IWTYAL 095: Should I rely on translation at advanced levels?

SJ asks: “I’m using flashcards to help me learn English expressions. But am I relying too much on translation?”

In this episode:

  • The challenges of learning a language at a higher level
  • Why you shouldn’t worry too much about translation
  • Use bilingual flashcards to help prompt you – not to produce a direct translation
  • Why, as a general principle, you should study entirely in the target language

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This article was written by Olly Richards.

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  • Awesome podcast, Olly! Absolutely agree that having some cultural awareness is a must when learning any language, especially once you get past the beginner/intermediate stage and have plans on using your target language as a means of communication
    I find that in Chinese, and in Japanese, as Thiago is learning, culture is especially essential, first to understand how to interact in your target language’s society and avoid any social faux-pas. But also to understand a lot of how the language was built and how it works, as the Chinese and the Japanese language have years and years of history behind them. For instance, if you want to explore how Chinese characters came to be built, it often involves learning a lot of Chinese culture and history, which I personally find really fascinating :).

  • acutia

    I think you can make even more of that idea about not using a literal translation on the learner language side of a card (production).

    You suggest only adding some kind of hook/trigger for the English idiom/phrase. You can also frame the prompt as a context or situation where that phrase is most apt. Like “You have lost your keys for the thrid time in a week, what idiom might fit this?” etc. One advantage of this is it’s more loose as several idioms might suit this situation and the answer side coud include a few of them you think are very close in meaning/tone.

    While this looseness would, I think, work for the production side, a more one-to-one card would be better for the recognition side.