Today is Hung King Festival, a free day in Viet Nam
“The holiday is dedicated to the memory of the Hung line of kings who ruled Vietnam as priestly kings for over 2,500 years up until around 250 B.C. These kings are counted as the nation’s ancient founders.” Read more on:
Elaborate (verb) … tell more, expand on your answer
Significant (adj) significance (noun) significantly (adv) … very important or different from the rest. Special, notable.
Simile … to compare something e.g. he drinks like a fish, she eats like a pig, our campus is like a bloody madhouse.
White collar job … professional, desk job or requires mental skills e.g. lawyer, doctor, office worker, teacher
Blue collar job … manual work, although these jobs can also need a professional qualification, and can be extremely well-paid.
Now, on with the show. Last night was based around the typical IELTS question, “Tell me about your family,” and its derivatives. I tell classes until I’m blue in the face, just saying, “I live with my mum, my dad and my sister,” is not a great IELTS answer, not to mention being tedious in the extreme.
The students mulled it over and came up with the reasonable response that there really was nothing else to say. Au contraire (on the contrary) there is so much to say, and every journey, as my Duchess knows, starts with a single step to wit, a great introduction.
The students, somewhat perplexed, offered:
Well, I don’t know how to give an interesting answer because I just live with my mum, dad and brother …
Even that would qualify as an introduction, but how about:
Allow me to introduce my family to you. Firstly there is …
Here’s where relative clauses really come into their own. Basically, every time you mention a subject, a noun, elaborate; tell the examiner more about said subject.
Oh, you know I will. Let’s start with the matriarch, Mommie dearest. You could say:
My mother has a heart of gold …
…then explain why
… she’s always thinking of other people before herself, as well aslistening to all my problems and trying to help me with everything.
On the other hand, your mother may want you to excel at everything …
Although I love her dearly, my mother is what they call a Tiger Mum by which I mean she always makes me study, do homework and learn piano. I really burn the candle at both ends and sometimes it can be too much for me.
Now, let’s turn to pater, Daddy;
My father, on the other hand, is firm but fair …
My father has a white collar job. He works long hours to provide for his family, he really has his nose to the grindstone …
He’s a little loud and on holidays, he loves singing karaoke with his friends, who are all blue collar workers, and hedrinks like a fish.
Now, a borrowed word to describe sister …
My sister, who is younger than me, is such a prima donna, always (doing what ?) …
My sister is so sweet, she’s like a little angel, and she loves playing with our puppywho is just six weeks old.
How about brother ?
My brother really looks out for me, giving me advice and guidance. I totally look up to him.
On the other hand …
My brother is an absolute slacker, lazy beyond belief. He never helps in the house, or cleans his room. He does his homework once in a blue moon, preferring to play stupid computer games instead.
How was that ? Happy now ?
Now … Your Turn
Last night you encountered these adjectives and occupations:
IELTS students always need to concentrate on expanding their lexical resources. Having said that, I feel this class needs extra work on fluency and pronunciation. To that end, some exercises to assist:
Exercise 1: Just a minute. In pairs, one student has to speak for one minute without repetition, hesitation or deviation.
The subjects are: Your favourite gift // your neighbourhood // what you like about your city // shopping // your family
Exercise 2: Newsreader. Read the following extracts with appropriate pronunciation, intonation and stress, not forgetting body language.
Some stories are sombre (sad, solemn), others convey information that is somewhat depressing or raise concern. However, we end with some lighter entertainment gossip and football transfer speculation.
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II returned to royal duties just four days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, with her first in-person event Tuesday.
The queen hosted a ceremony at Windsor Castle for William Peel, who retired after serving for 14 years as lord chamberlain, the most senior aide in the royal household.
A report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, or WTTC, has revealed the full extent of the damage done to the global travel industry in 2020 after business was devastated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Globally, the sector’s income slumped by almost $4.5 trillion last year. In 2019, travel and tourism was linked to one in four of all new jobs created around the world. But in 2020, more than 62 million jobs were lost.
HCMC – The Ministry of Health has confirmed 16 new imported Covid-19 cases in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Hanoi, Danang, Quang Nam and HCMC, taking the country’s tally to 2,733 as of tonight, April 14.
Five of the new cases were reported in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. The patients, aged between 29 and 39, returned to Vietnam from Russia on Flight VN5062 on April 12. They were immediately transported to Ba Ria-Vung Tau for quarantine after arriving at the HCMC-based Tan Son Nhat International Airport. All of them are being treated at Long Dien District Medical Center.
Who is Hey Stephen by Taylor Swift about?
The song is about a crush Taylor had on Stephen Barker Liles, who’s in the band Love and Theft.
The two reportedly met in 2008 when his band was opening up for her on tour.
Speaking to Access Online, Taylor said: “The song is actually about a guy who I had a crush on and never told him.
“So I wrote everything that I was thinking down in the song instead of telling him.”
Manchester United are eager to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus – according to Sai Gon Post.
The Red Devils will consider an exchange deal that would see Paul Pogba return to Turin in order to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford this summer.
United are on course to receive a big payout for finishing in the Premier League’s top four again, and plan to put those funds towards the re-capture of a club legend.
you get what you pay for (or you pay for what you get) – if you buy something cheap, you get bad quality
to romanticise – to make something ordinary more interesting
to fantasise (fantasize US English) – to wish for something great to happen
use your imagination / give your imagination free reign – it is OK to pretend, to make up a better story
I will give it my utmost consideration – I will think about it very, very carefully (and then say ‘no’).
firstly, secondly, additionally, another point is, on the other hand, however, finally, in conclusion, to sum up, all things considered – all ‘signpost language‘, to help organise your ideas.
Are you ready to rock ?
I’ll be burning the candle at both ends because my IELTS test is _______________ .
Remember, you don’t have to tell the absolute truth in your speaking test. It’s totally OK to ________________________________ .
I picked up this shirt at Saigon Centre and, yeah, it cost an arm and a leg, but just feel the quality … you ____________________________________ .
We booked a really reasonable room at the beach, but the water was cold, the sheets were stained and there were bugs everywhere. We totally _____________________________________ (use past tense).
Thay Paul, we have a new class of students. They are extremely lazy and unmotivated and only want to play with their phones. Would you like to teach them ? ________________________________________________ .
What did you do last weekend ? “I sleep.” Is that all ? Ah, c’mon, do better, ______________________________________ .
Quick – fire round
You planned a day out for my friend Ethan. Describe these photos using as many IELTS features as you can:
Areas to focus on: being confident about answering the Part II questions, so we shall work on fluency and developing the ability to speak for longer periods without hesitation.
Just a minute
Speak for one minute on:
Food in your country
What you do in your free time
Holidays in your country (e.g. Tet, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc)
Encourage students to speak in long, interesting sentences.
Making the use of adjectives and adverbs a natural part of their English
Develop their ability to express themselves, giving reasons (because) and examples (like, such as)
Show them how much fun English can be by the use of idioms (once in a blue moon, it’s raining cats and dogs)
Match the word(s) to the meaning
gigantic / enormous __________ everywhere
tiny / petit _____________________on time
delicious / mouth watering ___very rarely
difficult ________________________ yummy / tasty
once in a blue moon ______ big / huge
intelligent ____________________ hard
ubiquitous ____________________ very small
once in a blue moon
piece of cake (very easy, no problem)
it’s raining cats and dogs (very heavy rain)
NOW … practice:
Street food in Vietnam is (everywhere) ___________________ .
Thay Paul loves fish and chips because it is (yummy)_________________ and _____________________. However, it is not very healthy so he only eats it __________________________________________(very rarely)
The man is (very big) however the lady is (very small)
Mr Paul is saying hello to an elephant which is a very (clever) __________________ animal.
This rabbit is always (on time) _________________
Is it (hard) ____________________ for a gorilla to play drums ? No, it is easy – it’s a piece of cake.
Vietnamese coffee kept warm in a three lions bowls, the lions being a symbol of England. If you love coffee, you’ve come to the right place; coffee shops are _________________ in Sai Gon, and throughout Viet Nam.
Lady Thu stated that she would (try) ___________ to learn more vocabulary.
I expected the students to pass with flying colours, but instead I was very _______________________ by their low scores.
Mr Sang knew every answer, he was really _________________________ last night.
Passing a driving test in Vietnam is easy. _______________________________ .
Those Armani T-shirts are absolutely fake ! At that price, no way are they ____________ .
Street food stalls are ubiquitous in my neighborhood; the food is (tasty) ______________________ and the prices are quite ___________________ .
Mr Lee (adverb) _____________ promised me he would be on time for the meeting.
We also covered some basic introduction phrases which you categorically have to memorise:
Some standard opening lines:
That’s a very interesting question
Well, that’s a great question
Well, there is so much to say about that subject, where shall I start ?
It’s funny you put that question to me because earlier today I was just thinking about …
As a young Vietnamese (add your own nationality), I …
And now, a typical IELTS question: What do you do in your free time ?
Remember the first rule of introductions: never answer the question immediately. Remember the second rule of introductions: never answer the question immediately.
So, how to pass with flying colours ? Ah, c’mon, Man, you should know by now ! OK, breaks down like this. Give me:
A great introduction
An organised speech, point by point (use ‘signpost’ language).
At least one idiom
Ideas linked by discourse markers
Appropriate intonation, stress & body language
Well, that’s quite an interesting question because, as a young Vietnamese student, I don’t really have much free time. I have to study all day, then do homework in the evening; I’m really burning the candle at both ends. However, when I have time to myself, I like to hang out with my friends and forget about school.
Firstly we meet in coffee shops, which are ubiquitous in Sai Gon, and talk and laugh. Highlands in my favourite because it has free WiFi as well as being very comfortable although some of the coffee prices are sky-high.
Additionally, I love swimming which, in my opinion, is incredibly healthy, and it doesn’t require much equipment. Subsequently, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
However, my absolute favorite past time is to sing karaoke, which I believe comes from Japan, in a private, sound-proof room. For me, it’s a perfect way to relax and forget all my stress about work, life and my parents !
G) start with ‘In my opinion …’ or ‘As far as I’m concerned …’ etc
H) i) more than: hyper-market, hyperinflation, hyper-sensitive
I) both are correct (check Cambridge Dictionary for confirmation)
J) ubiquitous K) a landscape L) all of the above
M) cell phones and WiFi as they interfere with the radio telescope.
N) ineffable O) illuminate, such as the lanterns in Hoi An.
P) grew up & dropped out of Q) tedious & monotonous
R) a mover and a shaker S) my hands are tied
T) not my cup of tea, I wouldn’t call that art, it leaves me cold, I don’t get it at all etc
U) in this class, NEVER (except at 9.00 pm)
X) [no irony intended … well, maybe a little] ‘Nighthawks’ is often interpreted as showing loneliness, sadness, depression, urban alienation. I could explain more, but nobody in this country gives a hoot about art.
Ôi Trời Ơi – OyVey! – Are you kidding me ! Last night’s class was chockablock with new, high-level vocabulary:
Ok, take it easy, let’s break it down. Firstly, you were not expected to learn or remember everything; I told you to … well, you tell me. Try to complete the sentences with the new words. If you need help, the vocabulary box follows the questions, while I’ll put the answers at the end of the blog.
1) I didn’t understand everything, but I got the ________
2) Light and sound travel in ___________
3) X-Rays and microwaves are a form of (type of) __________________
4) For me, trying to pronounce Vietnamese words is a real ____________
5) Can you buy twelve eggs ? Yeah, buy me ______________
6) I don’t understand the Zoom instruction video, there’s so much computer __________
7) One of y tá (nurse) Cam’s duties is to take a patient’s ________ , to measure their heartbeat.
8) They love each other dearly, but they don’t always see __________________
I adapted this warm-up from a British television show from the 70s and early 80s. Just show a short clip, then ask the students some questions. The game can be quite fun, and has proved very popular. Being December, I’ve chosen a Christmas-themed clip, a TV advert made by the John Lewis Company:
What colour was the girl’s umbrella ?
How many buttons (not eyes) did the snowman have ?
Name three shops that you saw.
How many snow people were on the street ?
What was on the wall in the man’s kitchen ?
What toy did the old man have in the bath ?
What was the old man’s job ?
How many pigeons were standing on the street ?
What fruit was the man on the subway (Tube train) holding ?
What was the number of the bus ?
Complete the slogans: Give a little _______ Together we can make a big ____________
Red // 5 // Scarf Hut, Pharmacy, Opticians, Florist // 8 (one in the window doesn’t count) // a fish, a picture of the family, a shelf // a toy duck // a barber or haircutter // 4 // an apple // 222 // ‘love’ & ‘difference’
Another clip I have used is from the British film ‘Summer Holiday’:
1) What was the road sign at the beginning of the clip ?
London // Berlin // Paris ?
2) What was the number of the bus ?
9 // 19 // 28 ?
3) What colour was the first car behind the bus ?
red // white // blue ?
4) How many children wore a hat ?
1 // 2 // no children
5) How many men were riding bicycles ?
3 // 4 // 6 ?
6) What does Cliff, the driver, eat ?
a sandwich / a cake / nothing
7) How many women were in the car ?
3 // 4 // 5 ?
BONUS POINTS – Can anyone sing the song – just two lines
“We’re all going on a summer holiday // we’re all going for a week or two.”
I start by writing the word ‘travel’ on the board, and see how many avenues spread out from it. Start with the grammar; what type of word is it (noun) but it can be made into a verb (to travel, travelling) and the students should remember how to apply it to a person (traveller).
Then we have expressions such as ‘travel broadens the mind.’
We have this quote which introduces metaphor – the world as a book:
Then more pedestrian aspects of travel; how do we travel (transportation), preparation (booking tickets, hotels, visas etc), what do we bring with us (different clothes, sun cream, currency, sun glasses etc). How about culture shock ?
Next, what are the positive aspects of travelling (new cultures, fun, adventure, relaxation) and conversely, the negatives (delays, waiting in soulless airports, getting ripped off, tourist traps, bad hotels etc)
Pair work: students have to write a short passage using ‘although‘ and ‘despite‘ to encapsulate their travel experiences or wishes.
EXAMPLES: Although I absolutely love travelling, there are many drawbacks. Firstly, there is the cost; it can be incredibly expensive what with plane tickets and hotels not to mention having to eat out in restaurants. Despite these issues, travelling can be so relaxing or exciting, seeing new places and doing new things or simply as a break from our normal lives.
Vietnam has many beautiful towns and places of interest although I have only been to a few of them despite travel being relatively cheap in this country. We can fly everywhere within one or two hours, at very reasonable prices although some cheap airlines, such as Vietjet, are notorious for delays.
I have always wanted to visit Beijing in China which is not excessively far from Sai Gon. Despite that, I haven’t been because I am not sure about the visa and how expensive it would be to visit. Additionally, I hear some negative things such as terrible pollution and many tourist scams. Despite the drawbacks, I really want to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace and all the temples. Although Vietnam and China have a complicated relationship, most Vietnamese would agree that Chinese food is delicious.
These exercises help to increase vocabulary and confidence. Furthermore, the repetition helps to make the target language part of the students’ lexical resources.
Group work: Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.
Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.
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 of 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.
My friend Andy is coming to Sai Gon
Using ‘should’ to give advice or information, make suggestions for Andy.
He loves history … what should he visit or see ?
He loves traditional food … what should he eat ?
He can’t ride a motorbike … how should he travel ?
He likes a beer a night (!) … where should he go ?
My Thai friend is coming to Vietnam:
Ms Namsum is young and energetic. She’s into (really enjoy) clubs, sightseeing and shopping.
I suggest she starts the day with a traditional bowl of pho then goes to Sai Gon centre. She can walk there from her hotel in District 1 or take a taxi (Vinasun or Malin ONLY). She will be out of the heat and has a lot of shopping choices and places to eat or grab a coffee. She could rest at her hotel in the afternoon, then go to Nguyen Hue walking street when it gets cooler in the evening. She has many restaurants in this area. Furthermore, there are many English-language menus. Finally, she can go to Bui Vien street where there are many clubs and bars, as well as many tourists speaking English.
What do they students think ? Is that a good plan ? Have I missed something important ?
Language to use:
I see your point
That’s a good idea but …
If I may make a suggestion …
I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.
For example – That’s a good idea but you haven’t thought about sightseeing.
Bui Vien can be very noisy so I’m not sure that’s such a good idea for a young lady on her own.
Two of my friends, Tom and David who are both actors, are coming to Sai Gon. The students, in groups, have to arrange a fun day including sightseeing, shopping, eating and transportation. Then they have to compare their itineraries and exchange views and opinions. The students learn how to politely disagree with each and put forward their ideas and support their choices.
PLAN A DAY FOR TOM & DAVID
Where can they eat ?
What could they see or visit ?
How can they travel around ?
What can they buy as souvenirs ?
Where could they go at night ?
What safety advice would you give ?
What you need to know:
Both are 45-years old. They have good jobs and a good income. They like history and culture. They really enjoy good food and wine. Neither speaks any Vietnamese. They are too old for very loud clubs but they don’t mind having a few beers and maybe seeing some live music.
The students can make a presentation, and use the computer for images or maps to illustrate their plan. Then the other team can explain what they have organised, and the reasons why. I will decide which team has made the best choice.
Activity: Plan a day out for my friends.
I have two friends arriving in Sai Gon (or your city). They want a typical, authentic experience. Plan a day for them. It must include:
Somewhere for a snack
An interesting building or location
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
Is Sai Gon safe ?
Can you understand Vietnamese people speaking English ?
Do you agree with their points ?
Are there any words you didn’t understand ?
Do you have any bad experiences ? Tell the class your anecdote.
Word bomb– what do you think of when I say ‘hotel’ ?
Checking in to a hotel
reception / lift or elevator / single or double room / king size bed or twins /
first floor / complimentary breakfast / key deposit / luggage storage / safe / mini bar
What would the conversation be ?
Reception: How may I help you / May I ask your name ? / Can I see your reservation code ? / That’s fine. You stay for three nights ? / May I have your passport, please ? / You’re in room 237. That’s on the second floor / Thank you. Sign here, please / Yes, the lift is just over there. / Naturally, as well as a hair dryer, coffee machine and mini bar. / Enjoy your stay.
Guest: Hello, we have a reservation / We booked a room online / My name’s ….. / Certainly, it’s on my phone. / Yes, that’s right. / Absolutely. / Correct. / Just a second; here you are./ Is there a lift ? / The second floor ? / Is there a safe in the room ? / Perfect. Thanks very much
Make a conversation. One student will be the reception, the other(s) a guest or guests.
Write your own conversation
You are in a hotel bar and you meet another guest. Start a polite conversation, but you have to use your English.
Greet each other
Why are you in this city ? (holiday or on business)
Offer to buy a drink (accept or decline – maybe you don’t drink alcohol)
How long are they staying ? What do they think of the hotel ? What can they do in the area around the hotel ?
Small group work
You are two married couples who meet on a tour and are staying at the same hotel OR you are on a business trip and meet some other business people.
Use the following sentences, as well as your own, to make a conversation. try to keep speaking for as long as possible by using small talk techniques (oh, really / that’s interesting / tell me more / what do you do exactly ? / where is that ? / Sounds interesting)
My wife and I are delighted to meet you
Shall we go to the bar or cafe ?
Can offer name first (I’m Simon, what’s your name ?)
Would you fancy a drink … ?
Is there anywhere special to do here ?
Sorry, I have to get my head down, it’s been a long flight (I need to sleep).
My colleague and I were going out to eat.
I fancy a beer or something alcoholic
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask where you are from.
Would you like to join us ?
Peckish (little hungry)
What do you think of these hotel rooms ?
What do you think of the design ?
Would you like to stay in any of these ? Why, or why not ?