As drunk as a ….. // As dead as a ….. // As brave as a ……
As free as a ….. // As gentle as a …… // As quiet as a ……
Make sentences with these words or expressions:
In a class, write out the words on paper and distribute to the students, either individually or in groups. Give them a time limit and award points for each word used, plus bonuses for interesting or creative sentences.
spectacular / visually stunning / you get what you pay for / mouth-watering / a waste of money / significantly / according to / how can I put it ? / Somewhat / incredibly / as good as gold / as drunk as a skunk /
Also known as ‘indirect speech’, reported speech is used to tell what someone has said.
Three Japanese students, Keiko, Rina & Mei are looking at their new university. Keiko, in the black cardigan says:
Keiko: Now I feel as wise as an owl.
However, with all the street noise, Mei didn’t hear so she asks Rina (who wears a pink and white striped top).
Mei: The building is stunning, but what did Keiko say ?
Rina: She said that she felt as wise as an owl.
Rina uses the past tense to tell Mei what Keiko said – she said she felt as wise as an owl.
Look at these:
Susan: “Mary works in an office.” This is Susan speaking directly.
→Susan said (that) Mary worked in an office. This is someone telling what Susan said.
Notice how the verb changes from present to past tense (‘works’ to ‘worked’).
Susan: “I work in an office.”
→Susan said (that) she worked in an office.
Notice how the pronoun changes from first to third person (‘I’ to ‘she’).
Rewrite the sentences using reported speech
1 ‘Ellie can use my phone,’ said my brother.
1 My brother said that Ellie could use his phone.
2 Benjamin: “I often have a big hamburger.”
2 Benjamin said (that) he often has a big hamburger.
(Pronoun changes from ‘I’ to ‘he’). Here Benjamin is talking about an event that happens frequently, so we keep the present tense ‘have’ but change it to the third-person form ‘has’.
3 ‘I don’t want to sit next to Sam,’ said Jenny.
4 Hannah: “They live in Boston.” Again, this is a present tense situation.
5 Tyler: “Ian doesn’t invite girls to his parties.”
6 Linda: “Did Max fly to London two weeks ago?”
7 Robert: “Dennis often downloads the latest tunes.”
Free speaking exercise
There is a work party and the managers want to know which food to serve.
The options are:
vegetarian / Korean / sea-food / western fast-food / traditional German cuisine
Discuss which food to choose. Run through the pros and cons of each one. Also think about entertainment. Use recently acquired vocabulary:
I adore / I really enjoy / I’m into
I don’t mind … I quite like …. I can take it or leave it
I’m not keen on …. It’s not my cup of tea (idiom, means I don’t like it)
I can’t stand (noun or pronoun) ……. (seafood) / I can’t stand it !
Spicy / bland / hard to eat / unhealthy / fatty
not used to it / doesn’t appeal
you can’t please everyone / each to their own / fussy eater
This is polite conversation, to pass the time, or to get to know some basic information about people. Do not ask anything too personal; this will differ from culture to culture, but in the UK and the west in general:
Ask why someone is not married or has no children.
Ask how much money they earn, get from their job.
Ask how much something cost. “I like your shirt. How much was it ?”
Talk about politics. “You’re from China ? Chairman Mao was a disaster !”
PLAY IT SAFE – talk about music, football, food or … in the UK … the weather.
Very warm for this time of year.
Did you see …….. last night ? (the football game, the news etc)
How long have you worked here ?
The traffic was so bad this morning.
What team do you support ?
John: I can speak German. Peter: Can you ?
Bella: Ms Nguyen went to Thailand. Carole: Did she ?
Bill: He likes K-pop. Harry: ______________ ?
We are going to the pagoda later. ______________ ?
Ms Thinh has a new job.______________ ?
house prices in your city / why you have or don’t have a pet
an interesting program you saw recently
What you want to do in the future. / Somewhere you would love to visit.
Keep conversations going:
I see / Do you really think so ? /
That’s good point / I hadn’t thought of that
Oh, that’s interesting/ Yeah, right ! / Sure / OK May I just add something ? /
Oh, where is that exactly ?
Speaking Practice – use discourse markers to extend your speaking and to link ideas.
Describe something you own which is very important to you.
You should say:
where you got it from how long you have had it what you use it for and explain why it is important to you.
You will have to talk about the topic for 1 to 2 minutes.
You have one minute to think about what you’re going to say.
You can make some notes to help you if you wish.
Rounding off questions
Is it valuable in terms of money?
Would it be easy to replace?
