What do I need to know for the exam?
It may not seem like it, but we have covered a lot of material over the past 6 weeks! I have put everything you need to know for the exam in one easy to find place. There is a lot of material here for your review. If you have any questions that I haven’t answered, don’t hesitate to ask!
You need to know the following for the written exam:
- Classroom English
- Reactions and SSNQ
- Natural answers to a common question
- 3 ways to distinguish between a greeting and a real question
- Difference between open and closed questions – which is better and why?
- 3 universally interesting questions
- 3 questions that are common and natural in Korea, but not in English
You need to show that you can use the following during the speaking exam:
- Classroom English
- Small Talk about weekends/daily life
- Rejoinders (reactions)
- Follow-up questions (both SSNQ and others)
- Universally interesting questions
- Answering questions with details
What is Classroom English?
Classroom English is the practical English that I taught you at the beginning of the semester. We practiced it using the activity about animals.
For example, if you see a word that you do not know, you should ask, “What does that mean?”
If you see a word you don’t know how to say, you should ask, “How do you say this word?”
If you want an example, you should ask, “Could you give me an example?”
I gave you a Classroom English handout that you can use to study. It can also be found here.
What are greetings?
Greetings are how we say hello. In class we learned some new greetings. These are the ones you need to know for the test. You must also know the correct way to respond to each greeting.
Here they are:
Greeting Possible Responses
What’s up? Not much. You?
What’s going on? Nothing. You?
What’s new? Nothing much. You?
How’s it going? Not bad. You? / Great! You?
How are you? Pretty good. You?
What are 3 ways to distinguish between a greeting and a real question?
- Tone, speed, and body language/situation
What are reductions?
Reductions are common in speech. For example, “wanna” is a reduction of “want to.”
The ones we have learned so far include:
dya – Do you
Dya have any plans for the weekend? = Do you have any plans for the weekend?
Wuhdya – What are you and gonna – going to
Wuhdya gonna do this weekend? = What are you going to do this weekend?
Howdya – How do you
Howdya spell that? = How do you spell that?
Wuhduz – What does
Wuhduz that mean? = What does that mean?
Wuhdjya – What did you
Wuhdjya do this weekend? = What did you do this weekend?
You should be able to apply this knowledge and recognize these reductions in unique sentences.
Howdya know him? = How do you know him?
Dya wanna go to a movie? = Do you want to go to a movie?
What are reactions?
Reactions show that we are listening, that we understand, and that we care (or we are polite). Using reactions in English is a very good conversation skill to have. When people respond with appropriate reactions, we enjoy talking with them more.
There are many different reactions, and it takes practice to know how to use them all well. Different reactions are used for different situations. It depends on whether something is positive, negative, neutral or surprising (+ or -). It also depends on the degree that something is positive, negative, neutral or surprising.
For your exam, you need to know 10 different reactions and apply them to 10 different situations.
Reactions for good or happy news: That’s great! Nice! Cool! That’s awesome!
Reactions for sad or bad news: That’s too bad. Sorry to hear that. Oh, no!
Reactions for surprising or shocking news: Really!? Seriously?! For real?! You’re kidding! No way!
Reactions for neutral news: I see. Oh yeah? That’s nice.
“I see.” is the most neutral reaction.
If something is a little positive and a little neutral, it’s better to use “That’s nice.”
“That’s awesome!” is the strongest positive reaction for good news.
If something is not really really great, it’s better to use one of the other reactions.
“Oh, no!” is the strongest reaction for sad or bad news.
“No way!” is the strongest reaction for surprising or shocking news.
Tone is very important when you use rejoinders. You need to show tone in writing with punctuation. Punctuation = . ? !
Reactions should not be used alone. They need to be used with follow-up questions. You need to know 10 different short, simple, natural follow-up questions for your exam. These take practice and some knowledge of grammar to use correctly. Remember, CONTEXT is important.
What are SSNQs?
Short simple natural questions are follow-up questions that ask for more details. They are short because when we ask a follow-up questions, we already have some information and context, so we do not need to ask with a complete sentence.
Let’s look at an example in a conversation:
Elsa: What did you do this weekend?
Ollie: I went to a movie.
Elsa: Oh, yeah? What movie?
As you can see, Elsa does not say, “What movie did you go to?” It is not necessary or natural to say because we know the context. The great thing about SSNQs is that you don’t need to worry about creating perfect sentences! You only need to be sure that the SSNQ is a match for the context.
If you have lost the handout I gave you in class, you can find a comprehensive list here.
Let’s look at some examples in context:
Statement Reaction and SSNQ
I’m going on a trip. Cool! Where to?
I’m going to Europe! That’s awesome! Where (at) in Europe?
I won the lottery! You’re kidding! How much?
I went shopping. That’s nice. Wuhdja get?
I broke my arm. Oh, no! What happened?
I’m going to get a job. Oh yeah? How come?
I’m going shopping. Oh yeah? What for?
I’m getting married! No way! To who?
Use the chart you completed in class (and my feedback) for more examples.
What are other follow-up questions? (for speaking test)
Here are examples of good follow-up questions to get your conversation partners to talk more. The underlined section can be replaced by other topics.
