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Friday, March 24, 2017

EwR Commentary - PART II: 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.

In the second place, it is important for second language learners of English to understand and know how to construct a question.  Let us start with a very basic example.  Consider the question, "Where are you from?An answer might be, "I'm from Seattle, Washington in the United States."  Most second language students are accustomed to learning in this way.  The teacher asks a question, and the student gives them an answer.  This is okay in an academic setting, but it is not going to help the student understand the process of constructing a question.  Instead, the student will only discover the system used in order to answer a question.

The problem with the aforementioned learning strategy is that the second language learner does not master how to be an active participant in a conversation; rather they become a passive player.  The non-native speaker can only wait for someone to ask them a question so that they can respond accordingly.  This is their participation in an unrealistic conversation.

Hence, it is important for second language learners of English to understand and know how to construct a question so that they can do the following during a conversation - start a talk with someone; change topics; clarify their understanding of what was said; confirm information; discover other people's thoughts, ideas and opinions; and obtain information.  This will give the non-native student a real opportunity to be an active participant in an oral exchange with someone elseIt is a realistic learning approach for a second language learner of English who wants to be able to manage their own speaking skills.  For this reason the new recommended Answer and Question (A&Q) approach is the preferred and suggested learning strategy for second language learners.  Let us look at the following example in order to understand how this new learning method works.

A constructive exercise for a teacher to use is to begin with a statement and have the student ask the related question.  For example, the teacher might say one of the following two statements to the student.

"Ask me where I am from." 

"If I reply, 'I'm from Seattle, Washington in the United States.', what question am I answering?"

The student would respond with the question, "Where are you from?"  In this example, the student learns how to construct a question to an already given answer or statementThis is the new A&Q strategy where the answer comes before the question.  The second language student learns how to say something in reverse.

The teacher role models the question in reverse so that the student has the opportunity to learn how to ask a question.  This helps the student gain confidence so that they openly participate in a future conversation without hesitation.