Because you must walk before you can run, you cannot start right off thinking in a language, especially when you must proceed at the relatively slow pace of that of the typical foreign language college course. You must begin thinking in English and translating foreign words into and from English to your new language. Only gradually can you abandon translation and come to think in the language. But until you begin to think in your new language … you don’t really know it.
In the very first weeks of a course in a foreign language, students nearly always translate word for word. That is all right for the kind of elementary sentences you get in this stage, but it won’t do at all when the going gets tougher. Yet many students persist in this word-for-word translation throughout the entire study of a language. For a language like Spanish this is less likely to get you into trouble (because the grammar and word order are so much like English) but in other languages like Latin and German, it does not work so well because the word orders are quite different from the English ones. A second-year student in German can easily get lost trying to find his way word for word through the seemingly impenetrable thicket of a German sentence. For the German word order is so different that it makes little sense, you must learn to think in the German word order and get a sense of the sentence as a whole before you look up the specific words you do not know. And even when you are concentrating on specific words, you must keep in mind the relationship between words. The over-all meaning of the word is very important for you to be able to translate them properly.
You will discover yourself that this is the only way you can translate complicated sentences. If you are doing no better than word-for-word translation, you are in trouble and you will need a lot of help. We cannot tell you exactly what your difficulties will be since they will be different for different people. One frequent difficulty, however, is that the student who does not have the basic elements of the vocabulary, such as relative pronouns or irregular verbs, memorized, will find that it will be very difficult. It needs to be something that comes naturally and if it doesn’t, it will be very difficult. If you don’t know the syntax or word order well enough to be able to tell where they are in a sentence you have more problems. This is particular difficulty for students of German. Thus in a sentence like Haben Sie den Bauer gesehen, der auf dem Wagen sass? (“Have you seen the farmer who sat in the wagon?”), a badly confused student may try to translate der as a definite article rather than as a relative pronoun. An example of a parallel problem is in a French sentence like Elle a recu les fleurs que lui ont envoyees des amies (“She received the flowers that friends sent her”), where the unobservant student may read the objective pronoun que as the nominative pronoun qui thus making the sentence make no sense. By looking over the whole sentence structure and then by relating the words to one another, you would not make a mistake like this.
In your favor, a good language from PimsleurMethod will make it a much easier adventure and you will have success.