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  1. #1
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    Default Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    Hi, guys,

    I have been using English to learn English and have got a lot of benefits from it. Okay, let us cut the chase and get this simpler and clearer. Here some good aspects of learning English through English.

    1. Stop translating. I think this is the most important benefit. When I listen to Video, or watch TV shows, or speak English with native people, or when I read some English articles, I never need to translate them, I can think everything in English.

    2. Set up more opportunities to practice. When I use English to study English, which make me capable of solving any problems in English. I mean, everytime when I run into a problem, I can discuss with people who speak English, which offers me lots of opportunities to practice what I have learned immediately.

    Here is an article I found at this forum, which lists a good deal of benefits of learning English through English.
    Why does my teacher make me use an English-English Dictionary? - Articles - UsingEnglish.com (That is just what I want to say)

    However, nothing is perfect! I have been using this way to learn English for one year, and recently I found a problem that I can not translate it in my own language anymore. For example. I can speak with English native speaker very well and I can understand everything we are talking. But, if then there is a Chinese friend who comes and asks me what we were talking about. Of course, I can tell him the general subject of our conversion, but if he asks me the particular meaning of a certain word, especially some nouns, some technical terms. For example, like word "salamander", I know "salamander" is an animal, which like a lizard, with short legs and a long tail. And I can also search the image of "salamander" at Google. So if you say "salamander", I know that is an animal and I know what it is like, I mean, I know everything about "salamander" in English. Since I have been using Enlgish to learn English, if you ask me what "salamander" means in Chinese, I just can tell you - I do not know! Because I have never looked it up in a bilingual dictionary, which just lead to a problem that I have no idea what it means in Chinese. I only know everything about "salamander" in English.


    I have got used to learning English through English, I like thinking everything and dealing with every questions in English, and I do not want to change. If you ask me to use Chinese to learn English, (like, using bilingual dictionary) I just think, everytime when I watch TV, listen to music, when I speak English, etc. I will not stop translating ! I will always think Chinese first and convert it into English.

    There's a whole lot of benefits when I study English through English. The ONLY bad aspect to me is I can not translate English in my own language, which just drives me crazy that if someone asks me the Chinese definition for English words. (I mean some Nouns, some technical terms, like "sepal", "elk", "gluten", "rye", etc.) Although I can be a nice English speaker, I will never be a translator. I can explain these words in English, but I do not know what it means in Chinese !! OMG, this problem just have made me into a dilemma - a nice English speaker or a translator ?

    So... What do you think? What is your opinion?
    Do you think we should use English to learn English? Use Chinese to learn to English? Or use both of them to learn English?

    Thanks for your help.
    Last edited by IMPSX-UE; 06-Jan-2009 at 20:09.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    Over-reliance on translation into your first language can inhibit learning and create a comfort zone, but avoiding it completely seems artificial. Translation is a technique and has its time and place; in your example, it's fairly simple, but what happens when there are dozens of languages in a classroom?

    When you have to communicate with someone in real life, simply getting your message across can be difficult, so I wouldn't exclude bilingual dictionaries or translation. If you think salamander is tricky, try explaining different types of fish from a menu- that's murderously difficult IMO.

  3. #3
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    Another benefit of learning English through English (more generally, a language through that language) is that the student avoids misunderstandings that the teacher isn't aware of.

    If a student tries to explain a new piece of language in terms of his or her experience, I have a chance of deciding whether they've 'got it'. But if s/he has a private discussion with a fellow speaker of a language I dont know, then I'm not in a position to say whether either of them has it right; and the rest of the class may either get it wrong too (if they're monolingual) or (if they're multilingual) just learn nothing.

    b

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    Default Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Over-reliance on translation into your first language can inhibit learning and create a comfort zone, but avoiding it completely seems artificial. Translation is a technique and has its time and place; in your example, it's fairly simple, but what happens when there are dozens of languages in a classroom?

    When you have to communicate with someone in real life, simply getting your message across can be difficult, so I wouldn't exclude bilingual dictionaries or translation. If you think salamander is tricky, try explaining different types of fish from a menu- that's murderously difficult IMO.

    No, no, Tdol, maybe I did not make it this clear. I can explain the meaning of "salamander" in both ENGLISH and CHINESE. I just do not know and can not tell you what is the exactly name of "salamander" in Chinese. (actually, the Chinese name of "salamander' is "蝾螈")

    For instance, if you say "rye", I know "rye" is a type of grain, the seeds of which are used to make flour or whisky. And I also can explain the meaning of this word in Chinese, I mean, I can tell you what "rye" is in Enlgish and Chinese. But if you ask me the Chinese name for "rye", then... I do not know, because I have been using English to learn English, and I have never looked it up in a bilingual dictionary, which just have made me into a situation that I have no idea about the Chinese name for "rye". And for many Nouns, like "receptacle", "fungus", "carbohydrate", etc. I can DESCRIBE both of them of in English and Chinese, but how about the Chinese name of these words ? - I do not know !!!

