IELTS: a heart of gold (and other expressions)

18th April 2022

Apart from idioms, phrasal verbs and low-frequency words (LFW), IELTS students need a collection of expressions and collocations to spice up their English.

With that in mind, here are some notes from the previous lesson, along with revision exercises and a splattering of vibrant vocabulary.

As for speaking tests, I listened to eight students last week and only heard one complex sentence. Now, it wasn’t one of my classes; my students know exactly what I will do if they don’t speak in IELTS-style sentences:

I just jammed around with two key words: ‘heart’ & ‘gold’.

Exercise 1: define these expressions & idioms

HEART

a heart of gold

a heart to heart

hand on heart

heart-felt greetings

heartbreaking

a heart of stone

GOLD

King Midas
The bard of Stratford

a heart of gold (yes, again, it’s called practice)

as good as gold

the golden touch

golden handshake

silence is golden (especially when one works in Vietnam)

Exercise 2: use these expressions & idioms in an IELTS style, employing complex sentence(s).

EXAMPLE: My mother, who works incredibly long shifts at the hospital, has a heart of gold. Even when she is exhausted, she always finds time for me.

Now … your turn. Tell me about your:

younger sister // older brother // uncle // best friend // neighbour

New vocabulary

facetious // uncharacteristically // overheads // euphemism // lingua franca // prima donna

shaking in my boots // going to powder my nose // going to see a man about a dog // footloose and fancy free

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Travel Questions

10th April 2022

Language to use

Idioms:

Once in a blue moon

It costs an arm and a leg

Put / Had my nose to the grindstone

burning the candle at both ends

Vocabulary:

visually stunning / mouth-watering / a waste of money / spectacular / you get what you pay for / significantly / somewhat / according to / how can I put it ? / unforgettable / traditional / breathtaking / unique / once in a lifetime experience / never to be forgotten /

Exercise 1: write a narrative

My old friend was visiting Bangkok and, as Thailand is close to Vietnam, I decided to take a short holiday and meet up with him.

The students must flesh out the notes, using adjectives, discourse markers, adverbs and interesting expressions. Additionally, I need to hear a structured speech, using ‘signpost language’ such as:

To begin with / firstly

After that / secondly / following that /

Then / afterwards / another memorable moment was

For me the highlight was /

In conclusion / to sum up / all in all

Along with this, the voice must depict excitement or disappointment, indicate what is factual and what is an opinion.

Ready ? Let’s go !

I flew with …

Then took the BTS Skytrain

Then a …

To my hotel. I travelled alone, however I planned to meet up with …

The highlights of the trip undoubtedly:

Not forgetting the …

And Thailand is famous for the friendliness of its people…

The only black cloud was how short the break was, and having to go …

All good things must end. It was an amazing trip and the fact that I could meet an old friend made it even more memorable. I hope we can repeat the experience, sooner rather than later.

Exercise 2: talk about your dream holiday

Tip: choose a place you can discuss at length, somewhere that offers many attractions.

I choose Hoi An

Hoi An: Vietnam's most charming city - Exoticca Blog

Recently, I have been burning the candle at both ends, studying hard for tests so I feel ready for a well-earned break. I don’t need to travel abroad as Vietnam has many beautiful places and of these, my choice would be the unique town of Hoi An.

Firstly, Hoi An is a historical city with a wonderful Japanese bridge and lovely old shops. At night, the shops use romantic lanterns. It really is a once in a lifetime experience to see such a romantic and majestic sight.

Hoi An is close to Da Nang, which has breathtaking beaches. Living in the city, I only get to swim in the sea once in a blue moon. There are so many things to see and do in the local area apart from sunbathing and, naturally, mouth-watering, incredibly fresh seafood is ubiquitous and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. As for the travel details, I can fly there easily and quickly from Sai Gon. I can be there in next to no time.

Having said thatHoi An is very small and can be extremely crowded in summer. Prices could reflect this, and a good hotel room may be astronomical in the tourist season. Additionally, it is good to be prepared for scams and being overcharged. Unfortunately, this can be a reality of travelling.

All in all, Hoi An is a very special place to visit because it is a town of Vietnamese culture, and unlike anywhere else. It is a never to be forgotten experience so if you go, make sure you take many photos to help you preserve the memory.

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: hometowns & neighbourhoods. Speaking Test Part Two practice.

4th April 2022

Some London neighbourhoods

A typical, run of the mill IELTS question will be about your hometown or about your neighbourhood.

N.B. neighbourhood means the area in which you live; neighbours are the people living next or close to you.

