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How to learn languages using only a translator?

Choosing the perfect learning material, such as books, videos, programs, or classes, is confusing for most of us. This is because they are available everywhere and you can get it easily. You can go to any website to learn languages using gamification programs, like Duolingo, LingQ, or Memrise. You also can go to bookstores to get any language books that catch your attention because of their beautiful design, famous author, or discounted price. 

Luckily we live in the internet era where using the internet is as important as eating 3 times a day. Everyone has phones that are connected to the internet. There are abundant phone applications for learning languages, either free or paid version. My favorites are Duolingo for learning phrases, and Memrise for learning vocabulary. However, these are insufficient because I can only learn sentences these applications show me. What if I want to learn how to say the sentences I just said a minute ago to my teacher in a foreign language? There is no way to find its translation on those applications.

A translator will be very helpful in this situation. However, you will not understand how your sentences are constructed if you only translate them into a foreign language. The reason for this is that translators cannot provide grammatical explanations. Therefore, you need to know how to make the most of using a translator. You need to use the translator according to your way, to make you understand the language you are learning without the help of any books.

I shall share some helpful tips I have learned along my journey after experimenting with various learning styles and using various study materials. Using a translator to learn a language is enough to give you at least a basic knowledge of the foreign language you are learning. This method doesn't mean to substitute conventional study materials, like books or classes, but it serves as an aid to improve your language learning and to make it more fun.

Understanding the rules

First thing first, you need to know about sentence structure. Each word in a sentence has a specific purpose. Although grammatical rules can make sentence structure complex, I shall show you some basic parts of a sentence for simplicity.

  1. Nouns: a word used to identify people, places, or things. For example "mother", "car", "table", or "cookie".
  2. Pronouns: a word used to refer to someone or something previously mentioned, rather than using a noun repeatedly. For example "we", "they", "my", or "your".
  3. Verbs: a word that expresses an action. It is used along with a noun or pronoun to describe what the noun or pronoun is doing. For example "eat", "sing", "think", or "walk".
  4. Adjectives: a word that describes the qualities of nouns. An adjective usually comes next to a noun. For example, "beautiful", "tall", "far", or "happy". 
  5. Adverbs: a word used to modify verbs or adjectives. Adverbs usually answer questions such as "How", "Where", or "When". For example, "quickly", "at school", "on Monday", or "never".
  6. Prepositions: a word or group of words used before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, time, place, or location. For example "inside", "at", "over", or "of".
  7. Conjunctions: a word that is used to connect words or phrases. For example "and", "but", "because", or "so that".
  8. Interjections: a word intended to express different levels of emotion, spontaneous feeling, or reaction. For example "Oh!", "Wow!", or "My goodness!".

Using them in practice

By knowing all the rules above, you are ready to put them into practice. 

  • Open your favorite translator, any translators would work as long as they have the language you are learning. I use Google Translate the most, as it is a common translator used by the world, if not the universe, nowadays. 
  • Think about the words you want to know in the language you are learning. You should start with simple context and words you use daily. If you don't work in politics, you don't need to learn political words now. It will be more useful to know how to say how you feel today after a long day at work, rather than what you think about your government. 
  • Type the words down in the translator one by one. "Why one by one?" I'm going to explain it shortly.

When using a translator for learning, you may not have someone to explain to you. Don't worry because I'm going to guide you step by step. 

Type a noun and see the translation. Then, type an adjective next to the noun and see the translation. Voila! You have learned how to describe a noun and adjective in your target language. Change this noun and adjective to other words to see the translation. You can also separate both the noun and adjective to see the translation and compare that translation to the translation of both noun and adjective together. Take a look at this example in the Javanese language.

  • big = gedhe
  • dog = asu
  • big dog = asu gedhe

You can see that in the Javanese language, the adjective comes after the noun. Keep that in mind so you won't say it wrongly. Other languages may have different noun and adjective sequences. Play around with it to as many words as possible you can come up with. 

Next, you can type a pronoun word and see the translation. Then, type a verb next to it and see the translation. Voila! You have just learned a simple sentence. You can change the pronoun and verb to see how they change because verbs change according to the pronouns in some languages. Then, add an object, which is a noun, either with or without an adjective. See the translation, and change the words to form other sentences. Then, add the adverbs or words referring to manner, time, or place. Voila! You have just learned an extended simple sentence. Let's see the following example in the Vietnamese language.

  • they = họ
  • want = muốn
  • they want = họ muốn
  • one = một
  • dog = chó
  • one dog = một con chó
  • big = lớn
  • big dog = chó lớn
  • one big dog = một con chó lớn
  • they want one big dog = họ muốn một con chó lớn

You see the word "con" in between the Vietnamese word for "one" and "dog". You may not know the meaning of it immediately but you can take the conclusion that the word "con" appears in between a number and a noun. Keep this in mind in the meantime, and change the number and noun to other words to see the translation and patterns. You can do this in the language you are learning.

Start with one word, then add more words one by one to form a long sentence that you possibly make. You need to always compare the translations of words and sentences to find patterns. Repeat this method, change the words, and have fun learning languages!

Translator Stock photos by Vecteezy


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