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Friday, March 10, 2017

EwR Commentary - PART I: How to Say Something in Reverse (Q&A versus A&Q)

Answer and Question (A&Q) Method
compared to traditional
Question and Answer (Q&A) Method

The idea that almost any statement that a person makes, is really just a question in reverse, will probably make some of you squint your eyes with confusion.  Consider the following hypothesis.  "When reversed, a question is an answer, and an answer is a question."  Let us look at this assumption a little further and (1) determine what the relationship is between a statement and a question, (2) understand why it is important to know how to construct a question, and finally (3) appreciate how this hypothesis can help non-native learners of English improve their second language skills.

First off, there is a direct relationship between a statement and a question.  The general assumption is that a teacher's question is followed by a student's answer.  The typical learning strategy that educators use in order to teach students new skills and subjects is equally applied to second language learning as well.  This is the traditional Question and Answer (Q&A) approachLet us look at the following example.

Question:  Do you think it's important to study English in today's world?
Answer:   Yes, I think it's important to study English in today's world.

This is an example of a "yes-no question".  The answer begins with an affirmative or negative response, and continues with the detailed wording used in the question.  This is the recommended approach for second language learners in order to check comprehension and understanding of correct grammar.

Many different types of questions exist besides the "yes or no" question.  Others include Wh- questions (e.g., what, where, why, who, whose, when, which); positive and negative tag questions (e.g., is he?, isn't she?, do they?, don't you?, should we?, shouldn't they?, can it?, can't she?); choice questions (e.g., A or B?, black or white?, hot or cold?); hypothetical questions (e.g., What would you do if...?, Would order to...?; If you had..., what would you...?); indirect reported speech questions (e.g., Do you know him?, Where were you?, Are you going?); indirect polite questions (e.g., Can you please help me?, Do you mind if I smoke?, May I use your pen please?); and leading questions that give you an answer that you are looking for (e.g., What do you think of this song?, Were you in Rome last year?, Was it hot?).

The most common way that a second language student learns how to communicate is by answering someone else's questions.  This leaves out an important factor in second language conversation skills - the ability to be an active participant and ask questions.  This is the new recommended Answer and Question (A&Q) approach.  A non-native English speaker's success during a second language conversation depends on knowing how to use and master this method.

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