Over the years I’ve seen people complain about needing to pause and translate when they are starting to converse in a language. This can ruin the flow of the conversation and disturb your interlocutor. Those who bring this question up want to know if it’s normal, if it goes away, and whether they should do anything about it. Recently I’ve seen this issue brought up a lot, which I find encouraging, because I take it as a sign that more people are starting to converse in new languages. So let me try to answer the question. Are they talking about words and grammar they don’t know? No, this would take something like a dictionary, and they’d never translate fast enough to keep up. It’s pretty clear what’s going on when they have never even encountered the material. What people are frustrated with are words and grammar that they already “know”. If they could slow things down to think about it, they could understand, and that is the key. The problem is usually speed, and the solution is listening more. Even though they have encountered, studied, memorized and even used the content to some extent, if they aren’t recognizing it during a conversation, then they haven’t done enough listening. So if you find yourself feeling the need to stop and translate in a conversation, you have several solutions. 1) Don’t worry about it, because it will eventually go away. The more you listen, and do other activities in addition to conversation, the faster it will go away. This solution is a bit inefficient. 2) Delay conversing until you have good listening skill. This would mean you’d miss out on the beneficial effect that conversation has on the development of your other skills. It’s also a convenient excuse to procrastinate beginning conversation. 3) Listen more. Provided you have the time to do it, this is the best solution. You should listen a lot from the very beginning of your language learning. Don’t stop working on your other skills; you’ll need them for conversation too. But listen a lot to the vocabulary and grammar that you intend to use, and want to be able to comprehend in a conversation. If you listen enough from the beginning, when you are ready to converse, your main problem will be talking rather than listening. I know this because I made the switch and saw the effect. When I learned Swahili, Thai, Japanese and Mandarin listening was my biggest problem when I started conversing. I started listening from the beginning for my next two languages, French and Russian, and when I started to converse it wasn’t bad at all. I had no desire to stop and translate what my partners said. People sometimes disagree with listening being the solution, because they start trying to converse very early on. If you do that, you are going to have all sorts of issues, so you’ll need a very understanding partner regardless. I prefer to build up a few hundred words of vocabulary and some basic grammar before I start the conversation component of my language learning. Of course, during that time I’m doing lots of other things, including listening. So after 2 or 3 months I feel confident enough to start conversing, and I do so without the urge to translate my partner.