ABSTRACT In the second language class, interactions between teachers and students serve as the focal point for learning how to use the language. After the teacher asks a question, students mentally process their answers. They hear the question, decipher its sounds and figure out its meaning and begin to form an answer. How long does it take to answer a question? How long should a teacher wait for an answer? Does it take longer to answer a question in the target language than in English? These are some of the questions that this study investigates.
This article reports the results of a descriptive study of wait-time–the pause for thinking after questions and answers–in selected first-year high school Spanish and French classes. Over 7500 classroom events were recorded and coded in order to measure and find the variance in time of3270 instances of post-solicitation and post-response wait-time. The average durationofwait-time was 1.91 seconds (S.D. = 1.64) after questions; wait-time averaged 0.73 seconds (S.D. = 0.63) after responses. Post-response wait-time in all cases was short and of limited variance, indicating very little time for revision of thought in reaction to responses. Wait-time was significantly longer after questions in the native language.