Stop translating!

Another obstacle for the average English learner is the speed at which native speakers speak. The typical learner of English usually says something like this: "When I listen to the BBC or to CNN, I can't understand anything because they speak much too fast." Again, it only seems as if native speakers speak too fast. In reality they speak at a completely normal speed. The problem is that if English isn't your mother tongue your subconscious mind always tries to translate everything you hear.

Now think about this: Translating is a very complex process that requires a lot of practice, training and experience. And if you want to translate from English into your mother tongue you also need to have an excellent command of both languages. So the question is do you meet all those requirements? You are a learner of English, not an expert translator or interpreter so why do you burden yourself with a task you cannot accomplish? In other words: When you listen to English, you should not try to translate into your mother tongue. Just relax and let your ears have the chance to absorb and filter the sound of new words and phrases.

I know that at the beginning this is not an easy task to accomplish. It's a fact that most adult English learners automatically start translating everything they hear into their native language. This is the main reason why they fail to "understand" native speakers. Their brains are constantly busy with translating and so they don't have enough time and mental energy to comprehend what is actually being said at the time. Remember that your brain works like a computer. If you give your PC too many tasks to process at the same time, the system crashes. It's the same with listening to native English speakers. If you constantly try to translate what you hear, your brain gets overloaded with too many tasks and gives up.

Instead, you should break the language learning process into several parts just as you did naturally when you were a child. Back then you did not try to translate and "understand" everything you heard, did you? Of course you didn't. You were quite happy and content with hearing the sound of new words and phrases. In most cases this sound made you smile and you felt good. Because you were happy and content, you made progress pretty fast. Now that you have grown up, you suddenly demand too much of yourself. Without even realizing it, you basically want to accomplish the following three things all at once:

You want to be able to understand new words and phrases phonetically. You want to understand the meaning of those words and phrases. You want to able to translate those new words and phrases instantly and permanently.

As you can see, you need to split the learning process into several parts just as you did when you were a child. Now that you are an adult, you think that you can only learn if you put yourself under pressure. In other words, try to be a child again. Enjoy hearing the sound of English and don't bother about the meaning of the new words and phrases. The language centre in your brain is a brilliant system that works smoothly if you only let it do its thing. Don't force yourself to translate what you hear. Just relax and listen.

The question remains, how do winners learn English? In the next chapter, we'll examine the elements of an effective system for you.