How to Describe Words you Dont Know Yet - English Speaking Practice Lesson

 

Learn how to keep talking and learn new vocabulary without a dictionary!

No Dictionary? No Problem!

Do this English Speaking Exercise to Keep the Conversation Flowing

Everyday conversational English is spontaneous and a wide range of vocabulary is used. In this article we are going to arm you with the skills to be able to describe words you don’t know like a pro and turn it into a game you can play with a native speaker.

A skill to Master to Improve English Speaking Fluency

The key to speaking fluency and developing a good speaking flow is to learn how to keep talking without long awkward breaks. It doesn’t have to be perfect English! Native speakers use sounds and words to stall while they are thinking all the time, which is not ‘perfect English’.

More speaking advice and tips here

As a person learning English, you will find yourself needing to describe a word or concept that you don’t know the vocabulary for. Instead of stopping to think, you can say, “I don’t know the word but….” And continue trying to describe the word.

The other person in the conversation won’t even notice the change in the topic or that you don’t know a word. The conversation will just flow from your original story into a game where they need to try to figure out what word you need to know in order to continue the story.

 

Here are some examples of how to do this English speaking exercise

Below you will find a few examples of what you might say to describe these words without using the word that you are trying to describe. You can always start by using the phrase, “I don’t know the word but…” then continue with your description.

describe sugar english speaking exercise

Sugar: 

I don’t know what it’s called but it’s something used for cooking that is sweet. It is usually white and it looks a lot like salt. Small, white grains that are sweet.

 

describe street light english speaking exerciseStreet lamp:

It’s a post that is on the street that has a light on it so that people who are walking or driving can see at night.

 

describe basketball english speaking exerciseBasketball:

This is a game that is really popular in the United States, it has a ball that the players have to throw into a ring with a net. They bounce the ball with their hand as they run.

 

describe waterfall english speaking exerciseWaterfall:

When there is a river and the height of the land changes, the water continues to flow but it drops over the edge. It can be a few feet to several hundred feet.

Speaking practice with a List of Random Words

Below, you will find a list of words that you can try to describe. DO NOT USE THE WORD that you are describing. The idea is that you need to pretend you don’t know the word.

I recommend trying to do this exercise while speaking out loud; especially if you are an intermediate student or higher. While doing this activity, write down any words that you don’t know to properly describe it, Learn those words so you know them for future situations where you will need to describe something.

Try to describe these words:

  1. Bridgebridge
  2. Bucket
  3. Rope
  4. Horizon
  5. Pants
  6. Zebra
  7. Girlfriend
  8. Construction
  9. File
  10. Hammock
  11. Campfirezebra
  12. Fireworks
  13. Humidity
  14. Farm
  15. Account
  16. Text Message
  17. Church
  18. Sink
  19. Fan
  20. Volcano
  21. Forest Firevolcano
  22. Drought
  23. Flood
  24. Toiletries
  25. Mop
  26. Warehouse
  27. Stadium
  28. Path
  29. Course
  30. Glass
  31. Railingbackpack
  32. Mirror
  33. Backpack
  34. Doctor
  35. Manager
  36. Reservation
  37. Receipt
  38. Zoo
  39. Amusement Park
  40. Parade
  41. Dictionary
  42. Lighter
  43. Beach
  44. Washing Machine
  45. Insurance
  46. Schedule
  47. Park
  48. Wallet
  49. Paint
  50. Plug

Mastering the ability to describe things will make you a better story teller and more interesting to have a conversation with. Native speakers love stories with lots of detail, it’s more entertaining 🙂

You can do this activity anywhere! Look around you and describe an object that is near you. If you are on the bus you could describe the hand rails, the seats, the coin collector, the emergency exit windows etc. Walking down the street it could be the sidewalk, street lamps, electrical wires, street signs, or the gutters.

I’ve got a game for you to play and do this English speaking practice activity…

Pretend you are in a conversation with a native speaker and you can’t remember a word or you don’t know the word. You need to explain the word or things related to the word until the other person guesses what you are trying to say.

Write a description of a word below in the comment section and see if I can guess which word you are trying to explain.

If you think this is a good idea and a helpful technique to improve English speaking skills, please share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ so that others can learn from it too!

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