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BBC 6 minute English-Asking the right questions

BBC 6 minute English-Asking the right questions

BBC 6 minute English-Asking the right questions


Transcript of the podcast

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil

Alice: … and I’m Alice. Now Neil, I’m a big fan of chat shows, as you know. But what do you think makes a good interview

Neil: I like it when the interviewer asks a question that catches the guest off guard. You know – to surprise them so they’re embarrassed and don’t know what to say

Alice: That’s not very nice

Neil: I know. But it’s great TV. That’s what chat shows are all about, isn’t it

Alice: Well, I don’t agree, Neil! A chat show, by the way, is a TV or radio programme where a host – the person who presents the show – talks to guest celebrities about various topics. And what makes a good interview is the subject of today’s show

Neil: So what’s a good interview technique, Alice

Alice: Well, asking open questions – questions the celebrities can’t easily respond to with a short answer. Open questions give them the chance to talk and possibly reveal some juicy details about themselves

Neil: Juicy details means information you find interesting because it’s exciting or shocking

Alice: Yes. So let’s test your interviewing skills, Neil. Ask me something – see if you can get some juicy details

Neil: OK… Hmm… How much do you weigh

Alice: How much do I weigh

Neil: Yeah

Alice: How much do you weigh? Look, that’s a closed question – you’re going to get a short answer and no juicy details! And more importantly, Neil, it’s a rude question

Neil: OK – bad choice. Sorry. But your reaction was juicy – you got pretty hot under the collar – and that means embarrassed or angry! I’ll try to think of a better question to ask you before the end of the show

Alice: Alright then. Now, since you aren’t good at asking questions, perhaps you can answer one instead. Who developed a method of questioning around two and a half thousand years ago that aims to discover hidden truths? Was it

a) Hippocrates

b) Socrates? Or

c) Aristotle

Neil: Well, I don’t know much about ancient history so I’m going to guess c) Aristotle

Alice: Well, we’ll find out if you picked the right answer later on – but now let’s listen to Larry King talking about the secret of his successful career as a TV chat show host. Can you spot a word that means to get or produce

INSERT Larry King, TV chat show host, US

If you ask good questions and you elicit thoughtful answers then you learn more about the person. If the interview’s hard – if I begin by saying, ‘Why did you do that?’ I’d make you defensive. That may be thrilling television, but you don’t learn a lot. I learned that the more I drew back, asked good questions, listened to the answers, cared about the guest … you make the camera disappear

Neil: The word Larry King used is… elicit

Alice: Right. And you elicited a defensive reaction from me when you asked a not very thoughtful question about my weight. Defensive means protecting yourself from criticism or attack

Neil: OK, I wouldn’t make a good chat show host then

Alice: You’re right there. So good interviewers draw back – or move away – from being the centre of attention. They’re good listeners and care about their guests. Sound familiar

Neil: Are you suggesting that you’re a good interviewer

Alice: Yup

Neil: OK, well, so why aren’t you a top chat show host, hmm? What does Larry mean when he says you have to make the camera disappear

Alice: It means to make the conversation real – as if you were chatting with a friend – rather than performing to a TV audience. But let’s hear more from Larry King on the secret of his success

INSERT Larry King, TV chat show host, US

I don’t want a ‘no’. I don’t want a ‘yes’. I want a ‘why’. So in other words, I want to be a little kind of dumb. My friend Herbie said the secret of my success is being dumb. What do you mean by that

Neil: So you have to ask dumb – or stupid – questions to make a great chat show host! I knew it

Alice: Maybe there’s hope for you yet, Neil

Neil: Charming

Alice: Lovely. OK, here’s the answer to today’s quiz question. I asked: Who developed a method of questioning around two and a half thousand years ago that aims to discover hidden truths? Was it

a) Hippocrates

b) Socrates? Or

c) Aristotle

Neil: And I said c) Aristotle

Alice: No, it was b) Socrates. All three were famous Greek philosophers but Socrates was the one who angered lots of important people by his probing – or investigative – questions – and this technique is called Socratic Dialogue. Socrates lived from 469 to 399 BC and he influenced philosophy so much that all previous thinkers have come to be known as Pre-Socratic. Despite this he declared All I know is that I know nothing

Neil: Very noble. OK, a final question for you, Alice. What makes you happy

Alice: Working with such a fantastic co-presenter, Neil

Neil: That’s nice! I’m embarrassed now

Alice: Can you tell us the words we heard today

Neil: Of course

catch somebody off guard chat show host open questions juicy details closed question hot under the collar elicit defensive draw back make the camera disappear dumb probing

Alice: Well, that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute English. Please join us again soon

Neil: Yes, do indeed

Both: Bye

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