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Subtitles on or subtitles off? For English language learners, this is a common question. If I turn the subtitles off, I can focus on my listening skills. If I put the subtitles in English, I can easier understand the actors. If the subtitles are in my 1st language, I can truly understand the movie. So, which is best? Let’s look at what to try and what to avoid on our IELTS Preparation Tips article.

A quick question: What do you remember after watching an English language movie with subtitles in your language? Most people will only remember their language and forget English. And that’s the main point. Translating helps you understand, but it doesn’t always help you learn English. So, while preparing for the IELTS, when should you translate, and when should you not?

Active translating – Try it!

This is a great activity for reading and writing practice. If you can, find some texts that are both in English and in your own language. For example, an online magazine article that has language options. Next, only read English. While reading, translate the article into your 1st language. Then, take your translation notes and compare it with the article in your language. Was your translation perfect? Probably not. For parts that were difficult or translated poorly, try and understand where you went wrong. This is a great way to challenge your understanding of English and to find areas you need to improve.

Flash cards

Using translation with flashcards can be a great learning activity. Get a few hundred blank cards. Next, write English on one side, and your language on the other. Try and use words that you need to practice. Another key point is to write in full sentences. Full sentences allow you to learn both vocabulary and grammar at the same time. If you want to save trees, you can download some flashcard apps.

Interpreting for others

Sometimes your English language skills can be very helpful. You might have friends and family who don’t have strong English and need your assistance. Why not help interpret for them? Interpreting means helping someone by translating from one language to another. This is a great activity for two reasons. First, it helps your friends and family. Second, it is an excellent IELTS prep. When you translate in real situations, it really pushes you to be clear and accurate with your English. It also builds confidence.

Writing translations on your readings – Avoid it!

Do not write translations on the texts you are working on. Instead, type the definition or synonym in English. Using English-to-English dictionaries pushes you to keep your brain focused on English. This means you don’t waste IELTS preparation time thinking in your 1st language. English-to-English dictionaries also help your paraphrasing practice. And if you don’t know, paraphrasing is a very important skill to have for IELTS.

Avoid using your device to translate everything

Many people agree that we are losing our ability to read maps. We can no longer take a paper map and use it to go somewhere. Why is this? It’s because everyone has a phone with Google maps on it. The mapping app does all the work. You just follow the arrow and listen to the directions. You don’t need to worry about understanding the map.

Phones have Google maps and they have very powerful translating apps, too. So, just like google maps weakens our map-reading skills, the translating apps weaken our English skills. If your goal is to understand something quickly and easily, translate it with your phone. If your goal is to improve your English and exercise your skills, put your phone away!

Do not let your friends do the translation

This is the opposite point to the one above. If you have friends or classmates that you study English with, don’t let them translate everything for you. It might seem helpful if your classmate explains something in your 1st language, but this wastes your time. In this situation, your classmate is getting all the benefits. While he/she is doing all the work translating, his/her English is improving. Your classmate is getting an English exercise, and you are not. Imagine going to the gym, then ask your friend to do all the exercise. Will you get stronger? Nope!

As we can see, translating while preparing for IELTS can be both good and bad. Be sure to review how you use translating in your studies. Using it right might get you the score you are aiming for. Best of luck on test day!