Research and experience show that people who communicate effectively in a foreign language tend to make good use of both verbal and non-verbal strategies in order to get meaning across in spite of their imperfect command of the language. The following strategies can prove useful.
However, they are not always effective and their use would be assessed according to their effectiveness in a particular context. The non-verbal strategies described below, for example, are clearly of limited value in the speaking tests which are recorded on tape; they may, however, prove useful to you in other circumstances.
Non Verbal Strategies
⇒ Pointing and demonstration
accompanied by appropriate language (e.g. "Comme ça ...", "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" , "Ça fait mal ici").
⇒ Expression and gesture
perhaps accompanied with sounds (e.g. 'Oh!' which, with appropriate intonation, facial expression, gestures can convey pain, surprise, anger, fear, pleasure and admiration).
which again can be accompanied by appropriate sounds and language, and can sometimes help communication to be maintained when it might otherwise break down (e.g.) "Je peux vous aider?" with a suitable mime if one has forgotten words such as "balayer" and "essuyer".
can be an efficient strategy with some tasks (especially written) and can convey both attitude and information (e.g. a 'smiley' or a diagram showing how to get from one point (e.g. a station) to another (e.g. a home).
⇒Using a word which refers to a similar item
(e.g. "montre" for "horloge", "tasse" for "verre", "fleur" for "rose" or "prêter" for "louer"}.
⇒ Description or physical properties
to refer to something of which the name has been forgotten (e.g. "c'est rond".... "le fruit jaune"... "l'objet qu'on voit sur la table"..). The physical properties refer, for example, to colour, size, material, position and shape.
⇒ Requests for help
can include requests for translation (e.g. "Comment dit-on '_ _ _' en français?" "Qu'est-ce que cela veut dire en anglais?") and questions which make no reference to English (e.g. Comment s'appelle ce truc-là?" "Ça s'écrit comment?") Use of this strategy in examinations will not allow you to get full credit, but it is preferable to allowing communication to collapse.
to avoid the use of a form of which you are not sure (e.g. "il faut que je m'en aille." becomes "je dois partir.") Use of simplified forms can reduce error, make communication easier and increase fluency, but if overused it may result in you failing to make full use of your capabilities.
where you use words and messages in acceptable French, avoiding the use of words you do not know or have forgotten (e.g. "elle n'est pas mariée." instead of "elle est célibataire." "C'est une sorte de...." "Je voudrais un morceau de cette viande-là.")
⇒ Reference to specific features
(e.g "l'animal aux longues oreilles" " la jeune fille qui porte des lunettes")
⇒ Reference to the function of an object and the actions that can be performed with it (e.g. "l'objet qu'on utilise pour ouvrir une bouteille" "quelque chose pour boire mon coca")
N.B. Strategic competence is not a substitute for vocabulary learning, for example, but a useful supplement. Indeed, all language users make use of communication strategies, even in their first language, and really successful strategies usually pass unnoticed.