Don’t Use Word-For-Word Translations

If you’d like to become completely fluent in English, you need to avoid using word-for-word translations. I know that it’s very tempting to use those kinds of translations, but they’re simply not reliable. They could make your sentence confusing, or even change the meaning.

For example, the Spanish sentence: que buena manera de ir a la escuela si dudaste algun dia asistir, translated into English means: that a good way to go to school if you doubt someday attend.


That translation doesn’t make a lot of sense. In fact, it’s pretty confusing. But that is common with word-for-word translations.

Don’t use them!

This will also make things confusing for you when you’re trying to form your own sentences. Instead of thinking about what you want to say, and general grammatical rules, you’ll be thinking of the “exact pattern” you remember from previous English sentences. How confusing!

It is better to learn words in chunks, or full sentences, instead of studying individual words. That way you’ll understand new vocabulary from context, and you’ll be able to that vocabulary in your own future sentences. And you won’t be over thinking your sentences.

Think in terms of “ideas” and the main message instead of individual words. People often translate word-for-word but fail to translate the idea behind the sentence, causing confusion.


It is important to learn individual words so you can “mix and match” and make your own sentences. But, the best way to do this is to actually learn through phrases. For example, you could look up the exact definitions of the words, let, us, get, go. But when you put them all into a sentence, it still doesn’t really make sense. However, when you read this sentence: “Let’s get going! We’re going to be late to the concert,” you understand that ‘let’s get going’ means to ‘hurry up’.

However, avoiding word-for-word translations is best used for students who are a little more advanced. When you’re first starting to learn English, it’s a good idea to start off with basic and literal translations. But, if you’d like to progress, it’s important to gradually shift from literal translations to understanding context.

In the end, use whatever method works for you. Word-for-word translations are often quicker and easier, but they are rarely reliable. Instead, try to learn new words through context, and study through phrases instead of individual words. In time, you’ll develop fluency and the ability to understand and use various words in English.

Keep up your hard work!


7 thoughts on “Don’t Use Word-For-Word Translations

  1. The sign cracks me up and not because I understand what it means in both languages. I think another lesson here is don’t trust Google Translate because it’s only probably right 20-30% of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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