As I continuously tell my students, being able to form complex sentences, and then say them fluently, is key to passing IELTS.
One way to make longer sentences, as well as introducing subordinate clauses, is to become a master of …
This lady, who wants to work in Australia, is studying hard for her IELTS.
who For people: This is the man who sold me the fake Rolex !
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 the singer whose record we heard last night.
The Italian car, whose driver was young, won the race.
We arrived at a nice beach ______ we could swim and lie in the sun.
A man ______ mobile phone was ringing did not know what to do.
The patient, ______ had a serious disease, was taken to hospital immediately.
Smithsfield is a small village ______ people live a quiet life.
The boy ____ sister is in my class was in the bank at that time.
I know a person ____ can speak seven languages.
We visited the church _____ is in the middle of the square.
It is a protected area of land _____ you can see a lot of interesting wildlife.
This dress is made of silk, _____ is a very expensive and delicate material.
A police officer, _____ car was parked at the next corner, stopped and arrested them.
Go that extra mile – extra practice
IELTS, which can be very challenging, tends to be rather formulaicby which I mean it follows a pattern. Students can pretty much predict, with a fair degree of certainty, the type of subjects they will be expected to encounter.
With that in mind, try making complex sentences about these people:
Name: Ms Chen // Age: 19 // From: China // Lives: London // Studies: Business.
Ms Chen, who is studying Business in London, is 19 and originally from China.
Originally from China, Ms Chen, who is 19, is currently living in London, studying Business.
NOW … YOUR TURN
Name: Adam // Age: 24 // From: Israel // Lives: New York // Job: Writer for a magazine and blogger
Name: Boran // Age: 34 // From: South Korea // Likes: drawing manga // Job: singer, rapper and dancer
Name: David // Age: 28 // From: Leicester, UK // Passion: Music // Plans: To live in LA and record a CD
As usual, I use bold font to highlight words, expressions and idioms that students can learn and then use in their everyday speech. Remember, some expressions are only used in some situations, but an IELTS instructor will always notice an attempt to use a wider variety of English.
Next week, one of my IELTS classes has their speaking test therefore this blog will help, I sincerely hope, to prepare them, and enable them to achieve a commendable result.
With that in mind, tonight’s class will just be practice, practice and … more practice.
I try to relax my students by telling them that passing IELTS is easy (that normally gets their attention). I have to elaborate; IELTS is easy because they
TELL YOU WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR
Namely, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and para linguistics (body language, eye contact, stress, intonation, rhythm) and fluency (the ability to speak without overlong pauses) as well as answering the question relevantly.
Let’s break that down:
Vocabulary: low-frequency words // idioms // expressions //
Structure: complex sentences employing discourse markers and clauses
Let’s kick off with complex sentences. Here’s a link to a previous blog regarding just that subject; there are a number of exercises for students to practise:
The above blog gives an example of answering a question about laptops, then allows students to compose their own response on subjects of their choice.
Finally, here are some expressions that can be used to ‘spice up’ a student’s talk as they are all everyday phrases though some will be UK-specific as they are part of the common culture:
Not my cup of tea = a polite way of saying you don’t like something.
I can take it or leave it = have no strong feelings about something.
I’m really into it = like or love something very much.
It doeswhat it says on the tin = something that does the job, no more, no less (this is from a UK TV commercial).
To pracise using low-frequency words, put students in teams, giving each team a set of IELTS words (or phrases, idioms). They have a set time, maybe a minute, to use as many as they can, speaking about any subject they choose.
Some students may prefer to be given a set topic, so choose typical general subjects such as shopping, food, their city or country, free time etc.
Words and expressions are:
ubiquitous // somewhat // not my cup of tea // significant or significantly // I can take it or leave it // exhausting // challenging // miserable // having said that // I’m keen on // all in all // consequently // allow me to explain // eventually // thrilling // put up with
Talk about a film you like. Why do you like it, and what is the story ?
This blog will serve as a model to IELTS students to help with their speaking and writing skills.
IELTS has lots of ‘open’ questions, to enable the student to speak freely on subjects about which they feel comfortable.
In my last online lesson, I mentioned a film that I though a student would like, as she had chosen to speak about Scarlett Johannsson.
The film in question is ‘Lost In Translation‘. Here is a little piece about the film.
Short introduction – do not answer the question immediately
Organised structure – one point per paragraph
A change of attitude – a critical view
LOOK OUR FOR
Complex sentences – combining two or more bits of information in the same sentence.
Discourse markers – words to link ideas together
Adverbs and less common adjectives
So, without further ado, the question:
Talk about a film you like. Why do you like it, and what is the story ?
INTRODUCTION – talk about cinema or films in general DON’T immediately talk about your favourite film.
Watching films and going to the cinema is one of my passions, so choosing just one film is going to be terribly difficult, not to say impossible. However, if I have to select one film, it would be ‘Lost in Translation’, with Scarlett Johannsson.
First paragraph. Information about the film and the main charcters.
The film, directed by Sophia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, was made in 2003, and takes place in Tokyo. A young, newly-married girl, named Charlotte, is alone in her hotel because her husband is constantly out working. Staying at the same hotel is a middle-aged, world-weary American actor, Bob Harris, in Japan to make a commercial for Japanese whiskey.
Second paragraph. The plot – what happens … and why.
Both characters appear to be suffering from culture shock and seem afraid to leave the security of the hotel. For example, despite seeming to be impressed by all the neon and energy of the city, Bob spends his night in the hotel bar with other tourists, while Charlotte reads and listens to music in her room.
Third paragraph. Develop the plot.
They meet in the hotel where age difference notwithstanding, they seem to get on extremely well, extremely quickly. Furthermore, they give each other energy and courage to venture outside. We learn that Bob is less than happy in his current life, while it becomes apparent that Charlotte is doubting her own marriage. At one point it look like they will get together. However, Bob decides to go back to the USA, leaving Charlotte, but not before they share an embrace on the street, in which Bob whispers something in her ear. We, that is the audience, do not get to hear what he said; we have to speculate.
Fourth paragraph: Something negative for balance.
Some people could be irritated that the final words are a mystery, other could be severely disappointed by this love story that never quite happens. The two protagonists return to their lives which will, possible, be unfulfilling. This negativity is like a black cloud on an otherwise bright, sunny day.
Conclusion: A short summary.
‘Lost in Translation’ is described as a romantic-comedy-drama. The characters are totally believable and likeable, while, technically, the cinematography is stunning. Furthermore, in my view, it is a charming, heart-warming, and life-affirming movie.
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.
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.
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
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
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’.
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 tellthem 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 ?
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:
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
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