When learning a language, sometimes we need vocabulary that we either haven't acquired yet, or forgotten. This can lead to weird situations, and even more when you cannot say anything else than "uhm...".
There are some techniques you could practice, and put in practice of course, to avoid situations like this. They are called "communication strategies in second-language acquisition". There are seven of them and in this article, I wanted to share them with you.
The first technique is called "circumlocution". You could also say "long-winded speaking", more colloquial. But that sounds bad. Nonetheless, when you are learning a language and you simply cannot remember a word, this could be the perfect way to express your ideas. Let's imagine you don't remember the word "grandfather". If speaking about family, quite an issue. You could simply say "my mum's dad". You'd be saying the same thing, just with some more words. Moreover, there is a chance that your speaking partner say "oooh, you're talking about grandfather", right?
One could argue that this is the same as the previous one. One could. But then we'd be going nowhere.
With this technique, you avoid an unfamiliar word by using a simpler one. I'll give you an example from real life. I'm playing golf with a students. He tee off and his shot flies towards the trees. Once it's there, it hits a branch. He curses a bit and then tries to explain, in English, that his ball had hit a branch. Issue being, he didn't know the word branch. Problem. I simply told him that the ball had hit the tree. He knew that word and he drove me nuts telling me that his ball had hit a tree. We all know this word, "tree", so why not use that one?
By doing so, we avoid the word "branch" but we have expressed without any issue what we wanted to say. Problem solved.
Word Coinage/ Inventing Words
Nope, I'm not joking. Firstly, new words are being invented everyday already anyway. It had been like that for centuries. If you can't remember the word "museum", you could say "art house", it is a "house" filled with art. Or, you want o jump off a bridge with an elastic rope attached to your ankles. You need a word for that. And before you know it, everybody knows and uses the word.
The next of the communication strategies might seem a bit weird, switching the language? It can definitely help you increasing your fluency though. Of course, I am not talking about entire sentences, more singular words. Once you used said word, you can explain what it means. However, it is possible that your listener understand you, and maybe even shares the right word with you.
Ask for Clarification
This one has a lot more to do with being honest. Asking for clarification. If your interlocutor just said something you didn't understand, tell them! There is nothing wrong with not knowing something and/or asking about it. Imagine if they said something key to the conversation. Imagine it completely changed the context of the sentence.
Gestures and Signs
This one I love, gesture to explain yourself. Seems strange? What do you think sign-language is? It's just a structured form of the same. It's easy to ask for something to drink with your hands. Or if you need money. And there are gestures and signs galore that can help you in your explanations.
This might look the same as the earlier one, but it's not. Semantic avoidance is about one word. This one is bout a complete topic. If you were to have issues speaking about nuclear energy in English, why not try and change the topic? This kind of vocabulary you can learn later without any problem. In the meantime, don't talk about it!
Practice Communication Strategies!
One thing is knowing theory, another is putting it in practice. Now is the moment to goo out there and try these communication strategies. Tell us how it went in our social media!
Thank you for reading this post. And as always, DON'T FORGET TO PRACTICE!