It’s turtle egg laying season here in the Caribbean! 

During my morning walk in the park today I ‘bumped into’ a big one, crossing the path in front of me. There’s a little lake where they normally live inside, so I thought it might have somehow escaped, and might be in trouble or something, so I went to the ranger’s office to check this.

She told me all is OK, she (–she!) had left the lake area because she’s looking for a safe place to dig herself in to put her eggs down.

I left the office relieved, and took this last picture of her to send to my partner, who’s Cuban.

Now, I speak C2+ level (Mexican!) Spanish, but to this day I still haven’t learned the names of male/female animals, such as ‘mare’ and sh*t. I don’t know them in English either, and frankly I never learned them in my ‘official’ mother tongue, Hungarian either. 

I love animals, AND I’m not a biologist, so there’s THAT. Also, where does REAL WORLD knowledge end and LANGUAGE knowledge begin? (Or vice versa)

At home we often laugh that we’re sometimes a bit like the US and the UK in the famous saying, ‘divided by a common language’… 😀

What I find does work for me is when I just ‘circumlocute’ myself out of tricky linguistic situations like this, without batting an eyelid. 😀

So I did just that again. I left him an animated video message explaining how I had met this ‘female turtle’ (‘una tortuga mujer’ :D) who was on her way to nest (and didn’t need saving after all…).

(BTW, is there an ‘official’ word for ‘female turtle’, anybody? Do let me know if you know!)

And all this also got me thinking about the native/non-native question again…

Who’s a ‘native speaker’ of a language after all? Those who know ALL the animal words for BOTH genders of all species?? (Where there IS one, that is). Then I clearly am not a ‘native speaker’ of Spanish.

Or is it someone who uses all 4 skills of it confidently, passes international C2-level language certificates and knows how to say ’75th’ in it (–and write it too!), which NO SANE local person uses in Mexico? (Nor ’10th’, for that matter…).

I think for now I’ll just hunker down and wait it out, that is until this native/non-native thing totally boils over. (I can see the light at the end of this tunnel in our industry for this, BTW!). 

And I guess in the meantime I’ll just continue ‘circumlocuting my way out’ of funky communicative situations like this, especially when it comes to (female…) animals…

What activities do YOU use to help your IELTS learners notice the usefulness of circumlocution in the productive skills?


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