One of the most common issues I hear from my clients, both native and non-native English speakers is that they have trouble finding the word they want to use in conversation. This can create a range of problems, from not being as clear and articulate as possible, to totally obscuring your message. Take a look at our tips below to make sure you find the right word every time:
- Search your vocabulary memory according to categories and subcategories (e.g., food: vegetable: carrot.) You can also search by going through the letters of the alphabet.
- Use description to help you find the word or communicate it to your listener. Describe the word you are thinking of by physical appearance (e.g., size, shape, color) or by function (e.g., “You use it to…”). If verbal description is insufficient, you can even use gesture. I often give the example of a pen. If I am unable to think of the word pen, but I said “I need something to write with,” wouldn’t you understand my intent? If I made a gesture that I am writing, wouldn’t that also completely communicate my needs? It is important not to get too focused on the exact word but rather to focus on communicating your intended message.
- Try to generate a sentence or a phrase to recall the word (e.g., “I need a ________”). Sometimes a leader phrase like this can make the word come out naturally.
- If a pen and paper are available, try writing the word down or even drawing a picture of the item.
- Name words associated with your target word. For example, you can name parts of the whole object (e.g., it has a steering wheel and four tires), or an object or adjective associated with the target word.
- If you absolutely cannot find the word, give another word that means the same thing. You can also provide a word that means the opposite of your target (e.g., It’s not hot). If the object has a brand name that easier for you to recall, use that (e.g., Kleenex – tissue).
Want to learn more? Give me a call at 212-308-7725 or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!
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