First, some new vocabulary. I will expect you to learn these, to have them down pat:

gritty / industrial

quite / safe / residential

boring / peaceful / suburban

bustling / vibrant / city centre / lively / a happening place

apparently – something you believe to be true

conversely – the opposite, on the other hand, however

actually – saying something that is surprising or is the truth

New idioms

bear with me – please wait a very short time

bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry

like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc

run of the mill – ordinary, typical, unusual, boring

you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous

NOW … your turn

Tell me about your neighbourhood

Remember, give me a great introduction, have a positive point, a negative point and a short conclusion. You should be able to speak for two minutes without pause or repetition

Tips: Use some of the adjectives listed above to describe the area.

Say what amenities you have close by; shops, restaurants, entertainment, transport links etc.

Try to tell an anecdote – a short true story about something that happened to you.

Real estate news: Outstanding Housing Projects Of Kien A Investors
An apartment block in the Cat Lai area of Sai Gon. Artist’s impression.
HCM city aims to reduce seaport traffic jams
The reality of living in Cat Lai, one of the busiest ports in south east Asia

Well, that question is a bit of a sore point with me because I live in a terribly noisy gritty industrial area. My apartment is near the Cat Lai port which is one of the busiest in Vietnam. Consequently, we have containers driving past, day and night which, as you can imagine, creates so much pollution.

However, allow me to talk about the good points. Firstly, it is significantly cheaper than, say, District 1 or 3, as it is quite far from the centre. The shops also tend to be on the cheap side. Additionally we have some street markets where I can pick up some very cheap food and fresh fish. We are well-served with several convenience stores although, in my opinion, Family Mart charges an arm and a leg.

Conversely, my friends avoid visiting me because it is so dangerous to ride a motorbike here, we really take our lives in our hands every time we go out. Furthermore, I love fresh air so I open my windows, but I have to dust and clean every day because so much dirt accumulates. Finally, we have open-air karaoke nearly every night and street wedding parties most weekends which means loud and terrible singing. It’s like a madhouse, I really detest this horrible noise.

I am lucky with my neighbours, who are all so friendly, and the apartment is really spacious. Having said that, the area is so bad that as soon as possible, I will leave and find somewhere cleaner and safer.

Landmark 81 in Sai Gon

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Discourse Markers

18th February 2022

Image from lisalarter.com

By using discourse markers, students will be able to link their ideas together as well as increasing their fluency. Consequently speaking for two minutes without pauses or hesitation will be a piece of cake.

There is a great list on another blog: https://aliciateacher2.wordpress.com/grammar/discourse-markers/

I recommend students learn at least two from each section

Using discourse markers: I give teams two words which they have to incorporate into a short passage.

EXAMPLE:therefore‘ and ‘subsequently

The class had an extremely important speaking test, therefore they should have studied hard. One student preferred to play video games all night. Subsequently, he failed the exam and his mother, who is a real tiger mum, was absolutely furious.

Image from ucanr.edu

having said that & furthermore

moreover & consequently

initially & eventually

likewise & specifically

meanwhile & notwithstanding

on the whole & instead

Using discourse markers to tell a story

An exercise where students have to relate a story based on several photos may be found on this previous blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/06/ielts-4-5-speaking-class/

See you next week

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Notes for fluent speaking

21st January 2022

Happy International Friends Talking In City Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty  Free Image. Image 121618273.
Royalty – free image. Copyright: lev dolgachov

My IELTS students have some speaking tests coming up, so I’d like to boost their confidence by giving them a speaking exercise. I shall choose topics they feel confident with, namely pets, and shopping.

Firstly, a reminder of what you need to do in order to pass with flying colours.

An introduction to the question

Use complex sentences and relative clauses

Use an idiom or two

Use L-FWs (replace basic words with ‘better’ ones e.g. use ‘ubiquitous‘ instead of ‘everywhere’ ‘tedious‘ instead of ‘boring’)

Check your pronunciation and intonation.

Now, without further ado, the questions:

Do you have any pets ?

Do you like shopping ?

What is your favourite possession and why ?

500+ Dog Playing Pictures [HD] | Download Free Images on Unsplash
Image from unsplash.com

Let’s start with pets (I know one of my students has three cats).

Introduction

Do you like all animals, some or only one type ?

Are you allowed to keep pets where you live ?

Talking points

What are the names of the animals ?

How old are they ?

What do they look like ?

What are their personalities ? (You now have an opportunity to use great adjectives)

Where did you get them ?

Who looks after them ?

Do you have any funny stories about they did ? How do they make you feel ?

