Ask Questions Differently

Who? What? Where? Why? When? How?

Those six words are the start to standard and expected questions in English. Have you ever asked a question using those words and received a blank stare? That might be because those aren't Yes/No questions. As we acquire a new language, yes/no questions are the first subset of language that we pick up on.

A question such as "Where's Francisco?" requires an answer that someone who's learning English might not yet have the words for it. Possible answers could be, "He's not here yet." "He's downstairs." "He's in the locker room." So,  if we change the question a bit, we can be better understood.

Try "Is Francisco downstairs?" or "Is Francisco in the locker room?" All of those questions have a Yes or No response. They are easier to understand when you don't speak English as a first language. So, when asking a question to someone who's learning English, try to challenge yourself to express them in a Yes/No form.

Lead With Important Words

Arrange your words in order of importance. "Can you go to huddle up with a prep kitchen and like 15 minutes please?" This is a complex question that an L2 (limited English speaker) would have trouble understanding on the first listen. Here's how it can be asked differently. Just focus on what the leading or important information is. The location and the time. So, in this case, the prep kitchen and 15 minutes.

Here is how you can express it differently so you are understood.

"In 15 minutes, go to the prep kitchen for huddle up."

Your team will be there in a jiffy! 

Pause. More.

What is the best way to slow down your speech?  Pause after each important word. It might feel a little strange at first to pause more than usual. Trust me, your message will be better understood. Let's look at this sentence:

"Put that box in dry storage next to the sugar."

There's a lot of information in that sentence.

Put that box... (action)

in dry storage... (location)

next to the sugar. (action)