- What do you mean by that? (asking for clarification/explanation)
- *Have you ever walked out of a movie? (asking about experiences)
*Note, “Have you…” is a closed question, but it is common to use this to ask about experiences. We just need to be ready with a follow-up question if someone says “No.”
If they answer “Yes.”, say, “Really? What happened?”
Depending on the topic, you can ask a question about experiences using this structure: “What was the best thing about it?”
What to do if someone answers “No.”
You can say, “Really? + ask a hypothetical question or ask “Why not?” if it fits the situation. “Why not?” does not fit our example situation. So you could ask the hypothetical:
What would make you walk out of a movie?
What are some other follow-up questions?
- Why do you think ____________________________? (reason for thinking something)
Example: Why do you think the United States has a problem with gun control?
- How do you think ___________________________? (way/method)
Example: How do you think the United States can end gun violence?
- What’s _____________________ about _____________________?
adjective noun/noun phrase
Example: What’s difficult about ending gun violence?
What are natural answers to a common question?
If you took notes, you will remember that I taught 3 natural responses to “What did you do this weekend?” Do you remember what you should say if you just slept a lot and did not do much over the weekend?
There are 4 possible ways to respond:
- I just slept a lot.
- I just hung out at home.
- I just relaxed.
- I just took it easy.
What is the difference between open and closed questions – which is better and why?
*No need to memorize all this, but you should understand the main points and be able to explain three reasons using examples.
- Closed questions require limited answers.
- All yes/no questions are closed questions.
- Closed questions are not universally interesting questions.
- Closed questions do not require much thought.
- Closed questions can be answered with a single word or a short phrase.
- Closed questions are facts, and are easy and quick to answer.
- Closed questions keep control of the conversation with the questioner.
- Open questions require more thought.
- Open questions ask about opinions, feelings, and ideas.
- Open questions help us learn more about other people’s wants, needs, likes, dislikes, and problems.
- Open questions help develop a conversation.
- Open questions help develop ideas and solutions to problems.
- Open questions give control of the conversation to the responder.
Let’s look at some examples:
- Do you like Korea?
- Where are you from?
- Have you ever traveled to another country?
- How many countries have you visited?
- How old are you?
- What’s your blood type?
- Who did you vote for?
- How much did your phone cost?
- Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
- Do you want to go to lunch with me?
Closed questions are not always bad questions. We need both closed and open questions when we talk to people. Closed questions provide us with information and are often used when we first meet someone. However, when we are trying to have more meaningful and interesting conversations, open questions are better.
- What are some things you like about Korea?
- What does home mean to you?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- What’s on your bucket list?
- What do you think is the best age and why?
- What are your best and worst characteristics?
- If you were president, what would you do?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of cell phones?
- What’s your ideal type?
- What is your ideal lunch?
Open questions allow for a larger variety of answers. They also help us avoid questions that can be embarrassing, culturally inappropriate, or too private. If you ask someone “Do you like Korea?” they would never say “No.” because that would be rude. Of course, some people are rude, so they might say no, but asking this direct question puts people on the spot. It can make them uncomfortable. Asking, “What are some things you like about Korea?” allows for more honesty. Even if someone dislikes Korea, there are probably some things that they do like!
What are universally interesting questions?
Universally interesting questions are questions that anyone can answer. They are NOT yes/no questions. They require more thought than closed questions.
There are 3 ways to write universally interesting questions. I gave you a handout with sentence frames to help you with this, but let’s quickly review the 3 ways here.
- Ask about experiences and interest.
What was the best gift you ever received?
Who is your favorite person?
When was a time you felt happy?
Note: Be careful when asking about feelings. If you want to ask about negative or difficult emotions, you should provide a choice for the opposite positive emotion. Not everyone is comfortable talking about emotions.
- Ask a hypothetical question.
If you could buy anything you wanted, what would you buy and why?
If you had more time, what would you do?
If you were invisible, what would you do?
If you had to choose between a long difficult life and a short happy life, which would you choose?
Note: Be sure to follow the grammatical structure shown. This grammar is what we use for situations that are imaginary or possible, but not real at the moment. Notice they use the past tense (had not have, etc.) and they use would not will.
- Ask about ideas and concerns. For example:
What does friendship mean to you?
What problem are you concerned about?
What do you think about war?
Why do you think war exists?
How do you think we can create more peace?
How do you feel about mandatory military service?
Note: Ideas and concerns often include current events, news, and abstractions. These can be sensitive topics. Use caution and good judgement before asking these questions. Not everyone will be comfortable discussing them, so you need to know your conversation partner to know if they are okay talking about certain topics.
What are some questions that are common and natural to ask in Korean, but not in English?
Language is cultural. What we say and how we say it is connected to culture. Uncovering this discovery leads to insights about the way people communicate and can help us understand different views of the world.
Let’s look at examples from Korea and the United States. All of the following examples are based on real situations and real encounters I have had with many Koreans in Korea. Please understand that I am only pointing out differences. I am not judging or saying these differences are bad. They are simply different. As a result, many people who are not from Korea find these questions off-putting.
Here are 3 very common questions I am usually asked by Koreans:
- How old are you?
- Are you married?
- Do you have children?
- Do you have a religion?
Remember, language is cultural. Korea is a high-context, collectivist culture with a hierarchical structure. Relationships are highly valued and these questions are asked not to cause offense, but to form relationships, determine status and determine appropriate behavior and language to use. Due to cultural differences, this concept is one that can be difficult for people who are not Korean. Of course, people living in Korea should adapt and adjust to Korean culture as much as possible. They should respect the culture and understand the reasons for such questions. I am not an expert on Korean culture, but I can share why some people find these questions uncomfortable. I can also advise Koreans that these questions are not common or polite outside of Korea and to avoid asking these questions out of the Korean context.
Why do these questions make many “foreigners” uncomfortable?
While Korea is a group oriented culture, the United States is individualistic. We value independence and self-reliance. Age is not as important to us. We can have friends of any age. My youngest friend is in her 20s. My oldest friend is in her 70s. I talk with all my friends in the same way. Age has no effect on my friendships. Thus, asking “How old are you?” is not a necessary or useful question. In individualistic cultures, friendships are based on individual interests and mutual needs and likes. They exist independent from groups. Sure, we often become friends with people we work with, but only if we like them and want to be friends with them. Yes, we have friends who might go to our church, but religion is very personal, private, and can be controversial.
Where Korea is a high-context culture, the United States is a low-context culture.
Privacy is valued in low-context cultures and questions like “Do you have a religion?” and “Are you married?” are not questions we ask when we first meet someone. We might be curious, but it is not polite to ask these questions directly.
Asking someone if they are married or if they have children can be a sensitive question because:
- They might not be married even though society expects them to be.
- They might be divorced.
- Their spouse may have passed away.
- They may be in a same-sex relationship.
- They might not have children even though they might want children
Because this question can be sensitive, we learn this information in other ways. For example, we might ask a co-worker, “How was your weekend?” If they are married, they might answer, “My husband and I watched a movie.” If religion is an important part of their lives, they might respond by telling us that they went to church on Sunday. In American culture, asking someone “Do you have a religion?” or telling them, “I’m a Christian.” communicates that religion is a hugely important part of your life and that you might want to convert the person you are asking to join your religion. I’m still not sure why this is a common question in Korea. I have had non-religious people ask me, and I don’t know why they ask. Perhaps there is a reason related to respect and maintaining harmony. Or perhaps it is simple curiosity.
What’s your blood type?
One more question I sometimes hear in Korea is, “What’s your blood type?” In Korea (from what I read this originated in Japan), blood type is associated with personality types. This concept does not exist in other places, but we do have something similar. The question is, “What’s your sign?” Western culture associates personality and compatibility with astrology and the zodiac or star/sun signs. There are 12 signs in the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Your sign is determined by the day of the year you were born. Each sign covers about 30 days. Ask an American their blood type and they will likely say, “I don’t know.” If they don’t know about Korean culture, they will also feel very confused about why you would want to know this as it is only for medical purposes. Of course, neither blood types nor star signs are scientifically proven to be accurate measure of personality, but they can be fun!
What do we need to know about small talk?
Small talk has many uses. It is sometimes used as a polite greeting and sometimes as a way to begin a conversation.
We have practiced talking about weekends more than any other conversation. It is a very common form of small talk. By now, you should easily be able to ask and answer the following questions depending on the day of the week:
“How was your weekend?” “Not bad? Yours?”
“What did you do over the weekend?” “Not much. I just hung out at home.”
“What did you do over the weekend?” “I went to a movie and worked.”
“Do you have any plans for the weekend?” “I’ll probably just hang out at home.”
“Do you have any plans for the weekend?” “Not yet. I might go to a movie.”
“Do you have any plans for the weekend?” “I have to work this weekend.”
“What are your plans for the weekend?” “I’m not sure. Probably just take it easy.
“What are your plans for the weekend?” “I’m going to visit my grandmother.”
Of course there are many other possible responses. These are just some examples. You should answer truthfully, and remember, if you are planning to drink alcohol, the natural way to say this in English is, “I’m going out drinking with some friends.” or “I’m going out drinking.” And if you plan to sleep a lot, the natural thing to say is, “I’ll probably just take it easy.” or “I’m looking forward to sleeping in.” or “I’m just going to hang out at home.”
Note: If you have a definite plan, you should not use “will.” For more information, check out this page.
What about daily life small talk?
For now, you only need to know: “What are you doing after class?”
Just like in Korean, when class ends, you can ask, “Where are you going now?” or in a more natural way, “Where you headed?”
Of course, greetings are also a form of small talk.
How can I do well on the speaking exam?
Your speaking exam is a test of the conversation skills that have been taught in class. You should show that you are able to use all of the skills by greeting me and your classmates, engaging in both small talk and a conversation based on a universally interesting question, and using Classroom English. Be sure to keep the pattern of a basic conversation in mind. While you do not need to follow it strictly, you do need to use appropriate rejoinders, and ask both short simple natural follow-up questions and open-ended follow-up questions.