You may not intend to become a professional German translator, but simply want to learn the language well enough to understand German literature or to travel or work in a German speaking country. There are many ways to learn another language, none of them easy, but one novel suggestion is that you start to think in that language as soon as you can, even if you are only just starting out.
The rationale for trying to think in German, just to give one example of language that you might be learning, from day 1 is that it forces you to have a use for the words and grammatical patterns that you have been learning. You might of course be in the even more favourable position that you can practise your expanding knowledge of German with real German speakers. If you can, that’s great, but if you can’t or they give up with your stumbling German and start speaking in your own language, then talking to yourself (i.e. thinking!) is almost as good.
How to start
One way to start thinking in German from scratch is to build up a vocabulary of everything you see around you, then build on that with adjectives that could describe these things: colours, size, shape and number.
As your vocabulary increases and your ability to use grammatical construction grows, you can then start to compose phrases and sentences describing what is going on around you and what you are doing. It is best to use the present tense at first rather than try and get entangled with the past future and other more complex tenses such as the conditional, subjunctive etc.
When your knowledge of German expands even more you could start thinking up snatches of conversation that you could have with people you meet. It could be someone in a supermarket or a coffee shop or even someone at work. It could be a friend or a member of your family. One way to expand your thinking practice at this stage is to make a note of common comments or conversations you have in your everyday life. They may be about the weather, the price of goods in the shops or events in the news. Make a note of what these are in a notebook during the day, ten translate them at the end of the day and add them to your repertoire of “thinking” conversations.
A last idea
Last, but not least, is to develop your thinking skills just a bit further by talking to yourself in front of a mirror. Even video yourself if you have the skills and the equipment. Choose a different theme each time you do this and expand the “talks” as you gain confidence.