General Notes about my English lessons and life in Viet Nam.
Author: Thay Paul's notes
London-born English teacher, now living and working in Sai Gon / HCM City, Viet Nam.
I want to use this site to post lesson notes, extra work, helpful links as well as general notes about my time in SE Asia and Viet Nam. I also want to give real classroom experiences and how to deal with real classes of noisy, unmotivated and resistant students.
The sky is grey, the prices are astronomical, people are loving Brexit, people are hating Brexit, people are predicting a boom, people are prophesying doom … and it is cold. It is very, very cold.
The view of east London, near the Olympic Stadium:
I arrived late Thursday 13th and spent most of the next day meeting my brother’s friend in his local (the nearest pub). At ‘Happy Hour’ a pint of Guinness was £3.50. Otherwise, it is a fiver (£5, that’s $6.50).
Sunday, I took the new express train from Stratford International 75 miles to Canterbury West (£35 single / $44), to meet up with some old friends, Carole and Pete. Carole met me, then we drove to a small cottage on the sea, at a place called Whitstable, famous for its oysters.
Next day, we met Pete at Broadstairs (see next blog), but back in Whitstable, we had the traditional fish and chips:
For my Vietnamese students, the above (three fish and chips and three mugs of tea) was about one million VND. I told you UK was expensive and this wasn’t even London ! However, in the UK one is never far from an Indian, Chinese or Asian restaurant. For example, in Broadstairs I saw:
Next Wednesday I’ll be back in Bangkok, so I can try the real McCoy (the real thing).
What is the problem with trains and going up gradients ?
What do they struggle to do ?
What are the scientific reasons for this ?
What was the problem with James May speaking ?
James normally speaks quite clearly, but there were problems. This was due, I feel, to the speed and the amount of language. Look at this conversation analysis: (0. 10 – 0.42):
And now, ‘Why can’t trains go uphills ?’ Well, the smarter ones amongst you will have recognised already, especially if you’re a qualified railway engineer, this is a bit of a trick question because of course, train can go uphills … they’re just not very good at it.
If you think about the topography of most of the world, this is clearly a bit of a problem. Human being can … albeit rather sweatily, motivate themselves up a gradient of around eighty degrees, or one in a quarter.
Listen again– hear how James:
uses expressions (bit of a)
adds addition information / commentary in supporting clauses.
Creative use of adverbs – sweatilyshows how many words can be made adverbs
Think – does James need to add the clauses ? What is the purpose ? Consider the medium (TV, internet, blog etc) and the target audience.
James is speaking to a fluent, English-speaking audience, probably native speakers, or people who have lived in the UK for a long time. Therefore, they will be more used to this natural way of speaking.
This is why I recommend student put their text books down and read real English books, watch English-speaking films and TV shows and sing English songs. It really helps.
He does make allowances for non-British audiences by showing two fifty-pence coins, but his language isn’t downgraded.
Intonation – SO important to assist in conveying meaning.
Many interviews have similar questions. Read the following and then role-play with a partner. Feel free to add your own information, or make up something new.
What experience do you have ? // What do you know about the company ? // Have you ever had to work to a deadline ?
Tell me about yourself
I was born in …. and I graduated from …. University in 2014 with a major in Business Administration. Since then I’ve had two year’s experience in administrative work at ABC and XYZ Corporation.
I’m a very organised person, well-balanced and efficient. I’m hard-working and dedicated.
In my free time, I like to travel and I love to paint. Furthermore, I enjoy going out having coffee with friends.
What do you know about (COMPANY) ?
XXX are an established company with a good reputation. They help …….. and there are over (xx) sites in VN (or your country).
What are your strengths ?
I feel I am easy-going, hard-working, careful and diligent. I think my greatest strength is my positive outlook, even during times of stress. I can work under pressure and I really enjoy a challenge. Lastly, I like working in a team.
What are your weaknesses ?
Well, my English isn’t perfect, so this will be a great chance to improve. Maybe I can be a little quiet sometimes; that’s why working as part of a team will help bring me out.
Can you give an example of when you had to deal with an angry customer ?
One time, a customer didn’t like the price of a visa, and he began shouting and getting angry. I asked him if I could explain the reason. I then told him how it wasn’t our fault, but that I understood his anger and said sorry. Then I told him he could check elsewhere, but we would still be happy to serve him. He calmed down, said sorry to me and bought the visa and was happy.
Where do you see yourself in two years ?
My short-terms goals are to work hard and efficiently, so I can master this job. However, in the long-term, I would be interested in possibly doing more courses so I could be a manager.
What can you bring to the job ?
I’m very friendly and enjoy working with people. I always try to be happy at work and share my positive outlook. I’m very motivated and open to learning. I’m very excited about being a part of this great company.
Do you have any questions ?
May I just ask, what career opportunities are there at XXX ?
It is not a good idea to ask immediately about salary, money and bonuses, although this is an important part of the interview process.
Word bomb– what do you think of when I say ‘hotel’ ?
