Too often people ask us a lot of questions and some of these may be complicated or not properly structured so we need to repeat back what was asked in order to verify if that is what the person meant. We call this process paraphrasing. The term simply means repeating another person’s ideas in your own understanding but retaining the thought of the statement or question.
Simple as it may seem, not everyone applies paraphrasing in all of their conversations. It is a useful technique to help you unlock the real meaning of the statement or question. Most of the time, we paraphrase statements. But we can also paraphrase questions, although this is not very common in conversations.
The essence of paraphrasing is verification or understanding the thought. Paraphrasing is also a way of showing active and effective listening to the speaker as well. Once you are able to restate the statement or question it only goes to show that you attention was focused to the person talking.
Paraphrasing is not only useful in plain, casual conversations but also in the workplace and even in school. This is best used in a company that does most of its customer interaction through the phone. In school, teachers and instructors benefit a lot from paraphrasing students’ queries.
Essential Properties of Paraphrasing
The process in paraphrasing is very simple. Always remember that there are three important elements contained in a paraphrased question or statement. One is it should have similar meaning or the same thought as the original question. Next, it must elicit the same answer as the original question. Lastly, the paraphrased question must show alternate wordings and order of some words.
Question paraphrases are very similar with statement paraphrases but the difference they make is that statement paraphrases are declarative while paraphrased questions require answers.
Simple Steps in Paraphrasing
In the process of paraphrasing, the structure may be distorted but make sure to keep the thought or meaning. Only paraphrase when there is a need to do so. If the question is simple enough to be understood, there is no need to restate it.
The first step in paraphrasing is to locate the key points or highlighted words in the original question. Focusing on those important words, find synonyms that may replace the original words.
The use of variation in the terms is to refrain from parroting or echoing the question. Consider the verb tenses or any changes in the sentence structure. There are some starting phrases to be added in paraphrasing. Some of these examples are:
“If I heard you correctly, you were asking if…”
“You were asking that…Is that right?”
“As I understand it, you want to know if…. Am I correct?”
“So your question is about…”
If the speaker confirms correctness of the paraphrased question and you start answering, your response should be what the person wants to hear and know. That is one of the ways to check if the original question was appropriately restated or not.
Teaching Students How to Paraphrase Questions
The way to teach students how to paraphrase questions is no different than the steps outlined above. Let the class understand first the concept of paraphrasing, its importance, and how it differs from echoing and parroting.
Use a short story as the basis for practice. Present questions to the class for comprehension drill. Apply the steps mentioned above to the students. Another variation is to focus first on synonyms. Choose a question and pick out an important word or a key point in the question and let the class come up with as many synonyms as they can.
For a more intense practice, let the students create their own questions based from the text and paraphrase it. Check their output from the original question and ask them to answer both questions to see if there is no difference in their responses.
To reiterate, paraphrasing is not just a gauge for our understanding of the statement or question but also a means to show active listening. However, not every statement or every question should be paraphrased all the time. Restating is done especially if the question seems complicated or if there is a need to clarify something from the question given.