Answering Questions In English

Answering Questions In English

This is an important topic.


Knowing how to answer questions is a crucial part of communicating in any language.  And yet, many students come to us with extensive vocabulary and advanced knowledge of English grammar, but with very little knowledge of how to use these things effectively when communicating. And so, we find that many of our newer clients have difficulty answering basic questions in English.


Instead of answering questions, they provide excessive information about a topic, but they often will never get around to actually answering the question.  In these instances, the student is often times attempting to demonstrative his ability in the English language.  He is trying to let the other person know “I speak your language – I speak English.”


But in a healthy 2-sided conversation, the objective is normally to participate in a “give and take” of information.  One person speaks, the other person responds.  And many times the person responding is expected to, at least in some way, address the first speaker’s contribution to the conversation.


Healthy 2-sided conversations require participation from both individuals.  So, if you are speaking for the primary purpose of demonstrating your personal knowledge of English, you could be missing out on a great opportunity to connect with other speakers.  Conversations can easily come to an end when one participant feels that his contribution to the conversation is not appreciated by the other party.


And what of formal situations?  In the workplace and on formal exams, a great deal of communication takes place for the purpose of extracting information.  In other words, if you are learning English for educational purposes or for work, you will have to be able to communicate clearly in order to be effective. Simply sharing random details with your boss when he asks you a specific question, will not suffice.  Neither will it be acceptable to ramble on about the knowledge in your head when your professor asks you a specific exam question.  Your boss, or your professor will want you to answer their specific questions.


At the beginning of your English learning journey, communicating in a way that informs the listener that “you speak the language” is wonderful.  Doing so opens the door for friendships, language partners, networking opportunities, opportunities to socialize, and more.  The beginning of your language journey is a great time to practice using anything and everything that you have learned in a conversation.  Whether you answer the question or not is not so important in these stages.  What is most important at these times is that you are communicating.


But, as your journey progresses, it will be beneficial to begin refining your skills.  Knowing how to answer basic questions in English will make you a much more effective English communicator.  And remember that communicating involves listening as well as speaking.  If you want to communicate effectively, especially when it comes to answering questions, you have to be able to address the actual question that is being asked.


To learn more, read our article on The 5 W’s (and How).

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