Checking in to a hotel
reception / lift or elevator / single or double room / king size bed or twins /
first floor / complimentary breakfast / key deposit / luggage storage / safe / mini bar
What would the conversation be ?
Reception: How may I help you / May I ask your name ? / Can I see your reservation code ? / That’s fine. You stay for three nights ? / May I have your passport, please ? / You’re in room 237. That’s on the second floor / Thank you. Sign here, please / Yes, the lift is just over there. / Naturally, as well as a hair dryer, coffee machine and mini bar. / Enjoy your stay.
Guest: Hello, we have a reservation / We booked a room online / My name’s ….. / Certainly, it’s on my phone. / Yes, that’s right. / Absolutely. / Correct. / Just a second; here you are./ Is there a lift ? / The second floor ? / Is there a safe in the room ? / Perfect. Thanks very much
Make a conversation. One student will be the reception, the other(s) a guest or guests.
Write your own conversation
You are in a hotel bar and you meet another guest. Start a polite conversation, but you have to use your English.
Greet each other
Why are you in this city ? (holiday or on business)
Offer to buy a drink (accept or decline – maybe you don’t drink alcohol)
How long are they staying ? What do they think of the hotel ? What can they do in the area around the hotel ?
Small group work
You are two married couples who meet on a tour and are staying at the same hotel OR you are on a business trip and meet some other business people.
Use the following sentences, as well as your own, to make a conversation. try to keep speaking for as long as possible by using small talk techniques (oh, really / that’s interesting / tell me more / what do you do exactly ? / where is that ? / Sounds interesting)
My wife and I are delighted to meet you
Shall we go to the bar or cafe ?
Can offer name first (I’m Simon, what’s your name ?)
Would you fancy a drink … ?
Is there anywhere special to do here ?
Sorry, I have to get my head down, it’s been a long flight (I need to sleep).
My colleague and I were going out to eat.
I fancy a beer or something alcoholic
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask where you are from.
Would you like to join us ?
Peckish (little hungry)
What do you think of these hotel rooms ?
What do you think of the design ?
Would you like to stay in any of these ? Why, or why not ?
As drunk as a ….. // As dead as a ….. // As brave as a ……
As free as a ….. // As gentle as a …… // As quiet as a ……
Make sentences with these words or expressions:
In a class, write out the words on paper and distribute to the students, either individually or in groups. Give them a time limit and award points for each word used, plus bonuses for interesting or creative sentences.
spectacular / visually stunning / you get what you pay for / mouth-watering / a waste of money / significantly / according to / how can I put it ? / Somewhat / incredibly / as good as gold / as drunk as a skunk /
Also known as ‘indirect speech’, reported speech is used to tell what someone has said.
Three Japanese students, Keiko, Rina & Mei are looking at their new university. Keiko, in the black cardigan says:
Keiko: Now I feel as wise as an owl.
However, with all the street noise, Mei didn’t hear so she asks Rina (who wears a pink and white striped top).
Mei: The building is stunning, but what did Keiko say ?
Rina: She said that she felt as wise as an owl.
Rina uses the past tense to tell Mei what Keiko said – she said she felt as wise as an owl.
Look at these:
Susan: “Mary works in an office.” This is Susan speaking directly.
→Susan said (that) Mary worked in an office. This is someone telling what Susan said.
Notice how the verb changes from present to past tense (‘works’ to ‘worked’).
Susan: “I work in an office.”
→Susan said (that) she worked in an office.
Notice how the pronoun changes from first to third person (‘I’ to ‘she’).
Rewrite the sentences using reported speech
1 ‘Ellie can use my phone,’ said my brother.
1 My brother said that Ellie could use his phone.
2 Benjamin: “I often have a big hamburger.”
2 Benjamin said (that) he often has a big hamburger.
(Pronoun changes from ‘I’ to ‘he’). Here Benjamin is talking about an event that happens frequently, so we keep the present tense ‘have’ but change it to the third-person form ‘has’.
3 ‘I don’t want to sit next to Sam,’ said Jenny.
4 Hannah: “They live in Boston.” Again, this is a present tense situation.
5 Tyler: “Ian doesn’t invite girls to his parties.”
6 Linda: “Did Max fly to London two weeks ago?”
7 Robert: “Dennis often downloads the latest tunes.”
Free speaking exercise
There is a work party and the managers want to know which food to serve.
The options are:
vegetarian / Korean / sea-food / western fast-food / traditional German cuisine
Discuss which food to choose. Run through the pros and cons of each one. Also think about entertainment. Use recently acquired vocabulary:
I adore / I really enjoy / I’m into
I don’t mind … I quite like …. I can take it or leave it
I’m not keen on …. It’s not my cup of tea (idiom, means I don’t like it)
I can’t stand (noun or pronoun) ……. (seafood) / I can’t stand it !
Spicy / bland / hard to eat / unhealthy / fatty
not used to it / doesn’t appeal
you can’t please everyone / each to their own / fussy eater