3.4 Communication strategies

Whist it is useful for students to concentrate on a core of key language for any given topic, it is impossible to predict all the linguistic elements they might meet when reading and listening to authentic Panjabi, or which they themselves might need to use.

For this reason, the student will need to develop communication strategies that can be used to cope successfully with unknown words.

There are two main types of strategy: those that relate to understanding (reading and listening) and those that relate to production (speaking and writing).

Ignoring words which aren’t needed

Many texts contain words which are not essential for an understanding of the main points of the text. What is important in the text is often presented more than once, in different ways: the student may not understand a point in one form of words and understand it fully in another.

Using the visual and verbal context

The skilled reader can find many clues about the purpose and content of a text from a study of the layout, the title, the length, the typeface and any related pictures.

When reading and listening, students can learn to infer the meaning of new words from the verbal context. So, for example, someone who did not know the word ਦਰਖਤ might be able, after some appropriate practice, to deduce from the following context that it is some sort of tree:

ਇਸ ਦੀ ਲੱਕੜੀ ਨਾਲ ਮੇਜ਼ ਕੁਰਸੀਆਂ ਅਤੇ ਦਰਵਾਜ਼ੇ ਬਣਾਏ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ ।


ਇਸ ਦਾ ਫਲ ਬਹੁਤ ਮਿੱਠਾ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਹੈ ।


ਇੱਕ ਆਦਮੀ ਇਸ ਦੀ ਛਾਂ ਹੇਠਾਂ ਬੈਠਾ ਸੀ ।


ਹਰ ਰੋਜ਼ ਬਹੁਤ ਸਾਰੇ ਪੰਛੀ ਇਸ ਉੱਤੇ ਆ ਕੇ ਬੈਠਦੇ ਹਨ ।

Making use of grammatical markers and categories

Students will be helped to master all these strategies if, when reading and listening, they learn to use such clues as the plural forms of nouns and verbs, the ways verbs change to form tenses, word order and other such features to help them to recognise to which category (verb, noun, adjective etc) an unknown word belongs. This can be a considerable help in making intelligent guesses about the meaning of the word.

ਜਿਵੇਂ – ਕਿਤਾਬ ਪੜ੍ਹੀ, ਕਿਤਾਬਾਂ ਪੜੀਆਂ, ਮੈਂ ਇੱਕ ਦਿਲਚਸਪ ਕਿਤਾਬ ਪੜ੍ਹੀ ।

ਕਿਤਾਬ – noun, ਪੜ੍ਹੀ – verb, ਦਿਲਚਸਪ – adjective

Similarly, tense recognition – verb: ਜਾਣਾ

ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ/ਜਾਂਦੀ ਹੈ (present)

ਗਿਆ ਜਾਂ ਗਈ (past)

ਜਾਵੇਗੀ ਜਾਂ ਜਾਵੇਗਾ (future)

Making use of the social and cultural context

Another aid to the drawing of correct inferences is for the students to bear in mind that there are regularities in the real world which make it possible to anticipate what people may say or write about it. The ability to predict occurrences in the real world makes it possible sometimes to anticipate words and their meaning, in a given context. This is one reason why it is important for a Panjabi course to develop awareness and understanding of countries and communities where Panjabi is spoken. Work along these lines would help students who have listened to a recording of a Panjabi speaking person using a plural form of the verb merely to show respect, to understand that, despite the use of plural verb, the subject is singular eg ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਤਾ ਜੀ ਇੱਕ ਦਫਤਰ ਵਿੱਚ ਕੰਮ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਨ, ਪਰ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ ਜੀ ਸਾਰਾ ਦਿਨ ਘਰ ਹੀ ਰਹਿੰਦੇ ਹਨ । ਕੀ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਤਾ ਜੀ ਦੇ ਮਿੱਤਰ ਹੋ ?

Using common patterns with Panjabi

Knowledge of the following patterns of word formation in Panjabi can help to understand a text. Students should be able to make use of these patterns in both directions. The use of ਚੌੜਾ should permit understanding of ਚੌੜੀ, ਚੌੜੇ, ਚੌੜੀਆਂ

Examples include:

  • ਨੌਕਰ, ਨੌਕਰਾਂ, ਨੌਕਰੀ, ਨੌਕਰੀਆਂ
  • ਚੰਗਾ, ਚੰਗੀ, ਚੰਗੇ, ਚੰਗੀਆਂ
  • ਗਰੀਬ, ਗਰੀਬੀ, ਗਰੀਬਾਂ
  • ਭੁੱਖ, ਭੁੱਖਾ, ਭੁੱਕੇ, ਭੁੱਖੀ, ਭੁੱਖੀਆਂ
  • ਪਿਆਸ, ਪਿਆਸਾ, ਪਿਆਸੇ, ਪਿਆਸੀ, ਪਿਆਸੀਆਂ
  • ਸਫਲ, ਬੇਆਸ; ਸਮਝ, ਬੇਸਮਝ
  • ਆਸ, ਬੇਆਸ
  • ਕਾਮਯਾਬ, ਨਾਕਾਮਯਾਬ; ਧਰਮੀ, ਅਧਰਮੀ

