Everyone seems to be scared to ask a question – in any language. “Did I miss something?” “Am I not smart enough to be here?” The simple act of asking of questions conjures up insecurities.

When you ask a question in a foreign language, an additional layer of unease is added. Not only do you have a question about the content, you want to phrase the question correctly.

Many times we give up because we don’t want to receive a quizzical look or stare.

Where did we get this idea that we must understand every bit of information without asking for clarification or repetition? Why are questions “bad”?

As an educator, I can tell you that I love questions. They generally highlight something I’ve missed or didn’t explain well. As an employee, questions from superiors keep you on your toes, and dialogue with coworkers is always a welcome team-building exercise. Questions after a presentation mean that my audience stayed awake and was interested enough to ask me for clarification. Yay!

As a second language learner myself, I understand the fear of questions very well. I also know that I’m pretty confident at answering questions – but asking them takes a bit more thought.

It’s helpful to have a few question phrases and strategies in mind and ready to use. Give a compliment with your question and you won’t have to be very specific. This is very handy if you prefer to be a listener rather than a chatterer:

  • At a business reception:

Your role sounds interesting.  Could you tell me a bit more about it?

How does your role fit into (x project)?

  • At a job interview:

What is your favorite thing about working for this company?

How would you describe the company culture?

Can I tell you anything else about me or my CV/resume?

  • After a presentation:

Could you please speak a bit more about (x topic)? I found the (contrast/parallels/information/etc.) fascinating.

  • On a conference call:

Hi, this is (name) . Could you please repeat those (sales/marketing/etc.) statistics? I didn’t catch them.

What are some questions you keep in your back pocket, ready to use in these situations? Are you ready to ask questions in English with more confidence? Schedule a free trial consultation today.