Learning Languages with Word-for-Word Decoding: the Bridge to the New Language

Translating a text literally word for word sounds very unusual at first. But that's what word-for-word decoding does.

For years at school we have learned that a translation must be as accurate as possible, but also always correspond logically. Is it possible to learn a language with such a "wrong" translation?

The answer is a clear "Yes". The method of word-for-word decoding is based on a learning method of the well-known motivation trainer Vera F. Birkenbihl and has been used very successfully for a long time.

Read below to find out exactly how the method works and how to learn new words and language rules efficiently. And all this without having to cram for vocabulary and grammar tests.

Why is decoding more efficient than translation?

Translations must be good to learn a language. That sounds logical at first and you hear it over and over again. But why this is so is never explained, it is simply assumed and accepted as given. Of course, a direct word-for-word translation sounds strange or even wrong. Remember, however, that your goal is not to learn your native language. You can already do that. You don't want to write an elegant translation at first. You want to learn a foreign language.

The aim of decoding is therefore to understand the meaning of the words and thus of the text before you even start speaking.

An example: The correct German translation of the English "What's up?" is Was ist los? (“what is wrong?”). If you do not internalize this correctly, translation errors will be pre-programmed for later. Because, what is the literal translation of "Was ist los?", precisely "What's loose?", a classic "false friend".

Decoding allows you to recognize the meaning of words in their respective contexts without having to learn many different meanings. 

How to prepare the decoding?

If you do a decoding yourself, translate a text word by word using a vocabulary list.

To do this, it is a good idea to copy and enlarge texts from textbooks or course books. This way you can better enter the decoding and don't have to scribble around in a book.

This independent work is already part of the learning process, but it is also very laborious. Since the early 1990s, there have been language courses that have already been constructed according to the Birkenbihl method. Linguajet's courses also work according to this principle.

How to use decoding?

If you have a decoded text, the next step is to read this word-for-word translation carefully to get a first feel for the content of the foreign language text.

Birkenbhil assumes that your subconscious produces an image if you have understood in your mother tongue what the text expresses.

If you still do not understand part of the text, for example because it contains a technical term, you know immediately that it is not due to your lack of understanding of a foreign language. This enables you to understand texts correctly and in a targeted manner.

What's the next step?

If you are more advanced and repeat the text, you can also read the foreign language text and cover the encoded text. You only look at the coded line to "look up” meanings.

The more words you know, the less you need to decode. Then only translate those passages that you do not understand right away. The more you learn, the fewer parts of the exercise texts you have to translate directly or read in the decoded version.

Unlike school, where lessons become increasingly difficult, the Birkenbihl method makes for less work as you progress. In this way, the motivation to learn a language can be kept high over the long term.

By the way: The "modern", common method of learning languages was invented by Christian monks in the Middle Ages and not by modern educators. So it can hardly do any harm to try a new method.

What are the advantages of decoding in language learning?

The first advantage is the biggest. You understand your exercise text right away, because the new language has become transparent due to the decoding. This creates a positive feeling, because the method appeals to the intuitive approach of most people.

A positive feeling is the basic requirement for motivated and therefore effective learning.

No grammar

You don't like learning grammar either? You'll be in good company. Most people don't like this when learning a new language. Word-for-word translation allows you to understand the sentence structure of the target language without any dry grammar rules.
Take for example the Italian word "parla", which means "speak", as in "parla italiano? In the decoding you see exactly that in Italian only one word is necessary, where in German two are needed (“sprechen Sie”). This way you internalize this rule intuitively and will not make any mistakes later.

Decoding instead of vocabulary

In the classical learning of vocabulary, one learns a double word (e.g. Adler-eagle). This double word, i.e. a foreign word and its translation, is deeply memorized by the learner.

This often leads to foreigners having to ponder for translations after the second "part of the word" and rarely finding the right word intuitively. The double word is thus a "crutch" that you can never get rid of completely.

According to Birkenbihl, however, the decoding method is a "crutch" that you use only as long as you need it.

You gradually start to think in the target language and become faster and more fluent. At this point, you no longer need word-for-word translation.

Not only to learn grammar, but also to learn vocabulary is often very strenuous. Very few people associate fun with it.

Similar or funny

Learning a language with decoding is not only subconsciously and practically without work, it can also be fun. Birkenbihl's rule of thumb says that a coded sentence is either similar to the native language, or it is funny.

If a sentence structure seems particularly funny, this helps to recognize it clearly. This usually occurs in languages of other language families. This is of course particularly advantageous, because these foreign sentence structures are usually particularly difficult to learn with conventional methods.

Do you retain the decoding method?

Decoding should not accompany your entire learning process. If, as noted above, you understand the meaning of the words in a lesson in different contexts, you can forget the technique again and concentrate on understanding the pronunciation.

This works with active and passive listening. You can play the text that you have only read so far on a playback device while you read it. Take breaks over and over again to process what you hear.

If what you hear seems familiar, let the text play in the background. You can continue your normal activities, even if they cause noise.

This way you learn the right pronunciation subconsciously. The same mechanisms are carried out in the brain as in infants who learn their mother tongue. Linguajet courses are also suitable for active and passive listening.

What's the next step?

Learning languages with the Birkenbihl method is really quite simple and works with the innate abilities of the human being and his intuitive approach. With Linguajet, even the tedious step of decoding is no longer necessary.

Just give it a try. For each language in the Linguajet range, Linguajet offers two free lessons to try out for free. So you have nothing to lose and everything to win.

Cause you'll see: Learning foreign languages can be easy and fun!




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