Don't translate

Guillaume Hansali
Guillaume Hansali
Don't translate
Don't translate

Here's another quick tip if you're learning Japanese or any other language. Learning takes effort. You either spend it upfront or down the road. This tip is especially effective if you're at an intermediate level.

This is a simple but powerful technique that I'm still using today: the don't translate mindset.

When you encounter a new word, don't look it up in your own native language but in a Japanese (or the language you're learning) dictionary instead. You can look it up on Google using "[WORD] 意味" but I personally like using weblio:

Why look up in Japanese?

Adults learn best by association. The most effective way to memorize a new word is associating it with words you already know. Trying to understand the meaning of a word from its definition in Japanese is like solving a puzzle.

Putting all the pieces together involves different parts of the brain, creating a network of relations between words and the concepts they represent. Once it all clicks (i.e., you understand the word's meaning), you will be rewarded with dopamine for solving the puzzle. The effort spent solving it will signal your brain that the word is worth remembering.

In comparison, looking up the word's translation in your language creates just one connection between the two.

No puzzle to solve => no reward; no effort => no incentive to memorize.

What if you don't understand the definition in Japanese?

Well, that's the beauty of the Internet. You can recursively look up the words you don't know in the definition (and the words in their subsequent definitions) until you understand enough to get the original word's meaning.

Sure, it is much work compared to translating it into your language. But the effort will be rewarded.

And as a bonus, you'll get better at predicting the meaning of words you don't know from their context in a phrase. You'll also get one step closer to being able to conjure Japanese words directly without translating them in your head first.

Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Guillaume Hansali
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
You've successfully subscribed to Guillaume Hansali
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content
Success! Your billing info has been updated
Your billing was not updated