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
At the end of the previous blog, there were some everyday collocations that moved away from the basic verb + phrase format (e.g. take a break / make sure / get away with murder).
To help them sink in (make you remember), here a chance for you to practise using them.
Rewrite the following business email to your senior manager in France, using the following collocations for the bold sections:
Adequate supplies to meet demand
Cause insurmountable difficulties
Major turning point
Set realistic aims
Dear M Delarue
I have some good news from the HCM office which I think represents a change in the company and how we do things and what we can expect to do in the future.
We have stopped using the old business model because when we tried, it made many, many problems that we were unable to solve, no matter how hard we tried. Now we are seeing real and tangible progress.
Our main concern now is to make sure we have enough products to fill all the orders for all of our customers. We need to plan ahead; as Marketing Director, I am on the look out for new markets to break into.
Two areas spring to mind:China and India. It is our intention that we become market-leader in those territories but we must not wish for too much too soon as there are many factors that stand in our way, such as infrastructure and logistics.
Finally, could you please send us the newest, latest copy of the company handbook, as our one in five years old and is out of date and does not have the latest facts and figures.
This is the normal procedure (way / method) to hail a taxi in NYC. However, this would not be acceptable in Bangkok.
Hailing a taxi in Bangkok
Notice how the hand points down. In Thailand, people beckon (call) a dog with their hands up, so a taxi driver would think this was very impolite and rude. The driver would be offended; the hand signal would cause offence.
Cultural differences are one way of inadvertently causing offence. However, some people can say, write or do things that upset other people:
The 45th President is famous for his somewhat un-presidential tweets. He is referring here to the North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-il:
However, in the interests of fairness, North Korean leaders have made comments that could be offensive to the USA. The former leader, Kim Jong-un:
And sometimes, within the same country, people can disagree with each. This is all part of a free society. The problem arises when people stop arguing the facts or beliefs, but start to attack people for their looks, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation. Some times, people can go too far in what they say:
This is the singer, and animal-rights supporter, Morrissey. He is talking about the treatment of animals in China, which he feels is intolerable. He can object. However, in this quote, he insults the entire country as seeming to be “a subspecies,” that is, not quite human. He makes his point, but do people understand his message, or get offended by his words ?
Many people ask how to progress from intermediate level to becoming fluent in English. One way is to learn collocations – these are groups of words that usually go together to make a new meaning – and so much of everyday English is made up of collocations, idioms, slang, colloquialisms etc.
Collocations – ‘make’
In the above paragraph I used ‘made up’. This is a good example.
‘Made up’ came means invented (we make up a story to tell children) & it can mean containing (my fb group is made up from people from all over the world). We can use it in the past tense or present – ‘made’ or ‘make’.
You probably know some phrasal verbs; If two people argue then become friends again, they make up. When a woman puts on lipstick, she is using makeup.
Here are some common collocations with ‘make’:
Make up your mind (decide about something).
Make dinner / make a sandwich.
Make time (find some spare time to do something).
Make it through the night (be able to do something after some bad news OR keep working for a very long time).
Make it through a long book (finish it, read it to the end).
Try these exercise … use make / made / make up / made up.
‘Infinite Jest’ is a very long book but I ……. my way through it.
I forgot my homework, so I had to ………. a story to tell my teacher.
When you come home, can you …… dinner for the children.
My teeth hurt; can you …… an appointment at the dentist for ?
The architect Gaudi never used to …… his buildings with straight lines.
Should I wear the black or green tie ? I can’t …… my mind.
This is so confusing ! I don’t know what to ……. of it.
Your room is so messy – can’t you even ….. your bed ?
You kids ….. me crazy !
I ………. a pig’s ear of the whole business (past tense – to do something completely wrong).
I did OK in the test, but ……. some silly mistakes.
He drank several coffees to help him …… it through the night shift.
the cat out/ the fire out / on your red shoes /on a happy face
it in your own words / up or shut up ! / it away / it another way
well soon / over it ! / on with it / away with murder / on the bus /
stuffed ! (impolite) / with the program (US) / some fresh air
a career move / your move / a pig’s ear of something /a wish /
up for lost time / the best of something / fun of someone
the right thing / away with that old technology / your best /
a funny walk / the dishes / your hair
it on ! / it to me / “my bow of burning gold” (poem) / about change
it up at the next meeting / a smile to my face / up children well
turns speaking / it up with the manager / up my trousers a little /
a good look at yourself / a hike ! / medicine / a deep breathe
What do these collocations suggest ?
