This level of English is for students who live, or plan to live, in English-speaking countries.
I advise my students to learn Standard English, as that will help them to communicate with other non-native speakers. Clarity in both pronunciation and meaning is paramount (of most importance).
However, that is NOT how everyday people speak in everyday situations. Therefore, here’s a set of examples and new vocabulary that you will need. Furthermore, you will feel more confident, using the language and vernacular of those around you.
phrasal verbs / collocations / idioms / adverbs
fond – to like something.
more than likely = very probably, about 90% sure.
sip – to drink a very little.
rival – competitors
A: Hi, how’s it going with you ?
B: It’s going incredibly well today. I want to celebrate. Fancy a beer ?
A: I’m not so fond of beer, I prefer coffee. How does that sound ?
B: Brilliant ! Highlands or Coffee bean ? Which one ? I can’t make up my mind.
A: Is Highlands far ? They are Vietnamese, a rival to the American company.
B: It’s quite far. We ‘ll have to take a taxi. More than likely it will rain.
A: Let’s get a move on before it rains cats and dogs.
B: Too right ! We’ll have to give up getting a taxi once it rains. Let’s go !
At the coffee shop
A: Watch out! The coffee’s incredibly hot. Just sip it. What are you up to now ?
B: Just texting the office. They seem rather busy.
A: You should take a break. Tell them to just do their best.
B: Hold your horses… there ! Finished. Piece of cake.
A: You want some cake ?
B: No, hahaha. ‘Piece of cake’… means no problem. Having said that …
A: Right ! The cakes look amazingly tasty. Shall we … ?
They buy two gloriously large cakes
A: Let’s dive in ! Wow … I must admit, this is remarkably good. How’s yours ?
B: I think it’s too big for me. Let me try some … oh, blimey, that’s awful !
A: Yes, afterwards, we’ll need to work out.
B: A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips !
A: Do you have a minute ? I’d like to go over something with you.
B: Sure, what’s on your mind ?
A: Which video do you think is better for the students ? We need to inspire them.
B: This one looks good … oh, hold on … the vocabulary is very difficult … good !
NOW … YOUR TURN
Write a short dialogue scene about planning a holiday
We had a number of blogs devoted to idioms, so now it’s time to practice using them as part of your everyday English. Not only will IELTS students earn points, but every student will feel closer to English, and sound more like a REAL native-speaker. You can only learn so much from text books …
So, without further ado, a range of dialogues for you to practice:
Hello, how’s it going ?
Great, thanks. What have you been up to ?
Oh, same old, same old. Nothing new. Are you busy ?
Do you want a hand ? (Dya wanna hand)
That would be wonderful. Can you take over for a moment ?
I’ll be right back. I need to print out some documents.
What shall I get on with ?
I just need you to finish off the progress reports.
Oh, piece of cake ! (pieceacake)
You’re an angel.
Hello, do you have a minute ?
Sure, what do you need ?
Could we have a little chat ?
OK, let’s go to my office. Have a seat. Now, what’s on your mind?
I’d like an increase in our budget. We desperately need a new photocopier.
Unfortunately, those things cost an arm and a leg. What is the exact price ?
I’ll find out and get back to you. We may have some money in our budget.
How’s the new girl ? Are you showing her the ropes?
She seems to be OK but I still need to keep an eye on her. Are we having a meeting later ?
No, it’s been called off.
Ok, back to work. I need to finish off some expense sheets.
Yes, time is money.
See you later.
What were you doing last night ? I tried to call.
I was watching TV. Was it important ?
We were having a party. I wanted you to come.
Your parties are such fun ! What did you do ?
We were all looking online for bargains. Anna bought some great shoes.
She’s always talking about buying shoes.
I was looking at the clothes from London. So stylish.
Did you see the email from the Manager ?
Oh, that old windbag ! He was talking so much.
Yes, even his emails go on forever hahahah.
Did you bring your raincoat ? It was raining all night.
I know – it was raining cats and dogs.
They were thinking about calling off the meeting because of the rain.
Yes, maybe the traffic will be chockablock.
Oh, do you know how to use this Zoom program ?
Yes, it’s very easy. It’s a piece of cake! Have you met Jane’s new boyfriend ?
He seems a real loser. As far as I’m concerned, she can do much better.
What does he do ?
Nothing, the work-shy layabout. I believe he wants her money.
In my experience, guys without jobs are hopeless. A waste of space !
How did she meet him ? She’s such a workaholic ! At the gym ?
