I am now on passive wave lesson #62 of Assimil and active wave #12 and have just now overcome a major hurdle.
When speaking to a person that is speaking English as a second language I always seem to ask the same question, “do you translate in your head from English into your mother tongue?” At which time I almost always get a confused look and a response somewhere along the lines of, “errrr no?” Until now I did not understand this. Until now, I have always translated each word from the target language into English in order to understand the meaning of what was being said.
What it comes down to, I have just realized, is to trust that you know. Perhaps I never built a big enough vocabulary in Spanish or Swedish when I was learning those languages, or perhaps I just never trusted that I knew the words and phrases I was hearing.
The reason why I always get such a confused response when I ask this question is because when you have the knowledge of what a word or phrase means, you don’t think about what it means, you just know what it means. You don’t struggle to understand something if you know what it means. If you just listen to the words you will understand if you have the meaning of the words in your head. If you focus on trying to hear the words that are being said rather than focus on translating what those words mean, your brain automatically makes since of the words that it knows. Let your brain do what it does best; your brain is the most powerful and efficient machine in the whole universe.
Language is a skill. It is something that you learn through repetition. Like riding a bike you don’t think “ok, now I need to push with my right foot, ok, now with my left, ok, now I need to move my body weight to the right… to the left, etc etc”. You simply know and you trust that you know. If you tried to ride a bike and think about and focus on every little adjustment, you would fall down.
After listening to lesson #62 of Assimil I have now come to the most efficient way for me to study and it makes use of this powerful thing we call a brain.
First internalize the material. Learn what a word means by reading a sentence a few times with the translation always kept in mind. Then, listening to the audio and reading the target language, here what is being said. By reading while listening to audio we learn to hear each individual word so that it no longer sounds like gibberish. After listening and reading a few times, close the book and listen to the audio. When I say listen, I mean focus on the words that are being said and distinguishing one word from the next. If you have internalized the material you will instantly have understanding. There is no need to actually try and understand what is being said. The effort should be aimed towards trying to hear the individual words NOT towards trying to understand; understanding will follow naturally.
Trust that you know and stop trying to understand.