The following websites are good for listening practice.
What are the pros and cons of each one ?
What do you like or dislike about them ?
How helpful do you find them ?
Try to use complex sentences in forming your answers, giving reasons and your thoughts.
Example: For me, the best site was (Speakgood.com) because it was well designed, easy to use and extremely helpful. I especially appreciated the subtitles which enabled me to understand what was being said.
This was recommended to me by my Brazilian friend, Ana (also a ESL teacher). Small news stories are told at three levels of English, and you can listen first, then read the text. Also a good way to learn new vocabulary. Having said that, the speaking is rather flat and lacking in intonation.
The following clips are provided not only for listening practice but also for speaking: try to copy, to imitate, the speakers. Listen out for the intonation, stress and rhythm of these native-speakers.
And now, without further ado, the first clip:
Every Christmas, The Queen addresses the nation (make a ten-minute TV appearance). This clip has subtitles so you will be able to follow what Her Majesty says, looking up any new words.
For pronunciation practice, I suggest listening to very short extracts and trying to copy the voice. The Queen, naturally, speaks Queen’s English (the most prestigious form of standard English).
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch
Do you know this actor ? How much can you understand ?
This includes the famous opening lines from Richard III
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York
The phrase ‘winter of our discontent’ or ‘winter of discontent’ has entered the language and is frequently quoted in newspapers, blogs and everyday conversation.
In the quote, Richard is referring to the new king, Edward IV, from the York dynasty. He plays with the words ‘son’ and ‘sun’, comparing the new king with the spring sun chasing away the misery and despair of an English winter.
Notice all the discourse markers– expressions that don’t add any information, but allow him to think while he keeps talking (examples: all right, yeah,) and expressions (it hit the $300 mark – means the price was $300).
Present perfect, past continuous and questions. Listen for adverbs
Mark: Have you been to Germany ?
Amy: No, not yet. Have you ?
Mary: Yes, twice. I have (I’ve) visited Berlin and Munich.
Amy: Which did you like best ?
Mary:Well, Munich is very clean, elegant and stylish, but quite expensive.
Amy: And Berlin, the capital ?
Mary: I was working there for six months. It was really cool.
They continue after eating a big piece of pie.
Amy: Sounds like you had lots of fun !
Mary: Oh, yes ! The food was cheap and the people were incredibly friendly.
Amy: How about the weather ? I have heard it can be cold.
Mary: It was terrible ! Every day it rained cats and dogs.
Amy: You must have been so glad to get back to Vietnam. (glad = happy)
Mary: Yes, but I miss the German trains and buses; they were so reliable.
How different is England to Germany ?
This is an interesting question because, despite both being Northern European countries with similar climates and a shared language root, both nations have very strong national identities.
Historically, there is an obvious difference; the two World Wars. This originated from economic conflicts to actual conflicts which consequently altered the map of Europe.
There are many cultural differences, the English see the Germans as very efficient, hard-working, punctual albeit lacking any sense of humour.
Putting myself in their shoes, and based on my experiences of Germany, we Brits are seen as aloof and isolated, preferring tea-breaks to solid work.
These factors notwithstanding, the two countries have a lot in common; protestant religion, not Catholic (mostly), a love of both football and beer. Even our Royal Family has German blood.
Now with Brexit, it will be interesting to see what develops over the next generation. We can only speculate whether the nations move closer together or further apart.
A miscellany of lesson notes aimed specifically at basic-level English
Grammar – adjectives // helping verbs // comparatives & superlatives // I used to // modal verbs // much or many ? // past tense exercises // possessives // relative pronouns // should or shouldn’t // some or any // I need // verbs – most common verbs present, past and past participle.
Vocabulary – new words and expressions
Vocabulary – film
Vocabulary – Kitchen
Vocabulary – what do you need ?
Speaking practice – introductions // repairs // future tense
If you meet a new friend or business acquaintance
Hello, how are you ? Very well, thank you, and yourself ? / I’m great
hot, cold, sweet, bitter, Vietnamese, weak, strong, expensive, Indian
Now add a reason – ‘because’, ‘as’
I love good strong coffee because it wakes me up and I also adore sweet Indian tea in the evening as it helps me to unwind.
Make longer sentences:
I like Sai Gon but I don’t like Ha Noi
I like films and I like games
My friend likes street food but he doesn’t like restaurants
Vocabulary – adjectives
standard / higher / / opposite / higher
good / brilliant // bad / terrible
beautiful / gorgeous // ugly / hideous
interesting / fascinating // boring / tedious
expensive / over-priced // cheap / bargain
modern / hip / trendy // old-fashioned / out-dated
gentle / calm // angry / hot-headed
big / massive / huge // small / tiny
important / significant // unimportant / insignificant
tiring / exhausting // relaxing / peaceful
Helping verbs: have / want / need /go / like
Subject + helping verb + infinite …..
