Classroom Exercise – Circumlocution

Language teachers often encourage their classroom students to use the art of circumlocution, when they are are at a loss for the perfect word or sentence, in their new language. They do this by prompting their students to:

  • Use the simpler vocabulary that is already known.
  • Think of another way to get their message across.
  • Describe the concept, and those things related to the concept, like location and use.
  • Use of a synonym.
  • Use of a more general word in the word’s broader category (can’t think of apple? how about red fruit?)
  • Explain what the object is and/or what the object is not.
  • Point and use gestures, actions, and sounds.
  • If they have paper, have them draw it, and describe what they are drawing, if they can.

The process is similar to watching those game shows where one of the contestants is shown a word, and attempts to get their partner to say that word, without using the word or a variation of the word in the clues.

An inexpensive guide for French teachers can be found here:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Circumlocution-in-French-Strategies-for-Student-Speaking-and-Writing-149856

My quick list would be…

It is found on… Il se trouve sur …
It is like…they are like C’est comme … ils sont comme
It is the opposite of… C’est à l’opposé de …
Its a place where a person [verb] Son un endroit où une personne [verbe]
It smells like… Ça sent comme…
It tastes like… Il goûte comme …
It looks like… Ça ressemble à…
It feels like… C’est comme ressentir…
It sounds like… Cela ressemble…
It’s made of… C’est fait en/de…
It is what you use for [activity]… C’est ce que vous utilisez pour [l’activité] …
It is an activity that C’est une activité qui
It is a kind of drink C’est une sorte de boisson
It is a kind of food C’est une sorte de nourriture
It is a kind of animal C’est une sorte d’animal
It is a kind of vehicle C’est une sorte de véhicule
It is a kind of building C’est une sorte de bâtiment
It is a kind of [category] C’est une sorte de [catégorie]
It’s like a [similar object] C’est comme un [objet similaire]
It’s part of a [object] Cela fait partie d’un [objet]
You use this object for [verb] Vous utilisez cet objet pour [verbe]
You do this when you are [condition or activity] Pour ce faire, lorsque vous êtes [condition ou activité]
It means that… Cela signifie que…
It is a word that is used when… C’est un mot qui est utilisé lorsque …
Its a machine that… Son une machine qui …
It is used for… Elle est utilisée pour…
It weighs a lot…It weighs a little Il pèse beaucoup … Il pèse un peu
We talked about it yesterday… Nous en avons parlé hier …
I saw one the other day… Je l’ai vu l’autre jour …
My father has one in the garage… Mon père a un dans le garage …
There is one in our [room]… Il y a un dans notre [chambre] …
I like to eat this for [meal]… J’aime manger ce pour [repas] …
You wear it on your [body part]… Vous le portez sur votre [partie du corps] …
You buy it at the [store type]… Vous l’achetez au [type de magasin] …
You take it with you when you go to the [place]… Vous le prenez avec vous quand vous allez à la [lieu] …
My friend has one and it is [color]… Mon ami a un et c’est [color] …

I created this graphic to help me reinforce my ability for circumlocution in French, and hopefully everything is spelled correctly…please tell me if anything is incorrect, as a comment.

french circumlocution

The English version would be…

french circumlocution in English

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