Chatterbox #252 – How to think in English

Episode description

Everyone goes through the stage of language learning when they find themselves constantly translating their target language into their native one. When do people get past that stage and start to think in English? In this Chatterbox episode, Andrew and Jeremy share their best methods for surpassing this plateau.

Fun fact

Have you read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry? Even if you can’t read it in its original French, you can probably find it in your native language. It is thought to be the most widely translated novel, having been rendered into 361 languages and dialects!

Expressions included in the study guide

  • To know [something] all too well
  • A take
  • Magic solution
  • To bounce ideas off [someone]
  • Muscle memory
  • To trust the process

To know [something] all too well (Phrase)

In this beginning of this episode, Andrew and Jeremy share some of the same concerns regarding language learning as Culips listener Dongkoo. Andrew says that they know all too well the difficulty of translating in your head while speaking. To know [something] all too well is a phrase you can use when you are very familiar with a subject. You are lightheartedly saying how much experience you have with the topic.

Here are a couple more examples with to know [something] all too well:

Mikey:  Oh, no! I’m going to miss my flight. Do you know what to do in this situation?
Brooke:  Don’t remind me. I know that all too well.
Mikey:  Really?
Brooke:  Over the years, I think I’ve missed about seven flights. It’s not fun.
Mikey:  So you can help me?
Brooke:  Yup, no problem.

Harley:  I’m planning a trip to Morocco, but I’m really unfamiliar with the country. Do you know anything about it?
Charles:  I know it all too well. My family is from there.
Harley:  I thought your family was from France.
Charles:  Actually, I was born in Morocco but grew up in France. We would often go back and forth. What cities are you planning to visit?

A take (Noun)

In this episode, Andrew asks Jeremy for his take on the topic of translating in one’s head during language learning. A take is someone’s opinion. In the same sentence, Andrew says he liked Jeremy’s perspective. In this sense, take and perspective are interchangeable. It is also common to put take in question form, as in when someone asks, “What’s your take on this?”

Here are a couple more examples with a take:

Peyton:  There have been so many changes in the world this year.
Erin:  I know. It’s been interesting, to say the least.
Peyton:  And now there’s talk of defunding the police. What’s your take on that?
Erin:  That’s a tough one. You definitely need police in any society. However, I understand that normal city police departments don’t need military-style equipment.
Peyton:  Yeah. That’s what most people are saying. I still don’t know what I think about it all.

Winnie:  Do you think your friend Dave would like to join us for supper?
Ismail:  He doesn’t go out much, so I’m not sure.
Winnie:  I’ll call him up. What’s his cell phone number?
Ismail:  He doesn’t have one.
Winnie:  He doesn’t have a cell phone? How come?
Ismail:  He lives a very minimalist lifestyle. He’s almost like a hermit. If you want to talk to him, you have to go see him at home.
Winnie:  Wow. That’s an interesting take on life.

Magic solution (Idiom)

In responding to Dongkoo’s questions about learning a language, Andrew says it’s difficult for him to give an answer because there is no magic solution. A magic solution is a quick and easy shortcut to solve your problem. Just imagine how easy it would be if you could simply wave a magic wand and instantly speak perfect English. As you know, that does not exist. There is no magic solution. You need to put in the time and effort to succeed.

Here are a couple more examples with magic solution:

Jon:  I saw an interesting commercial on television. This company was offering a way to make easy money on the side. I’m thinking of signing up.
Sienna:  Don’t do it.
Jon:  Why not? I could give it a try.
Sienna:  I wouldn’t trust anyone who is offering a magic solution. It sounds like a scam to me. Be careful.

Cleo:  I’ve been studying Punjabi lately. Do you have any suggestions or study tips for me?
Mandeep:  Basically the same as every other language you’ve studied. Read a lot. Speak a lot. Listen to Punjabi content a lot. And do it every day.
Cleo:  That’s so much effort. I was hoping you would know a magic solution or something.
Mandeep:  Nope. You have to put in the effort. It’s that simple.

To bounce ideas off [someone] (Idiom)

Andrew came up with possible solutions to Dongkoo’s questions and wants to bounce them off Jeremy. To bounce ideas off [someone] is to share these ideas with someone to find out their opinions on them. You want their feedback in order to know how good your ideas are.

