Friday, January 06, 2006

Do you think in English?

I am always being asked what language I think in. A popular belief is that in order to speak a language well you must think in that language. But the question I'd like the answer to is, "do you need language in order to think?". Consider for a moment: do animals think? What about small babies, do they think? What do they think?

Babies and animals do think, and yet they don't have language. It's true that while we are thinking we "hear" the words in our heads, so our thinking abilities are far more developed than those of animals.

I'm sorry, but I don't think in French. When I'm alone, the only words I hear in my head are English ones. That doesn't mean I can't speak French. Forget this notion that you have to think in your target language - it's really a worthless objective. When you can speak a language fluently, like your mother tongue for example, do you consciously think in advance about every word that you are going to say? Of course not. You simply don't think. It's the same for me.

In your mother tongue you are used to saying the same things every day, hello, how are you, it's a nice day, where have you been, I liked it, I hated it, etc. You have been repeating these words and expressions every day since you began to speak. So you don't need to think about them. This is the right way to proceed in a foreign language.

Next time, I'll tell how I learned one thing in Chinese that I will never be able to forget!

No comments: