IELTS 5 – 6.5. Writing example

15th March 2020

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As I constantly inform my students, IELTS is not a typical English class … it is IELTS English by which I mean, students have to demonstrate a command of the language that includes a wide range of vocabulary, the confidence to speak fluently, the correct stress and intonation to keep your listener engaged, the ability to form complex sentences and link them with appropriate discourse markers. Additionally, a knowledge of how English is REALLY spoken, to wit, sounding like the student has been interacting with real native-speakers, not merely repeating verbatim from a text book, is a must.

Piece of cake, no ? (an English idiom – you will need to learn some basic expressions, phrases and idioms to make your spoken language more natural and interesting).

OK, let’s break it down. IELTS requires a lot of work, study and practice. Students that come to my class expecting to kick back and be entertained are in for a shock, and then some. As such, I will not be defining the idioms I employ in this blog, e.g. Piece of cake – YOU will have to look them up yourself.

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Don’t worry, young lady, I’m here to help you. Having said that, if you’ve been on a three-month course and you’ve left it to the last week to study … then you will probably fail, and deservedly so. Yes, life in the IELTS lane is tough, it’s dog eat dog (though ‘devour’ would be a more IELTS-friendly word than ‘eat’).

Where to start ?

OK, IELTS wants what they term ‘low-frequency’ words. Basically, look at your English; replace any basic adjective or verb or indeed noun, with a ‘better’ word, a word that would be used by the higher-educated native speaker. Your best tool here is a thesaurus of which there are many online, or downloadable for free.

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It works thus: Let’s start with a very basic adverb ‘very’. This is too simplistic for IELTS, so type in the word and click enter.

A number of words will appear. As above, the darker-shaded words are what the computer’s algorithm indicate would be more suitable, while giving additional options in lighter shades.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating – so let’s try it: rewrite these sentences using low-frequency words:

I think Bangkok a better destination than Chiang Mai

She bought a cheap bag

The film was good

Stage Two

Linking ideas with discourse markers. I give all my students a print-out of common words and expressions that must be consulted and utilised. I hope that all my students take them home and study them religiously. Conversely they may use the paper to line the bottom of a bird cage. In all reality, the majority of students say, ‘Thank you,” have a glance, put said sheet in their bag and forget all about it. Consequently, several weeks later, the students are still resorting to ‘and’, ‘but’ with a possible ‘however’.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make the horse drink

Discourse Markers

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I recommend my students learn at least two from each section.

Adverbs are incredibly powerful and so easily inserted into everyday text

I worked at another large and prestigious language centre, and had the pleasure of marking some essays by teenagers. From twelve pieces of ‘writing’, I found only ONE adverb.

Adverbs add information and interest to your language, but my students seem to avoid them like the plague. They may deign to insert a ‘very’ to please me … but it doesn’t ! I expect, nay, DEMAND more.

Without further ado

An example. IELTS will give students a very open-ended subject and then expect a well-constructed piece of writing, or fluent, coherent speech upon said subject, with no deviation, hesitation or repetition. It is a chance for the student to perform a solo, to demonstrate how much they have learnt and studied … or otherwise … generally it is ‘otherwise’.

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Time for an anecdote. I was teaching one class, and endeavouring to give them ample opportunity to speak and practice English. Nobody spoke. If I selected some students, they would make an appalling act of not having heard the question, or to answer in a single word. Some students even began laughing that teacher was asking the class but nobody was responding. Hilarious … but he who laughs last, laughs longest. I decided this class was a waste of my time (because it WAS a waste of my time) and left them to their fate … CUT TO some weeks later, it’s the day of their speaking test … suddenly, they are running up to me for help, “What should I say ?”, “I don’t know what to do”, “I’m going to fail.” Temptation was to tell them where to go ( that is an expression that does NOT imply direction !), but I gave them what help I could in the minute I could spare. Needless to say … most of the class were disappointed with their score, and no doubt, upon arrival at the family nest, were met were screams and derision. And no doubt they put the blame squarely where it belongs … on the foreign teacher !

The concluding line was an example of irony. I’m not going to tell you what irony is, look it up for yourself ! Do you want a fish or a fishing rod and knowledge of how to catch your own fish ?

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So now, a fairly run-of-the mill IELTS question:

Tell me about your favourite gadget

This piece is, as one would expect, quite lengthy and jam-packed with information and detail. I don’t expect you to write or speak at this level … but I expect you to TRY.

As you read, look out for:

Low-frequency words

adverbs

adjectives

discourse markers

complex sentences (sentences which coney more than one piece of information)

expressions, phrases and idioms

THEN – practice reading aloud. Not just once and, “Teacher, finished,” but again … and again … and again. Yes, this is not entertainment but it WILL help you get the score you want from IELTS

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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, including 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, can 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 toiling away for hours at work.

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 write 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.

Now … YOUR TURN

Write a piece about YOUR favourite gadget, using the above as a model

Best of British to you

Teenagers: Architecture and mythology

13th March 2020

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Contents

Art – giving opinions

Collocations

Expressions

Egyptian pyramids

Greek mythology

Music (naturally !)

Hello everyone, I welcome you to my blog page, and may I take this opportunity to thank ALL OF YOU who have visited my site. Having nearly 100 visits for a teaching blog is extremely gratifying.

Now, without further ado, let’s jump straight in, “Time waits for no man.”

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A famous quote from the English writer Geoffrey Chaucer

First off the bat, a little plug for my friend ‘Pete’ who has an online radio show on Mixcloud. If you’re interested, you can listen here: https://www.mixcloud.com/flatwoundssounds/

Show 4, 29th August 2019

The playlist is a mix of Jazz, Blues, Soul, R ‘n’ B & Rock ‘n’ Roll. However, in terms of an English lesson, listen to his narrative between songs. Although Pete lives in Birmingham now (central England), his accent betrays his Kent, (south-England) origins. Listen to how his voice deviates from Standard English.

A Propos (speaking about) of music, my last lesson featured two songs, one Nubian, the other a 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll number:

Nubia is a region that encompasses south Egypt and north Sudan
One of my online students has chosen the English moniker ‘Ivy’; consequently, this song is for her.

Now, time to get down to work. I introduced the class to some expressions; therefore we need to revise and practice:

between you and me // let’s get it over and done with // my hands are tied // off the cuff

I would like to let you go home early but …..

……… I think students have too much homework

Jazz musicians are famous for their spontaneity; they often play ………..

Oh, man ! We have to clear up after the party. Oh, well, ……….

Collocations

collect / raise / undertake / boycott

Charities run campaigns to ……….. money

I’m going to ……….. shops that treat their staff poorly

Scientists need to ……. further research into the Corona Virus

There is little recycling, if any, in Vietnam. We need to ……… awareness of the importance to the planet.

ART

Giving opinions – remember, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer; the exercise is to help you express what YOU feel when you see these works of art.

Expressions:

It’s not my cup of tea // it doesn’t appeal to me // I just don’t get // I see no artistic value // I have no time for it.

OR … positive:

It’s very uplifting // the picture speaks to me // I’m drawn to the image // it is ineffable (unable to be expressed in words) // it transcends language.

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John Constable 1821
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Wyndham Lewis 1921
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Jean-Michel Basquet 1980s
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Ancient Egyptian art

NOW – a curious point … how can a civilisation that can construct these:

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only represent the human form like this:

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How perfect are the Pyramids ?

“The builders of the Great Pyramid of Khufu aligned the great monument to the cardinal points with an accuracy of better than four minutes of arc, or one-fifteenth of one degree,” Glen Dash, an engineer who studies the Giza pyramids, wrote in a paper published recently in The Journal of Ancient Egyptian Architecture … ” https://www.livescience.com/61799-great-pyramid-near-perfect-alignment.html

Now, take a look at his ariel view, showing the layout:

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At this juncture, let’s take a little diversion, from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece.

The night sky has 88 constellations, many named after characters or creatures from Greek mythology. I’d like to focus on one, the giant hunter Orion. This is his constellation, and is one of the more easier groups to see, especially at this time of year:

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These random stars (which may in fact be many millions of light years apart) were seen by the Greeks thus:

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You see the hunter with his bow and arrow, but I wish to draw your attention to the three stars arranged diagonally in the centre, the ‘belt’ of the hunter. Compare those with the arrangement of the Egyptian pyramids:

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Image result for orion constellation and pyramids

How would you account for this ? Coincidence or conspiracy ?

Let’s leave the last word to our National Poet, William Shakespeare, with this famous quote from Hamlet:

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Adult Speaking Class, Level 2. Theme: Plan a luxury day

12th March 2020

Grammar: second conditional

Object: encourage creative thinking and sentence building.

Vocabulary: expressions related to money

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What would you do IF you were a millionaire ?

What would you do IF you were a millionaire for a day ?

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Second conditional – this is used for a situation that is not impossible … but not very probable.

If I had a million pounds, I would … (stop working !)

If you had a billion $, you could … (buy an island)

If + Sub + had …, Sub + would / could

If you had unlimited money, what would you do ?

Plan a luxury day

How would you spend a luxury day ? 

To develop narrative writing / speaking – use words/phrases such as:

Firstly, initially, I would start, it would kick off with …

secondly, thirdly etc

after that, afterwards, following that, and then …

for a change, as a contrast, for a break, to take a break from all the …

lastly, I’d end up, I’d round the day off with

Example:

To kick off, I would have salmon breakfast at a five-star … no, seven-star hotel. After that, I would go shopping for some suits and ties and then drive around London in a Rolls-Royce car, chauffer-driven, of course.

To take a break from the hustle and bustle, I’d relax at my hotel spa, then go for afternoon tea at another top hotel.

Lastly, I’d round the day off with a helicopter trip around the city and then fly direct to a stadium and go to my VIP (Very Important Person) seat to see one of my favourite bands play live.

Your turn:

You could:

luxury breakfast
luxury spa treatment
horse-carriage ride
shopping
luxury yacht
Attend a play at a London theatre
See Barcelona play

OR add your own ideas

Where would you go ? What would you do ? What would you buy ?

Expressions connected to money

A ton of money = very much money

Having money to burn = having more money that someone needs

It costs an arm and a leg = something very expensive

Money talks ! = having money can solve many problems

Rolling in it = having so much money (‘it’ refers to money)

Swanky = slang for very expensive or elegant (it’s a swanky restaurant)

However, as Shakespeare said,

Image result for all that glisters is not gold quote

Would money make you happy ?

Can money buy you health, love or happiness … maybe that is for another lesson.

Adult Speaking Class, Level 3. Theme: London

3rd March 2020

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London, my hometown, is a multi-cultural world city. However, there are some problems. For students who live in S.E. Asia, the weather will be awful; grey skies, bitter wind, freezing, depressing rain.

A second factor is money. Unless one has a good job and a good income, London can be a hard place to live.

How can you afford to live in London ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz9fZLamyy0

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How many words and expressions do you recognise ?

How does she link her ideas together and keep talking ? 

REMEMBER: listening to native speakers in a great way to improve your English. I suggest you only listen to SHORT pieces … maybe just ten or twenty seconds. Write down any new words or phrases. Listen again, then repeat. Speak along with her. Listen to how native-speakers link words and use intonations. Notice how often we use expressions.

Quick thinking

What famous buildings or attractions can you think of in London ?

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To help you, here’s a video about Top 10 London Attractions

London Attractions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0r0VTos_wU

Which ones appeal to you ? Expand your sentences. Explain why you are interested. Conversely, say which ones don’t appeal to you, again giving your reasons. Try to incorporate these idioms:

Not my cup of tea – a polite way of saying you don’t like something

Right up my street – something that you really like or enjoy

EXAMPLE: I don’t want to go to the ballet, it’s not my cup of tea. However, watching a football game is right up my street.

London, naturally, is a big city and you will probably have to use buses or the Tube (underground trains) at some point. So how to get around ?

Getting around in London

Travelling in London – buy an Oyster Card: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlZ_xDx2Zl0

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Watch the video then explain how someone can travel on public transport in London.

Now, this video is chockablock (full) of new words and expressions. I’ve selected a sample:

about which more later  / bank fees on transactions / hang around

get in everybody’s way / money put onto / top-up / cap

pay-as-you-go / stick (as verb) / as long as it’s nice and fresh / escalator

as far as …. concerned / obvious /on no account swipe

you’ve got to / the thing about …… is / particularly weirdos

get charged  / get skinned / reasonable  / Routemaster

Now, by listening to the video, and using a dictionary, you try to make some sentences using these new words or phrases.

Here are some examples for you:

On no account tell anybody your PIN number for your bank card.

Prices are so high in central London, you can easily get skinned (pay TOO much).

The thing about the British Museum is that is can get so crowded.

Don’t stand in front of the escalators or you will get in everyone’s way.

Give a summary of ‘getting around’ London by public transport. 

What are the ‘dos and don’ts’ ? 

How many different kinds of transport is the Oyster valid on ?

Famous Londonders – real and fictional

Who is the most famous detective in literature ? Most of you would probably say Sherlock Holmes … but have you read him ? This is a great site for English learners – literature but in simple, everyday English

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Sherlock Holmes Investigates: https://www.english-online.org.uk/reading/elementread.htm

Description Game

Describe a household object

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Example – a kettle

I am an English man, so I always drink damn fine tea. In order to make tea I naturally need boiling water. In my house I have an appliance which boils water. It plugs in to the electric and can boil water in just a few minutes. However, it has no other purpose.

Think of something you use everyday – but don’t make it too obvious.

Maybe: a rice cooker / washing machine / laptop / motorbike / food blender etc

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Adult Speaking Class, Level 3, Part 4

27th January 2020

Contents

Adverbs

Conversation practice

Vocabulary practice

Conversation practice

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Slow computers

A: My laptop is so slow.
B: Buy a new one.
A: I would if I had the money.
B: Why is it so slow?
A: That’s a good question.
B: Did you take it to a computer shop?
A: I would if I had the money.
B: Well, I guess you have to live with it.
A: Sometimes I want to throw it out the window. wanna
B: You don’t want to do that.
A: Why not?
B: You might hit someone on the head.

Re-write but with smart phone instead of ‘laptop.’

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Being a bit short – not having much or enough money.

A:Can I borrow £5? quid 
B: Sure. Why do you need it?
A: I want to buy lunch.
B: Where’s your money? [Pronunciation: Wheres yah monnnee ?]
A: It’s not in my wallet.
B: Your wallet is empty?
A: I don’t have even one quid in it.
B: Being broke is no fun. [Broke = having no money]
A: Even if it’s only for a short while.
B: It’s always good to have friends.
A: Friends will lend you money when you’re broke.
B: As long as you pay them back.

Write a similar dialogue but with different situations.

Vocabulary practice:

Look up the meaning of these words and expressions, then see how they’re used in the following dialogue.

ubiquitous / incessant / loquacious / laconic 

malodorous / euphoria (euphoric) / sick (unwell, ill)

truly / rather / somewhatquid / brokeyou what ?

Let me shuffle through my memory 

run into / put up with / fun-filled / throughout the city 

that’s a good question / this is the worst ….. in the world !

A You’ll never guess who I ran into last night.

B Who ? I was up to my eyes in work.

A Ms Cam. It was rather a surprise. I haven’t seen her for ages.

B Ms Cam ? Let me shuffle through my memory… oh, yes.

A Remember ? She was somewhat laconic at work, but after beer …

B Absolutely ! She doesn’t shut up ! I had to put up with her stories.

A Same thing last night. Nothing changes. But it was a fun-filled night

B Where’d you take her ? Anywhere fancy ?

A We started at a street bar but it was malodorous, so we took off.

B She drinks like a fish, I recall. What happened ?

A Hmmm … that’s a good question ! I had a few too many.

B That explains it – you look a bit sick. Did you drink cocktails ?

A Oh, did we ! This is the worst hangover in the world !

Image result for worst hangover

TRY to make your own conversation using some of the new vocabulary and expressions.

Ideas: buying something / wanting to go someone / having a bad day

Activity: Plan a day out for my friends.

I have two friends arriving in HCM( or your city). They want a typical, authentic experience. Plan a day for them. It must include:

Thay Paul with Tina and Michael.
  • Breakfast
  • A museum
  • Somewhere for a snack
  • An interesting building or location
  • Lunch
  • Souvenir shopping
  • Something to do in the evening

Give tips and advice. 

How do they travel around ? 

What are their options and estimate the prices.

Try to use as much new vocabulary as possible, words and expressions.

Directions to Pham Ngo Lao Street District 1 // Directions to a city centre street.

Ask for help. Other must offer as much help – how to get there, the best way, the price, the dangers. Body language – distance, expression, intonation, eye contact etc

Also back channelling. Nod your head, say, “Sure,” “Right.” “Oh, really ?”

Small talk …. Try to talk for as long as possible – then change subjects:

your home town / your favourite holiday / a great place to visit in your city / some great things about children / some terrible things about your city / family / favourite hobby.

Past simple/ past continuous

Look at the house map – say where you were last night and what you were doing

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EXAMPLE: I was on the balcony, watering my plants.

I was in the bedroom, …………………

Famous for 15 minutes

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Pretend you are famous – your partner will interview you on: 

Sai Gon Today ! A live chat show from your work or school !

FIRST – why are YOU famous – what do you like doing best ?

Think of 6 questions. Examples:

When did you start ? When did you win your first award ? What was it like travelling to USA ? What are your plans for the future.

Who else works in a TV studio ? What equipment do we need to make a show ?

Adverbs of degree

very / so / extremely / = high, a lot

quite / somewhat = moderate / medium

Tokyo is ……….. expensive, while for Vietnamese people, Thailand can be ……………. expensive.

The test was …………….. (medium) difficult.

I ……… liked the film, but the book was better, it was …………….. good.

Free Speaking

Have you ever thought about trying or learning something new ?

Do you want to take up a new sport ? Start up a new business ?

Join up for a club ? Learn a new skill ?

Try to use some of the following phrases:

The job is repetitive ? It can be somewhat tedious.

Working everyday can have a negative effect on our health.

I feel it is not suitable for me. I am not suited to it.

My background is in engineering; I have no experience in business.

I may regret it if I don’t try – but it is a risk. Always a risk because it may be unsuccessful – it may fail.

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Adult Speaking Class, level 2, Part 5

22nd January 2020

Contents

Asking questions

Dialogues

Listening practice: UK train prices

Relative pronouns

Speaking practice

Asking questions

A good way to keep a conversation going (to continue speaking) is by asking questions.

Look at this picture, then try to ask questions using:

who / where / when / why / how / what / do \ did / which whose ?

EXAMPLE:

Who are they ?

Where do you think they are ?

How do they know each other ?

Be creative ! Make up a story about them; are any of them boyfriend/girlfriend ? How did they meet ? What do they have in common ?

Relative pronouns:

who = people (Who is the pretty lady ?)

where = places (Where were you born ?)

which = things (Which motorbike is more reliable ?)

whose = possessives (Whose iPhone is this ?)

The Asian lady, whose name is Zhi, is studying Law.

Zhi, who was born in China, has lived in London for one year.

Speaking practice:

Ask each other about their day or their weekend

How was your day ? How was your weekend ?

great

good. On the other hand …

Today was so-so because ……….. However ……….

terrible ! Despite that

horrible / awful / dreadful

boring / tedious

My weekend was …

Example

Today was terrible because I overslept and had no coffee. However in the evening, I have football on TV so I feel very happy.

Notice how the passage mixes past tense (‘was terrible’) with present (‘I have’ …. ‘I feel.’)

How was your day ? (use past tense)

Today, I was very happy at work because I got my salary as well as a bonus (extra money).

When do you get your salary ? When do you get paid ?

Salary = career, professional job – usually once a month

Paid – for a job, can be daily, weekly, monthly – low-income job

Building longer sentences:

Relative pronouns – who (person), which (thing), where (place). 

Adverbs – add information

Opinions – I feel, I believe, in my opinion, from my point of view. 

Turn and link – but, although, however, having said that

Example:

I teach at public school which can be extremely tiring because there are many students who, I feel, do not want to learn. Having said that, there are also many wonderfully gifted students who make me feel happy.

Image result for public school vietnam

(I have taught in two different public schools. As in the above Google Images stock photo, we had a blackboard and chalk, fans, not air-con, and windows open onto the street or the quad where students would play sports or keep fit or synchronised shouting. However, my classes were seldom as organised as this, and I often had forty-plus students. )

Make long sentences by answering these questions:

What are you working on at the moment ?

Do you enjoy your latest project ?

Would you like to work abroad ?

Is it good to have a car in a city ?

Can you live without a motorbike in Sai Gon ?

How important is the internet in your life ?

Student presentations

Try to make a short presentation on a subject of your choice.

Include adverbs and adjectives, new vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs – parts of English that you have learnt so far.

Examples – family / music / films / motorbikes / your childhood / myths of your home country

Image result for Japanese myths
Mythology from Japan
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African myths

Listening practice

Prices of trains in UK:

https://www.newsinlevels.com/products/expensive-trains-in-england-level-3/

Image result for uk train

typical = usual, normal / / cost-conscious = aware of the amount of money

actually = in fact, really // adventurous – adjective – likes excitement, travel 

When you go shopping, are you cost-conscious or do you just buy what you need ? Do you like adventurous holidays ?

What adjectives describe this news-story ? It costs an arm and a leg = VERY expensive

Learn these new words, then use them in the following exercise:

unbelievable / unexceptional / unavoidable / unnecessary / uninspiring

It is …………….. to bring a jumper to Indonesia because it’s so hot.

The film was ……………….., it was nothing special

How much ? That is ……………. So cheap !

A traffic jam is …………. at this time.

Dialogue: Speaking Practice

Two friends are in a coffee shop

Cal This is a damn fine cup of coffee ! Ok, what shall we do next ?

Dan I have to run to the bank. I need to deposit some money.

Cal Good idea, I need to use an ATM. I also need to buy some dollars.

Dan You can check the exchange rate at my bank. It’s not far, we can walk. 

Cal Oh, I love your tie. It’s so elegant. Mine is so ordinary !

Dan No, yours is cool. Mine looks valuable but it’s fake Gucci.

Cal Really ? Looks amazing. A very unique design.

Dan So kind. OK, have you finished your coffee ?

Cal Bear with me … oh, no … it’s started raining cats and dogs !

Past tense conversation practice

Len and Tim are catching up

Len What did you do today ? Anything exciting ?

Tim No, same old, same old. I had to stay late at work. I went to the bank at lunch time.

Len It must have been crowded. Was there a big queue ?

Tim Of course, I waited 15 minutes. I wanted to check the exchange rate for dollars.

Len Today I drank some coffee, made a dress and withdrew money.

Tim You were busy ! How much did you take out ? 

Len I checked my account and it was empty, so I couldn’t take out anything

Tim And then it started to rain cats and dogs ! 

Beginners’ English Part 4

20th January 2020

Contents

Grammar / 15 common verbs / have to or must ? / past tense / phrasal verbs and collocations

Listening practice

Sentence building / linking words / photo descriptions

Vocabulary / come & go / kitchen items /

Grammar – verbs

GRAMMAR – regular verbs in the past tense

Regular verbs add -ed to form the past tense 

walk / walked // jump / jumped // look / looked // want / wanted // ask  / asked

Irregular verbs are all different. A lot of common verbs are irregular:

have /had // do / did // say / said // be / was/were// go / went // get / got // make / made // take / took

Here are 7 verbs in the PRESENT. 

Choose the correct verb AND use it in the correct tense.

teach / live / go / see / drink / am / have 

Ms Ha (1) …….. drinking tea yesterday 

when she (2) ……. an idea. 

I haven’t (3) …….. my neighbours how to drink tea. I am sure they will be happy. 

They have not (4) …… to the UK yet.

I have (5) …. in many cities in England. 

Now I am in Viet Nam. I have (6) …. many wonderful sights, 

but I have never (7) …… a cup of good, English tea.

Image result for asian girl drinking tea

Grammar – verb practice

Here’s the 15 most common:

infinite / present / past /past participle (verb 3)

1 to be / / am // was /been

you are / / were / been

2 to have / / have / had / had

3 to do // do / did /done

4 to say // say / said / said

5 to go //go / went / gone

6 to get // get / got / gotten

7 to make //make / made / made

8 to know // know / knew /known

9 to think // think / thought / thought

10 to take // take / took / taken

11 to see // see / saw / seen

12 to come // come / came / come

13 to want // want / wanted /wanted

14 to use // use / used / used

15 to find // find / found / found

Grammar: must or have to ? mustn’t or don’t have to

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 (an Asian fast-food chain like McDonalds) !

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 parties ! Do I _____ go ?

You _______ eat too much popcorn; it’s bad for you.

You ________ be over 18 to see this film

You don’t ____ bring your passport to get intoa cinema in Viet Nam.

Image result for mustn't

Answers: must / have to / mustn’t / have to / have to

Grammar: Phrasal verbs

Phrasal Verbs and collocations

Put

up with / the fire out / up / on a happy face

it in your own words / up or shut up !/ it away / it another way

Get

well soon / over it ! / on with it / away with murder / on the bus

back to work ! / with the program (US) / some fresh air

Complete the sentences:

She looks so sweet but she never does her job ! She gets …….. at work, 

Come on, cheer up ! Put ……. and smile.

If you are so good, you do it ! Put ………..

We are all going to work on the new project together, so get …….. or get a new job !

She is not the thinnest lady in the world. OK, let me put ………. she’s fat !

Stop playing and do your homework. Get ……….

His Thai girlfriend left him. He needs to get ……….

Answers:

she gets away with murder (is allowed to do bad things) // put on a happy face // put up or shut up (don’t just talk about it – do it OR stop talking) // get with the program (do what everyone wants to do) // put it another way (to say something differently) // get back to work // get over it (stop being sad, and forget the past).

Sentence building 

Linking words: and / as well as / and also / along with

These link positives sentences:

I like tea as well as coffee He plays football and also badminton.

How are they dressed ? How do they look (emotions) ?

Example

Tesco Lotus is quite cheap and also has a great choice.

but / however / having said that / on the other hand

These link positives to negatives / negatives to positives:

Jet Mart is convenient. Having said that, it is (it’s) extremely expensive.

Czech beer is fantastic quality, however it’s not easy to find in Sai Gon.

‘therefore’ is a conclusion word:

The Spanish supplier is reasonable (so-so) quality, but more expensive. Therefore, we will use the German supplier in future.

Photo descriptions

These can be a great way to encourage students to speak and build longer sentences and therefore become more confident in speaking and using English.

Describe what you see in this photo. Use as many adjectives as you can.

Subject first – Do not use a pronoun (he / she / they) Say what you see.

Where are they ? What are they doing ? What do they look like ?

How are they dressed ? How do they look (emotions) ?

What do you think they are talking about ?

Example

 I see two young ladies … now try to add more adjectives:

I see two beautiful young Asian ladies. One has very long, straight brown hair. Her friend has medium brown hair, a little wavy.

The lady on the left has a white dress with flowers. The lady on the right wears a blue cotton dress.

Now what are they doing – use continuous verbs – verb + ing

They are talking, laughing and drinking coffee. They are in a nice coffee shop. I see some bags, one yellow, one orange, so I think they like shopping.

Now – your turn. Describe these photos:

I see a very angry lady. She is …
The lady likes to talk. She is …
I see two young girls … maybe they are sisters …
What do you see ? What are they doing ? Are they both happy ?
What do you think about this ? How does it look ?

Listening:

I would normally read this aloud and then ask the students the questions. You can alter the speed, the natural chunking sounds, etc, to suit the ability of your class.

I usually go shopping once a week. I sometimes go to Big C but I like shopping at Mega Market. CitiMart is good but it’s a long way from my house. Mega Market is quite near my house so it’s easy to get there. It’s a big supermarket and it has everything I need, which is great. The best thing is that it’s not expensive so I can save money.

How often do I go shopping ? Where do I like shopping ? Why ?

What is the best thing about Mega Market ? Why don’t I go to Citimart ?

Image result for big c supermarket

Vocabulary

Come/Go

Come is where you are NOW: Come here ! Go is for somewhere else: Go away !

I am in Vietnam so – I will goto Thailand, then comeback to Sai Gon.

Always ‘go to’ EXCEPT go home / go shopping / go swimming / go fishing

Kitchen items: What is it for ?

Look how native-speakers link words together:

What is a knife for ? What’s aknife for ? / Sounds like, ‘Whatsa kinffor ?’

A knife is for cutting meat and fish and also vegetables as well as fruit and, not forgetting, bread.

What is a spoon for ? Whatsa spoon for ?

A spoon’s for eating as well as stirring drinks and not forgetting cooking.

What are they for ? They are / they’re scissors (sis zerss) a pair of scissors

multi = many / multi-purpose = many uses

corkscrew / bottle opener / sharp / blunt

scissors
Bottle openers, corkscrews and key-chains
Potato peeler

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2, Part 4

19th January 2020

Contents

Dialogue: cinema tickets / afternoon plans

Free speaking exercises

Grammar: adverbs of degree

Idioms and expressions

Sentence building

Theme: coffee in Vietnam / photography

Vocabulary booster

Sentence building

Let’s look at these recent words:

shocked / frustrated / overwhelmed / surprised / confused 

I was surprised. It was surprising.

Image result for surprised Asain girl
She was surprised to be on my blog. It was surprising for her.

Use these in sentences e.g.

I was shocked by the prices in Family Mart. In Family Mart, the prices are shocking.

Tony was frustrated …..(by /with/ at)

Janet was overwhelmed by …

However, these adjectives are different:

delighted- it is delightful. I was delighted to receive your email. It was delightful.

lonely – lonely. I was lonely at home last night. It was lonely.

relieved – it was a relief. She was so relieved to find her keys. It was a relief.

Vocabulary booster

remember to link words together.

I live in a …

Image result for suburban street

quiet, residential street. Peaceful at night.

lively and busy commercial area, many shops

dirty and dusty industrial part of town. Very noisy.

My home is a / an …

Image result for london bedsit

apartment and I live alone

rented room which share with friends

house and I live with my family

pros and cons advantages = positives / disadvantages = negatives 

What are the pros and cons of living alone ? Or about sharing with friends or family ?

adverbs of degree

very, extremely, incredibly, remarkably, unbelievably, rather, somewhat, quite 

I travel to work by …

Image result for bus queue africa

motorbike. It’s quite / rather far and extremely stressful.

using Grabbike. It’s very convenient albeit rather expensive.

bus. Although it’s incredibly cheap, it’s not very pleasant.

Idioms and expressions

At work I / I’m …

Image result for bored at work

find myself doing the same thing day in day out. It’s tedious.

up to eyes ! I’m always busy, attending meetings or writing reports.

have a variety of different jobs, I’m a jack of all trades; I don’t have time to get bored !

Notice the collocations

In my free time I …

enjoy watching films and playing sports. I am competitive !

adore hanging out with my friends and family.

love shopping. I can spot a bargain and I hate being ripped off !

Learning English

is, for me, easy, a piece of cake. It’s very important and fun at the same time.

in my opinion, is vital for the future. It’s imperative we learn.

is a necessary task. It’s awkward and frustrating, but I need it.

is highly enjoyable and relaxing. I love to improve my mind.

Image result for children learning English

Idioms

Match the idiom with the meaning:

Image result for raining cats and dogs

It’s raining cats and dogs // working very hard

Kick the bucket // no problem, very easy

working like a dog // to die

It costs an arm and a leg // very heavy rain

piece of cake // very expensive

FREE SPEAKING EXERCISE

ENGLISH – Why are you learning English ?

Do you enjoy learning – if so, why / if not, why not ?

What are the benefits ? Give examples.

Do you have problems with learning a language ?

Is it fair that you have to learn a second language in your own country ?

Does this open up career opportunities for you or your children ?

What, in your opinion, is the best way to learn a language ?

Interaction, free speech and a sharing of ideas

Useful expressions:

I’d like to share with you my passion which is / One of my major interests is

As you know, we (students / engineers) don’t have much free time, so when I have time to myself there’s nothing I like more than …

I have many hobbies such as … and … but tonight, I’d like to talk about …

Responses

Could you explain in more detail …. When did you start this hobby ?

How did you get into … ? Ah, that sounds interesting.

What does your girlfriend think about this ? Oh, you have no girlfriend.

Hhmmm, it’s not really my cup of tea, but I can see why you like it.

Does it take up much of your time ? Are you part of a club ?

I’m not sure I follow … (I don’t understand)

Dos and Don’ts

We have ‘free speech’ but this is tempered by social rules of politeness:

DO – appear interested and respond positively.

appropriate body language.

encourage the speaker to elucidate and expand.

ask question at a ‘turn-taking’ moment.

DON’T – say ‘I am bored because this isn’t interesting,’ or ‘I don’t care.’ 

start talking to your neighbour when someone else is speaking

sleep or yawn loudly

click your pen, kick your chair, make noises.

EXAMPLE: JAZZ MUSIC

I love all types of music, but one of my favourites is Jazz. It can be exciting, or slow, but it’s always different.

Unlike other types of music, Jazz is spontaneous. This means that you never hear the same song the same way; each performance is different.

Jazz started in New Orleans but moved up to Chicago, New York and even west to California. The first records were made in 1917 and the first true Jazz genius was Louis Armstrong. If you want to hear jazz, you should listen to his records from the 1920s.

You may know some famous Jazz artists such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Charlie Parker. I can recommend these musicians to you as first-rate examples of Jazz.

I hope this has made you curious about Jazz, and that you go online to listen for yourself. Who knows, maybe you too will learn to love Jazz.

Image result for jazz lp covers
Some great Jazz record covers

One student spoke about his mother’s home-cooking:

My mother has a secret recipe; firstly, she boils the beef in water and then slices it finely. Along with this, she cooks vegetables and the aromais simply wonderful, after which she mixes them together. It is mouth-watering. The rice has to be pan-fried, that is to say, no oil, just dry. The next stage is to pound the rice and finally, she puts the rice on a dish and … bon apetite ! (French for good appetite, eat well)

Extra expressions: one student told us about breaking up with his girlfriend. Initially, he said that he dumped her, but the truth was she gave him the elbow !

Image result for being dumped memes

Vocabulary:

Try to use these regularly:

obviously, typically, on the other hand, initially, that is to say 

and these adverbs:

somewhat / quite / extremely / incredibly / increasingly / highly

Theme: coffee in Sai Gon

There are so many choices in Sai Gon. Tran Nguyen has the best quality but is very expensive. On the other hand, Milano is very cheap and very convenient however, many people smoke there. Highlands is really popular. Having said that, it is not cheap. Street coffee is extremely cheap but terrible quality ! Maybe fake coffee, just chemicals.

What are your favourite coffee shops ? Why ? What factors are important ?

Theme: photographs

Asking questions

what / who / where / when / why

1 _When/Where_ was it taken?

2 _____________ are they?

3 _____________ took the picture?

4 _____________ do you keep the photo?

5____________ kind of camera have you got?

6 _____________ are they doing?

My friend Pete

One of my favourite photos is of my friend Pete, who lives in Birmingham, England.

His wife took the photo last March. Pete is playing bass guitar in a studio. It looks like he is having fun. He plays in a band called ‘The Deep Six’.

I keep this photo on my computer in a file called ‘Music in Birmingham’.

What is the name of my friend ?

Where does he live ?

What guitar does he play ?

What is the name of his band ?

Where do I keep this photo ?

Vocabulary:

This is a photograph of my friend Pete. This photo is of my friend Pete.

I think he is (he’s) having fun. It looks like he’s having fun.

He takes a photo (present tense). He took a photo (past tense).

He is (he’s) in a band. He plays in a band.

Dialogue

To practise question words and the past tense.

what / where / why / when / who / which / how

Jan & Tina are catching up

Jan What did you do last night ? Who did you meet ?

Tina I went out with friends. We saw a movie, then drank some coffee. How about you ?

Jan I just stayed at home and played computer games. Which cinema did you go to ?

Tina At Diamond Plaza. We bought popcorn which we ate before the film began.

Jan You were very hungry ! Was the film good ?

Tina Yeah, really exciting. The tickets were incredibly cheap too.

Jan How much were they ?

Tina Only 333 000 VND (three hundred and thirty-three thousand Dong).

Speaking practice: afternoon plans

Sid What are your plans for this afternoon ?

Viv Well, I need to buy some coffee as well as some bread and milk. How about you ?

Sid Oh, I’ve got to have a meeting with the new director. He seems very strict.

Viv Yeah, I get the impression that he is very serious. However, he is professional.

Sid Right, he doesn’t appear to be a barrel of laughs. Having said that, he’s honest.

Viv Honest and fair along with being very neat and tidy. Always a plain white shirt.

Sid Remember the old boss ? Such gaudy ties ! For me, that was unprofessional.

Viv Anyway, where can I get my groceries ? Is there a convenience store nearby ?

Sid Naturally. Take the second left, go as far as the bank, then cross over. Can’t miss it.

Viv Brilliant ! You’re an angel.

Image result for man with gaudy tie
A very gaudy tie

Adult Speaking Class. Theme: Love and marriage

11th January 2020

Love and marriage

Image result for wedding

Idioms, collocations, expressions, phrasal verbs

tie the knot / getting spliced / = getting married

(collocation – to get married)

He went down on one knee and popped the question = proposed.

It was love at first sight. She knew he was Mr Right.

He proposed but she turned him down = he asked but she said ‘no.’

They changed their minds, he got cold feet now they have called off the wedding.

I love weddings; it’s a chance to dress up and show off.

How do these differ ?

Going on a date / going out / meeting for coffee 

Philipe and Julie have been ………. for five months (they have been dating)

You want to speak more with someone as a friend

You want to meet someone alone, and maybe start a romantic relationship

FREE SPEAKING

What’s the best thing about being in a relationship? What’s the best thing about being single? 

What headings would you put these under ?

Life is more fun than being alone. Problems are easier to solve.

We have total, 100% freedom ! Do what we want, when we want.

We have less responsibility.

No lonliness

If you meet someone you like, you can ask them out on a date.

There’s a time to play and a time to settle down and raise a family.

No in-laws !

How do couples meet ?

How did you meet your: wife / husband / boyfriend / girlfriend / partner ?

Image result for meeting people for dates

Listening practice: How did these couples meet ? This video was shot (filmed) in New York, so it will be American English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6rYRyoqpeI

New Vocabulary

Make sentences based on the pictures:

shocked / delighted / lonely / frustrated /overwhelmed /surprised / confused / relieved

Remember: you can increase sentences by using adjectives – just say what you see. Basic adjectives such as colours, sizes or materials will all add to your word count and make your speech more interesting (as well as improving scores in tests).

How does the woman feel ? What does she look like ? What is she wearing ?

I was delighted when I received your wedding invitation. (FIRST PERSON ‘I’, or use the THIRD PERSON – he/she/it/ a name)

The lady was delighted.

The young lady was delighted.

The beautiful young lady with long straight blonde hair, and wearing a pretty pink top, was delighted.

The young woman, who has long straight blonde hair, was delighted by the invitation.

Now you try:

Blind date TV show (this is from UK 1994)

Do you have game shows like this is your country ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj_ewz53Frk

Image result for Blind date tv uk

Blind Date game:

Look at the photos of the three men and three women.

Read their likes and dislikes, and what they want out of life. 

Try to arrange matches.

How successful will the dates be, do you think ?

PETER. Age 46. Lawyer. Likes cooking, travelling, wine, driving, tennis. Divorced, 2 children. Looks for quiet lady with no children, to look after the house and him.

JAMES. Age 26. IT worker. Likes music, dancing, going to clubs, beach holidays. Single. Looks for young lady who is loud and fun, likes to party.

David. Age 22. Model. Likes fashion, clothes, cocktail bars, smoking cigars. Looking for a women who is a model so we can look great together. Must be very beautiful and wear expensive clothes.

And now the ladies: which woman would be the best match for these men ?

Jane. Age 22. Likes fashion, clubbing, kittens, holidays in the sun. Looks for a man with a steady job and ‘down-to-earth’. Non-smoker only.

Lisa. 28. Banker. Likes quiet restaurants, badminton, travelling. Looks for a mature man with good income for long term relationship. No boys, please !

Emily. 20. Likes dancing, fashion, going out with my friends. Movies. Wants a young, cute boy-friend so we can go to parties together. No boring old men, please !

If the dates are successful, they could lead to weddings, married life and children … but we’ll save that for the next blog. In the meantime, here’s some clips of when the big day doesn’t go to plan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCkcU9h5ggc

Image result for wedding fails

Adult Class, Level 3: Sentence building

15th December for 17 – 19th December 2019

Warm up. Describe what happens in this video.

How to ride a motorbike (?):

New expressions:

under the table (giving money to get something done quickly) / over the top (something that is too much or a person behaving too loudly).

In Asia, giving money under the table is, sometimes, the only way to get something done.

In USA many TV presenters are so loud, they are completely over the top.

Building longer sentences:

Make these simple sentences into a longer piece by using discourse markers, adjectives and adverbs and opinion phrases:

I work at ATS. My job make me tired. I have many projects to do. My co-workers are nice.

Relative pronouns– who (person), which (thing), where (place). 

Adverbs– add information

Opinions– I feel, I believe, in my opinion, from my point of view. 

Discourse markers – although, despite, however …

ATS, where I work, can be extremely tiring because there are many projects which, I feel, are very challenging. Having said that, there are many wonderfully friendly colleagues who make me feel happy.

Write a short piece about your school, university or work:

Sentence building:

although / despite / albeit

Can be used like ‘but’ and ‘however’. .. sentence structure may need to change:

Peter likes driving although he hates traffic. ONE sentence

Although he hates traffic, Peter loves driving. TWO clauses

King BBQ is very good albeit very busy NEVER starts a sentence

Despite being very busy, King BBQ is great. NOTE despite + verbing

King BBQ is great despite being very busy (or costing very much / having no beer.)

We love our jobs despite the fact that we have to work long hours.

Write longer sentences using albeit, although or despite.

T_ara are adorable. Their music is nothing special.

Vietjet is cheap. The flights are frequently delayed.

Korea is beautiful. The weather can be cold. (Also add adverbs)

Rolex watches are astronomical. They are good quality

Image result for vietjet advery girl"

Music vocabulary:

Image result for types of music"

rhythm / beat / melody / production / arrangement / vocals / lyrics / solo

singer / vocalist /lead guitarist / rhythm guitarist / bass / drummer / keyboards backing singer / orchestration

Genres (types of music): pop / rock / country and western / punk / classical / jazz blues / opera / R ‘n’ B / techno / rap

What kind of music do you like ? Ask your classmates, and try to keep the conversation alive for as long as possible. You can say what genres you like, then give examples of artists and special CDs or records. How do you buy music, how do you listen to it (computer, CD, iPhone, MP3 player ?) Do you play an instrument ? Would you like to play something ? Do you ever go to concerts ?

Phrasal verbs:

give in / turn off / start off / put out / cut down/ cut out/ put up with

1 I’m working too much, therefore I must _________ on my hours.

2 You can’t smoke here ! ____________ that cigarette.

3 We have to _________ so much noise and dirt here in Cat Lai (industrial area).

4 I always __________ to my wife when she demands something; it is easier !

5 Time to knock off. Before you go, make sure to _________ your computers.

6 For health reasons, my doctor advised me to _________ fatty food.

7 The film ___________ great, but soon became too complicated.

Speaking practice:

Image result for job interview in cairo"

You are at a job interview and have to introduce yourself. Start by giving some facts, your educational background and how long you have worked in your current/ present job. Describe your personality and finish by saying what you like to do in your spare time.

Example:

I was born in …. and I graduated from …. University in 2019 with a major in Business Administration. Since then I’ve had two year’s experience in administrative work at ATHA and followed that with a stint in SLH 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. In addition, I enjoy going out and having coffee with friends. I also support Barcelona and enjoy playing badminton after work.

Vocabulary booster:

I live in a:

 quiet, residential street. Peaceful at night.

lively and busy commercial area, many shops

dirty and dusty industrial part of town. Very noisy.

My home is a / an:

apartment and I live alone

rented room share with friends

house live with family

pros and cons – advantages and disadvantages

adverbs of degree (very, extremely, incredibly, remarkably, unbelievably) 

I travel to work by:

Motorbike. It’s quite / rather far and extremely stressful.

Use Grabbike. It’s very convenient albeit rather expensive.

On the bus. Although it’s incredibly cheap, it’s not very pleasant.

Idioms and expressions

At work I find myself doing the same thing day in day out. It’s tedious.

Learning English is, for me, easy, a piece of cake. It’s very important and fun.

In my free time:

I enjoy watching films and playing sports. I am competitive !

adore hanging out with my friends and family.

love shopping. I can spot a bargain and I hate being ripped off !

Learning English:

in my opinion, is vital for the future. It’s imperative we learn.

is a necessary task. It’s awkward and frustrating, but I need it.

is highly enjoyable and relaxing. I love to improve my mind.

The War Remnants Museum is

Image result for war museum saigon"

extremely popular with tourists, a major attraction in the city.

well laid-out and organised. The exhibits are fascinating.

very sombre and thought-provoking. Well worth a visit.

educational and essential. We can discover much there.

not suitable for children, though I would recommend it to adults.

Increase your word power

Part 1: Match the basic words with others of similar meaning

For example boring = tedious

interesting / on time / forgetful / live (I live in) / smart (clever) / get (by hard work) attain / absent-minded /fascinating / punctual / intelligent / reside

Part 2

unhappy / honest / not often / tired / place / reliable // exhausted / seldom / miserable / trustworthy / dependable / environment

Part 3

small or unimportant / try / make / great / happy / not nice / / endeavour / jovial / prepare / insignificant / nasty / brilliant

Practice:

John is so forgetful; he is _______________

German manufacturers are reliable; they are ____________

The increase is very small; it is _______________

The plane was on time; the service is very _____________

She is so clever; she is very ______________

Now make sentences with the new words. Put class into teams and they have to make sentences with five new words e.g. (for example):

After studying for three years, John attained his BA Degree.

Use these phrasal verbs in new sentences – BUT in the past or continuous tense.

give in / give up / put up with / put off / take off / start off

New Vocabulary

passive smoking 

nightmare situation 

how can I put it ? 

a fair comment ? 

peer pressure ? 

emulate

inconsistent

willing = happy to do something

luke-warm

concise = short and to the point.

sneaky = crafty, cheeky 

I am __________ to help you with your homework.

Please be short and _________ when you give a speech.

The audience was only _____________ after the band played.

People can get cancer just by _________________ .

I have so much work to do and have a meeting with my boss; it’s a ______________

Speaking skills:

Image result for london metro newspaper"

Discuss a news story from today’s ‘London Metro’ http://metro.co.uk/

The ‘Metro’ is a free newspaper, available at stations and main streets in many cities over the world.