Well, not at the gym, he’s no hunk ! It’s obvious to me it won’t last.
I’m convinced it’ll soon be over. She needs a good solid as a rock guy.
We’ve had two previous posts chockablock with idioms. Now, when push comes to shove, can you use them in your everyday English. Remember, those studying for IELTS will get extra points by demonstrating a knowledge of idiomatic language … so pull your finger out and put your nose to the grindstone.
This is an extended dialogue sequence. Practice the idioms and intonation and stress. You may wish to try short sections first, before attempting the whole exercise.
Hello, how’s your day been ?
Oh, so-so. And you ? Did you finish off the reports ?
Yes, more or less.
You better make sure they’re finished. You know what the Director’s like.
I know. If things aren’t done, all hell breaks loose !
Better keep on his good side. What else do you need to do ?
File some invoices, send off some emails and I need to get hold of Anna in HR.
I think she’s off sick today.
That’s a pity. Did you finish the wages ?
Yes, piece of cake ! Now I’m going through all the bank statements for the last quarter.
Not cooking the books I hope. Are we still going out tonight ?
Oh, sorry, I can’t know. Something’s come up.
What ? I thought you wanted to see the film. Johnny Depp’s in it.
I know, but I have to work late. Why don’t you ask the Director ? He’s really into cinema.
I don’t think so !
Why not ? He’s such a charming man.
Well, I beg to differ. He’s an old windbag and he drinks like a fish !
This blog is especially for my internet friend Silk Chatters, as she mentioned this idioms in a note. She has lots of interesting blogs, so have a gander at her page. Here’s a link to one of her blogs:
Following on from yesterday’s blog, I’ve included some more everyday idioms, this time related to work. See how many you’ve come across. To kick off, many of my students are accountants. For that occupation we have:
number-cruncher = a slang term for an accountant
cooking the books = writing false information in accountants – a serious crime
What kind of work is accounting ?
Exciting and adventurous … not really. My students complain that their work is uninteresting, boring and tedious. Idiomatically, we could say:
It’s like watching paint dry
same thing, day in, day out
same old, same old
How do you cope with pressure or cope with stress ?
I will getaway from everything = Do something completely different
I take a breather. I take five (a short break from work)
I like to let off steam by …
Ask each other: what do you do to let off steam ?
Keep an eye on (watch something carefully)
under the table = to give money to someone unofficially
kick the bucket = to die (informal) Did you hear ? Old Tom kicked the bucket.
A spanner in the works = a serious problem
In the right ball park (US) = not correct but close
On the right track (UK) not correct but close
That’s not right but you’re …
I had to pay … to get the paperwork stamped
Can you … on the food while I answer the phone ?
Oh, poor Mr Jones, he … last week
That’s a real problem. It puts a …
Idioms / expressions (money)
money doesn’t grow on trees
time is money
on the money = exactly right
costs an arm and a leg = very expensive.
Don’t stop working ! _________________________________
I can’t stay in a 5 star hotel, it ____________________
Be careful with your clothes, I can’t keep buying new ones _______________________ Yes, she’s always right, always _________________
New idioms / collocations
to get hold of someone = to speak to or meet someone
Hell breaks loose = will be a lot of trouble
to be into something = to like something very much
more or less = not 100% but almost.
I beg to differ = polite way to disagree
In the next blog, we’ll look at how these idioms can be used in everyday conversations
Remember: don’t get caught cooking the books – or you’ll get a massive fine.
a quantum leap (which allowed me to introduce the idea of quantum mechanics into an English class). My centre is a business, so needs to generate revenue which is accomplished by getting as many students as possible. This is especially vital after the enforced lockdown.
However, not all students who enter an IELTS class are IELTS material … but that is another matter. I’ve decided to treat this class, which I really enjoy, as an IELTS class. Therefore, I push them to use language and style employed at that level.
To come to the crux of the matter, I set a relative pronoun test in the aforementioned class. Everyone was able to do the lesson, the theory, linking two or three pieces of information into a longer, single complex sentence. For example:
Mick Jagger is in the Rolling Stones. He was born in London.
Mick Jagger, who was born in London, is in the Rolling Stones.
However, during the free practice session, the students reverted back to simple sentences.
Allow me to elucidate … wherever possible, I avoid working directly from the book, or using handouts (although that would save me about 80% of my dwindling energy). Instead, I look at the book, see what subjects are to be covered, and incorporate them into my blog.
Naturally, this only works with ‘top cat’ students, those who are motivated and willing to work (and I’ve noticed, telling students we will not be using the books boosts moral and energy off the chart).
