I’ve heard it said that when you are acquiring a new language, a measure for fluency is that you think in that language. I’ve also heard that when you’re fluent, you may dream in the new language and that this is another sign of true mastery and internalization. I’m not sure if I’ve dreamt in Spanish, but I do know that I have thought in Spanish, and it was a great feeling to realize that I’d done so. Having my mind work in Spanish on its own was very encouraging and, of course, more natural than doing the mental English to Spanish translation for each word or phrase I had in mind.
Now, thinking in your target language doesn’t just happen. It takes time, a great amount of exposure to the language, and a great amount of practicing the language. One way to practice the language and move towards having thoughts in the language is to translate your own thoughts into Spanish. You can use your own inner voice as source material for learning and practicing. When you do this, you know that the content is relevant to you because it is you, which is great because relevance is very important for learning, particularly adult learning. You also know that the language is at an appropriate linguistic level for you.
This exercise will also guide you to gaps in your knowledge that you need to fill in order to communicate and express the things you want to express. You can think of this kind of writing exercise like a journal or as an imaginary conversation with a friend. The content can be whatever you want: what you did today, what you’d like to do tomorrow, what you think about some current event, whatever! Anything you might want to communicate to someone else in Spanish is great. You can first write out your thoughts in English and then translate them into Spanish. In this process, you will notice what vocabulary, sentence structures, and grammar you already know, as well as what you need to look up or review. Ideally you will have a native Spanish speaker look at your writing and give you feedback.
You will get a feel for how the languages are similar and how they are different by working with both of them at the same time. Side-by-side translation is an excellent learning tool because you are able to reinforce meaning immediately. You can utilize it with books, news articles, song lyrics, public signage, subtitles – the list goes on and on. When you apply it to your own thoughts, you practice expressing yourself in your target language while still honoring your native language and personal voice. When you practice going through the process of English to Spanish translations, eventually your mind will be able to skip the English and translation parts and go right to Spanish. When you are able to think in Spanish, you are much better able to communicate fluently and effectively.
For another great source of side-by-side translations, download Pars Omni Spanish Voices for free today. It also has several other excellent learning tools that will help you improve and maintain your Spanish fluency.