“And he said, you’re not going crazy, you’re just a bit sad
‘Cause there’s a man in ya, gnawing ya, tearing ya into two”
-lyrics from “Destroyer” by the Kinks
I remember the first time I met The Translator.
It was the winter of 2005 and I was a new teacher.
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, a Czech businessman named Tomas
came to the language school for private lessons.
Mostly he just wanted someone to speak English with.
The lessons went like this:
ME: So how was your weekend?
Tomas would move his lips but not say anything.
I could see he was thinking hard…
TOMAS: We went to the cottage in the Giant Mountains.
What was going on?
Why was conversation with Tomas so slow?
It was because there was someone inside Tomas’ head.
Someone who shouldn’t have been there…
His name was….
Tomas was a slow talker because Tomas was also a translator.
Whatever English words he heard me say, the translator living in his brain
translated them into Czech.
Tomas would then think of a reply in Czech.
Then the translator went back to work and translated the Czech into
I don’t know where Tomas is now.
I left the school a few months later and never saw him again.
But wherever he is, if he’s still translating in his head, he’s still not fluent.
Translating is difficult
Translating is slow
Translating is exhausting
And to truly be a fluent English speaker you will need to fire your inner
Here’s one technique you can try: