Are you translating in your head when you speak in English?

Look at me. I'm a horse race commentator.

Actually, I’m not a horse racing commentator. I wish I was.

After enjoying vacation in Tokyo and Gwangwon Province, I worked as an interpreter for a conference. I interpreted Korean to English.

Interpretation and translation are not the same.

  • Interpretation is when you speak. There are simultaneous and consecutive interpretation.
  • Translation is when you read and write.

So someone who is an interpreter by profession, is not the same as someone who is a translator.

You only get one chance at interpretation. You have to think very quickly, convey what the other person is trying to say as accurately as possible.

On the other hand, you get to spend more time to think and find the right expression when you translate a document.

  • For some people, interpretation can be fun and exciting. For others, it can be intimidating.
  • For some people, translation is boring and tedious. For others, it’s a craft; you keep on searching and thinking to find the best translation.
Different strokes for different folks.
(different people like different things)


But when it comes to speaking English, you should NOT translate in your head.

Do you translate in your head from your mother tongue while you speak in English? If you do, you should stop that habit.

When you say, “Good morning” you don't translate from your mother tongue, do you? You say “Good morning” because you just know it’s the most appropriate thing to say when you greet someone in the morning. It comes to you like an instinct.

When you become an intermediate, advanced or even a fluent speaker, the principle of how you learn to speak better is still the same.

The ability to speak well also has a lot to do with being socially skilled.

Being socially skilled means you understand the situation and the emotion felt by people around you, and you know the most appropriate thing to say in the moment.

It takes a lot of energy and awareness to recognize what’s going on around you, and say something in English if you are not accustomed to different situations. That is why I encourage you to imitate others to practice your English. You don't need to be hanging out with English-speaking friends. Try the shadowing technique. Identify a native speaker you like, and try to think and act like that person. Record yourself and compare your voice with that of the native speaker of your choosing.

We have a “mirror neuron” in our brain. When you observe an action performed by others, your mirror neuron fires as though you were performing the very same action.

When a neuron fires, it means it’s activated. Not fire as in flames!

So try to copy others who speak better than you. Watch and listen to English as often as you can, and ACT like a native speaker even if you’re not. BELIEVE that you’re a fluent speaker even if you’re not there yet.


Remember how Kungfu Panda became the Dragon Warrior? He believed he was, and then he became one. Not the other way round.

The same goes with you. I’d like you to do two things this week.

1) Imitate native speakers
2) and believe that you’re a native speaker.

To your success!

About Josh

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언어와 문화 학습을 좋아하는 일본계 미국인 Josh 입니다. 영어와 일본어를 하고 제3개국어인 한국어는 20대에 배웠습니다. 통번역사, 프로젝트매니저, 마케터로서의 경험을 바탕으로 여러분이 스마트하게 보일 수 있는 영어 스피킹 노하우를 공유하고 있습니다. 비즈니스 영어와 발음과 엑센트에 관한 강좌를 실시하고 있습니다. 분야: 비즈니스 영어, 프레젠테이션, 발음 교정 現: 유튜브채널 SplashEnglish 운영前: 서울교육대학교, 김미경 영어 스피치 트레이너. 협동: EBSe, JEI 재능, 메가스터디, 제주항공, 캠블리, 코어소리영어, AranTV. 다룰 줄 아는 악기: 탬버린.좋아하는 음식은 타코스.

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