Has this ever happened to you? You are conversing smoothly with your daily improving Japanese language skills and bam! Your mind goes blank and you totally forget the word that just yesterday you thought you had memorized so well. If this has happened to you then you are well learned in your language arts. Now let us learn how to do something about this memory lapse if it should ever happen again!
Webster’s New World defines circumlocution as “1. a roundabout, indirect, or lengthy way of expressing something; periphrasis. It comes from the Latin circum (meaning around) + locution (to speak). Now, you may be asking, “what in the world does this have to do with me being able to speak Japanese well (or any language for that matter)? It has everything to do with being able to communicate well at the beginning stages of second language acquisition. I recommend that you become acquainted with the way in which circumlocution is used, for it can be a powerful ally in your struggle to master a second language. This article will help you gain a better understanding of circumlocution so you can put it to use in your everyday language study.
There are times when we must explain the meaning of a word but we have yet to learn the best word for what we want to say. The workaround for this is to use circumlocution. Substitute known words for unknown ones and through describing and explaining in a round about sort of way, we one-way or another get our message across, phew...! This whole article is an attempt to explain or describe circumlocution to you in such a way that I would not have to use the word circumlocution in the description.
The idea behind circumlocution is this: For every word that you don’t know in the target language but have the need to say it, simply take the long way around and circum locute the word by describing it in terms that you can say. When you describe a word that we do not know yet, we may use every faculty available to us, including but not limited to, hand gestures, facial expressions, writing, miming, and anything else that helps us get our point across.
In circumlocution, we describe an unknown but much needed term with other words that we do know until we see the lights go on in our audience’s head. It is not as elegant a method as knowing the original word or having your dictionary on hand to look the right word up, but circumlocution works, and in a pinch, it works well.
By simply circumventing the actual word and speaking about it describing it the best you can by using words you know, the receiver of your message will usually ‘get the idea.’ To which you use your circum locuting powers and set the man straight. They will totally get what you are talking about, as long as you just play a little game of reverse 20 questions, or some sort of charades. Pictionary, Scattergories along with the old “$20,000 Pyramid”, and other such games are excellent for developing your circumlocuting skills.
The best way to learn what circumlocution is and how to use it properly is by doing a little practice. Take for example the word hot air balloon. If we didn’t know the exact term of ‘hot air balloon’ in our target language we would commence to describe it in any terms that we have already under our memory belt in our personal list of usable words. So I might say,
Ex.1 it is round like an egg and it rises in the sky. People can ride in or on it.
However, we are going to need to know the words for round (adj.), egg (n), to raise (v) and sky (n) in order to use that approach. Even if lets say, you only knew one of those describer words in the target language, then do what you can in the cleverest way possible. In Japanese, I might say the following to circumlocute the word ‘hot air balloon’. In Japanese the above might be
Ex.1 Marui de atte tamago no yo na katachi o shite iru. Soshite sora ni agaru. Hito wa noru koto ga dekiru.
Any word, phrase, or set of words you know that will help you to more accurately describe a word that has escaped your memory, and all other means necessary to describe those word in a roundabout way, that is circumlocution. Circumlocution is necessary for any serious language learner and should be regarded as a helpful second language-learning tool. It has literally saved me repeatedly. Memory loss is a common occurrence and should be prepared for in advance and circumlocution will help. No matter how much you try to remember something, it is not guaranteed that the word will be at your disposal every time you need to use it.
Beginning to intermediate language learners are on a vocabulary budget. Until the second language develops a wide and varied vocabulary which extends beyond simply knowing the basic most common words circumlocution will prove a handy little language weapon. The need to employ circumlocution in our interactions with native speakers of our target language should by this point be established. No expensive back of the dictionary words are going to be extravagantly slung around a young learner’s mouth. So instead, use the words that you do know and you will be surprised how effectively you can communicate what you want without actually knowing many fancy words. Break it down into descriptive terms like balloon we could say that it is something that is round.
Circumlocution works, and in a pinch, it works go ahead try it today and may your all your second language acquisition goals be fulfilled. ell (I must give credit to and I am very thankful to my sensei tachi Allred, Mills and Wilson Sensei who showed me how to use circumlocution to my advantage). Ganbatte ne! Do your best. Makurasuki sensei yori, Click Here!
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