6 Tips on How You Can Think in English

Hey there! Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!

Are you wondering how one can think in English? Is it really possible? The answer is YES. If you can train your brain, you obviously will be able to think in English as native English speakers do.

If you live in an English-speaking country, you always hear people speak in English; thus, you also try to speak the language. However, after a particular time, English becomes the medium of your outer and inner speech. That means you start talking and even thinking in English.

Thinking in your native language and translating it to English while speaking makes you slow. It significantly affects your fluency. Once your mind stops translating things from your native language into English, you can say that you can think in English.

Now, the question is, can you do it if you don’t live in an English-speaking country? YES. You can.

Let’s see how you can develop the skill of thinking in English and sounding natural and fluent while speaking.

Start Small & Grow Gradually

Do you remember the old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race?” You can only achieve your English goals if you go slowly but steadily. Starting small can lead to visible progress, and thus you stay motivated to move forward.

Suppose you have decided to learn English today and immediately have sat with some novels to read. Will you be able to read them? No, of course. To read English texts, first, you have to learn the alphabet. And then move forward gradually.

The way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things.

Paul Graham

Similarly, if you want to train your brain to think in English, you should not put too much pressure on it. Instead, you should start small and go gradually. Here are some ideas that you can start with.

Stage 1: Name Anything Around You with Just Words

Look around you. Whatever things you can see, try naming them individually in English within your mind. Don’t think their name in your native language. Instead, think directly in English. Make it a habit wherever you go.

Stage 2: Define Anything Around You with Phrases

If you find any object around you that you don’t know the English name of, try to describe them in your head with words or phrases you know. For example, if you don’t know what “roof” is, describe it in English with words like “top of a building.”

Stage 3: Describe Anything Around You with Sentences

Once you develop the skills of naming things in words and defining them in phrases within your mind, try to make complete simple sentences. For example, when you see a diary on the table, instead of thinking of the word “diary,” you may think, “This is a diary” or “The diary is on the table.”

Think About Your Activities in English

The easiest and most effective way to train your brain to think in English is to think about your activities in English. So whenever you do anything or are about to do anything, think about them in English.

For example, if you are getting ready for the office, rather than thinking in your mother tongue, think in English about what you are doing. You should not think in your mother tongue and translate it into English. Instead, it would help if you thought directly in English.

Let me give you another similar example. Suppose you are planning a tour of Europe. And you are thinking about what you will be doing there. Where will you go or what will you eat? Think of them in English.   

Also, you can make your daily plan within your mind in English to develop the skill of thinking in English. For example, suppose you will have a busy day tomorrow, and you need to make a proper plan so that you can do everything on time. You should make the plan within your mind in English.

Until you do it, you will never realize how effective this strategy can be. So, what are you waiting for? Just finish reading the post and plan for the next day within your mind.

Put Yourself in an Imaginary Conversation

Putting yourself in an imaginary conversation can be a great way of practicing English alone. And, of course, you can do it loudly or silently. However, if your purpose is to master the skill of thinking in English, I recommend doing it silently.

So, how to do it?  

Just assume that someone has asked you about something, and you are answering the question in your mind.

For example, imagine that you are in a grocery shop. You are the customer, and you are talking to the salesperson there. Now, think about a question that the salesperson may ask. What could it be?

Your assumption is correct. It’s “How can I help you, sir?”

Now, think about what you can say. For example, you may say, “I’m looking for some vegetable oils.”

However, now continue the conversation within your mind. If you do this regularly, your brain will be trained to think in English. Here is a sample conversation that you can check to get help from.

Use an English-English Dictionary to Learn Words

Using single-language dictionaries have many benefits compared to bilingual and multi-lingual dictionaries, especially for language learners. However, if you want to train your brain to think in English, you must stay away from your native language as more as possible.

Keeping yourself in an English-friendly environment is crucial to developing English thinking skills. Using a bilingual dictionary will let you shift from English to your native language frequently and vice versa.

And as a result, it will adversely affect your overall learning environment and the overall learning experience.

That’s why I always recommend my students to use English to English dictionary. Here are the benefits mentioned below.

Monolingual Dictionary Gives You the Actual Definition

You might have heard the phrase “lost in translation.” A bilingual dictionary means it has words translated from one language to another.

Suppose you are a native Indian speaker. Suppose you use an English-to-Hindi dictionary to get the definition of words. In that case, you might miss something which is already lost in translation. It happens because of the cultural differences between Spanish & English people.

So, if you use a bilingual dictionary, you will get a translated meaning in many cases, while a monolingual dictionary can give you the actual meaning & definition.

English-English Dictionary Provides All the Possible Meanings

If you observe the differences between a bilingual and monolingual dictionary, you will notice that a monolingual (English-English) dictionary provides the co-existence of all the meanings of a word, while a bilingual dictionary only shows a few, usually the most popular ones.

Monolingual (English-English) Dictionaries Give the Origin of the Word

Bilingual dictionaries usually don’t provide the etymology of the word. If you are interested to know about any word’s history or the time it was coined, you may not have this information. So, it’s always better to use an English-English dictionary.

For the above reasons, I strongly encourage my ESL students to use the English-English dictionary.

Travel English Speaking Countries

Whenever you get a chance to travel somewhere, try to travel to English-speaking countries. It will give you an excellent opportunity to experience an English-speaking environment.

In addition, you will get some real-life situations to practice and apply your English skills. You will meet English-speaking people everywhere. You will get a chance to observe how they talk.

Moreover, while traveling, you can describe the places in your mind in English. This will also help you to master the art of thinking in English that we talked about previously in the post.

Consider Learning English as Your Lifestyle

Learning a language becomes easier than anything if you don’t consider it as learning but as a lifestyle. If you can ensure passive self-learning of the English language, you will never find it challenging to be a competent user of the language.

That’s why I always promote passive learning, as it is entirely stressless and effective for ESL learners of all ages. I have many teenage students as well as students who are at the peak of their careers but still need to improve their English.

Students who work somewhere usually find it challenging to manage time to study English. For them, there are no other ways than passive learning. If only they could make learning a language their lifestyle, they would excel.

So, it would help if you incorporated English into your life, from getting up to going to bed. Only then will you be able to think in English. And once you can think in English, I can guarantee you are almost near to your success.

In Conclusion

If you can think in English, you can indeed eat, sleep, and even dream in English. So keep practicing in the above ways.

Be a self-learner because “Self-education is the only kind of education there is,” says Isaac Asimov.

I have given some essential tips here to help you achieve the ability to think in English.

Thanks for reading.

Happy learning!

Best of luck.

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 7 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."