Idioms: burning the candle at both ends (Playing with my pets helps me unwind after I’ve been burning the candle at both ends with work and study.)

Moving on to shopping, so much to talk about …

Shopping Images | Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD
freepik

Introduction

What do you feel about shopping ?

Is shopping something you dread doing, or is it fun, or even an obsession ? Are you a shopaholic ?

What stops you from shopping ? (Lack of money, or safety concerns now during the pandemic ?)

Talking points

Tell me about the types of shops and shopping areas (street markets, small independent stores, chain shops, malls).

What do you like buying most ?

With whom do you go ?

What else do you do at a mall ?

Do you have a funny story about buying something, or having to return an item ?

What do you think of online shopping ? What is good and bad about it ?

Is internet shopping becoming more popular in Vietnam (your country) ? Why do you think so ?

Idioms: costs an arm and a leg (I really enjoy going to Diamond Plaza and just looking at the beautiful designer dresses. However, as a student, I can’t afford one because they cost an arm and a leg.)

Sample answer

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus 10th Generation 8" Tablet 32GB Slate B0839NDRB2 -  Best Buy
A Kindle Fire ebook and tablet

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 and 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, 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 burning the candle at both ends.

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 writer 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.

A UK expression meaning good luck

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Mini-lesson review

11th January 2022

Tricot | Wiki | Asian Music Amino

The photo shows Tricot who are a Japanese rock band. The band, who sing in Japanese, are very talented. I would love to see them. Furthermore, I really wish to visit Japan although hotels in Tokyo cost an arm and a leg.

Let’s review the idioms and vocabulary covered in our first lessons. Let’s kick off with:

Basic idioms:

it’s raining cats and dogs

it costs an arm and a leg

piece of cake

I’m burning the candle at both ends

once in a blue moon

pass with flying colours

turn over a new leaf

put your nose to the grindstone

IELTS - Tôi tự học!: [IDIOMS] : " It's raining cats and dogs"

Let’s put it to the test – what idioms would you use ?

It’s no problem at all, it’s a __________

She needs to get a high score, I want her to ______

I must be more serious about learning piano. I have to _______

The iPhone X is very expensive, it _______

You need to stop going out every night and missing school. You need to _____________

She dances all day, then sings all night; she’s _________________

Bring an umbrella if you go to the UK, it’s always ____________

Ms Anna simply adores Chanel perfume however, because it _____________ , she only wears it __________________________________.

Relative Pronouns

Happy African Girl Studying In... - Stock Photos | Motion Array

This lady, who wants to work in London, is studying hard for her IELTS.

who for people:

This is the man who helped me to learn German. 

which for things:

We tried fish and chips which is delicious.

where for places:

Let’s go to the shop where we saw the great bargains.

Whose possessive:

That’s Tricot, the band whose record we heard last night.

TRICOT discography and reviews

Endgame

Can you remember, what word means ‘everywhere’ ?

Can you give me an example ?

Instead of saying, “I think,” you could say … ?

Again, please give me an example.

The Talmud: Why has a Jewish law book become so popular? - BBC News

Middle Age Arabic Couple, Woman And Man Serious Face Thinking About  Question, Very Confused Idea Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image.  Image 104957805.

Answers

Ubiquitous:

In Sai Gon, which is the largest city in Viet Nam, coffee shops are ubiquitous.

Motorbikes are ubiquitous in Viet Nam.

Fast food shops are ubiquitous in the USA.

In my opinion

In my opinion, learning English is incredibly important.

Sai Gon, in my opinion, is the best city in Viet Nam.

In my opinion Tricot are absolutely amazing.

10 Useful Ways to Say Goodbye in Japanese | FluentU Japanese
Goodbye, see you next class

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Introducing: Butterfly Decal Ambient Blues, Jazzy Jingle-Jangle

7th January 2022

Monet’s painting of his garden at Giverny

I recently discovered this band serendipitously on YouTube, but I know very little about them.

The clip ‘Waterlilies’ I believe is from a future project, based on Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures From An Exhibition’. The video text states that this is merely a demo, and implies that a new video will uploaded at some point.

You may recognise elements of minimalism, shoegaze, ambient and even math rock. I think I can even hear a faint tambourine half-way through the track.

See what you think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy5VPZpUGIw&t=5s&ab_channel=Chadav

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Poland: history, culture and beer

27th December 2021

Poland: Maps | Holocaust Encyclopedia

A compilation of exercises about this east European country, birthplace of the scientist Nicolaus Copernicus, the musician Frédéric Chopin, filmmakers Roman Polanski & Krzysztof Kieślowski and footballer Robert Lewandowski, to name just a few.

