Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Practical English Questions

What is Practical English?

What is practical English? Let’s begin by defining the word practical. There are two definitions. First, if something is practical, it is concerned with the actual use of something and doing something, rather than with theory. Second, if something is practical, it is likely to succeed or be effective in real circumstances. Thus, practical English is English that you can use and apply in real life situations. This post will teach you 5 practical questions that will help you communicate and gain understanding when talking to someone.

When learning English (or any language), there are some key (important) questions that will help you communicate more effectively and also support your learning. The 5 practical English questions below will help you become a more effective communicator.

YouTube learning supplement: Practical English.

YouTube video: 20 Practical English Sentences to Build Vocabulary WHILE Speaking English

5 Practical English Questions to Aid Communication


1. What does _________ mean?

Use this anytime you don’t understand a word.

Imagine you are having a conversation and someone says a word you do not know. What do you do?

Do you freak out?

There is no need to freak out when you can ask for the solution to the problem of not understanding.

What does freak out mean?

It means to become really nervous and start to panic or feel embarrassed.

So, do you freak out? Do you turn to a translation app? Or do you switch to your native language and ask what the word means?

Freaking out, pulling out your phone, and switching languages are not the best solutions.

Wrong way sign

All three turn off the part of your brain that is in English mode. So, the next time you come across an unfamiliar word, try it out. Simply ask, “What does ______mean?”

*Note: Freak out also has a positive meaning. For example, if you see your favorite K-pop star and he or she says hi to you. You might freak out in a happy and excited way!

slow down road sign

2. Could you slow down?

Native speakers use relaxed speech, which is faster and much more difficult to understand than when they speak more slowly and clearly. Could you slow down? is a polite way to ask them to slow down.

It is much better than not understanding!

Both you and the person speaking will be happier if you communicate and ask them to slow down. You might need to say it a few times to remind them. Don’t worry! It’s okay to remind them!

It’s really important for you to help them know when they are speaking too fast for you to understand.

repeat icon

3. Could you repeat that?/Could you say that again?

Sometimes, even when a speaker slows down, we might want to listen to what they said again.

snail hang

4. Could you give me an example?

If you hear a new word, but the meaning is difficult to understand, you can ask for an example. Examples are a great way to gain understanding.

For example: Mollusks are invertebrates with soft, unsegmented bodies. Do you understand? Can you imagine a mollusk? No? Would you like an example? Some examples of mollusks include snails, mussels, and octopuses.

When an explanation of a word is complicated, asking for an example is helpful.

Bicycle Only Korean Sign

5. How do you say _____________ in Korean?/How do you say 자전서전용 in English?

Sometimes, even an example can be complicated. In that case, you can ask, “How do you say it in Korean?” (or whatever language you speak). This should be the last question you ask after trying #1 and #4. Translating doesn’t always work well. If possible, it’s better if you can learn and understand words in context. However, sometimes a translation can be a useful and a quick way to understand.

These 5 questions are just a few of many questions you can use to ask for help and communicate more effectively.

For these and more, I made a YouTube short to help you practice and remember them: 20 English Sentences to Build Vocabulary WHILE Speaking English

For more than 350 common English expressions you can use in everyday life, check out my E-Book. It’s available on Ko-fi and Gumroad.

Book cover with cartoon images of four people having a conversation