    Crazy !!!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    When you mention "rye", I know what you are talking about, I know "rye" is a type of grain, the seeds of which are used to make flour or whisky. (This is what I found in the English-English dictionary) I also can tell you this in Chinese - "rye" 是一种谷物, 它的种子可以用来做面粉或
    威士忌 = "rye" is a type of grain, the seeds of which are used to make flour or whisky.

    (Maybe then you will ask me. Okay, you said you do not know the Chinese name of "rye", then how do you know the Chinese name of "grain", "seeds", "flour", and "whisky" in this sentence ["rye" is a type of grain, the seeds of which are used to make flour or whisky.] ?
    I know the Chinese name of these four words because I learned them with a bilingual dictionary when I began to learn English before I started using English-English dictionry to learn English.)

    But I do not know is that the Chinese name of "rye" is 黑麦, if I do not look up "rye" in a bilingual dictionary.
    Last edited by IMPSX-UE; 06-Jan-2009 at 21:40.

  6. #6
    thedaffodils's Avatar
    thedaffodils is offline Key Member
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    Smile Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    Hi IMPSX-UE,

    Here's my two cents.

    One manís meat is another personís poison. I think how to learn English is to depend on each individualís purpose and situation.

    If people intend to emigrate, it is good for them to just use English to learn English. If people intend to be professional translator or interpreter it is quite necessary to know exactly the corresponding words in the languages each other.

    I am not a professional translator, but English and Mandarin are both my working languages. I need to communicate with my co-workers in both languages, e.g. to coordinate between them and forward the relevant info explicitly. I think few people would have enough patience to listen to my wordy and vague descriptions especially at work. Therefore, I mainly use Chinese and English to learn English.

    As to the beginners of English, Iíd suggest them to use Chinese to learn English first since it is hard for them to use English to learn English if they donít grasp enough vocabulary. And it might be easier and clearer for them to use grammar books in Chinese to learn basic English grammar.

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    Default Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    Quote Originally Posted by thedaffodils View Post
    Hi IMPSX-UE,

    Here's my two cents.

    One man’s meat is another person’s poison. I think how to learn English is to depend on each individual’s purpose and situation.
    Hi, thedaffodils,

    I am pretty glad to see your SUPER reply!

    I have been thinking about this "dilemma" ever since I posted this thread here last night. And your opinions are just included within what I have considered. You are right ! I think the best way to work this problem out is to contain them both - English and Chinese. Because we have to communicate, to interact with both kinds people, I mean, the people who speak English, and Chinese, our "native countrymen". If there is a chance for us to choose, not just me, I guess everybody will make the same decision that why not just take the "multiple role" - to be an "fantastic speaker" and "professional translator" as well. (Haha, This just makes me feel like, "I am a real professional !" )

    Whatever the need is to emigrate, to study in the U.S., or it is the need for your work, etc. I think that would be perfect if we can be a "generalist". If there is a chance, why not ?!!!

    Thanks, thedaffodils, I just would like to say - "Finally, I work it out, the feeling is just like, one word, free ! "
    Last edited by RonBee; 21-Jan-2009 at 17:13. Reason: fix quote

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    thedaffodils, thedaffodils,

    I have a last question for you, everytime when you are learning a new word, do you usually look it up in an English-English dictionary first, and then the bilingual dictionary? Or do you just look it up in a bilingual dictionary directly?

  9. #9
    thedaffodils's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    Hello again, IMPSX-UE.

    I am glad that my opinion is useful to you.

    I learn the Chinese explanation first via Kingsoft, which is a bilingual e-dictionary though contains many errors. And then I look up new words in an English-English dictionary.

    I only wrote down the Engish defination(s) of each new word I've learned with an example sentence in my notebook. Basically I can remember all the Chinese translation well if I read the English definitions again.

  10. #10
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Using English to learn English vs. Using your own language to learn English

    I don't know how this would work with Chinese, but something I often do with a bilingual dictionary is this: when I want to know 'the equivalent'* of a word, I look it up in the English-<other-language> section and then I look the answer up in the <other-language>-English section (to make sure I haven't accidentally 'learnt' a word with an inappropriate meaning).

    *I'm not comfortable with the use of the word 'equivalent' here; I'm talking about a near-synonym.

    b

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