How to learn a language without translations

How do you say please in Greek?
How do you ask the time in French?
What does this mean?

When we first come to a foreign language our instinct is to seek translations. It’s a very natural approach, but translating is not the most effective or enjoyable way to learn.

We can pick up a lot more just by listening to conversations around us and repeating what we hear. THIS IS IMMERSIVE LEARNING: listening and repeating is the best way to understand and remember.

Just say what you see: how immersion works

Translation is a barrier to effective language learning. It requires a lot of mental energy and repetition to memorise, and it makes us slower and clumsier speakers.

When we learn a language well, we learn through direct associations

‘puu’ means the pretty green and brown thing you can see in the picture. As it happens this is Estonian, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the direct link between what you see and what you say…..

Rosetta Stone allows learners to experience snippets of real life through virtual learning. Every unit works learners through themed interactions using recordings and images. Your first day at work, a trip to the supermarket and later more complex scenarios. This gives Rosetta Stone learners all the advantages of real-life interactions, but within a structured syllabus.

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“I found this program to be fantastic for helping me start to get to grips with the language as a beginner. The immersion style of learning is useful as you learn to rely on figuring things out for yourself.”

Rosetta-Stone-leaner John, from London

Translation free learning: speak it right from the start

Learn without translations

Pronunciation is a really important part of language learning. When we get the sound of a new language right, we are starting to think and feel that language. On the flip side, if we start by reading out translations and pronouncing words using mother-tongue-style pronunciations, we are learning the new language only as a translation of our own. Worse still, words will be learnt and remembered incorrectly. Early pronunciation mistakes can stick with us for years if we are not careful!

Rosetta Stone’s pronunciation tool is designed to help. Right from the very first lesson, it gives instant feedback on all the spoken exercises. It demands that you speak and pronounce every syllable right.

Stern but non-judgemental, Rosetta Stone’s pronunciation tool is your non-critical friend. There to help you to perfect an area of language learning that is so crucial to early confidence. Pronounce the language well and – even if the content is simple – they’ll be impressed.

Translation free learning: a more enjoyable way to learn a language

Many people find learning by rote one of the most taxing parts of developing their language skills. Writing down words and translations then testing yourself on the meanings is the go-to method for many students.

This kind of repetitive activity can be effective for short-term memory retention (good for passing exams) but it is inefficient in the long run and it’s an activity few people actually enjoy. Learning by repetition is a chore.

Immersive learning does it differently. When you’re studying with Rosetta Stone the vocabulary is repeated at you, but in the form of interactions and game-play. You speak and talk through different interactions within a learning theme/environment and the vocabulary and grammar you need is repeated to you as you work through the Unit.

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I have loved every minute of my experience learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone. It has just the right amount of listening, speaking and writing to keep it both interesting, informative and easy to learn. I have loved the live interactive online sessions ( though very nervous for the first few ) and my oral skills have increased tremendously. Money well spent.

Rosetta Stone learner writing on Trust Pilot

Translation free learning: constructing sentences from snippets

Once you have worked through a series of phrases and sentences, it’s time to start mixing up the parts of the language you have learnt. Rosetta Stone prompts you to do this in the app by repeating what you have learnt – both the words and the constructions – in different forms and types of sentence.

For example: if you have learnt these two words….

Then you can say “Das Mädchen schwimmt” and be pretty sure you’re on the right lines.

Translation free learning: making the language your own

All of the learning takes place one theme at a time so you learn how to communicate within a very specific context. Immersing yourself in one learning scenario.

To really learn, you have to use and own your new language. So at the end of a unit you should be starting to construct your own sentences using what you have learnt. Playing with the languages and making them your own. Speaking them out loud with other learners or your Rosetta Stone tutor.

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Total immersion is how it works – there is no English used whatsoever. Everything is deciphered using carefully selected pictures and builds upon your prior learning. By the end of completing five levels (or three, depending upon the language you have chosen) you can hold a pretty decent conversation. I survived navigating my way around the Metro system in Moscow, thanks to Rosetta Stone…it works!

Rosetta Stone learner writing on Trust Pilot

About the Author Simon Goodall

Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine

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