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Having trouble speaking because you can’t think of the right word for what you want to say next? You know what to say in your native language, but not in English. Unfortunately, in speaking, unlike in writing, you don’t have the power to pause and recall an appropriate word for what you want to say. You must get it in a flash. Otherwise, you’ll pause, which kills your speech – and your confidence. In this article, we’ll explain why long, uncomfortable pauses happen when you’re speaking and what you can do to reduce their frequency. Read on, there is a quick way.
Why do people get stuck on words when speaking?
Stage fright or anxiety
Have you ever been in a situation like giving a speech in a small group or speaking to an audience where you knew what you wanted to say like the back of your hand, but forgot to say it? It doesn’t happen because you don’t know what to say next, but because you feel nervous. In a more relaxed environment, you would remain normal and talk non-stop.
Lack of active vocabulary
However, the most common reason for stuck words is lack of a fully functioning vocabulary. Active vocabulary, unlike passive, is vocabulary you can use both orally and in writing. For most of us, the majority of vocabulary is passive vocabulary, which we can understand by reading and listening, but not quickly using speaking and writing.
What can you do to not get stuck with words?
If stress is the cause of your forgetfulness or pauses, the best remedy for you is to gradually expose yourself to the situations that frighten you. Speak in groups if you are shy. Ask questions in class or in groups if you are afraid to do so. Talk to the audience if you’re afraid to do so. There is absolutely no way to get rid of it. There is no other way. You’ve to pay your dues. Key is to start small and gradually take on bigger challenges. So, if you’re starting out on asking questions, start with a short, well rehearsed question and as you gain confidence, ask longer, impromptu questions. So goes for addressing an audience. Start with small groups and graduate to larger ones.
For the second problem, the long-term solution is to read and listen regularly, highlight new words you come across, look them up in a dictionary, and most importantly, use them – all of which matter. But those struggling with respite need a solution that dramatically solves their problems in the short to medium term. It is here.
After finishing the conversation, write down the words (in your native language) that you paused. You may not remember this word in English, but you can certainly remember it in your native language.
Consult a bilingual dictionary or an online tool like Google Translate to find out which English words can replace the ones you’ve written down. Listen to their pronunciation and see how they have been used in different examples.
We highly recommend jotting down these words along with some sample sentences. Use them by applying spaced repetitions to keep them long. More on that later in the post.
By noting the words you pause, you’re hitting exactly the words you’re having trouble with, aren’t you? In this sense, the method is surgical and takes less time to reach a respectable level, which is what regular stops need. This is the exact opposite of building vocabulary through reading and listening, in which case you are adding to your overall vocabulary and not necessarily correcting your weaknesses.
It’s a quick way to cut your pause, but to build that vocabulary, you need to keep reading, listening, and discovering new words you come across. In addition, repeated exposure to the words (through general reading and listening) that you are learning will help deepen them into your active vocabulary.
How long does it take to do that?
The good news is that we only use 2,800 odd words for more than 90% of our communications, and many of these words will form part of your active vocabulary.
This means you probably need a few hundred (or maybe a thousand odd for someone who is at a real basic level) more words to drastically reduce your pauses. If you’re regular, you can bridge the gap in a few months, and then let your vocabulary build gradually through the normal route of general reading and listening.
Make your workouts much more effective
You can make your practice much more effective by repeating the list of words that you build up and being proactive in using those words. The more you use them, the more deeply they will integrate into your active vocabulary and the more smoothly they will integrate into your regular communication. BTW, you don’t have to wait for a real conversation to use these words. You can – and should – use them in practice alone by building sentences around them.
While you’re reducing the number of pauses, you can work around the word and describe what you mean in a slightly longer, less precise way. Better to rest.
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We hope you find this article really informative and helpful and also please do not hesitate to contact us for any doubts. You can also download our Entri App for free and start preparing for any competitive exams. This app provides a series of quizzes, Mock tests, PDFs, past question papers, and much more.