“SWAP-language” approach: how to finally start talking the new language

How Google Translate helps to finally start talking the new language

Now that my German level is approaching A2, I feel that my vocabulary is already quite good and I can’t wait to FINALLY start SPEAKING German. In other words, to generate complete sentences rather than individual short phrases. However, I encounter many gaps, mostly in my grammar, especially when I try to construct complex sentences, for example: “When I came home, I asked you if you would like to take a walk?“.

But, as they say: “fake it until you make it“. Indeed, based on science evidence, making errors significantly enforces learning. In particular it is about so called “Generation effect” . Applying to language learning, it could be interpreted like this:

“If you try to build a sentence on your own before you are exposed to its correct version, the learning effect is much greater, even if you make a lot of mistakes .”

Thus I need to maximize the “try-fail” cycles, i.e. generate a sentence to see the difference between my version and the correct one. And it turns out that Google Translate (or DeepL) is perfect for this. You just need to build the right process.

Now I will share my process, which I call “swap-language” approach. Basically it consists just of 2 simple steps. And 2 extra steps could be added if you want to make your language evolve even faster, especially in terms of grammar. Now you will see how it works.

Step 1

Let’s say you learn German. When you want to write a message to some German speaking person (in Whatsapp, email, anywhere), write it directly in Google Translate. An important point – write your thoughts immediately in German. To check yourself whether the meaning is conveyed correctly, just peek into the translation (to your native language):

If the translation is not 100% what you wanted to say, try to edit the created sentence. And there are several important tips:
a). It’s okay if you are not sure about the correctness of grammatical constructions. Just formulate them as you can. In fact, the goal itself is just to make a mistake! Exactly this will later help you better remember what the difference between the correct and the wrong version is.
b). And even more important (and non-obvious) point. When you come across words for which you do not know the translation, simply write them down in your native language (right inside the text). Google Translate (and DeepL as well) is so smart that it will understand everything.

Step 2

When the text is written and it seems to you that everything (or almost everything) in the translation corresponds to your original thought – just swap languages (in Google Translate you can do this by keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+S).

Take a look at the translated version here:

  • first, you see unknown words translation
  • secondly, Google Translate normally improves the sentence to match the correct grammar.

Note, that it is very important to read the translation at this moment so that your brain could definitely notice the difference between the original version you built yourself and the correct one. In fact, this is a lever that triggers the above-mentioned generation effect. Simply put – your brain will remember new words faster and learn the whole grammatical construction better, especially in the parts where you made a mistake.

Step 3 (Optional, to improve spoken language)

If you want to better remember new words and grammatical constructions, try pronouncing the correct version yourself (after reading it) without looking in Google Translate.

Step 4 (Optional, to improve your grammar)

If you want to understand which grammar rules is the sentence based on, you can ask ChatGPT about that. And later Google (or Youtube) the corresponding grammar sections.

I hope this approach will help you start speaking the language you learn (and EVEN thinking in this language) as soon as possible! Also join my channel where I share my lifehacks on frictionless language learning😜.

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