The Power of Alternative words (Term 2, Lesson 9)

In this post I am going to be waffling about the use of alternative words in place of ones you may not already know plus giving a handy little language exam tip that has never failed me!

Generally speaking I enjoy my drive back from class. It’s a little English wind down that I really appreciate after being bombarded with conversation that I only confidently understand just over half of. On my drive back from college tonight I started thinking back at some of the notes I had made. Queue note: If you don’t know the word, just explain it.

Alternative Words

So it got me thinking. We are so lazy these days and panic if our first option doesn’t becomes available. This may sound a little silly but think of it in a more practical sense. You try and get to work but the normal route to tblank roadsignake it blocked, it instantly frustrates you even though there are several routes that may take a second, or two longer you may even find a nifty short cut you never knew before. Now look at it another way; when learning a language, especially in my class today, if you forget the word, e.g. if you want to say ‘I live in X’ (Ik woon in X) but you don’t know the verb for to live (wonen) then explain it in a different way e.g. I come from X / I am X / I was born X (Ik kom uit X / Ik ben X / Ik was in X geboren) etc. What I am trying to get at, and failing miserably in doing so, is that you can get the same result by other means. This all links back to my argument about getting ‘the gist’ of what is going on. You can be understood by saying ‘my mother and father are at my house’ if you can’t remember how to say ‘I live with my mother and father’ 99% of people will get what you mean if its in the right context. Now it may not be perfectly correct or indeed that widely used but you have managed to use more words and altered the meaning for it to make sense in the attempt to get your message across.


Alternative Words – Exam Tip

For everything you want to say there is normally an alternative that we are too lazy to learn or use. Just like for every question there are hundreds of ways to answer it and ways to expand what is being said into a topic we are more comfortable talking about. Here is an English example:

Q: Where are you going on your holiday this year?

Simple A: I am going to Spain.

Developed A: I am going to Spain. I love the sunshine and the beach. Relaxing in the evening with a cocktail. My favourite cocktail is a mojito. I like Spanish music. My favorite singer is….

Can you see how that works? In ‘Simple A’. The answer was short and a direct response to the question. In the more developed answer we have swirved away from any further questions and managed to use more words and offer up more information and then subsequently changing the subject to something you may be more confident on, in this case music. We could have continued talking about drinks but if that isn’t a strong point then move the topic again. We have exams coming up in next week, a speaking exam, 5 minutes of conversation in which you have to showcase your pronunciation, knowledge and understanding. If for the exam you where to give the first answer to the question “Where are you going on your holiday?” you aren’t going to score very highly and the 5 minutes will feel like 5 days whereas if you know that music vocabulary is your strong spot then change the subject of the question in that way. The question could be about anything, I you find a way to divert it back to what you know well you are guaranteed to score well. I did that with my GCSE and A Level French exams. My tutor back then love it! It may seem like more effort on paper but if you know the vocabulary, have practiced some key phrases why waste them plus it is a fab way to cover up if you cant remember how to justify ‘Why are you going to Spain?”!


“You can tell what you choose to tell who you want to but what you can control is how they react.”


I’m planning a bumper Dutch week ahead of my last class and exam next week, ON MY BIRTHDAY! This really is some twisted turn of fate!

Blog Signature



p.s. how are we liking my analogies? They are getting work aren’t they?! I’m feeling rather philosophical at the moment too. Just excuse that the moment will pass soon enough!



2 thoughts on “The Power of Alternative words (Term 2, Lesson 9)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s