Widely available // routine check-up
disperse the crowd // boost employment
catch up with the news / / catch up with friends
Find longer definitions for these collocations.
Adequate supplies to meet demand
Major turning point
Set realistic aims
Cause insurmountable difficulties
1) Enough things so that everyone that wants one can have one
2) Know what you want to do but it must not be too much for you to be able to do it.
3) Make problems which people will not be able to solve or cause problems that people are not able to work properly.
4) A very important moment when things changed completely
5) A new book, similar to the old one but with more up-to-date information, or mistakes have been corrected.
Boss Jim, can I see you for a minute ? It’s about your punctuality.
Jim Sorry, Boss, I’ll make up the lost time after work.
Boss Damn right you will. Now, what was this email about ? I couldn’t make sense of it.
Jim I made a few mistakes because I rushed. I wanted to make sure you read it.
Boss You made a right pig’s ear of it ! Anyway, have you made your mind up yet ?
Jim About the new job ? Well, the other company made me a fantastic offer.
Boss I’m not giving you a raise; I’m not made of money ! Money doesn’t grow on trees.
Jim I’ll make my decision later and let you know.
Boss If you leave here, you’ll be making a big mistake, Buster !
Christmas (in UK and Germany) / food expressions and dialogue
Cinema (grammar: must or have to)
Coffee in Sai Gon
Collocations (put, get)
Directions, giving and asking
Expressions and practice
Karaoke (noise pollution)
Listening Practice: 5 weird things Vietnamese do // making a video
Music and vocabulary (Paul McCartney / Talking Heads)
Poland: salt mine, speaking practice, beer guide, travel guide.
Shopping (buying presents, Black Friday)
Describe these German Christmas pictures
At Christmas we have decorations, Christmas cards and an excessive amount of food !
We have a Christmas tree. The tree is decorated with fairy lights and bells and also there are presents on the floor around the tree. In the west, at the top of the tree, traditionally there is an angel.
How many free days do you have or do you have to work ?
What do you think of the food ? Listen out for adjectives and adverbs.
Food expressions and dialogue
It’s not to my taste = I don’t like it
It’s a little spicy for my palate
I find it somewhat bland
I’ll try anything once
I like my meat rare / medium / well done
I’m vegetarian / vegan
Mick Fancy eating out at lunch ? (Fancy – do you like / want to)
Jack Great idea. What do you have in mind ? (What is your idea / plan ?)
Mick Wanna try that new Indian place ? 10% off promotion this week.
Jack Sounds cool but I’m not into Indian food. Too spicy for my palate. (don’t like)
Mick I could go for some Korean. Sink my teeth into some juicy rare steak !
Jack I prefer my meat well done. Get a side order of kimchi too.
Mick I’ll pass; it’s not to my taste. Too much garlic.
I prefer /choice \ choose /my taste / not my taste / trailer / concession stand /
all-star cast / director / film studio / controversial / family film / book online
What’s on at the cinema ? What’s playing this week ? Not my cup of tea.
What types of film can you name ?
Horror Stories // about people’s lives and emotions
Biopic //Space films, or films set inthe future
Romance Films // about fighting and soldiers
Comedy // Loud, exciting films with explosions and fast cars
Western // Stories about real famous people
Sci-fi // True stories with real people, not actors
Drama // Stories about police or spies or crime
Animation (Anime) // Scary films about ghosts or monsters
Musical // A film about cowboys, set in USA
Documentary //A cartoon, illustrated film
War // Love stories
Thriller // Funny films
Action // Stories with singing and dancing
Look at a cinema listing. Discuss what is on this week, what is playing.
Which films (if any) appeal to you ?
must or have to / don’t have to or mustn’t ?
have to = other people tell you // must = your decision
don’t have to = not necessary // mustn’t = is forbidden
You have to have a degree in order to be an engineer
I must stop eating at Lotteria !
