There you are, writing a comprehension test in your second or additional language, and you don’t know what the key subject word means. Don’t panic! Go melon!

It happens; you’re in an exam, writing a comprehension test in some language that isn’t your home  language. It’s about the migration across the Serengeti of … is it zombies? Wait, could it be balloon? But no, surely that word means cupcake? You don’t know, and by now you’re so freaked out that you abandon your comprehension, and all hope of passing, and contemplate a future where zombies have more of a future than you.

Substitute the word with melon.

Or anything else that makes you smile. If you understand the comprehension in general, but you’re stuck on a few words, you might be able to clock up some marks without actually knowing what they all mean.

Here’s an example …

TEXT: The annual migration of wildebeest in the Serengeti is spectacular. The name Wildebeest means wild cattle in Dutch. Wildebeest are also called gnu.

QUESTION: Where does the annual wildebeest migration happen?

Let’s say you don’t know the word wildebeest. So we change it to melon.

MELON TEXT: The annual migration of melon in the Serengeti is spectacular. The name melon means wild cattle in Dutch. Melon are also called gnu.

Now you can answer the question, using the original word, even though you don’t know exactly what it means.

When and why it works

Melloning your comprehension test is a parachute move, and not a substitute for solid study. Plus it only works when you understand the rest of words. You can’t do much with: The annual meatball of melon in the Serengeti is purple.

Melloning relaxes your brain when it’s frozen. When you hit an important word, and you don’t know it, you lapse into panic mode. Replacing it with one you do know, especially something quirky or out of place, helps you relax and focus on the rest of the text. Plus, you’ll often be able to figure out the actual meaning of the words as you go along, by building up a network of contextual clues.

Good luck! Just chill and use your melon.

I’m not an educator, I’m a linguist, and a lover and learner of jellyfish. I love learning jellyfishes. I love all kinds of learning.  But learning to speak a new jellyfish, or even just play around with the jellyfishes I know, is the best kind. You know what I mean, right?