Monday, December 25, 2006

Thinking in Spanish

Hello Karin,

Can you please (possibly) explain "thinking in Spanish"? I have a Spanish speaking friend, and when we talk (I try) in Spanish, I say something like "Soy caliente", he says "NO, that's English". In Spanish it's "Tengo calor"—I have heat. Is there some/any train of thought I should keep in mind when speaking/thinking in Spanish?

For example, the beginning of this paragraph, I said: Can you please...? ¿Puede por favor...? or in Spanish should it be ¿Por favor puede...?



Hi Beberly,

I remember that my teachers kept telling me "Think in English!" as I was learning this language. After years of practice, I finally did it. Now, it's easier for me to speak fluently when I think in English. Why? Because I say what I think. If I think in Spanish, my mind must translate my thoughts to English first and then I can speak. It's a slower process.

It's the same for Spanish. You need to think in Spanish. But, how do you do that? First, learn the Spanish structures and vocabulary. And practice every day. It's like a basketball player who practices everyday. During the practice he'll pass the ball to his teammates over and over again until his moves are good enough to score. During the game, he'll do it without thinking too much.

Start thinking in sentences or ideas. I'm sure there are lots of phrases in your Spanish textbooks. Learn them just as they are, don't try to understand why Spanish works different to English. You'll learn that we don't use possessive adjectives when talking about body parts: we use reflexive verbs instead. e.g. "Me lavé las manos" (I washed my hands). You'll also learn that Spanish-speaking people use the verb "Tener" (to have) for many expressions that use verb "to be" in English: Tengo frío (I'm cold), Tengo hambre (I'm hungry), Tengo miedo (I'm scared). And there's much more to learn!

Most of us learned our native language by listening to others talk. We then repeated what we heard. This process of listening and repeating is the most effective way to learn a language. As your comprehension improves, so does your speaking ability. Listen first, then repeat when you understand what you've heard. If you practice listening to English you’ll be more relaxed when you are in a conversation.

A final advice. Don't try to translate your thoughts word by word, but by phrases o by sentences! If I try to translate your message word by word, I would say: "Yo tengo un español hablante amigo..." (this sounds very odd). You know we usually omit the pronoun at the begining of the sentence... so you only say "tengo". Analyze phrases. For example, Spanish-speaking friend = amigo de habla hispana (or) amigo hispanohablante. And, Your line would then be "Tengo un amigo de habla hispana..."

– Karin

P.S. Your paragraph could start both ways: "Por favor, ¿puede explicarme...?" and "¿Puede explicarme por favor...?

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