Thinking in a Foreign Language

Thinking in a foreign language is something many people consider a goal. Some even consider it a measure of fluency. We consider thinking in a foreign language to be a great exercise. We suggest starting it as early as possible.


Why should I try thinking in a foreign language?

The mind trains itself like a muscle. The more you do something, the stronger it gets. So, the more you try thinking in a foreign language, the more comfortable you’ll be with that language.

There’s also no stress involved. You aren’t going to get looks of incomprehension if you get it wrong, you aren’t going to look stupid. It’s worry-free practice.

You don’t have to be great at grammar and sentence construction. Most of our thoughts are relatively simple linguistically. Lists of things can be solved by learning vocabulary, simple sentences about future conditionals can be memorized and used over and over again.

How can I start thinking in a foreign language?

1. Lists of items in your immediate vicinity, and shopping lists. Let’s imagine our shopping list for the next week in our first language. What do we do? We create a list of vocabulary. Milk, Bread, Onions, a New Ferrari. The point is, there’s no grammar needed. So, we can do the same in our target language. Around me currently is a desk, some books, a lamp, a computer, some speakers and a chair. That’s quite a simple list to deal with in a foreign language, you could probably do a similar thing on your first day of learning.

2. Start doing notes of what you think about in your first language, and then draw up the most common ones.

For instance, I often think;

  • “Wouldn’t it be great if I wrote about <this>”

I then adjust the sentence for my ability in a new language. If it’s a totally new language, I might make it simple like this:

  • “I want to write [thing]”

That then gets stored, so whenever I think, “I’d love to write about [another subject]” I can think the thought in my target language.


In Conclusion, thinking in a foreign language isn’t an end goal, it’s a process that you can use to your advantage, and a great exercise that can be done any time, anywhere. And if you do it deliberately, then soon you’ll catch yourself doing it accidentally as well.



Language Bug