This could be a physical object, a memento with sentimental value, or an abstract noun such as health, happiness etc
For my Vietnamese students:
How different is Vietnam from other Southeast Asian countries?
What do you think Vietnam will be like 50 years from now?
What do you think Vietnam’s neighbours think of you ?
Many people ask how to progress from intermediate level to becoming fluent in English. One way is to learn collocations – these are groups of words that usually go together to make a new meaning – and so much of everyday English is made up of collocations, idioms, slang, colloquialisms etc.
Collocations – ‘make’
In the above paragraph I used ‘made up’. This is a good example.
‘Made up’ came means invented (we make up a story to tell children) & it can mean containing (my fb group is made up from people from all over the world). We can use it in the past tense or present – ‘made’ or ‘make’.
You probably know some phrasal verbs; If two people argue then become friends again, they make up. When a woman puts on lipstick, she is using makeup.
Here are some common collocations with ‘make’:
Make up your mind (decide about something).
Make dinner / make a sandwich.
Make time (find some spare time to do something).
Make it through the night (be able to do something after some bad news OR keep working for a very long time).
Make it through a long book (finish it, read it to the end).
Try these exercise … use make / made / make up / made up.
‘Infinite Jest’ is a very long book but I ……. my way through it.
I forgot my homework, so I had to ………. a story to tell my teacher.
When you come home, can you …… dinner for the children.
My teeth hurt; can you …… an appointment at the dentist for ?
The architect Gaudi never used to …… his buildings with straight lines.
Should I wear the black or green tie ? I can’t …… my mind.
This is so confusing ! I don’t know what to ……. of it.
Your room is so messy – can’t you even ….. your bed ?
You kids ….. me crazy !
I ………. a pig’s ear of the whole business (past tense – to do something completely wrong).
I did OK in the test, but ……. some silly mistakes.
He drank several coffees to help him …… it through the night shift.
the cat out/ the fire out / on your red shoes /on a happy face
it in your own words / up or shut up ! / it away / it another way
well soon / over it ! / on with it / away with murder / on the bus /
stuffed ! (impolite) / with the program (US) / some fresh air
a career move / your move / a pig’s ear of something /a wish /
up for lost time / the best of something / fun of someone
the right thing / away with that old technology / your best /
a funny walk / the dishes / your hair
it on ! / it to me / “my bow of burning gold” (poem) / about change
it up at the next meeting / a smile to my face / up children well
turns speaking / it up with the manager / up my trousers a little /
a good look at yourself / a hike ! / medicine / a deep breathe
What do these collocations suggest ?
Widely available // routine check-up
disperse the crowd // boost employment
catch up with the news / / catch up with friends
Find longer definitions for these collocations.
Adequate supplies to meet demand
Major turning point
Set realistic aims
Cause insurmountable difficulties
1) Enough things so that everyone that wants one can have one
2) Know what you want to do but it must not be too much for you to be able to do it.
3) Make problems which people will not be able to solve or cause problems that people are not able to work properly.
4) A very important moment when things changed completely
5) A new book, similar to the old one but with more up-to-date information, or mistakes have been corrected.
Boss Jim, can I see you for a minute ? It’s about your punctuality.
Jim Sorry, Boss, I’ll make up the lost time after work.
Boss Damn right you will. Now, what was this email about ? I couldn’t make sense of it.
Jim I made a few mistakes because I rushed. I wanted to make sure you read it.
Boss You made a right pig’s ear of it ! Anyway, have you made your mind up yet ?
Jim About the new job ? Well, the other company made me a fantastic offer.
Boss I’m not giving you a raise; I’m not made of money ! Money doesn’t grow on trees.
Jim I’ll make my decision later and let you know.
Boss If you leave here, you’ll be making a big mistake, Buster !
This is the eve on a new IELTS class, utilising a new text book, and the first lesson is …listening. When I ask students (and they make the effort to reply) what is the hardest part of learning English, understanding the spoken word is invariably top of the list.
As with all skills, practice is the obvious answer, starting slowly, then building up and improving. Naturally, language skills are integrated; a knowledge of ‘chunking’ – or linking words together and natural contractions will be extremely beneficial. Likewise, the more vocabulary the student knows, the more chance they have of understanding what is being said.
The key problems are straightforward:
Speed of conversation.
Chunking, contractions, natural speech patterns (which differ markedly from the written word).
Accents (both native and non-native).
Dialects, slang words, expressions, idioms … figurative not literal language.
Cultural references (subjects only known by local people)
Now I will concentrate on ‘real-world’ examples, videos aimed at native speakers, not for English students.
