How exactly do you separate your native language from the language you're learning? I've heard over and over again over the years that when learning a new language (Deutsch, in my case, as penance for being born in Stuttgart and living in the country for six years without ever learning a single word), it's better to learn that "the name of the thing (the animal itself) is hund. Hund is not a translation for 'dog'. It is dog."
Which arguably makes sense, as once you get deeper into a language it's going to start getting silly to have to translate from your native language into the target language before you can start expressing yourself (especially in the case of situations such as English -> German, where the sentence structure itself comes together so much differently).
To reiterate: When learning a new language, what strategies do you use? How do you approach this challenge without falling back on translating word-by-word in your native tongue? Is there any good guideline to measure progress, or do you simply keep at it until it clicks?
Thanks for any/all words of advice!