When you learn Japanese, you want to think in Japanese. Regardless of the method you follow, Japanese-only is always the ultimate goal. Yet sometimes it feels that English is inescapable. No matter how much you tell yourself not to translate into English, you still do it. This becomes especially annoying when you enter J-J, and you are fighting a hard battle to eliminate English from you life.
The good news
There isn’t anything you need to specifically do to eliminate the inner English translations.
Here is what happens:
J-E English confusion struggles
Even from the beginning, despite the obviously present English crutch, you would like it if you could use it and quickly forget it. Japanese sentence structure and grammar is very different from English. Because of this, it starts to get confusing to understand everything in English in your head.
Vocabulary for the most part is no problem, but putting it together in a cohesive order is a different story.
J-J English elimination struggles
English is the last thing you want to deal with, yet you face two challenges:
1. Even when you read the Japanese-only definition, you semi-automatically, and often frustratingly try to decide what the word means in English.
2. When you don’t immediately associate with the English equivalent, you start to jumble the various English parts together, and arrange them in an order that sort of makes sense. You sometimes only kind of get what the word means. Those jumbled parts don’t translate into a proper English sentence, but you get the general English idea.
Why this is all natural
In J-E, Japanese is still new. Your brain has been working with you for a while now. In helping you understand things, it likes efficiency. You know English pretty damn well. You think your brain isn’t going to use that to help you out?
In J-J, the same problem still exists. Your brain understands the J-J struggle, and is still looking for the easiest solution: English. Even when you can’t find the exact English word or meaning, it can give you an English estimate.
Then things change
The more Japanese you encounter and deal with on a daily basis, the more your brain realizes you need this. Yes, English has been a great shortcut. It makes the most sense as English is so hardwired in. But technically it isn’t the most efficient route. You still have to translate from Japanese to English, instead of just understanding in Japanese.
To reach the point where your brain finds understanding the Japanese meaning by itself to be most efficient, your brain has to understand that need. To get to this need, you need more Japanese. A lot more.
This starts off slow in J-E, because you still don’t have much Japanese down and the English is right there. But in J-J, you will be quick to notice a change, and one that should remove your worries.
That jumbled mess of English you have for definitions is not efficient. Your brain can figure this out quickly. Every time you see a word, how long do you think that awkward English translation will remain. The only logical solution is that it won’t. You can replace that confusing mess with just one Japanese word. Efficiency at its best.
Let it sort itself out
Everyone faces the “translating to English phase.” It varies by person but it is a long phase. But ask anyone who gets really good at Japanese whether they still translate in their head when they do something in Japanese. Then ask them when that transition happened and how they did it.
More Japanese + More time = Everything Is Great
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.