IELTS: Notes for fluent speaking

21st January 2022

Happy International Friends Talking In City Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty  Free Image. Image 121618273.
Royalty – free image. Copyright: lev dolgachov

My IELTS students have some speaking tests coming up, so I’d like to boost their confidence by giving them a speaking exercise. I shall choose topics they feel confident with, namely pets, and shopping.

Firstly, a reminder of what you need to do in order to pass with flying colours.

An introduction to the question

Use complex sentences and relative clauses

Use an idiom or two

Use L-FWs (replace basic words with ‘better’ ones e.g. use ‘ubiquitous‘ instead of ‘everywhere’ ‘tedious‘ instead of ‘boring’)

Check your pronunciation and intonation.

Now, without further ado, the questions:

Do you have any pets ?

Do you like shopping ?

What is your favourite possession and why ?

500+ Dog Playing Pictures [HD] | Download Free Images on Unsplash
Image from unsplash.com

Let’s start with pets (I know one of my students has three cats).

Introduction

Do you like all animals, some or only one type ?

Are you allowed to keep pets where you live ?

Talking points

What are the names of the animals ?

How old are they ?

What do they look like ?

What are their personalities ? (You now have an opportunity to use great adjectives)

Where did you get them ?

Who looks after them ?

Do you have any funny stories about they did ? How do they make you feel ?

Idioms: burning the candle at both ends (Playing with my pets helps me unwind after I’ve been burning the candle at both ends with work and study.)

Moving on to shopping, so much to talk about …

Shopping Images | Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD
freepik

Introduction

What do you feel about shopping ?

Is shopping something you dread doing, or is it fun, or even an obsession ? Are you a shopaholic ?

What stops you from shopping ? (Lack of money, or safety concerns now during the pandemic ?)

Talking points

Tell me about the types of shops and shopping areas (street markets, small independent stores, chain shops, malls).

What do you like buying most ?

With whom do you go ?

What else do you do at a mall ?

Do you have a funny story about buying something, or having to return an item ?

What do you think of online shopping ? What is good and bad about it ?

Is internet shopping becoming more popular in Vietnam (your country) ? Why do you think so ?

Idioms: costs an arm and a leg (I really enjoy going to Diamond Plaza and just looking at the beautiful designer dresses. However, as a student, I can’t afford one because they cost an arm and a leg.)

Sample answer

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus 10th Generation 8" Tablet 32GB Slate B0839NDRB2 -  Best Buy
A Kindle Fire ebook and tablet

My Kindle

One of my favourite electronic devices is my Kindle, an ebook reader, which is small and light. I always take it with me when I travel; I’d be lost without it.

The Kindle is primarily a way to buy, store and read books in electronic format. At first, I wasn’t convinced, I liked reading real books. However, books take up a lot of space and, at least in the UK, are rather expensive. When I saw what a Kindle can do, and that so many books are free, I was hooked ! I had to get one. I bought my device in 2014 and I’m still using it today.

As mentioned, I use my Kindle for reading. Literature and poetry is one of my passions. Instead of going to a shop, I just browse the online store, click and wait for it to download. With reasonable wifi, this can just take a minute or so … then I can start reading. It is no surprise that ebooks are ubiquitous in the UK.

Although I read a lot, the Kindle is more than just an ebook. It has wifi so I can access the internet, play music, write notes and play games.

The wifi is vital, especially when I travel. I can maintain contact with friends and family, watch YouTube if the hotel TV is less than enthralling, or read travel guides such as Trip Advisor. Naturally, I can also book tickets or make reservations and therefore pay significantly less.

I recently travelled to Thailand to meet some friends. I didn’t want to buy a new SIM card, and my friend only had an old phone, so there was a dilemma; how to stay in touch ? Thanks to my Kindle, I had email access, so we could plan when and where to meet. 

I can’t watch Vietnamese TV, due to the language barrier. Consequently, the Kindle plays an even bigger part of my life, as I need some way to relax after burning the candle at both ends.

The choice of books is amazing. In the stores, a single book can cost around £10, but recently I downloaded the entire output of the Russian writer Tolstoy for less than £1.50 … incredible !