To return to the case in point; the students can understand the grammar in theory but totally forget it, in practice, and Tuesday’s class afforded ample opportunity to practice. I showed a picture of a young beautiful Asian lady and a young Asian guy … here, see for yourself:
I wanted to the class to be creative, write a backstory for the two characters (the theme of the lesson was relationships), how they know each other, what are their jobs, how they get on together.
The class, which is only small, elected to work together and I was heartened to see Ms X, who normally spends the lesson playing with her phone, taking an active part and volunteering answers.
The upshot was that the beautiful Asian lady was a model, the guy a photographer and both were Japanese. As to be expected, this being a teenage class, someone (you know who you are) said they went to a hotel … but maybe so – in order to do a photo shoot.
From a teaching point of view, I was disappointed that in their speaking, they didn’t apply relative pronouns, enough adjectives or adverbs, all points that will be addressed in the next lesson … and covered in my next blog.
May a say a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who visits my site and scrolls through the posts.
This blogsite, aimed mainly at English-language students, contains lesson plans, listening exercises, video clips and suggestions for improving skills and ability.
With nearly two hundred blogs, the site may be a little hard to use, so I hope this page will explain.
When you click on this site, you will see the most recent post. Scroll down to see other posts. However, the blogs will appear by date, not by level or category.
If you want to find blogs that are aimed at your level, scroll down (go to the very bottom of the page) until you see:
Then a box that says:
Click on the blue arrows and you will see a menu – a list of different classes and subjects.
Adult classes Level 1, 2 and 3
These are lesson plans and extra notes, work and information for students who are over 16. They are based on the text book my centre uses (‘American English File’).
English at a higher level, and specifically aimed at engineers and mechanics. The subject are often science-based, including various video clips for the English terms as well as an opportunity to hear native-English speakers.
Adult Speaking Classes, Levels 1 – 3
My own plans and teaching notes aimed at increasing the students’ skill, as well as affording the chance to use English, construct complex sentences, listen to ‘real-world’ English speakers and be introduced to various types of music. Many blogs are theme-based, focusing on different countries or subjects. The higher level blogs are primarily for my online followers.
Simple lessons for students who have started learning English. Lots of photos and basic grammar, vocabulary and help with speaking in sentences.
Exercises for people who have a good command of English, but want to cultivate their skills especially with regards to business, such as email-writing or interview techniques.
IELTS (4- 5.5 & 5 – 6.5)
Lesson plans for IELTS students, emphasising the requirements and expectations needed in order to pass the test with superb results. Contains extra work not covered in the class. Highly recommended for students who are serious about passing IELTS.
Lesson plans with video links, photos and pictures to introduce young learners to English
Various lesson plans and links, photos and music.
Young Learners Beginners, Levels 1 – 5
Based on the ‘Everybody Up’ text book. Extra work and links to help bring the lesson alive and engaging for students aged 5 – 11.
Lesson notes for students aged 12 – 15. Ideas for class games and activities, video links and suggestions for improving language skills.
Additionally, there are various personal sections, recording various aspects of life in Sai Gon in general and Viet Nam in particular. These are generally written in a more natural style, so students will encounter new words, phrases and expressions.
These sections include posts on food and coffee … I LOVE coffee … accommodation, my holidays and general life here in Asia.
In terms of tone, I have chosen to adopt the attitude of Godard, Truffaut et al when they were writing their ‘Cahier du Cinema’ articles; why waste time writing about bad films, when you can write so much about GREAT films. To avoid any unnecessary argy-bargy or aggro, I try to focus only on the positives. Furthermore, I do NOT mention any schools or centres by name although if any prospective teacher has a question, I will answer in a direct mail.
Following on from the above, I do not post any photos of my current centre as it is private property and I have to respect their wishes. Ok, full disclosure, I did it ONCE and … there was a request that it be removed. Said photo highlighted the reality of teaching in Viet Nam … let’s just say that not all students are attentive, motivated and respectful.
Alternately, you may wish to study up on a particular subject.
At the top of the page you will see ‘Subject Index’
Click and you will see a blog page:
The contents are:
Dialogues: short conversation pieces for natural language practice.
Famous Quotes: used in the lesson: Shakespeare, philosophy, Bible, politics.
Films, TV & Theatre: list of media referenced in the blogs.
Grammar: blogs for all levels.
Games: activities and games for classes of all ages, including student surveys.
Music: list of artists and songs featured in the blog posts.