Salt Mine near Krakow, southern 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.

The mine has 22 galleries, 64 metres to 135 metres underground. Guided tours take about two hours.

Additionally there is a chapel here measuring 54 m by 18m and 12m high. It took two men over thirty years to build. Visitors can also see an underground lake, and musicians playing brass instruments.

Pope John Paul and Bill Clinton are some of the famous visitors.

Image result for Krakow"
Krakow Town Square

Poland is famous for its vodka, as well as its beer.

Image result for Polish beer"

It’s beer o’clock !

What does our friend think of this Polish beer ?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUjQhsbAi6k

Cheers – Twoje zdrowie

New vocabulary: 

infamous / indication / originally / generic /bouquet / aroma /synthetic

Instead of saying ‘ let’s smell it’, he says ……..

What does he say before he drinks ?

Just by watching his expression, can you tell if he likes it ?

How does he describe the taste ?

20 Things to do in Kraków

Do you think they planned their trip well ?

 If not, why not ?

story of (my / your / our) life (lives) / place was buzzing / our mood / for starters / hop aboard / simmer down / booze cruise / the place was buzzing

Did you notice any superlatives ?

(the highest, smallest, most fascinating etc)

What do you think about Krakow ?

How does it compare with your home city or town ?

Polish food and drink

Would you like to try any of the food the travellers tried ?

Were there any new expressions you heard ? 

Is Polish cuisine closer to the Russian or to the German cuisine? What does  a Polish dinner table and food for dinner look like? Are there any  pictures? - Quora

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Peter O’Toole: a legend

24th December 2021

Oscar-nominated actor Peter O'Toole

During the 1950s a new group of actors emerged who captivated audiences, firstly on stage, later on screen. Talent, charm, charisma, personality, magnetism, attributes that could never be taught; actors such as Richard Burton, Richard Harris, John Hurt and Peter O’Toole had these gifts in abundance.

I was lucky in that living in London, I was able to go to the theatre and saw Mr John Hurt in ‘Month in the Country’, while I caught Peter O’Toole in ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’. Additionally, I once ‘met’ Mr O’Toole at a book signing in London.

Actor Peter O'Toole new book expose | UK | News | Express.co.uk
Peter O’Toole in ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’

As for Mr Richard Harris, I had the pleasure of serving him one time in an upmarket bakery in west London. He was on form that day, possibly having partaken of a liquid lunch. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to see Mr Richard Burton. Now, back to Peter O’Toole.

I have a great clip of the magnificent Irish actor being interviewed by the fast-talking USA TV host David Letterman. Students can compare the two accents.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jfqvjp6h5gpfnupzclbn.png

Letterman asks O’Toole if he has a story about fellow actor, Richard Harris. Instead of a rather pedestrian, “Let me see …,” O’Toole, cigarette in hand, responds, “Oh, I’ll shuffle through my memory,” before proceeding to tell said story (this occurs at 0:32 – 3:33).

The activity can be extended by asking the students to copy O’Toole’s voice and elocution. Obviously I don’t condone smoking but students have had great fun sitting crossed legged, imaginary cigarette held aloft, and repeating, “Oh, I’ll shuffle through my memory.”

The serious aspect here is to demonstrate the rhythms and stresses in English – the elongated “oh,” as he thinks, the focus on the verb, “shuffle’, the linking of “through my,” and the final stressed but downwards – intonations of “memory.” A lot of work covered in just six words. Good value for your teaching bucks !

Peter O'Toole Documentary | Brendan O'Connor - RTÉ Radio 1

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Young Learners, Level 4: what can you do ?

23rd December 2021

Mind-Blowing Drum Solo From Senri Kawaguchi (VIDEO) | 102.9 The Buzz

Student Survey

Students ask each other:

Can you play football ?

If not, what sports can you play ?

Can you swim ?

Can you sing in English ?

Can you play piano ?

Image result for Mozart as a child"
Young Mozart from Austria

Can girls play drums ? Yes, they can or no, they can’t.

The amazing, incredible Senri Kawaguchi from Japan

Can boys dance ? Yes, they can or no, they can’t ?

Madu Mmesoma Anthony from Nigeria

Can you eat a huge sandwich ?

Image result for eat a giant sandwhich"

Can you wiggle your ears ?

Finally, can anybody walk on water ?

Yes they can or no, they can’t ?

The brilliant magician Dynamo from the U.K.
Bear waves goodbye to photographer at Olympic National Park in Washington |  Metro News
Bye bye from the big brown friendly bear

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.