I choose these videos to illustrate the whole world of spoken English; no disrespect is intended to anyone who speaks in a non-standard way, or is struggling with pronunciation. On the contrary, anyone who can converse in a second language has my utmost respect … it is a skill unavailable to the writer of this blog 😦
And now, without further ado, lets’s kick off with my hometown. Here’s some native Londoners having a chat (talking):
The subject of this video – which has useful captions, or subtitles, in English – is ‘which possession would you never lend to another person ?’ You will also be able to see some famous London landmarks.
TIPS: watch the video is short sections – maybe just in ten-second sections – repeat and repeat until you feel familiar with the words and are able to repeat them.
An additional benefit from watching real-life videos is that you will pick up many expressions that you will simply not find in text books. Remember, many speaking tests give extra points for ‘natural language’. For example, the trader uses the phrase, “On and off,” meaning he has been doing the job but not continuously. Let’s say I have been teaching for ten years, but during that time, I took some long breaks, to study, to travel etc. I would say,”I’ve been teaching for ten years, on and off.“
You will also notice how ‘real’ people often deviate from standard English. In this clip, the man says, “Me and my wife have been ….” though the ‘correct’, the standard form would be, “My wife and I have been …”. This merely illustrates that text guides are just that … a GUIDE … they are not real life. To learn English, to really learn, you must immerse yourself in videos, music, films and, dare I repeat myself (yes, I dare) PRACTICE.
British English speaker, Asian theme: east meets west
This is a favourite clip of mine, a British beer enthusiast trying a Vietnamese beer. This clip introduces new vocabulary relevant to beer (‘head’, ‘aroma’, ‘carbonated’, as well as some good expressions such as, “More than likely,” and, “Let’s dive in.”
I’ll ease you in softly; this first clip is designed for English learners, and has a variety of different scenes, actors and situations, all intended to prepare you for the variety of American accents … and in such a big continent, there are a wide variety of accents.
Is this easy to understand ? Do you notice any differences between the London accent and the USA accent ?
Same tip, watch as much as you can, pause, try to copy, say the words, then continue. When you feel confident, turn off the captions and see how much you are able to understand. Do not expect to understand everything. Maybe you will only understand half, but see how this figure increases with practice.
TV show, American accent.
This is from a USA sit-com called ‘Friends’ (1994 – 2004)
In this short clip, some friends are joking about the way one of them speaks, putting the stress on the ‘wrong’ word in a sentence. Again it has captions, so listen and … practice !
But now, time to turn it up a notch (make it harder). This clip is advanced, the speaker is very enthusiastic, very quick. and uses a lot of everyday phrases you will – more than likely – not know. Therefore, a quick pre-teaching session:
recommend– to suggest something good / something YOU think others will like
aside from– something else, apart from
staple food– food that can be part of every meal (rice, bread, potatoes)
drowned– totally covered in a liquid or sauce
popular– something many people like (negative form is ‘unpopular’)
original– the first of something. Adverb is originally.
mix– adding two or more things together. Mixed is the past tense.
tons of– lots of (slang, common) e.g. Ha Noi has tons of coffee shops
amazing– adjective means really great, very special.
districts– areas of a city (Quan)
snack– eating food to stop you getting too hungry. Verb – snacking.
super– common adverb to mean very, very much e.g. Sai Gon is super hot.
This video exemplifies all the problems students have listening to English: the vocabulary, the accent, the linking together and the sheer speed of speech. Don’t worry … apply the same principles; watch in small sections, read the captions, repeat and repeat until you feel comfortable. Remember – you don’t have to understand every word, just enough to follow what he is saying.
And now, let’s go to a land down under and listen to some different forms of English. This time, Australian:
Again, let’s take it easy to begin with, learn some Aussie (Australian) expressions and listen to the local accent:
This lists ten expressions that you may have heard in films or TV shows. But now it’s time to put them into practice. Here’s a genuine news story. Without using text or captions, how much can you understand ?
The clip is called ‘Australian Hero’ so that should give you an idea.
Bringing It All Back Home – an Australian in Vietnam
This ex-pat (someone who has emigrated from country and now lives and works in another) from down under (Australia) is going to show us where he lives in Sai Gon, District 3 (near the city centre) (0:22 – 0:45):
(He starts by saying he had some camera problems):
“Hopefully I’ve got that all sorted now and I can give you a decent tour of the …um, the apartment.
“It’s a really nice er, street here, sort of early morning and it’s quite a hustle and bustle. Here we got office workers coming out to eat and what have you.
