Communication Strategies

Communication is always a give-and-take process between participants. From this perspective, we consider that the solution of communication problems is the responsibility of both speaker and listener and those correct strategies help to get the right message across.

A communication strategy is a systematic technique employed by speakers to express their meaning when faced with a language problem or difficulty. Because English may not be our first language, it helps to keep on using the language in communicating with others.

One of the biggest sources of misunderstandings and communication breakdown is language. By understanding what strategies are helpful, we can help resolve problems and communicate better in English.

Studies show that the following are the twelve strategies that speakers commonly resort to when communication problems arise:

  1. Message abandonment — You leave the message unfinished because of language difficulties.
  2. Topic avoidance — You try not to talk about concepts difficult for you to express.
  3. Circumlocution — You describe or paraphrase the target object or action.
  4. Approximation — You use an alternative term (ship) to express the meaning of the target word (sail) as closely as possible.
  5. Use of all-purpose words — You expand a general word to the con-text where certain words are lacking like the overuse of the words: thing, stuff, make, do, what-do-you call-it, what-is-it.
  6. Word coinage — You create a new English word based on what you know of the way English works like “vegetarianist” (which is not in the dictionary) for “vegetarian.”
  7. Use of nonverbal means — You mime, gesture, use facial expression, and imitate sound to express the meaning you want.
  8. Literal translation — You translate a word or an idiom from your mother tongue to English using the structure of your first language.
  9. Foreignizing — You use the word in your native language but pro-nounce it like English.
  10. Code switching — You use the native word or expression for the English term that expresses the meaning you want. 
  11. Appeal for help — You ask other students or your teacher for help when you do not know or forget some words, structures, or idioms.
  12. Use of fillers/hesitation devices — You use filling words (uhmmmm) to gain time to think.