Don't ask too many questions

One reason I’m frustrated with my Chinese courses at university is that the other students are constantly asking nitpicky questions that take the teacher 30 minutes to answer. Of course, the explanations usually make him switch to English so that’s time I’m not getting any Chinese listening in.

You don’t need to learn the difference between 买单 (pay the bill) and 结账 (pay the bill) before you even know the word 筷子 (chopsticks), let alone how to order food or what Chinese dishes you might be interested in trying.

You don’t need to know the exact difference in connotation between “indeed!” and “exactly!” if you can’t hold a conversation in English for five minutes.

Just accept rough knowledge of these things and move on.

Of course, you can ask these things, but don’t get too caught up on getting exact answers. It’s far better to be someone who can speak somewhat awkwardly but has an enormous vocabulary than someone who can use 100 words exactly as a native would.

I’m definitely guilty of doing this, especially with my tutor, since I feel like I’m ~supposed~ to ask questions. But I’m going to try to stop, because the answers are completely inconsequential. Wasting time on subtle nuances of one word or pattern vs another extremely similar one is silly when I could be using that time to actually practice my speaking.


Here is a video discussion on the topic of Don’t ask too many questions.

Don’t ask, absorb! by laoshu505000

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Exactly! One of the key skills in language learning is embracing uncertainty. This is a great example of how important it is, starting from the very beginning :slight_smile:

Julien Gaudfroy:

"Most of the time people who always ask WHY are bad learners, because there’s not much logic in the grammar or the way people speak in the mother language. Why is it this way? Because it IS this way! I was one of those WHY people, but hard work made me realize I was wrong.”

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I have people like this in chemistry classes. People ask trivial questions where they demand an explanation to where they have to understand it on the spot. Forgetting is natural! If it’s that important, highlight it, ask questions later, and hope you encounter it in another situation. Yes, this applies to both science and language learning.

My Calc 2 professor is the worst about these questions. Someone will ask an offhand question about something and it launches him into 20 minutes of proofs that are way above our level. Nobody could possibly care or understand what he’s going on about.

A complete waste of time in every subject!

The answer will come easily when the time is ready. Don’t force it.

I agree. It’s best to not focus too much on nuances in theory since the best way to learn how to handle them is practice. This is of course somewhat due to laziness on my part, but I really don’t care to study the subtle differences between words when I can spend my time improving my overall vocabulary, which in the end gives better overall results. As for “why is this so?” types of questions I try not to ask them although I do have a tendency to try to figure out for myself why it is so. Sometimes, however, the best answer you can expect is that it just is so. Take the Norwegian way of calling someone names:

Din tosk (you dummy) translates literally to “your dummy”.

Why do we use the possessional here? Who knows. Maybe the vikings were too fond of those magic mushrooms. I’ve wondered many a time why Russian doesn’t use the verb to be in the present and I even tried to find out when it fell out of use. No luck though.

Language learning and I would say life in general.