How to teach students to think in English

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How to teach students to think in English

Unread postby ngoclinh » 16 Jun 2007, 19:33

Hi Lucy,
I'm writing to consult you one thing which has always been an unanswered question to me. When I was a student, my teachers of English always asked us to thin k in English and stressed that it is very important to think in English. Unfortunately, none of them ever told us what thinking in English really is like and how to think in English. I tried to think in English but I always ended up thinking in my mother tongue and then translating into English. As I became better at English, I realized that I started thinking in English and how important that is to the improvement of English. I, however, realized another fact that we can think in English only when we get better at it and thinking in English comes automatically. It is like "Before I knew it I was thinking in English". So my question to you is that are there any contradictions between my two discoveries. Thinking in English will improve English or better English will improve thinking in English? Maybe you'll say both but my point is should we insist on students thinking in English when their English is still low or should we let it come naturally when students' level of English gets higher? (Hope you don't think that I'm making things more complicated.)
One more thing I'd like to know your idea about is What activities can be used to train students to think in English?
Thank you so much and I hope to hear from you soon

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How do I teach students to think in English?

Unread postby Lucy » 22 Jun 2007, 18:15

Dear Phuong,

What an interesting question! I started by asking myself "what does it mean to think in English?" and I came up with 2 answers: there is a constant monologue or dialogue that runs through our minds and there is thinking about problems such as mathematical calculations. I’m sure somebody could think of others.

It is very difficult to carry out problem-solving thinking in a foreign language; that is definitely a high level skill. The other type of thinking includes running through imaginary conversations with others in our heads, thinking about what to eat tonight and comments such as “what a beautiful day” and “I’ve never seen that shop before” when walking down the street. This type of thinking can take place in a foreign language at a lower level. You can raise students awareness to the issue and suggest they try it out. Maybe they could give it a try when sitting in public transport or walking down the street.

Having said all the above, I don’t think there is much teachers can do to help students think in a foreign language. I suggest you put the question into one of the open forums; I think it would generate an interesting discussion.

Kind regards,


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