The Importance of Asking Questions

One of the most difficult things for many students is to ask questions. But this is also the reason many ultimately fail. So, why do so few students ask questions, and why is it important?

Language and cultural barriers

Studying in another language can be intimidating. A simple conversation can cause some students to break into a sweat. But although you may find it difficult at first, it's crucial to get past your apprehension. Accept that your first few weeks will be difficult, and that you may make some mistakes. But also know that your professors won't attack you if you mix up a "die" for a "das" and that you're very unlikely to be the worst in class. Almost 13% of German students are international, and almost all of them are non-native speakers. 

Discomfort now saves stress at the end of the semester

It's important to know that even if you do study hard throughout the semester, your hard work may be a waste if you don't have a strong fundamental understanding of the material. Daniela Siedler, a biochemistry professor, explains why it's crucial to ask questions:

I've taught many seminars in biochemistry for medical students. We treat proteins, lipids or discuss biochemical processes in the liver. Often, I feel like many students think they can do anything - or they must be able to do anything. After two hours, I realize that some have understood nothing. Stop being shy and feeling like the weight of the world is on you. Ask as many questions as you need until you understand what the seminar is all about. Remember - when you're sitting at home with your textbook and preparing for the exams, you'll need to be able to figure out everything on your own.

Daniela Seidler, Biochemistry professor at the University of Münster (via Zeit.de)

Questions promote learning

Throughout history, teachers have realized the value of questioning, and it's at the center of most pedagogical approaches. You may not have lots of opportunities to ask questions during your lecturers, but your professors will always give you chances to ask for clarification. Raising your hand at the end of the session, or stopping the professor on the way out of class may provide valuable insight that you missed during the lecture. You can also stop office hours to chat and get a better understanding of the material. Without this clarification, it's unlikely you'll get the most out of your course, and it's crucial to take advantage of every opportunity you're given.