People: famous people mentioned or included in the lessons.
Photos: interesting photos used in the plans.
Thay Paul Photos: photos of the blog author. Not recommended !
Reading exercises: a very useful resource. Where to find English literature online, but in simple English, specifically for language students.
Sentence building: exercises to help students speak and write more fluently.
Speaking exercises: including grammar practice.
Video Clips: a one-stop list of all videos used in the blogs. Please note, sometimes video are removed from YouTube, or a certain clip will not play in a certain region.
Writing exercises and reading exercises links: a brief collection of useful links for students at a higher level.
So … how does it work, Thay Paul ?
Find a subject that interests you, look at the category and then the date.
Go to Classes and ‘Select category’.
Click on category
When that page appears, scroll down until you find the date.
You may have to click on the ‘older posts’ button to see more posts:
Hey, Thay Paul, can you give me an example ?
Sure can … OK, say, for example, you have an interest in seeing my blog on Apple iPhones. It is on an Adult Class, Level 3, from the 14th November 2019.
Go to Classes
Select Adult Class, Level 3
Scroll down, look down the page until you see 14th November 2019
And … Bob’s your uncle. Oh, sorry, that’s an English expression which means ‘there you are’ or you have finished your job or what you need to do.
So … hope this helped
This is Thay Paul saying … “Good Night … and Good Luck”
I think he could be a … / She seems to be …/ I get the impression that she is … / From his build, I’d say he was a … / Because of her appearance, I feel she must be a …
Personality adjectives (negative – arrogant). These are strong adjectives:
arrogant // self-obsessed // pretentious // obnoxious // full of themselves
Let’s kick off with some basic information about my friend Pete:
Pete’s family are Irish. He was born in Kent, south England. He loves music especially Jazz and he can play saxophone, keyboards, guitar and bass. He is 40 years old. He is bald, and wears glasses. Currently he plays bass in a band called ‘The Deep Six’. They have a video on YouTube. In the photo, Pete is with the famous 60s drummer Kenny Jones. He was in The Small Faces. Later he joined The Who after their original drummer died.
Pete, who was born in Kent in the south of England, is of Irish heritage. Although he is just forty, Pete looks older, probably due to the fact that he is bald, as well as having to wear glasses. His great passion in life is music, especially Jazz, but his interest is not merely passive; he plays several instruments. In addition to saxophone and keyboards, Pete is proficient on guitar. Having said that, he actually plays bass now in a band named The Deep Six, who have a video on YouTube. Pete is seen here with the legendary drummer Kenny Jones whorose to fame in the 60s as drummer for chart-topping band The Small Faces before joining The Who following the death of their original drummer.
Now, a quick practice:
This is Wei Minzhi. She was born near Beijing. She was chosen to be in a Chinese film called ‘Not One Less’. She was 13. She played a substitute teacher but had no experience teaching (and no experience acting). The area is very poor. Some of the children have to leave school to work. The film was shown all over Europe, even at special film festivals. She was famous. She did no more acting. She studied in USA. She lives in Hawaii. Wei is married and has two children.
Small talk responses
A great way to increase conversation and use more natural language is to practise keeping conversations going for as long as possible. Think of it as verbal tennis – keep ‘hitting’ questions and responses at each other.
What do you do ?
I’m a student ?
Really ? Where do you study ?
That’s interesting. What branch (what area) of engineering ? Mechanical, electrical ?
And this be continued – where does the person study, does the student like the course, the university, the teachers, the fellow students etc.
Really ? // I see // Are you ? // Right // That’s interesting // That’s a good point // Where is that exactly ? // Oh, me too // Do you enjoy it ? // Do you like it there ?
Now was a chance for some new vocabulary, words and phrases associated with holidays and travel.
Now is the perfect time to visit London, England’s glorious capital. The weather is perfect for walking, so you can enjoy the lush parks, world-famous museums and incredible, unbelievable shops. There is something for everyone … and more ! Like sports ? Go to one of the many Premier League football games. Love shopping ? Everything is here – shop till you drop ! Adore culture – soak up hundreds of years of history.
NOTE – the use of adjectives to really bring the presentation alive and make it exciting.
Flights from TSN airport daily. Seven-day all-inclusive package tour starting from only 50m VND ! All transfers and transport included. Air-conditioned mini bus with Vietnamese-speaking guide.
