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How Thinking in English can Help a Second Language Learner of English

Updated on May 1, 2019

English as a Language of Thought

The mind is a world of its own; it has its own people, government and environment. When a person says “This is my world”, of course, he is saying that "This is just the way I like things done"which is all a function of his mind. Creativity is a product of that little world within the individual, which he creates and “uncreates”. A lot of things happen in that little world before they translate into all that we physically enjoy in our collective world. Now, in your world, there must be a medium of communication – a language.

I saw twisted faces when at a seminar presentation I asked the audience if they have ever thought about the language they think in. The fact is that most people don’t realize that their thoughts are express in certain languages they have learnt overtime. Someone said that if it is so, how then do hearing impaired people think since they don’t speak any language like the people who can hear? My simple response was that as individuals, this people have their own language which they used to communicate with one another.

There is no communication anywhere without language. Therefore, we may not know how they communicate in their minds, but in anyway, they still use language to describe their world. After all, learned deaf people can read, and what they read are in certain languages which they eventually learn to keep in their minds. At this time, you may be searching your thoughts to know which language you think in, particularly if you are a multilingual, which most speakers of English as a second or foreign language are.

In what ways can thinking in English help a learner to improve his English?

Find your errors

Thinking in English enables you to find your own errors or mistakes yourself. In addition to listening and reading, thinking in English creates a room for conversation within you. Sometimes the errors we make when speaking occur because we do not think them out properly before speaking. Because you have read and listened to people speak English, you are able to understand sometimes that you have not said a thing correctly after saying it.

Engage in conversation

Thinking in English enables you to constantly engage in English conversation. Since you are now a better friend of yourself, you are very often going to start up a conversation just to see how well you have improved in your English. The more you engage in this personal conversation, the more you have the opportunity to see where you need to adjust.

Fix your language difficulties

Thinking in English can make you fix language difficulties. It keeps you safe from public embarrassment. You may be the shy type like me. I hate been embarrassed. This is what you are protected from when you think in English. You don’t have people making jest of or correcting you all the time. When you listen to people speak, you tell yourself in your own judgment whether the statements are properly said or not.

Practice your grammar personally

Thinking in English helps you to practice your grammar personally. Practice is very important in learning a language. But what if you don’t have a good environment for practice, maybe those around you don’t care about learning the language, maybe it is not as important to them as it is to you. Now you have to speak to yourself or your learning speed will be very low. You should not be discouraged by that. Focus on your purpose, and you must succeed.

Improves your English vocabulary

Thinking in English improves your English vocabulary. As you think in English, you realize that there are words you need to know in order to address certain situations in your life. As you experience such situations, you can use your dictionary or thesaurus to get the best words to express your thought. And later on, you will be engaged in a public discussion where you will need to use the same expression.

Which of this do you think is the best way you can learn from thinking in English:

  1. developing vocabularies
  2. Protection from public embarrassment.
  3. Personal tutorship.
  4. Interaction with self.
  5. Fixing errors before going public.


Although this discussion is basically for people who don't speak English as their first language - where English comes in mostly as a compulsory option for certain purposes, it is equally important for L1 speakers who have problem with their grammar. It is a tool that works for learning any other language. You may be a monolingual who is interested in learning other languages. Try adopting one of the languages as your language of thought and you will see how easily your learning will be. I am not a native of any English speaking nation, neither am I living in any of such L1 English communities, but this learning method has helped me greatly.

Enjoy your new way of learning English language.


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