Strategies specifically for reading and understanding

There are many English words which have been accepted in Panjabi and which are frequently used in written Panjabi. Students will be expected to understand and say these words with the correct pronunciation. For example, hospital is written in Panjabi as ਹਸਪਤਾਲ and is pronounced differently. There are many other English words which fall into a similar category. A few of these are listed below:









ਜੁਗਰਾਫੀਆ, ਰੌਕਟ, ਪਸਤੌਲ

For Panjabi students growing up in a British environment, there are some special Panjabi letters and sounds which are difficult to read and pronounce. For example, ਕਰ / ਘਰ; ਘੋਰਾ / ਘੋੜਾ / ਕੋਰਾ; ਝਾੜ / ਚਾਰ; ਸੱਠ / ਸੱਟ / ਸੱਤ; ਪੜ੍ਹਨਾ / ਪਰਨਾ

ਪੜ੍ਹਾਈ / ਪਰਾਈ; ਭੁੱਲ / ਪੁਲ; ਜਾਣ / ਜਾਨ; ਝੜਨਾ / ਝਰਨਾ / ਚਰਨਾ; ਪਰ / ਭਰ

A useful strategy for dealing with this kind of problem would be to present students with a list of words which cause such a difficulty.

Strategies specifically for listening and understanding

Strategies such as those outlined above will generally be more easily applied in reading than in listening, as reading offers more opportunities to slow down, to look at unknown items at some leisure and to study the context.

In order to hear accurately students should have the specific differences of the spoken language brought to their attention. For students there are some Panjabi words which sound similar heard on a recording or when people use them. For example, the difference between the sound of ਤੇਰਾ and ਤੇਰਾਂ, ਸੱਤ and ਸੱਠ, and ਸਿਹਤ, ਸਹਿਤ or ਸਾਹਿਤ is not easily detectable.

However some of the general strategies for understanding listed above can, with practice, be used successfully in listening, namely:

  • ignoring words which are not needed for successful completion of the task set
  • using the (visual and) verbal context
  • making use of the social and cultural context
  • using common patterns within Panjabi.

Strategies for production

Research and experience show that people who communicate effectively in a foreign language tend to make good use of systematic efficient verbal and non-verbal strategies to get meaning across, in spite of their imperfect command of the language.

Individual students may fail to learn – or forget – language items required by some test items, or they may wish to attempt to go beyond the demands of the specification in completing the task set. In these circumstances, the following strategies can prove useful. They fall into two main categories: non-verbal and verbal.

Non-verbal strategies

Pointing and demonstration

This may be accompanied by some appropriate language (eg ਉਂਗਲ ਨਾਲ ਇਸ਼ਾਰਾ ਕਰਕੇ ਜਾਂ ਹੱਥ ਲਾ ਕੇ ਕਹਿਣਾ - ਆਹ, ਔਹ, ਇਹ ਚੀਜ਼, ਜਿਵੇਂ ਔਹ ਹੈ, ਇਹੋ ਜਿਹਾ ਹੋਵੇ, ਬਿਲਕੁਲ ਉਸ ਵਰਗਾ, ਇੰਨਾ ਕੁ ਵੱਡਾ ਆਦਿ।)

Expression and gesture

This may be accompanied, where appropriate, with sounds (eg ‘Oh!’ which, with appropriate intonation, facial expression and gestures, can convey such attitudes and functions as pain, surprise, anger, fear, pleasure and admiration). ਹਾਏ, ਹੈਂ, ਵਾਹ ਆਦਿ ।.


Mime, which again can be accompanied by appropriate sounds and language, can sometimes help communication to be maintained when it might otherwise break down eg ਕੀ ਮੈਂ ਤੁਹਾਡੀ ਮਦਦ ਕਰਾਂ? or with a suitable mime if one has forgotten words such as ਰੋਣਾ and ਮੁਸਕਰਾਹਟ ਜਾਂ ਸੰਗਣਾ. This strategy has obvious limitations in a speaking test which is recorded and assessed on the basis of the recording.


This can be an efficient strategy with some tasks (especially written) and can convey both attitude and information (eg a diagram showing how to get from one point, such as a station, to another, for instance home).

Verbal strategies

Using a word which refers to a similar item

Using a word which refers to a similar item to the one the speaker/writer wishes to refer to, but for which he has forgotten the word eg ਕਿੰਨੇ ਘੰਟੇ for ਕਿੰਨੇ ਵਜੇ. This strategy is not always effective and its use would be assessed according to its effectiveness in a particular context.

Description of physical properties

This can be used to refer to something of which the name has been forgotten eg ਉਹ ਖਾਈਦਾ ਹੈ; ਬਹੁਤ ਵੱਡਾ ਸਾਰਾ ਗੋਲ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਹੈ; ਬਾਹਰੋਂ ਹਰਾ ਤੇ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਲਾਲ ਜਾਂ ਗੁਲਾਬੀ ਜਿਹਾ ।.