Kindles come in many shapes and sizes, so before you buy, you need to ascertain how you’ll be using it. For example, do you want a basic ebook reader, just for books, or the latest model with wifi ? This will, naturally, affect the cost. Then you have to decide upon the extras, for example how much storage space do you require, or a super-fast charger or protective case ? All of these bump the price up considerably.

If you’re interested in purchasing one, I have some information for you. I did a quick Google search and saw prices started at under 2 million VND, averaged around 5 million, but some were over 15 million. That, for me, is too extravagant.

In conclusion, my Kindle is very much a part of my life. It accompanies me everywhere. I simply don’t know what I would do without it.

A UK expression meaning good luck

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Butterfly Decal ‘Morning Lotus’

16th January 2022

A demo version of the song ‘Morning Lotus’ by the band Butterfly Decal.

The track, as you can tell, is a home recording using an iPhone only, so that explains the background noise and hissing.

The film is from a trip to Udon Thani, in beautiful Thailand.

If you know anyone you think may like the song, please share the link. I know the band will be extremely grateful.

Thank you for viewing this blog

So what is Math Rock ?

16th January 2022

Covers of some essential Math Rock releases

I recently had some friends ask what I meant by Math Rock, and I must admit it is a type of guitar music about which I am still learning.

A very brief summary is that Math Rock is a sub-genre that emerged from the Hardcore scene of the mid 1980s. Some bands moved away from the distorted loud guitars and steady 4/4 beat of Rock ‘n’ Roll, to incorporate different time signatures and tempos, stopping and starting songs mid-way through, or changing the rhythm entirely. I also notice that a lot of bands use similar chords as Jazz musicians.

The term Math Rock was coined due to the musicians having to count the beat, for example,

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1, 2, 3, 4 …” etc

Instead of the conventional,

“1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 …”

However, as the adage states, ‘show, don’t tell,’ so here are but a few examples.

To kick off, a band I did know, Slint, formed in Kentucky, USA in the late 1980s. This track, ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ is from their seminal second album, ‘Spiderland’ (1991).

In the same year, Don Caballero were formed, in Pittsburg, USA, and are purely instrumental. Their third album, ‘What Burns Never Returns’ (1998) is highly regarded, and I’ve chosen one track from that LP.

At the end of the 1990s, a band from Illinois called American Football formed, released a self-titled debut album, then split up. This song, ‘Never meant’ is much praised among fans.

Now let’s move over to my neck of the woods, Asia, because Math Rock is global.

Tricot is a band that I mentioned in an IELTS blog. They were formed in Kyoto back in 2010, and have so far released six LPs including ‘Jodeki’ from December 2021. This video is for the song ‘Setsuyakuka’. They play music with stronger lead lines, pop-music hooks, and make a perfect introduction to Math Rock.

Also from Japan are Paranoid Void. The following video is a track from their LP ‘Literary Math’ (2017). This album may require a few plays to be fully appreciated. A lot of reviewers feel it lacks a certain punch, but try it for that laid-back feel, or if you need to study.

The video also show the guitarist’s pedal board, a collection of effects to create different guitar sounds.

Finally, let’s go to Taiwan and listen to ‘Elephant Gym’, a band blending bass lead lines and irregular, angular guitars. This is a live video and you can see how the bassist uses a technique called tapping, sometimes playing the strings on the neck of her bass with her right hand.

For more information, just look online … there are countless YouTube videos, websites and blog pages. One person has even posted a flow chart of bands, though this will be very daunting for new listeners. https://www.reddit.com/r/Emo/comments/9rx5ps/ive_created_a_large_flowchart_of_math_rock_and/

Brisbane's Hanoi Traffic create chaotic math rock with debut EP, 'kids with  no style' — The Point Music News
A Complete Guide to Japanese Math Rock | Tokyo Weekender
Math Rock Band Wife Biscuit Release EP and Live Video [Malaysia] - Unite  Asia

Be sure to let me know what you think. Are you in a Math Rock band, or are you interested in starting one ? Or is it simply not your cup of tea ? Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

Happy Year of the Tiger

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Some light relief

15th January 2022

For a break from conjugating verbs (yes, I make my class recite verbs, the old-fashioned way and guess what – it works, go figure), here are some clips to chase away the grammar Blues.

Firstly, who doesn’t love a funny animal ?

