Repetition Is A Fool’s Game

By Lauren Carter

I hope you’ve been having a lovely week so far. Today I want to share with you why simply repeating yourself when your student says they don’t understand you is a fool’s game. Think about it – if you don’t understand something, would you want someone to repeat exactly the same thing they just said to you in exactly the same way? No. That wouldn’t serve any purpose other than to frustrate you and the person you’re speaking with.

Why repeating yourself is a waste of time

There’s a quote from Einstein that I love. He says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. This is such a powerful quote to me, and I often think about it and apply it to different aspects of my life. But when it comes to effective communication, it’s especially useful to me.

When we speak with a student and they tell us they don’t understand us, we have two options:

  1. Say the same thing
  2. Say something different  

Now, unless there was a huge truck that drove past the open window just as you were speaking with your student so they didn’t actually hear you, saying exactly the same thing is pointless. And yet it happens all the time. But that’s okay – I’m here to help you and teach you. 😊

There are thousands and thousands of words in every language, and many of them have the same or very similar meanings. There are also many words that don’t have equivalents, but generally speaking we can explain them in simple terms. Now, raise your hand if you know every single word in your native language. *crickets chirping* *tumbleweed rolling*

Cool, so we’ve now established the fact that it’s not reasonable nor feasible for a native speaker to know every possible word in their language. So, with that logic, we can’t possibly expect our non-native English-speaking students to do the same, nor to even understand every word we native speakers use.

How to make your students understand you

Generally speaking, your students will never understand every single word you use. The cool thing about language though is that you can come up with creative ways to say things. Let’s look at a few words and see what else you could say:

  • False = not true, untrue, not real, unreal, fake, incorrect, not correct, not the truth
  • Warm = not cold, a little bit hot
  • Photocopier = copy machine, machine that’s like a printer, a machine that copies paper
  • Avocado = green fruit with a stone/rock/circle in the middle
  • Loan = someone gives you money then you give them that money back later on

Now, some of those are more accurate or precise meanings than others, but if the purpose is purely to get the general idea across to another person, then precision is sometimes not that important.

Here’s 6 things you can do right now to help your students understand you better:

  • Use simple words to convey get your meaning across.
  • Think of synonyms or words with similar meanings and use those instead.
  • Be aware of the words you use. When your student doesn’t understand you, be creative with how you explain yourself.
  • Focus on communication and getting the general idea across rather than accuracy (when necessary).
  • If someone can’t think of the right word and their English is high enough, ask them to explain it to you. (And then play a game of 20 questions to get the right concept! 😉)
  • Use concrete examples to explain concepts that don’t have synonyms. For example, when explaining the word “loan”, you could say “You need $200, but you don’t have it. Your mum gives you $200. After 3 months, you have money, so you give $200 back to your mum”.

This Week’s Challenge

So my friend, my challenge for you this week is to practice those 6 steps when communicating with your students.

I encourage you to practice doing these 6 things as much as possible. With practice and consistency, you’ll find yourself slowly changing the way you communicate, and you’ll have fewer miscommunications and frustrations with your students.

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