“Ah, I’ll just take you into the er, where is this ? This is the actual building, here, and er … and this is where I actually, er … down, gotta (got to) go through this alley, it’s very congested … and this is how I get to where I live.”
And now the fun begins !
Quite possibly, the majority of my students will be using English as a lingua franca with other non-native speakers. I therefore encourage them to use the standard form, in order for them to be (hopefully) understood. I encourage slow and clear enunciation, avoidance of contractions and figurative language. Here, English is functional, precise communication is the aim.
We refer to this as a form of code-switching: basically changing the language to suit the occasion, something we all do naturally (for the most part). Namely, we change our vocabulary, syntax and accent(s) depending on whom we are addressing, be it a parent or younger brother, a police officer or a troublesome telesales caller, our manager, our colleague, our first-day intern.
Our first non-native speaker is from Germany. I had some students who worked here in Vietnam for a German company, so I felt it relevant they familiarise themselves with English through a German filter.
On a cultural note, many Germans have English as a second language, so travelling there only speaking English shouldn’t pose such a problem. UK and Germany have something of a ‘love-hate relationship’, with Britons seeing Germans as lacking in humour and having a very limited diet (potatoes, sauerkraut and sausage). Having said that, we secretly admire, if not envy, their efficiency and technological expertise, not to mention their success on the football field.
Working life in Germany:
In this clip, a worker is describing a typical German schedule (01.26 – 02.07):
During one evening class, a student asked me for some advice; his manager is Korean and when the manager speaks to my student, in English, my poor student is unable to understand what is being said. Obviously, there is little I can do about the manager’s English, but I gave the student some useful phrases that are polite and should stop the Korean from ‘losing face’, and I’ll add these after the video.
Serendipity is a word for luck or coincidence. Just two days after this conversation, I was surfing on YouTube when I came across this perfect video from my new YouTube chum (friend), Ms Rachel Kim. Ms Rachel is very friendly and sweet, so I recommend you visit her channel, like and subscribe. I’m sure it will make her very happy.
15th August for 21st August 2019. Pages 10 – 12 (Workbook pp 8 – 9)
Lesson focus: Reading; speed reading to extrapolate information in a limited time.
Theme: Culture shock, specifically life in Australia.
Objectives: Review new vocabulary and phrases and give a chance to practise using them. Continue work on Englishes – how written and standard English can seem to bear NO relation to spoken English.
Today’s reading is centred on life in Australia for non-native speakers so, to set the scene, a warm up song from the Australian band (and one-hit wonders) Men At Work and their chart-topping song, ‘Down Under’.
Language review: The first lesson generated many new words and expressions. The following adverbs should be a part of the students’ everyday vocabulary:
always / usually, normally, frequently / sometimes / hardly ever / never
definitely / probably / possibly / unlikely / definitely not
Vocabulary: precious / arrogant / mug (two senses) / lingua franca /
To ask politely: May I …. (May I ask your name ? May I open the window ?)
Discourse Markers: although / despite, despite that / however / on the other hand /additionally / furthermore
Collocations: To practice law or to practice medicine (a lawyer, or a medical professional)
Expressions: Fair exchange is no robbery / If I’m not mistaken
Idiom: To let off steam / time flies (when you’re having fun)
London slang: well knackered (‘well’ is used to mean very and ‘knackered’ can mean very tired, or broken. EXAMPLE – I’m well knackered = I’m extremely tired.
PRACTICE: Try to use as many of the above by commenting on these photos. This is not a writing test; I only want one or two sentences. I’m more concerned with lexical choice AND delivery – how you use stress, intonation and rhythm.
These young Asian people are letting off steam by singing their hearts out in a Karaoke room, if I am not mistaken. Very probably there are professionals, maybe they practice medicine because they look very stylish and affluent.
Book work: today we will be developing speed-reading, that is, reading a large amount of text in a limited time, in order to find specific information. Students will have to scan over the text and home in on what they need to know.
As a break, here’s a little clip about Australian slang:
What is this news story about ? How much slang did you hear ?
Group work: Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.
Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.
Students, in groups, can organise an itinerary for two of my friends who will be visiting Sai Gon soon. They want to see all the iconic sights and partake of typical Vietnamese activities. Having said that, their interests differ widely.
Simon loves culture, history and museums as well as being into sports and physical activities. Therefore he wants to see and try as much as possible. He has heard about snake wine and is very curious.
Jenny finds museums unbearably boring and dull. She is a shopaholic, can shop till she drops. Furthermore she can’t take the heat and is also vegetarian.