The physical properties refer to colour, size, material, position and shape. The use of this strategy in an exam would be assessed according to its communicative effectiveness.

Requests for help

These can include requests for translation eg

ਕੰਧ ਜਾਂ ਫਰਸ਼ ਨੂੰ ਅੰਗਰੇਜੀ ਵਿੱਚ ਕੀ ਕਹਿੰਦੇ ਹਨ?

ਮੂਨ ਤੇ ਸਕਾਈ ਨੂੰ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਵਿੱਚ ਕੀ ਕਹਿੰਦੇ ਹਨ?

ਕੀ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਇਸ ਚੀਜ਼ ਦਾ ਨਾਮ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਦੱਸ ਸਕਦੇ ਹੋ?

ਮੈਨੂੰ ਪਤਾ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਿ ਇਸ ਦੇ ਸ਼ਬਦ-ਜੋੜ ਕਿਵੇਂ ਕਰਾਂ ।

It is clearly preferable to use such requests for help than for communication to collapse, and their use will be assessed according to the context. When requests for help with specific problems occur, the teacher should maintain the role of a sympathetic native speaker and help accordingly. The teacher should avoid taking over from the student and carrying out the task.


This is when a student avoids the use of a form of which he/she is unsure (eg ਜੇ ਕੱਲ੍ਹ ਨੂੰ ਮੌਸਮ ਖਰਾਬ ਨਾ ਹੋਇਆ ਤਾਂ ਮੈਂ ਜ਼ਰੂਰ ਆਵਾਂਗਾ/ਆਵਾਂਗੀ ।) by using a form he/she finds simpler (eg ਕੱਲ੍ਹ ਨੂੰ ਠੀਕ ਰਿਹਾ ਤਾਂ ਫੇਰ ਆਵਾਂਗਾ ।).

A systematic use of simplified forms may reduce error, facilitate communication and increase fluency, but if overused, this strategy may result in students failing to make full use of their capabilities.


This is where the student uses words and messages in acceptable Panjabi, avoiding the use of words which he/she has forgotten, eg when he/she cannot remember the word ਕਿਰਾਏਦਾਰ and instead says ਉਹ ਇੱਕ ਕਮਰੇ ਵਿੱਚ ਰਹਿੰਦਾ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਇਸ ਦੇ ਪੈਸੇ ਦਿੰਦਾ ਹੈ । or when he/she cannot recollect the word ਕੁਆਰਾ and says ਉਸ ਦਾ ਹਾਲੇ ਵਿਆਹ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੋਇਆ ।

When used well, this strategy communicates the message effectively to a sympathetic native speaker and such use in an exam would be assessed accordingly.

Reference to specific features

Reference to specific features (eg ਉਹ ਇਮਾਰਤ ਜੋ ਲਾਲ ਪੱਥਰਾਂ ਦੀ ਬਣੀ ਹੋਈ ਹੈ ਜਿਸ ਦੀਆਂ ਚਾਰ ਮੰਜ਼ਲਾਂ ਹਨ , ਜਾਂ, ਉਹ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਜਿਸ ਨੇ ਨੀਲੀ ਪੱਗ ਬੰਨ੍ਹੀ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਕਾਲੀਆਂ ਐਨਕਾਂ ਲਾਈਆਂ ਹੋਈਆਂ ਹਨ ।) is often quite effective and its use would be assessed accordingly in an exam.

Reference to the function of an object

Reference to the function of an object and the actions that can be performed with it (eg ਚੰਗੇ ਹੋਟਲਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਖਾਣਾ ਖਾਣ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ, ਇੱਕ ਗਰਮ ਤੌਲੀਆ ਵੀ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ । ਇਹ ਗਰਮ ਪਾਣੀ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਕੱਢਿਆ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਹੱਥ ਮੂੰਹ ਸਾਫ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਹੈ) is a commonly used strategy which is usually effective in communicative terms.

Another strategy sometimes used by language students is word coinage, the creation of words based either on English or Panjabi words. This strategy usually produces words which do not exist in Panjabi or, if they do exist, have a different meaning from the one intended. The use of this strategy is rarely effective in promoting communication and students would be well advised to use it only if all other strategies fail.

Another commonly used strategy is topic avoidance, when the student avoids or abandons a topic because of inability to deal with it. Use of this strategy in the exam will not allow the student to be given full credit. Use of it in a learning situation will reduce opportunities for the development or expansion of the student’s repertoire. It is a strategy which should be discouraged. A basic condition for communication strategies to have a potential learning effect is that they are governed by achievement, rather than avoidance, behaviour.

Evidence suggests that the availability of a range of strategies such as those outlined above, and flexibility in their use, represent an important advantage in overall communicative effectiveness. It also appears that the most effective strategies demand some linguistic proficiency and that the more proficient speakers are also better at using communication strategies effectively.

The development of such strategies cannot be seen as encouragement not to develop linguistic knowledge. Strategic competence is not a substitute for vocabulary learning, 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. It is an important part of the teaching and learning process.