Students are put into small groups and take turns speaking. The topic shall be travel, and the students have to use the following:
amazing / attachment / incredibly / predict / first impressions / you’ve come to the right place
With all speaking exercises, it helps if the teacher or a top student models first, so that all the students understand what they have to do. I shall use the same words but my theme shall be food:
On Saturday, I was out shopping and I felt very hungry. I went into a restaurant and my first impression was not encouraging. It looked a bit dirty and I predicted that the food wouldn’t be very exciting. However, they had an interesting menu with vegetarian options, which was amazing ! I ordered some pho and salad and it was incredibly delicious. I thought to myself I’ve come to the right place. I took some photos so I’ll send them to you by attachment on my next email.
Travel – hotel recommendation
I’m planning a trip to Nha Trang (a beach town in South Vietnam, about an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City). I have two hotels in mind, but I need advise from some Vietnamese. They also have to use as many of these words as possible:
visually stunning / mouth-watering / you get what you pay for / spectacular / a waste of money / significantly / somewhat / according to / how can I put it ?
Students must tell me about the hotels, the area, the food and which one they would choose for me:
Victory Hotel 2* Rooms not very clean, no view. No complimentary breakfast.
Sandy Bay Hotel 4* Much more expensive, although it has breakfast buffet, and room has a balcony with view of the sea.
Trip Advisor recommends Sandy Bay, but they said Victory was dirty and very over-priced.
Local food is great
WILF (What I’m looking for): can the students describe the scenery and food ? Can they compare price and quality difference ? Can they use expressions appropriately ?
With the adjectives, I’ll be listening out for intonation – ‘spectacular !’
To quote another source of information, ‘according to’ and for the prices, the 4* is ‘significantly more’ expensive than … Then, in conclusion, can they make a judgement – ‘a waste of money’ or accepting that high quality means high prices, ‘you get what you pay for.’
Travel: Life in Sai Gon
ubiquitous everywhere, very common
naïve innocent, inexperienced
stroll a gentle walk, for exercise (collocation: take a stroll)
a bazaar (noun) a permanent, covered market
bizarre (adjective) very strange, unusual
absent-minded extremely forgetful
sky-high, astronomical very expensive, maybe too expensive
laundry / laundromat dirty clothes / a place to wash clothes (collocation: do laundry)
predictable it is possible to guess the answer, people doing the same thing
Street _______ are common in Vietnam, and they are _________ in District 1. It is nearly impossible for a westerner to take a ________ without being approached. Some claim to sell Ray Bans or designer sunglasses, but you would have to be extremely ________ to believe they are genuine ! They are all fake, probably made in China. Many people try to _____(collocation) money by selling to tourists especially around Ben Thanh Market, a kind of _______, though this is strictly for tourists as the prices are ____________ !
What Difference Does It Make ?
I give students a paper with two words or phrases that are related but different. They have to clarify the distinction, for example
26th November 2019. AEF 3 Listening Part 2 & Units 5 & 6 review (p.63)
Tonight, the lesson is heavy on listening and review. I try to get as much student-talking time as possible, so I’m got some ideas up my sleeve to, hopefully, lighten and brighten the class.
The topic is celebrity interviews, especially interviewing famous people who may be:
arrogant // self-obsessed // pretentious // obnoxious // full of themselves
Which of those words would, in your opinion, apply to these people:
Use opinion phrases (In my opinion, For me, He seems to be, I get the impression she is …)
A celebrity is anyone famous, but most often it’s an actor, musician, TV personality or just a regular person who has made the news (had a story about them in the newspaper, online media etc). Sometimes they can be arrogant or full of themselves in interviews. However, occasionally the interviewer may upset the star. What do you think is happening here [start at 04:23] in this Robert Downey Jr interview:
I have an assortment of activities for the speaking.
First up – small talk
I’ll hand out some papers with a short dialogue of small talk. This is basically learning how to keep a conversation going by using appropriate responses.
Students can use the following:
Really ? // I see // Are you ? // Right // That’s interesting // That’s a good point // Where is that exactly ? // Oh, me too // Do you enjoy it ? // Do you like it there ?
Then the students can pair up and ask each other questions such as:
Why are you studying English ?
Where do you live ?
Where would you like to visit ?
What do you do in your free time ?
What do you want to do in the future.
Students can change partners for each question.
Next up – Call My Bluff
Class put into two or three teams. Each team has a sheet with four words or phrases, followed by three definitions. A different member of the teams reads out a definition, embellishing the wording to make it more convincing. The opposing team have to guess the correct definition.
Finally, for a fun ending, the students can interview each other, but one pretends to be a difficult celebrity. They can use language from tonight’s lesson, or preferably, invent their own.