How about some not so friendly animals ? One of my Top Cat students loves pandas and was adamant that they were always cute and cuddly and safe. I hated to break it to her, but the truth will out …

Occasionally a student will deliberately disobey a teacher. Recently, I reiterated some information about preventing COVID, namely not touching eyes, nose and mouth. No sooner said than a young man began ostentatiously inserting his fingers into his nostrils. What could I say ? I thought of a famous political phrase from former President Barack Obama:

You need only watch the first seven or eight seconds. You probably will watch it again, seven or eight times (unless you are the person to whom former President Obama referred).

To end on a happier note, look what you can do if you practice:

Yoyoka from Japan
A 6-year old Chinese girl – I wish i could play half as well.

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Famous Shakespeare Quotes

14th January 2022

Image result for shakespeare

Match the quote to the play

To be or not to be

Now is the winter of our discontent

A plague on both your houses

Lord, what fools these mortals be !

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears

Richard III // Romeo and Juliet // Julius Caesar // A Midsummers’ Night Dream // Hamlet

Watch an excerpt from a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe in London

Image result for globe theatre

This is the funeral scene from ‘Romeo and Juliet’

How much can you understand ?

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Mini-lesson review

11th January 2022

Tricot | Wiki | Asian Music Amino

The photo shows Tricot who are a Japanese rock band. The band, who sing in Japanese, are very talented. I would love to see them. Furthermore, I really wish to visit Japan although hotels in Tokyo cost an arm and a leg.

Let’s review the idioms and vocabulary covered in our first lessons. Let’s kick off with:

Basic idioms:

it’s raining cats and dogs

it costs an arm and a leg

piece of cake

I’m burning the candle at both ends

once in a blue moon

pass with flying colours

turn over a new leaf

put your nose to the grindstone

IELTS - Tôi tự học!: [IDIOMS] : " It's raining cats and dogs"

Let’s put it to the test – what idioms would you use ?

It’s no problem at all, it’s a __________

She needs to get a high score, I want her to ______

I must be more serious about learning piano. I have to _______

The iPhone X is very expensive, it _______

You need to stop going out every night and missing school. You need to _____________

She dances all day, then sings all night; she’s _________________

Bring an umbrella if you go to the UK, it’s always ____________

Ms Anna simply adores Chanel perfume however, because it _____________ , she only wears it __________________________________.

Relative Pronouns

Happy African Girl Studying In... - Stock Photos | Motion Array

This lady, who wants to work in London, is studying hard for her IELTS.

who for people:

This is the man who helped me to learn German. 

which for things:

We tried fish and chips which is delicious.

where for places:

Let’s go to the shop where we saw the great bargains.

Whose possessive:

That’s Tricot, the band whose record we heard last night.

TRICOT discography and reviews

Endgame

Can you remember, what word means ‘everywhere’ ?

Can you give me an example ?

Instead of saying, “I think,” you could say … ?

Again, please give me an example.

The Talmud: Why has a Jewish law book become so popular? - BBC News

Middle Age Arabic Couple, Woman And Man Serious Face Thinking About  Question, Very Confused Idea Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image.  Image 104957805.

Answers

Ubiquitous:

In Sai Gon, which is the largest city in Viet Nam, coffee shops are ubiquitous.

Motorbikes are ubiquitous in Viet Nam.

Fast food shops are ubiquitous in the USA.

In my opinion

In my opinion, learning English is incredibly important.

Sai Gon, in my opinion, is the best city in Viet Nam.

In my opinion Tricot are absolutely amazing.

10 Useful Ways to Say Goodbye in Japanese | FluentU Japanese
Goodbye, see you next class

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Introducing: Butterfly Decal Ambient Blues, Jazzy Jingle-Jangle

7th January 2022

Monet’s painting of his garden at Giverny

I recently discovered this band serendipitously on YouTube, but I know very little about them.

The clip ‘Waterlilies’ I believe is from a future project, based on Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures From An Exhibition’. The video text states that this is merely a demo, and implies that a new video will uploaded at some point.

You may recognise elements of minimalism, shoegaze, ambient and even math rock. I think I can even hear a faint tambourine half-way through the track.

See what you think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy5VPZpUGIw&t=5s&ab_channel=Chadav

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

2022 – The Year of the Grammar. Back to Basics

5th January 2021

Basic grammar is a continual problem with my online classes, that and the stubborn reluctance [contumacy for those who like to learn new words] to write down new words, or to learn from their mistakes.