You don’t have to bring any beer to the party.
You mustn’t run a red light or use your mobile phone on your motorbike.
The new James Bond film may be sold out. We ______ buy tickets NOW !
I hate comedies ! Do I _____ go ?
You _______ eat too much popcorn; it’s bad for you.
You ________to be over 18 to see this film
You don’t ____ bring your passport to get intoa cinema in Viet Nam.
Coffee in Sai Gon
Describe this picture; use adjectives and opinions.
Highlands Coffee has great coffee, air-con and free wifi. Having said that, the service is a little slow, there are no waiters and the cost is unbelievably expensive !
Vietnam is famous for coffee; coffee shops are ubiquitous. In fact, there are so many, it’s hard to see (difficult to understand) how they stay in business let alone turn a profit.
Be that as it may, let’s use this as a learning opportunity. To practice making longer sentences, and as a warm up exercise, the students can ask each other, “Where do you go for coffee ?”
Don’t answer the question directly and immediately; Begin with a short introduction:
Sai Gon has so many coffee shops, some are cheap while others can be quite expensive although they have a wide range of delicious coffee. Personally, I like going to …
How MUCH do you like it (adverbs) ?
What kind of coffee (adjectives) ?
What do you think about this ? (opinions)
WHY do you like it (give reasons)
Interesting words, phrases, idioms
Personally, I like Tap Coffee which is an independent shop where I live. I enjoy going there so much because the owner is very friendly and tries to speak English with me. There isn’t a lot of choice, so I order cappuccino with hot, fresh milk. In my opinion, it is good value and tastes delicious. What I like about the shop is the free wifi, the comfortable chairs and the atmosphere. Furthermore, it is usually very quiet and it therefore a good place to read. I love to put my feet up, kick back and sip my damn fine coffee.
Before the exercise, elicit and board as many relevant words and phrases as required. The students have a discourse marker list, so I could insist that they use certain words (moreover, therefore, consequently etc). Additionally, I’ll need to explain vernacular phrases such as ‘kick back’ and ‘put my feet up’.
IF a student doesn’t like coffee, then they can say where they go and what they drink. IF they don’t go anywhere or like anything (yes, I have had that in a class), then they can explain WHY NOT!
Key vocabulary: ambience // aroma //atmosphere
In a list of three, use one comma and a linking word (and):
The service is a little slow, there are no waiters and the cost is unbelievably expensive !
In a list of two, just use a linking word (and):
Mega Mart has amazing choice and is good value for money.
How to make Vietnamese coffee
Tell me: what do I need ? What type of coffee is best ? Where can I buy it ?
New verbs: pour / stir / fill up /
Make a long, fluent presentation. Useful words or expressions:
Firstly / afterwards / and then / following that /
don’t forget to … / you can always ….
lastly / finally / at the very end …
In your experience, what coffee is best ? Trang Nguyen, Highlands or Milano ?
The man is: funny / amusing / weird / strange / entertaining / has a screw loose
His dancing is: highly unusual / very comical / somewhat crazy / charming
Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland
14 miles from Krakow in South Poland is this deep salt mine. Everything here has been hand-carved from blocks of salt. The mine has nine levels with over 300km of tunnels. Part of the mine is open to visitors. There are 22 galleries from 64 metres to 135 metres underground. Guided tours take about two hours.
There is a chapel here measuring 54 m by 18m and 12 m high. It took two men over thirty years to build.
There is also an underground lake, and musicians playing brass instruments.
Pope John Paul and Bill Clinton are some of the famous visitors.
Speaking Practice: Three friends are planning where to go on holiday.
Pete Any suggestions ? I’d really like to go to Norway. They have some great sights.
Burt Yeah, I agree, but the weather could be an issue. I hate the cold.
Doug The scenery is amazing, true. However, it’s gonna be incredibly expensive.
Pete I found a tour; it consists of flights, hotels, boat trips and sightseeing.
Burt I’ve heard Norway is terribly expensive. If we go to Europe, I’d prefer Poland.
Doug Sounds good. Great architecture, lots to see and do, and brilliant beer.
Pete Perfect. Let me look up some info on Google … look at this !
