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Reading Italian

This may be a dumb question, but when your reading something in Italian like a book or magazine article, newspaper etc. do you read it in Italian and translate in your head or do you translate in your head and read it in English. Is one better or easier than the other? Does my question make sense?

October 19, 2018


Sorted by top thread

  • ...when you're reading something in Italian...

The apostrophe replaces the letter A in "you are".

You're = you are
Your = possessive; it belongs to you. Your sofa. Your phone.

When your reading = nonsense
You're using "your" incorrectly.

Carry on...

October 19, 2018


I only translate when it's necessary. Usually I read the words and try to just get their meaning. This may be hard at first, but the more you do it the easier it gets. Translating everything word for word all the time is a big no-no.


It's normal to translate when you're only just starting to learn a language, but reaching a high level also means to eventually let go of translating in your head. It will come with practice, don't stress yourself if you can't do it yet.


I try my best to simply understand things in the language with imagery and use my native language as little as possible, of course I find that easier the more I practice in another language.

So Spanish I think most in Spanish with least translation, followed by Italian.

I've found Italian particularly hard to read though. I need to start off with children's books on Kindle.

[deactivated user]

    Past a certain point in your learning I wouldn't have thought a direct translation would be necessary. After all, when I now see the words 'la birra', I'm already salivating at the mouth without even thinking about it (ha ha)!


    FxTalon. Bravo brava braviii!


    @crawf68 Excellent question and definitely by all means not dumb.. I personally find that different languages use different mental frequencies and code our perception of objects, ideas and facts of reality accordingly..not two languages are same..even they may appear related closely, like Italian and Spanish..I assure you ,that they do not use the same thinking processes. Therefore LEAST you translate in your head MORE you learn the language ,no matter what you think of your level..it happens subconsciously.. Translate only when there is no other choice.. I study 4 languages currently and i do not translate in my head form one to another..and not into English! Instead I switch my thinking into the language i am reading or writing..then i use translation through tools that i have if i lack words.. As a result I advance a lot faster..


    It's better and actually easier not to translate everything in your head. Translating everything is tough! A lot of people when they start reading in a foreign language get hung up on knowing what every single word means and how to translate it when they are reading, and that only leads to frustration.

    That being said, it's normal to want to translate in your head when you start out, particularly if it is the first foreign language you have studied. You have to really train yourself not to revert to your native language. This goes for when you are speaking, listening, reading, or writing. The good thing is that it gets easier with time and more exposure to the language. Eventually you'll find that you are reading without thinking in your native language at all, but it takes time. Be patient with yourself.


    Mmseiple. Many of us have said exactly this so many times but there are people who cannot move on without an exact translation and without comparing word or phrase with their own language. Let's hope our messages get through soon.


    Eventually they will. It's a hard thing to grasp when you're first learning a language. With reading it's especially important to let go of the idea of the perfect translation. There's a reason why everyone's not a professional translator - it's hard work! What I tell students to do is to read for a while (a couple of paragraphs, a couple pages) without using a dictionary, then go back and and look up any words that are keeping them from understanding what is going on, the most important words. I think that helps to 1) develop skills for figuring out words from context and 2) break the habit of going back and forth from their native language. It also helps to ease the frustration of not being able to translate everything. You realize that you can get the general gist and follow along even if you don't know 100% of the words. When you're trying to translate sentence by sentence, word by word, reading becomes a slow and painful process when it doesn't need to be.


    To expand what Linda articulates, here is the following example:

    "Easier said than done" as an idiom does not translate well directly into Italian. The closest translation is "Tra dire e fare c'è il mezzo del mare." Translating back to English yields, "Between saying and doing, there is the middle of the sea."

    It's also like explaining exactly what gelato is to North Americans who have never been exposed to this wonder 'dolce.' To call it ice cream or frozen yogurt would be an insult, but unfortunately, those are the closest items to its creamy and silky texture that blissfully embraces your tongue under the Italian sun after a 37 degree summer day. Gelato is gelato, and when it is done well, there is no comparison nor translation that can be made into other cultures.

    That being said, I want gelato now.


    WcJerky. Mamma mia, un gelato anche per me, per favore. (I actually don't think of ice cream now, just gelato). And I also find I'm thinking in Italian now without trying which is a bonus. Happy learning...


    I'm anticipating being in Milan in 10 days, pending a contract. Prenderò un gelato per le storie, le memorie, e il gusto.

    Il gelato è cancellato 'ice cream,' come la pizza margherita è cancellato le pizze nordamericano. L'immagine di Santa Lucia (una pizzeria populare in Manitoba, la mia provincia) nella mia menta non aiuta.

    Congratulazioni per le abilità che hai sviluppato! Sono felice per te! Ancora sto aprendando anche.


    Hi, I try not to translate, if you want some help with this a good way is to use flash cards, but instead of writing the english word put in a picture that helps your remember the word. This helps with memorisation (the human brain processes images really well) but also gets rid of the forchetta - fork mindset and more into the forchetta and you see a fork in your minds eye


    Beard. Ah sono d'accordo! Visuals are vital.


    I try to just read and assimilate the meaning of whatever I'm reading directly without going through an actual translation in my head.

    If I can't understand whatever I'm reading in a foreign language then yes, I will absolutely translate word for word and then try to put the sentence back together to make sense of it. Some languages are easier to grasp for me and some are harder, and it's only partly based on how well I speak them. I find Italian more straightforward, even though I know more French. And in Hungarian I almost always have to take the proverbial crowbar to each word and analyze the prefixes and suffixes before I even have a chance.

    I also think it gets easier as you've learned more languages. It might be because you know others that are closely related to the one you're currently reading, or even just that you have different sorts of language/grammar patterns in your brain that will help you process new information from several viewpoints.


    Thanks everyone for their replies, (even the grammar nazi) i will take them onboard. I know a lot of Italian words, putting them into a sentence is something i'm struggling with. More practice and ill get there.


    Two really helpful replies. May I lingot you both. Direct translating is a big no-no. I try to think and be Italian and it works, and the rhythm of this beautiful language is often more helpful than you'd imagine. Tanti auguri...


    I think the word-by-word translation is useful or at least interesting for words that have a common root in Latin, e.g., "to indulge" and "indulgere". There are quite many such words. Sometimes the meaning matches perfectly but sometimes the meaning has diverted a lot.


    I haven't began to read much Italian yet, but when I get to a higher level, for sure I will start reading some of that good stuff.

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