Basic grammar is basically lacking.

Many older student will, I am sure, have traumatic memories of conjugating verbs endlessly, without ever applying them in real-life situations. Hence, I propose a synthesis; drilling of verb ending, and then applying them in simple sentences.

Enough preamble, let’s go to work !

Let's go to work.

The verb ‘to be’

Only teach constructions in upper level classes

I am // I’m

you are // you’re

he is // he’s

she is // she’s

it is // it’s

Mr John is // Mr John’s

we are // we’re

they are // they’re

Have students repeat until their grammar is perfect. Make games, see who can conjugate the verbs clearest and quickest.

Now … practice:

First let’s use an adjective:

happy / sad / lucky / hard-working / lazy

Let’s start with the adjective ‘happy’

I am happy // I’m happy

you are happy // you’re _______

he _____ \

she ______ \

it _______\

Mr John ______ \

we ____ \

they ______

Secondly, let’s use a continuous verb (verb + ing)

reading / playing / swimming / watching TV / eating

I am reading

you ___ _______

he __ _________

she __ _______

It __ _______

Mr John __ _____

we __ ______

they __ ________

The verb ‘to have’

I have

you have

he has

she has

it has

Ms Jane has

we have

they have

Now … practice:

Let’s use some common nouns

Watch Twin Sisters Online | Vimeo On Demand on Vimeo

sister (or twin sister) / piano / dog / iPad / new book

I have a ____

you ____ ______

he ___ _________

she ___ _______

Ms Jane ____ _______

we ____ ______

they ____ _______

OK, Snoopy, enough is enough … but we have just started. More blogs to follow.

Happy 2022, the Year of the Grammar

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Paul Ritter: R.I.P.

2nd January 2022

Paul Ritter, 'James Bond' and 'Harry Potter' Actor, Dies at 54

Living overseas, I sometimes miss news from the UK, one such example being the passing of British actor Paul Ritter back in April of 2021.

People in the UK will know him from the sitcom ‘Friday Night Dinner’ which ran for six series starting in 2011.

Friday Night Dinner creator calls Paul Ritter 'greatest actor' in touching  tribute | JOE.co.uk
‘Friday Night Dinner’, a sitcom on Channel 4 in the UK

International viewers may recognise him from the HBO miniseries ‘Chernobyl’ from 2019.

‘Chernobyl’ miniseries on HBO

Mr Ritter also appeared in the 2008 Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’ and a film in the Harry Potter franchise, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ from 2009.

Paul also performed in Shakespeare demonstrating his versatility, from comedy to drama, excelling in both.

I was very sad to hear of his death, and I’m not alone. Apparently some fans posted how they were in tears watching the sitcom after he died.

Tasmin Greig, his co-star in ‘Friday Night Dinner’, wrote “We all miss him terribly, an incredible actor, a true friend and a lovely human being.”

Actor Paul Ritter has died at the age of 54 | WhatsOnStage

Paul Ritter 20th December 1966 – 5th April 2021

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Alice Sara Ott ‘Nightfall’: French piano music

30th December 2021

One of the joys of the past few years has been discovering the work of Ms Alice Sara Ott, a pianist born in 1988 of a German father and Japanese mother.

I have introduced her to some professional musicians of my acquaintance, including pianists, and they unanimously praise her playing, her tone and sensitivity.

Alice Sara Ott's Deeply Considered Approach to a Concept Wigmore Hall  Recital – Seen and Heard International
Alice Sara Ott: Wonderland CD review – Grieg recital lacks magic |  Classical music | The Guardian

Ms Ott, who has been recording since 2009, interprets some quintessential French classics of the late C19th and early C20th on the 2018 CD ‘Nightfall’. Debussy, Ravel & Satie are all represented.

I’d like to share this promotion film, shot in Paris, to accompany the Erik Satie piece ‘Gnossiennes No 1: Lent’:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUFxAxTZJZg&list=RDqUFxAxTZJZg&start_radio=1&ab_channel=DeutscheGrammophon-DG

A Happy New Year to you all

CSO Sounds & Stories » Pianist Alice Sara Ott 'still in the process of  discovering'

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.