Clearly, they will need to compromise … what do you suggest ? Be creative – think outside the box.
What to see and do // where and what to eat // what to buy //
What they can do for entertainment
Safety and scams
Cultural differences – what should people do or NOT do in Vietnam ?
Use 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.
Just a minute: To practice for the speaking tests, give the students a choice of subjects and let them speak for one minute without repeating themselves, deviating from the subject or hesitating.
Call my bluff: Class in two teams. One team reads a low-frequency word and the team give three possible definitions including examples of usage. The other team has to guess which one is the correct answer.
This show is about two co-workers who ride to and from work every day. It is set (the location) in the north-west of England, around Manchester so the accent may be harder to understand.
not my cup of tea – a polite way of saying that you don’t like something
piece of cake – if something is very easy, or if something is not a problem.
I checked at a previous IELTS centre about the use of idioms in the course. The verdict was that one or two are totally acceptable, as it shows a deeper knowledge of English. However, they should be used appropriately, and are more suited to speaking, as opposed to writing.
Fixed expressions / phrases
according to – when you give a fact or information that someone else says.
brand new – totally new, un-used, still in the box or wrapping.
for this / that reason – because of this / that
hard to reach – difficult to get to.
mouth-watering – food that is so delicious, it makes the mouth produce saliva by smelling it or even just talking about it.
off-peak – a quiet time, either for driving and commuting, or for holidays.
off-season – a quiet time for hotels, flights and holidays.
second hand – an item that has been previously used.
turn a blind eye – to see something wrong but pretend not to notice.
remarkably / significantly – strong adverbs of degree, showing a high change.
quite / somewhat – mild adverbs of degree
Use the new vocabulary in this conversation.
Peter: Sorry I’m late; the roads are so ——– (very busy). Sally: There was an accident ———-the radio (the radio said). You look ill. Peter: Well, I had —- (12) beers last night ! I’m glad we’re on ——- (not fixed time). Hey, is that a new phone ? It looks ———- (just bought). Sally: No, I got it ———– (previously used). I know an ———–(different) way to get to work. It’s on the back streets so ————– (because of) it’s empty. Peter: Less ———- (people going to work) ! ——————– (no problem !)
The student should be prepared to talk for up to two minutes. Having said that, there is one minute allowed for preparation.
The speaking can be planned in a similar way to writing; a short introduction; one idea or subject at a time; mention both something good, then bad; a short conclusion.
Avoid repetition, hesitating and speaking about something not directly related to the question. One way to ‘buy time’ to think is to use one of the following:
How can I put it ?
What’s the word ?
That’s an interesting question
Well, I hadn’t thought about that before
The examiner will also be looking for politeness and eye contact, as well as listening for intonation and pronunciation. Grammar is naturally important, but one or two minor mistakes are acceptable.
Last night we practised talking about holidays, so for practice, talk about a holiday you went on. Try to use some of the new vocabulary from above.
If you need some ideas, use these pictures for assistance:
I use this as a warmer / ice-breaker with most of my new classes. On, the board, I’ll write:
Do NOT say, “I’m fine.”
The first students arrives and I ask how they are …
“I’m fine,” is, invariably, the response. I point to the board and try to elicit alternative answers.
This is repeated with all new students, and becomes integrated into the lesson. Late-comers (there are always late-comers in Vietnam) are greeted with the same question, and look perplexed when the whole class laughs at them for saying, what they believed to be, the ONLY possible answer.
It seems that from Kindergarten class, Vietnamese students are drilled with:
“How are you ?” “I’m fine.” Maybe an, “I’m fine, thank you,” and it’s left at that.
English is such a rich language which, admittedly, can be daunting for learners – so many ways to say the same thing.
I explain that native-speakers don’t really use “I’m fine.” It’s meaningless and conveys no emotion. If anything, it’s used sarcastically, in fights between partners:
“I’m not going to help you, do it yourself !”
“OK, fine !”
From this point we can start suggesting other responses … and intonations.
“I’m good,” “I’m great,” “I’m over the Moon.”
This leads to how we use so much intonation to express meaning in English.
A less positive reply could be “I’m so-so,” or “I’m OK.” Even there, “I’m OK,” get’s it’s meaning from how it’s pronounced … it can mean good or just so-so depended on paralinguistics (body language, tone of voice, expression).
Then we come to not feeling so great.
“I’m terrible,” “I feel lousy,” “I’m a little under the weather,” (idiom)
So, we have an ice-breaking session and mini lesson featuring pronunciation, intonation, vocabulary and use of idiom. That is rather more than fine.