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Saturday, April 1, 2017

EwR Commentary - PART III: 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's 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.

Thirdly, an understanding of the hypothesis mentioned in the first paragraph of this article will help non-native learner's of English improve their second language skills.  "When reversed, a question is an answer, and an answer is a question."  Let us look at the two following conversations in order to appreciate what this means exactly.

Consider the following conversation between two people.  Person A opens up the conversation by saying what they think out loud, but they do not have the confidence as a second language speaker to share any more of their thoughts.

Person B who is the native speaker controls the conversation since they ask all of the questions.  The active conversation partner is Person B, whereas Person A is passive.  Hence, the following conversation is an example of a "Questions and Answers (Q&A)" conversation where Person A has to wait for Person B to ask all of the questions.

A is thinkingI heard the weather report on TV this morning, and the weatherman said that it is going to rain tomorrow.  Since the weatherman is always right, I'm sure that it will rain then, but I wish that it wouldn't.

The only thought that A expresses out loud is what they feel about the rain tomorrow.  (Notice how Person B asks all of the questions after that.)

A: I wish that it wouldn't rain tomorrow.

B: Question: How do you know that it's going to rain or not tomorrow?
A: Answer: I heard it on the TV weather report this morning.

B: Question: Do you always believe the weather report?
A: Answer: Yes, I believe them.

B: Question: Do you think the weatherman's predictions are always correct?
A: Answer: In my opinion, they always seem to be right.

Now let us look at a possible second conversation between these two people.  In the following case, the active and passive roles are reversed.  The non-native speaker A has learned how to construct questions and feels confident about conversing with another person.  Therefore, A becomes the active speaker and B is passive in this conversation.  This is an example of an "Answers and Questions (A&Q)" conversation where Person A already has answers in their own mind for the questions that they pose to Person B.

A is thinking:  I heard the weatherman on TV say that it's going to rain tomorrow.  I wish it wouldn't.  But, since the weatherman is always right in my opinion, I am sure that it will rain tomorrow.  I wonder what B thinks about all of this?

A: Answer in mind: It's going to rain tomorrow.
A: Question: Did you know that it's going to rain tomorrow?
B: Answer to question: No, I didn't.

A: Answer in mind: I like to listen to the weather on TV.
A: Question: Do you like to listen to the weather of TV?
B: Answer to question: Yes, sometimes.

A: Answer in mind: I believe the weatherman's predictions.
A: Question: Do you believe the weatherman's predictions?
B: Answer to question: I don't know if I do or not.

A: Answer in mind: In my opinion, the weather predictions are 100% accurate.
A: Question: Do you think that the weather predictions are close to 100% accurate?
B: Answer to question: Maybe sometimes, but I don't think they're right every time.

A: Answer in mind: I wonder why s/he thinks that way.
A: Question: Why do you think that way?
B: Answer to question: I don't know.  I guess I don't give it that much importance. 

Now you can see why it is important for the second language student to not only learn how to answer a question in the old traditional Q&A system, but also to be able to formulate a question from an already existing possible answer in the new recommended A&Q system.  This new approach gives the student practical experience so that they understand how to ask questions in order to be an active participant in a conversation.  It builds their self-esteem, which is necessary for them in order to participate as an active communicator.

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