#2. Not knowing a word is not the end of communication
Updated: Feb 7
In fact, it’s the beginning! Figuring out a way to communicate regardless is a great opportunity to practise more language and grow confident.
To illustrate such an idea, I tell my students the story of the mop. As a post-graduate student settling in my shared accommodation, I needed cleaning supplies.
One day I went to the supermarket and realised I had no idea what a mop was in English. I was studying Shakespeare at Glasgow University, but that wasn't helpful in the least when shopping for household essentials!
Option 1 was to go home, feeling defeated, and having dirty floors the whole year.
Option 2 was to figure out a way to ask for a mop, without knowing the exact word.
Unsurprisingly, I chose option 2 and asked for ‘a piece of cloth you dip in a bucket of water in order to wash the floor’. ‘Ah! a mop,’ replied the shopkeeper, before heading to the stockroom to fetch one.
The reason I tell my students this story, is to show them that not knowing the word does not mean failing at learning a language, but rather that you are indeed learning it. How are you supposed to know all the words to begin with?!
And to show them that expecting to know all the words in the language they're studying is unrealistic and they had much better use their energy to find around way not knowing the word they need.
When I said that I needed 'a piece of cloth you dip in a bucket of water in order to wash the floor’, I used 17 words instead of 1, I learned the word ‘mop’ in context – and will never forget it – and my kitchen and bathroom floors were clean all year long.
Not knowing a word is not the end of communication, it’s the beginning. And a great one at that!
Don't hesitate to send me your questions.
More about my teaching approach
#1. Is it too late to learn a language? #3. Is learning vocabulary lists a good idea?
#4. Should I use bilingual books?
#5. Practising all four skills equally
#6. On the importance of making mistakes
#7. You know more than you think you do
#8. Can everyone learn a language?
#9. With or without subtitles?
#10. Should I use a dictionary?
#11. What is the main obstacle when learning a language?
#12. There’s no such thing as perfect sentences
#13. Learning French when English is your mother tongue
#15. Language learning does not mean translating
#16. The right tools to learn a language
#18. Leaving your linguistic comfort zone behind