Burt That’s so majestic. I’d say we forget Norway and head for Poland
Doug I’d love to see the salt mine, amazingly unique. It’s a UNESCO sight.
Speaking Practice: Three friends are discussing their holiday.
Doug This bed and breakfast has a good reputation, as well as being central.
Pete Good point. We don’t want to be in the suburbs, waste time, travelling.
Burt Yeah, keep it simple: good location, good price. Shall we book ?
Doug Go for it ! Wait … damn internet, so slow. Oh, we’ve encountered a glitch.
Pete It’s taking it’s time ! Look, we’re connected. Better be quick.
Burt OK, let me see … three beds for five nights. Arrival date … enter … done !
Doug Poland, here we come ! This is no ordinary trip. Look at these churches
Pete Absolutely majestic ! Maybe we’ll keep going back, every year.
Burt Well, I’d also love to visit Austria, Prague, Barcelona … everywhere !
Speaking Practice: Three friends are in Krakow.
Doug Man, this place is really buzzing. What shall we do now ?
Burt We could head towards the Palace, maybe grab some food on the way.
Pete Yeah, I’m up for that. Could use some coffee, as well. Either of you peckish ?
Doug Sure, I’m always hungry. Do you fancy going on the booze cruise ?
Burt How much is it gonna cost ?
Pete Surprisingly cheap. But I’m not sure, It’s not really my cup of tea.
Doug Fair enough. Maybe we’ll just chill out later in the old quarter. A beer or two.
Burt Or twenty. We should get a move on;the Palace closes at five.
Pete Take it easy. Let’s hit the Palace tomorrow early. It’s now beer o’clock !
Lesson focus: Reading; speed reading to extrapolate information in a limited time.
Theme: Culture shock, specifically life in Australia.
Objectives: Review new vocabulary and phrases and give a chance to practise using them. Continue work on Englishes – how written and standard English can seem to bear NO relation to spoken English.
Today’s reading is centred on life in Australia for non-native speakers so, to set the scene, a warm up song from the Australian band (and one-hit wonders) Men At Work and their chart-topping song, ‘Down Under’.
Language review: The first lesson generated many new words and expressions. The following adverbs should be a part of the students’ everyday vocabulary:
always / usually, normally, frequently / sometimes / hardly ever / never
definitely / probably / possibly / unlikely / definitely not
Vocabulary: precious / arrogant / mug (two senses) / lingua franca /
To ask politely: May I …. (May I ask your name ? May I open the window ?)
Discourse Markers: although / despite, despite that / however / on the other hand /additionally / furthermore
Collocations: To practice law or to practice medicine (a lawyer, or a medical professional)
Expressions: Fair exchange is no robbery / If I’m not mistaken
Idiom: To let off steam / time flies (when you’re having fun)
London slang: well knackered (‘well’ is used to mean very and ‘knackered’ can mean very tired, or broken. EXAMPLE – I’m well knackered = I’m extremely tired.
PRACTICE: Try to use as many of the above by commenting on these photos. This is not a writing test; I only want one or two sentences. I’m more concerned with lexical choice AND delivery – how you use stress, intonation and rhythm.
These young Asian people are letting off steam by singing their hearts out in a Karaoke room, if I am not mistaken. Very probably there are professionals, maybe they practice medicine because they look very stylish and affluent.
Book work: today we will be developing speed-reading, that is, reading a large amount of text in a limited time, in order to find specific information. Students will have to scan over the text and home in on what they need to know.
As a break, here’s a little clip about Australian slang:
What is this news story about ? How much slang did you hear ?
Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.
Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.
Students, in groups, can organise an itinerary for two of my friends who will be visiting Sai Gon soon. They want to see all the iconic sights and partake of typical Vietnamese activities. Having said that, their interests differ widely.
Simon loves culture, history and museums as well as being into sports and physical activities. Therefore he wants to see and try as much as possible. He has heard about snake wine and is very curious.
Jenny finds museums unbearably boring and dull. She is a shopaholic, can shop till she drops. Furthermore she can’t take the heat, and is also vegetarian.
Clearly, they will need to compromise … what do you suggest ? Be creative – think outside the box.
