How do I turn the translator off in my head?

Hi all,

I’ve been learning Welsh over a period of 11 years with Cwrs Mynediad/Sylfaen/Wlpan and now Canolradd. I stopped going to classes for 7 years (due to having 2 children!) I’m getting there slowly (currently on the new SSIW level 1 lesson 7) and I’ve just passed my Sylfaen/Wlpan exam which I’m rather chuffed about :slight_smile:

Anyway, sorry for waffling, my question is, as the title says, how do I turn the translator off in my head? I hear or read Welsh and though I know the words I’m hearing, I automatically start translating it into English so I understand better. It’s very frustrating because then I lose track of the conversation and end up giving up!

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I wish i knew the answer but i’m guessing plenty of listening to radio cymru, plenty of watching s4c and plenty of conversation practice.

Also plenty of ssiw where you are getting less time on the last challenge of a level.

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I think it happens on its own eventually!


There is a blog post on this by Aran:

Here’s how the process goes, if you just relax and let it take its course:

At first: you hear with a vague sense of familiarity, but you don’t understand.

Then: you start to pick out individual words, and you link them correctly to words in your first language (which feels as though you’re ‘translating’).

Then: you understand longer collections of words, and start to feel that you’re ‘getting the gist’, but you’re still hearing a kind of echo in your first language, so you still think you’re translating.

Eventually: the echoes in your own language become more and more quiet, until at some point you realise that you’ve understood something without any conscious connection to your first language.

The more you try to fight this process, the more you try to force yourself ‘not to translate’, the less fun you’ll have (and, probably, the more slowly you’ll progress).

(off-topic: is it possible to quote something from outside the forum?
Edit: Thanks!)


You can link to it

How? Is it different to what I’ve done?

I think its exactly what you have done

You can put anything into a quote box by highlighting it and then clicking the " button at the top of the posting box. [Or just by putting a > sign].

Like this.

But in other news, what she said. Er, I mean what I said, up there…:wink:


And many congratulations for that! And a warm welcome to the forum… :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


Diolch :slight_smile:


Croeso @angelahaycocks for raising a very important problem. Diolch @Novem for the quote which I hadn’t seen! And diolch @aran for writing the quote in the first place!! Er…where is this blog?

2 Likes :slight_smile:

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i do this all the time…although frequently without success!!!

I agree with leiafee: if you use a language enough it comes naturally. I have to speak Spanish all the time and have now got to the stage where I don’t think in English any more.

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When we start to learn something we try to understand all the separate processes at the same time time.

We think about depressing the clutch while changing gear while being aware of the speed and that vehicle over there and those cyclists there. To start off with it’s all a bit overwhelming. We need to be aware, to understand.

This is like translating, at the start of language learning. To continue the analogy, with driving, after a while the different parts of driving come together, become automatic.

For those of us that learned our times tables we know that 6 times 7 is 42. We don’t need to calculate it, to translate it.

It’s called chunking. Adding little bits of jigsaw together until they become something recognisable and we have almost forgotten the different elements that go to making the new picture.

So I suppose we find less need for the translator when we understand, in our bones, more phrases, constructions, and vocabulary.

How to switch off? Speak more. Listen more. Get the language from the short term, or working memory into the long term memory.


Using a language automatically doesn’t come from trying to use it on it’s own. It comes from having to use it on its own. This is why you acclimate in an immersive environment: Things happen too fast to translate and so you use the bits of the language you catch and the context of the situation to figure out what’s going on - just as you do in your native language.

In this regard, the review lessons that are speeded up are excellent. It’s like listening to a conversation with a lousy phone connection - you can’t get everything so your brain has to fill things in on the fly. If you want to ditch the translating, you need to do things like this that go too fast for you to translate. Listen to audiobooks at an advanced speed, making no effort to understand. You’ll soon find you know what’s going on. Again, the key to not translating is to do things that go fast enough that you can’t translate so your brain has to do the best it can with the Welsh it has.


You just did. :slight_smile:

All about quoting on this forum here.

Oh, ane by the way …@angelahaycocks is a member of this forum already from January 2013 so I’d rather say Croeso nol!

And about switching off the translator in your head Angela - previous posters said everything already so I’ll give no further advise here. I actually have none apart from what has already being said. :slight_smile:


Oh, yeah, sorry, @aran told me how to do it so I edited my post :smiley:


I have a little problem. I learned to drive OK at 50. I wanted to be mobile reasonably soon after moving full time to small village with infrequent buses, so I learned in an automatic. Not having gears to fret about was great! Later, I found automatics can go wrong in ways normal cars cannot, so I learned with gears, I guess like learning a wider vocabulary. But I do not have the kind of visual brain which can do jigsaws, I never graduated past the ones for infants, with about six huge pieces! I believe some people are naturally better at languages than others, so if a person has problems, just maybe they are, well not like me with jigsaws - we all learn at least one language unless seriously damaged, but just not as good at languages as some others. Yes/No?

The “translator” really does turn itself off with time. I go to the Saith Seren in Wrecsam most Mondays and these days I hardly ever switch my mind to English at all. If I get stuck, I tend to find a way around what I want to say in Welsh, only rarely stopping in my tracks to think of a Saesneg word. And all this after a year and a half of weekly visits from over the border in Lancashire. I would imagine that speaking Welsh in the wild daily would have similar results in a fraction of the time.

Back in England, on Tuesday I was in Tesco and the sound system was playing canned music with fairly poor acoustic quality so the lyrics of the songs were by no means obvious. Then I noticed I was hearing snippets of Welsh that were not there. After the Saith Seren and listening to Radio Cymru in the car, my brain had gone into “Cymraeg First” decoding mode when listening to a random mess of sounds. So now it appears I can hear Welsh lyrics more easily than English ones because I listen to Welsh music a lot more often.