Another common expression is to throw [something] against the wall and see what sticks. In this case, the good ideas stick to the wall and the bad ones fall to the floor. Similarly, when you bounce ideas off [someone], you keep the good ideas and throw the bad ones away.

Here are a couple more examples with to bounce ideas off [someone]:

Elsa:  Can I talk to you in my office for a minute?
Charles:  Sure. What’s up?
Elsa:  You know we’ve been working on the Mackenzie project since April, right?
Charles:  Yes, I do.
Elsa:  Recently, we’ve encountered a few problems. I was wondering if I can bounce a few ideas off you. I’d like to know what you think.
Charles:  Ask away.

Felicity:  What do you do for work, Reggie?
Reggie:  I’m a consultant.
Felicity:  I see. What exactly does that entail?
Reggie:  Basically, I go to meetings and let them bounce ideas off me.
Felicity:  That’s it?
Reggie:  Of course, I need to give them a written report afterwards. That part is quite time-consuming, but I like it.

Muscle memory (Noun)

In this episode, Andrew encourages Dongkoo to develop muscle memory by doing repetitive output practice. Muscle memory is an idea that comes from the world of sports. When you practice a certain movement repeatedly, such as shooting free throws in basketball, for example, your muscles develop a kind of memory for the movement. Over time, you get better and better at the movement because your muscles remember it very well. The same thing applies to repetitive practice when speaking a second language. The more you practice, the greater your skills will become because of this accumulated memory.

Here are a couple more examples with muscle memory:

Pedro:  I’m scared of going back to Spain. My Spanish skills are terrible.
Martine:  But you’re a native speaker.
Pedro:  I know, but I haven’t spoken in a long time.
Martine:  Don’t worry. It’s just like riding a bike. Every time I go back to France, my French is a little rusty. But then muscle memory kicks in and I’m quickly comfortable again. I’m sure the same will happen with you.
Pedro:  All right. Thanks.

Taran:  Wow, you’re really good at shooting three-pointers. You must play basketball a few times a week.
Stuart:  Not at all. I haven’t played basketball in years.
Taran:  How come you’re making every shot?
Stuart:  Muscle memory, I guess. I used to play every day when I was younger. My old muscles still remember what to do.

To trust the process (Idiom)

As a final piece of advice for Dongkoo, Andrews tells him to trust the process. To trust the process is to believe that if your methods are good, you will succeed in the end. In this case, the process is how you learn and practice your English. If you do everything correctly, whether you feel change every day or not, you will reach your goal.

Here are a couple more examples with to trust the process:

Lleyton:  How have your language studies been going?
Katie:  So-so. I feel like I’m not making any improvements.
Lleyton:  Yeah. I feel like that too sometimes.
Katie:  But I just need to remind myself to trust the process. If I continue on the right path, I’ll get there eventually.
Lleyton:  That’s a good way of looking at it.

Margo:  Is everything OK?
Nate:  I’m so frustrated with this homework.
Margo:  What is it?
Nate:  Math. I can’t get my head around these equations. I’m not good at math.
Margo:  Don’t get too down on yourself. Everyone struggles. Math is logical. Just trust the process. Everything will fall into place sooner or later.
Nate:  All right. I’ll try.

Chatterbox #252 – How to think in English


1. How much do you think language learning depends on practice, and how much do you think it depends on natural talent?
2. What is something you know all too well?
3. If you could have a magic solution for language learning (like eating a pill or having a chip implanted into your head), would you take it? Why or why not?
4. When do you think you have to trust the process, even if it doesn’t feel right?
5. For what kind of activity do you have great muscle memory?

Hosts: Andrew Bates and Jeremy Brinkerhoff
Music: Something Elated by Broke For Free
Episode preparation/research: Andrew Bates
Audio editor: Andrew Bates
Transcriptionist: Heather Bates
Study guide writer: Matty Warnock
English editor: Stephanie MacLean
Business manager: Tsuyoshi Kaneshima
Project manager: Jessica Cox
Image: Tim Gouw (

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