October 24


How To Test How Accurate Your English Knowledge Is (Reverse Translation)

This technique is highly effective for self-study and should be used when wanting to learn something that is intermediate or advanced.

It allows you to test that you are able to express your ideas effectively and then tells you if you need to study this topic more or you are able to move on. 

This is an excellent technique to use if you are trying to learn English for your work or you are trying to learn English from articles about specific topics. 

We do recommend that you combine this activity in your weekly schedule with other activities, the once we recommend are...

Step One: Understand The Content

The first step is simple.

Read the article or the transcript or listen to the documentary Until you have a good understanding of the content.

If you want to know how to use this, then check out our article on Intensive reading, which shows you how to effectively learn English through reading. ​​

Don't forget to take notes during this step.

Now cover it up. So that you can not see the original text, put it away out of sight and turn off the documentary. 


Choose an article that you want to use and study it until you can understand the content. 

Take notes about what you are studying and use the intensive reading techniques to understand new vocabulary in the text before you move onto the next stage. 

Step Two: Translate Your Notes Into Vietnamese

This part is done from memory and is a little more difficult.

Translate the text/documentary into Vietnamese.

The most important part of this process is do not look at the original text.

This is why you need to understand the content in the previous step. 

There's no need to translate word for word, that's impossible. 

You have to translate so that the ideas of the content are the same, but this can be in your own words. 


Do not look at the original text. 

Use your notes and your understanding of the text to translate the ideas of the text into Vietnamese. 

You do not need to translate word for word, as long as you can replicate the ideas. 

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Step Three: Re Translate Your Vietnamese Into English

Then what you need to do is re-translate what you have just translated back into English.

Again this does not need to be 100% word for word, what you need is the concept that the text is talking about.

Then compare the original text to your translation.

Why do you need to compare the original text to your final text. 

How do you know what you are translating is accurate?

How do you know that you can accurately talk about the topics in the articles?

The point is not the translation, it is the comparing your translation to the original text.

To see if there are any inaccuracies and to see if you have captured the core idea of the text.

If the two texts are similar than congratulations you are doing great. However if there is a big difference, then you know you need to improve.

When you are checking and comparing the text, ask yourself these five things...

  1. Are the concepts the same?
  2. Is the grammar correct?
  3. Is there anything that I cannot express?
  4. Are you using the same simple vocabulary throughout your text?
  5. Can you express these ideas in different ways?

Tip: This activity can be used in the academic setting and you can translate whole articles, but i have found students find this much easier if they do this paragraph by paragraph.

If you are a beginner then you can do this with a series of sentences, but, I would only really recommend you do this past intermediate level. 

Don't do the whole article at once. This is then too much and limits the activities effectiveness, start off doing this paragraph by paragraph. 


The most important part of this activity is the comparison of the texts, you cannot do this with large text. 


    Using your Vietnamese translation of the text, re translate this back into English. 

    Once you have translated this, then compare your English translation to the original text. 

    You are looking for...

  • Are the concepts the same?
  • Is the grammar correct?
  • Is there anything that I cannot express?
  • Are you using the same simple vocabulary throughout your text?
  • Can you express these ideas in different ways


Reverse translation is one of the most effective methods you can use to test if you can communicate effectively about your chosen topics. 

I recommend that you only use this activity once you are either in or past intermediate level of English because this is when you will be focusing on more self study. 

As a result of this it is essential to get feedback on what you are working on, to prevent you from getting into bad habits.

If you like this activity and want to get feedback on how you are studying...

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