I happened to be reading about Queen Elizabeth I this week. I was surprised to learn she was fluent in Latin and Greek, and that her tutor favoured a method called “double translation”. I didn’t know what “double translation” was, so I googled it.
It turns out that double translation is as old as the hills, almost. It was Cicero’s preferred method of learning a language over 2,000 years ago.
It works like this.
- The student translates a passage into the language they are learning.
- The teacher corrects the student’s translation.
- After a break of at least an hour, the student then re-translates the passage from the foreign language back into their mother tongue.
- The student then compares this second translation with the original passage.
Now, until that point, I’d only been memorising Spanish phrases and translating them into English. So I decided to try translating the same phrases from English back into Spanish. And the results were surprising. In a bad way.
Although I am progressing nicely translating Spanish phrases into English, or in other words, understanding Spanish, I really sucked at translating English phrases into Spanish. I was speaking “broken Spanish”, getting verb cases wrong and omitting small words like “en” and “de”.
I really want to speak Spanish properly.
Now, I don’t have a teacher. I only have a phrasebook with audio recordings, a dictionary and an Anki deck. But I can still use the double translation method. After all, my Anki deck immediately gives me the correct translation of the phrases I am learning.
All I have to do is memorise the phrasebook from Spanish to English, and from English to Spanish. This will double the amount of cards in my Anki deck to 3,000.
I have an immovable deadline – I plan to sit the DELE B1 exam on 22 November. To meet this deadline, I will have to increase the number of phrases I learn per day from 10 to 25.
I started doing this, this week, and am very happy to report that it seems to be working very well. At the moment, I feel very confident, despite my increased workload. Learning 10 phrases a day was taking me about 15 minutes, learning 25 phrases a day is taking me about 30 minutes.
I’ve had a few minor successes this week – I had a look at the sample paper for the DELE A1 exam, and am confident that I could pass the exam if I sat for it today. Also, I had a quick look at El Pais on the web and could read a lot of the headlines.
 Antonia Fraser, The lives of the Kings and Queens of England, pge @@