English Corner (LEC) (if you haven't already) and start an audio blog with the help of audioboo.com

There you could record up to 5 mins of "self talk" and post it on a daily basis in your blog. It would be a great way to keep yourself accountable and speaking to yourself on a daily basis.

2) Describe your surroundings but in your head. I will do it right now. "I'm sitting on my couch and my friend Travis is sitting on the other end of the couch checking his email with his iphone. My husband is watching YouTube videos on the desktop computer across the room. It is 8:30pm and we are being lazy. The sun is setting and I can hear birds in the background. There are also people talking in the street below." Like I said before, the best way to improve something is by doing it.

3) Question and answer sessions in your head. Ask a question related to your surroundings. "Why is my husband watching YouTube?" Then you can create possible answers and even debate about them in your head.

I think he is watching YouTube to learn English.

What? Are you kidding Diana? He's not trying to learn English. He is trying to learn about world war two.

That's not right Diana. He is totally trying to improve his English. Look! He is watching a presidential speech right now and making notes.

So in short, the best way to begin thinking in English is to force yourself to speak and think in English.

If you find that you do not know many useful vocabulary words to fully express yourself I would recommend watching a good TV series (like "friends" or "how I met your mother") to boost your listening comprehension and learn some natural and useful expressions.

Basically, you will be able to think in English once you focus on speaking in English because thinking is just speaking...in your head.

I hope that helps and if anyone has any more suggestions for Sebastian leave a comment and share your ideas.


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Jul 03, 2012
by: Anonymous

I totally agree with you, Diana.

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