THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Dreaded Vocabulary Gap

Is it possible to say exactly what I mean?

There are those moments at speaking exams -or real life as well- when you just cannot land on the word you need. You either get stuck or nervous or both. How to deal with those dreaded seconds is the subject of this post.

For some reason, students of a foreign language assume that there is always a better, more precise choice of word than the one they can first think of. My guess is we tend to be more self demanding in the exercise of finding appropriate vocabulary in a second language than in your mother tongue.

At times, we know we have studied that word and we simply forgot it. Forcing your memory can be fruitless and frustrating.

When speaking, we need to have some resources to deal with our temporary or permanent linguistic gaps. Here some tips:

-Is there a more general word? For example, flower can be more general than jazmin or daffodil.

-Can you recall an opposite?

-Can you describe it? "It's a kind of.."

-Can you compare it? "It's similar to...but different because..."

-Can you give an example of what you mean?

See? There are options to those seconds of uncomfortable silence.

Last but not least, you can still have the control of your speech by voicing what is going on. Phrases like, "The word is on the tip of my tongue"; "I know it, but I just cannot remember it now"; "I'm not sure this is the right word"...etc.

Remember: native speakers of English also have word gaps in their knowledge. So next time you run dry for a word,  please don't suffer or start apologising. Just make it ok and carry on.


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