Should I translate into English in my head?

I’ve just completed Challenge 4 of the 6 month course and decided to have a go at a listening exercise I’ve seen listen under “Challenges”.
All the words and phrases I know from the challenges I’ve completed so far but I can’t translate it in my head quick enough to listen and know what’s being said in real time to keep up with the speaker.
So should I be trying to translate into English? Or should I just listen and hope I’ll get the jist of it?
Will I ever get to the point where I don’t have to translate in my head and I’ll just “know” what’s being said? :thinking:

The more you can resist translating into English, the better because translating to English will take even more time and you’re likely miss even more of the sentence, but to be honest, that’s very much easier said than done!
I’ve been fluent for many years now and whilst most of the time I “just know”, there are times when I know I am still translating to English (which may be because I learnt before the SSiW method was born :wink: ).
It may feel frustrating, but the bottom line is it will start to happen eventually - and it’s the kind of thing that’ll sneak up on you and happen before you even realise it has!


Thanks for your reply. I thought as much! It’s hard not to try to simultaneously translate because I can remember the words but can’t quite get the meanings in time. It’s very frustrating when they’re on the tip of my tongue but I can’t quite get there.
I’ll keep practising. :exploding_head:


I think it’s all about trust. Just doing the things you’re asked to do and that’s it. Rewards will come, I am sure of it. Why? Because my predecessors say they will. And I trust them.


Nope… :slight_smile: Just let your attention rest on the sounds, but don’t make any effort to process them.

Yes… but don’t worry about when it happens.

Yes, you will - and this is the fastest way to get there… :slight_smile:

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Thank you Aran. I’ll try to just listen and process. :crossed_fingers:

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The more Zen you can be about it, the easier it begins to feel… :slight_smile:

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I used to be a champion translator and I think it’s inevitable almost - always looking up what the English word was for the Welsh one etc etc.

It’s hard to get an “in” to a new language and you need a link to what you know because otherwise it’s all alien nonsense.

This course is really good because instead of linking things word for word or thinking about constructions etc, it gives you all the chunks to make things up.

The vocab bit is hard but resisting the dictionary until the point comes where you just can’t help it works wonders.

I learned a word on memrise years ago and last week it came up on the radio several times and I didn’t know what it meant - it was lost to me completely, but still familiar. It was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Iolo williams was doing a wildlife programme as he does and this word was where some animals sheltered in the winter - they were covered by it in the winter and there were other insects and other things doing the same. I spent the rest of the day trying to work out what it could be - was it leaf litter, compost etc. It didn’t really matter because I got the gist of the word - it’s where caterpillars and other insects hide and live in the winter.

The word was rhisgl and I had a lightbulb moment thinking bark and I really didn’t want to look it up, but couldn’t resist any longer and I got it right but I now associate that word with insects, winter and all sorts of things and the English translation is just a little bit of how I think about it. I will never, ever forget that word now - it has a lot of richness and a real meaning to me now somehow.


Hello @Kim-J and welcome to the forum first.

For the change I’ll be short (hope I’ll manage to do just that though :slight_smile: )

Listening practices are aimed to listen and the more you listen the easiest you’d understand things being said.


In the process of learning you’ll not come only to the point when you’ll just understand what you hear without any conscious translations but you’ll find yourself talking to yourself in Welsh in your head (when you’ll have a bit more learning time behind you).

So, keep going, don’t translate and just listen. In a time you’ll at one point just become aware that you actually understand everything what’s been said.

I presume you’ve got to the first listening practice which is normal speed so here’s a bit of warning for the second one. If you’ll aim to just listen and not translate with this first one you’ll easily bare with all the rest which are double speed and are definatelly just aimed to listen so your brain will be forced to process everything faster and faster until you’ll be skilled enough to actually hear and understand it all without any effort. When this happens you’ll be definatelly ready to go out and about to speak with native speakers although your vocabulary might not be wide enough yet and you won’t understand everything.

(waaaaaa … I didn’t manage to give the short answer again. This is me, sorry the mightest long posts poster). :slight_smile:

Dal ati!

Tatjana :slight_smile:


Yes. When I started listening to Radio Cymru, watching S4C and reading, my brain was translating everything into English and i couldn’t keep up. but it’s slow and inefficient. Just zen out and your brain will pick up what it understands in Welsh and this is a more efficient way to pick up the language, but it starts with the odd word and builds up. In time something magical happens and you start to think in Welsh and your brain realises that it doesn’t need to translate into English at all; it can understand perfectly happily in Welsh. With more experience you do this more and more until you stop translating at all. Even now when I read a difficult passage I will still start trying to translate into English, but I do this less and less. It 's kind of like you stop needing to worry about this other language in your head (English) and stay in Welsh.


One approach to this is to enjoy just knowing those very familiar words or phrases that you’ve heard on SSiW or elsewhere hundreds of times. This list will be slightly different for each of us, but you know the sort of thing - “da iawn” - “bore da” “shwmae” “diolch yn fawr” “peint o gwrw” etc etc. You know these and you know you know them so you don’t waste any time translating them. And very slowly over time (and later on not so slowly) this list will grow and grow.

And if you take in any of the soaps or regular dramas on S4C you will hear some phrases time after time, and never need to translate them (even if you did once upon a time).


Diolch everyone for your words of encouragement. I guess I’ll have to trust the process and let it just sink in. :blush:


sneak up on you

So true. I am finding this already a dweud y gwir and I’ve only been learning a year and 4 months. It happens the way I’ve demonstrated above. A phrase will slip into an English sentence - to tell the truth - and I’ve spoken Welsh without actively and consciously translating anything!
This is happening to me regularly now. It is as if a threshold has been crossed.

The other thing is in writing. I like to write in Welsh. I’ve entered the writing category of an eisteddfod. Last year when I did it, I’d only been learning 4 months, and every word felt like a struggle (I still won 3rd prize), but this year, preparing my draft, I found to my surprise that I was composing directly in Welsh without passing it all through the translation filter first. Wow! I’m really getting somewhere! How immensely satisfying!