What to see and do // where and what to eat // what to buy //
What they can do for entertainment
Safety and scams
Cultural differences – what should people do or NOT do in Vietnam ?
Use interesting adjectives to describe the city centre.
Groups can then present to the class, with all students taking turns speaking. I shall be listening for relevance, pronunciation and use of expressions and discourse markers. Furthermore, I may learn some interesting tips.
Just a minute: To practice for the speaking tests, give the students a choice of subjects and let them speak for one minute without repeating themselves, deviating from the subject or hesitating.
Call my bluff: Class in two teams. One team reads a low-frequency word and the team give three possible definitions including examples of usage. The other team has to guess which one is the correct answer.
Tonight is the last lesson of the four-week block, so will culminate in an oral test: I will listen to all the students individually for three minutes or so, then give a grade and some brief feedback.
The bookwork covers vocabulary, speaking and pronunciation, so that’s a great opportunity to prepare the students for the speaking review.
I’ve just finished a short booklet about how intermediate learners can move up to advanced levels:
The book advocates teaching / learning collocations (which I always teach) and ‘chunks’ of language, or frequently used expressions.
Collocations are words that always go together, for example take a photo (not do a photo, make a photo), jump on a bus, grab a bite to eat, make your mind up etc.
This can be so helpful to an English-language learner, as the words form one unit – ‘take a photo’ is ONE unit, not three separate words. This can really help in reading – instead of seeing a mass of words, patterns will emerge, almost like breaking a code. With practice, students will be able to predict a sentence / phrase just by its opening word/s.
Frequently used phrases are beneficial to make speakers sound more natural (and that should be the aim, in order to progress to a higher level of proficiency), and they are so common, they can be used in everyday situations. On p. 18, Richards quotes some common expressions:
This one’s on meIt was lovely to see you I’ll be making a move then
I see what you mean Thanks for coming Let me think about it
I don’t believe a word of it Just looking, thanks It doesn’t matter
I don’t get the point I’ll be with you in a minute You look great today
As I was saying
We’ll talk about how and where these expressions can be used, then do some exercises, role-playing. Classic CELTA-style method: present then do controlled practice (the third stage is produce – to see if the students are able to use the phrases with correct intonation and in the correct situation).
Friends are having drinks in a pub / bar
You go into a shop but not necessarily to buy anything
A customer arrives but you are busy
You meet an old friend
You don’t understand what someone is trying to prove
You understand what someone thinks (but not necessarily agree with)
Someone tells you a story – you think it is false.
You are asked a question but need time to consider
There is a small problem / Someone upsets you but you want to make it OK
To continue with a conversation that was interrupted.
Then the students will work in pairs to produce simple conversations, for example: Oh, it’s late, I’m tired / I’ll be making a move then (I will leave).
I’ll then introduce a visual activity, as it’s good to vary the tasks; something I learnt from Eisenstein’s film theory (Sergi Eisenstein, Soviet filmmaker, NOT Albert Einstein, physicist), the ‘Montage of Attractions.’ This is basically having lots of different things following each other, linked together, to maintain interest and constant stimulation. More of this in other posts as it is especially applicable to young learners.
I’ll show a slide of various activities and ask which are acceptable, polite, impolite, illegal. This comes under the umbrella heading of culture shock – different customs, different countries. For example, this friendly gesture in the UK is impolite in Vietnam:
This, I falsely believed, was the universal sign for ‘good luck’ so, during tests, I (being polite and friendly), wished my students (usually young learners), ‘good luck’. No one took the time to tell me it didn’t mean that in Vietnam; it is, in fact, a representation of female genitalia. Whoops ! What message my students took from my inadvertent gesture is a matter of speculation. Here are some other social no-nos:
Lastly, I will conduct a simplified version of last night’s lesson. I show photos of my bad day (it was one of those days). I’ll board some details, times and events, show some photos and ask the students to make sentences, pushing them to employ adjectives, adverbs and discourse markers. The full activity can be found on last night’s IELTS notes
Before a test, most students find it hard to concentrate on learning new material, so I’ll use the 90 minutes to encourage as much speaking as possible. Hopefully, they’ll be more prepared for the oral test and will do themselves proud.