How to learn a language without translations


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…..

Translation free learning: The fastest way to get started with a language

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 it’s not necessarily the most effective or enjoyable way to do it.

We can pick up a lot more just by listening to conversations around us and repeating what we hear. Especially in the early stages of language learning, listening is the best way to understand and remember.

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Translation free learning: How it works

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. Whether you live in the country or not, you can benefit from interactive learning – listening and speaking – every day.

Translation free learning: Speak it right from the start

In daily conversations on the streets and in the shops of a town you are visiting, local people are unlikely to correct your pronunciation. Most people are too polite!The world’s best speech recognition technology

This is where virtual learning has the advantage. Rosetta Stone’s pronunciation tool gives instant feedback. It demands that you speak and pronounce every syllable right.

It’s a non-critical friend that helps 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, perhaps more importantly, 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.

This is a more natural way of learning, it means you always see the learnings within a context and it greatly enhances your chances of retaining the information long-term.

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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. (the girl is swimming)

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.

About the Author Simon Goodall

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

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