5 Practical Questions to Help Increase Understanding
When learning English (or any language), there are some key (important) questions that will help you communicate more effectively and also support your learning.
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? Or maybe you pull out your cell phone and try to find the meaning of the word (you look it up). Or you might 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 are just a few of many questions you can use to ask for help and communicate more effectively. More can be found here.