Translation for Self-Study: Top Tips

Posted by Will Briscoe on 25-May-2018 15:56:25


As an avid language enthusiast, I never stop trying to improve my language skills; from my degree in French, Spanish and Mandarin to Memrise courses in Korean, Russian, Arabic and Portuguese (to name but a few), it’s safe to say that languages are my real passion.

Contrary to popular belief, I believe that translation has a vital role in language learning, both in and outside a classroom. Following a recent INSETT session I did to help teachers use more translation effectively in the classroom, I thought it was about time I focused on the other side of the coin – translation for self-study.

Below I have tried to collate some tips based on my own experience for how to (and how not to) use translation to help you when studying alone.Will bio photo

Will teaches our upper-intermediate class at Stafford House Cambridge, UK


  • Use – it’s a fantastic online dictionary with clear indicators of formality, appropriacy, regional usage. It also has a forum function where proficient speakers of both languages can pose questions and discuss usage, difference in meaning and other questions relating to the target language. 
  • Listen to songs several times. First, just listen. Secondly, find the lyrics online, read and listen at the same time. Your third step is to look up any new words, finally listen to the song without the lyrics and you’ll be amazed at how much more you understand. 
  • Another great thing to do is read translated versions of your favourite books. You can compare them to see if there’s any difference in style, content or connotation.



  • Don’t just put an entire text into Google translate as the translated version probably won’t make sense. If you want to use Google translate, either translate individual words and phrases or once you’ve translated a text, translate it back to check it make sense. 
  • Don’t use the first word on the list when you use a dictionary. Check it has the same meaning as the word you want as the same word can have very different meanings in different contexts. 
  • Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything when you’re reading or listening. You don’t need to understand every single word. You can try to work it out from context or it may not be critical for overall comprehension. If you don’t understand something, move on, try to understand the basic message and come back to it if needs be.


Will, thank you for sharing your expertise with us!

Topics: Cambridge, Study Abroad, Travel, Study English