One of the most annoying things about learning English is not being able to find a word. Added to that, English has a lot of words, for this to happen with. So, this is a situation that you can expect to run into.

Four solutions when you can’t find a word:

  1. Look up a word on a reliable site. Be aware that anything literal (straightforward) will give you a better translation than something figurative (a phrase like “expectations were sky high” where sky high means enormous and has nothing to do with the sky)
  2. If you are trying to say something figurative like “when the cat’s away, the mice will play“, translate the meaning not the words: “you need to make sure that things also happen when you’re not there“. This doesn’t make for the most interesting English, but it is a practical solution.
  3. Depending on the situation, use one of the ‘thingy’ words. Native speakers do it, so you can too. Just don’t overuse it, not everything can be a thingy in one conversation. Also, try to avoid this in very formal situations if you can.
  4. Explain what you are talking about. Back in the good old days when we didn’t have dictionaries available on our mobile phones, actually before we had mobile phones, you would have to solve this problem by improvisation. This usually means explaining what you are talking about until the other person suddenly says “Oh you mean plank [ or…..] “.

How do these solutions work for you?