I have to find my mobile phone // She goes to work // He needs to relax
Write sentences for these pictures:
He wants ….
She likes ….
Negative: He doesn’t …
Grammar – comparatives and superlatives:
big / bigger / biggest (-er / -est for small words)
interesting / more interesting / the most interesting (more / the most for longer words)
Sai Gon is bigger than Ha Noi
Chinese is the most difficult language to learn
London expensive Sai Gon
Thailand hot Canada
Moroccan food spicy French
Action films exciting rom-com (romantic-comedy)
I used to …
When I was young, I used to play football. Now I am too old !
I do NOT play football NOW. I played football when I was young
Write sentences. Example: When I was young, I used to read comics.
When I lived in Germany I used to …
This pen belongs to me, it is mine.
The laptop belongs to Jane, it is _______
It’s John’s book, it belongs to ______
We all work for HLS, it is ______ company.
Give this to Anna and Gary, it is _______
Grammar: modal verbs
Modal verbs are helping verbs that show
permission (sự cho phép)
possibility (khả năng)
can / could / have to / must / might / should
can’t / couldn’t / don’t have to / mustn’t / mightn’t / shouldn’t
1. Ted’s flight from Amsterdam took more than 11 hours. He must be exhausted after such a long flight. He might prefer to stay in tonight and get some rest.
2. Hiking in the mountains ______ be dangerous. You _____ research the route a little more before you start.
3. You _____ take your umbrella today. The weatherman said there’s a storm in Nha Trang and it ______ rain this afternoon.
4. When you have a small child, you ______ leave small objects lying around. Such objects _____ be swallowed.
5. I _____ believe she said that to the supervisor!
6. Jenny’s wedding ring is enormous! It ______ be very expensive.
7. Please water the plants. If they don’t get enough water, they _____ die.
Try to make sentences:
I need to…. She wants to… You have to… We like to … He hates to …
Much or many ? A little or a few ?
[a few = countable / little = uncountable]
Is there much work left ? I really want a little free time to run some errands.
There are ….. shops in the mall. I need to buy …… items
Is there ….. beer in the fridge, or do I need …… more ?
There are only a … millionaires inVietnam but they have so ….. money.
There are far too ….. karaoke singers. I need …….. peace.
PAST TENSE EXERCISE:
Complete the exercise with the verbs inside the box.
drink / fall / hurt / sell
spend / write
choose one of these verbs and use the past tense form
1. Mozart ……. more than 600 pieces of music.
2. ‘How did you learn to drive?’ ‘My father …….. me.’
3. We couldn’t afford to keep our car, so we ……. it.
4. I was very thirsty. I ……… the water very quickly.
5. Paul and I played tennis yesterday. He’s much better than me, so he ……. easily.
6. Don ……. down the stairs this morning and his leg.
7. Jim …….. the ball to Sue, who …….. it.
8. Ann …….. a lot of money yesterday. She ……. a dress. It ……. £100
Grammar – Present Perfect
Subject + have/ has + past participle
I have been to Ha Noi
She has visited London
They have seen that film so many times but (they) have never understood it.
I have read ‘My Sassy Girl 1’ although I have not read ‘My Sassy Girl 3’
(I haven’t read)
Have you read any good books recently ?
To talk about something in the past but not when it happened
He has looked at the report – YES
He has looked at the report last week – NO
(He looked at the report last week) just use simple past
Can use with ‘for’ and ‘since’
I have lived in HCM since 2010
I have lived in HCM for seven years
Exercises: Put these sentences into present perfect
I John (read) your email several times. John has read your email …. 2. She (wear) that skirt many times. 3. My family (visit) Brazil a few times. 4. I (eat) already. 5. Mia (finish) her homework. 6. You (break) the glass again. 7. They (pay) for everything. 8. It (never snow) like that. 9. I (meet) Anna once. 10. We (see) him before.
Grammar – Relative Pronouns:
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 bargins.
Whose Possessive: That’s the singer whose record we heard last night.
The 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.
A 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.
Grammar: should / shouldn’t
Complete the sentences. Use the verb in brackets. Sometimes the verb will be nagative Use contractions where possible.
It’s cold. You … a cardigan. (wear)
She’s always tired. She … to bed late every night. (go)
… now? (we / leave)
You … some fruit or vegetables every day. (eat)
The students … their mobile phones in the exam. (use)
You … the teacher to help you if you don’t understand the lesson. (ask)
People … fast in the town centre. (drive)
… the dress or the skirt? (I / buy)
Grammar: ‘some’ or ‘any’
we use ‘some’ for a statement
we use ‘any’ for a negative or a question
There are some great websites for learning English. PLURAL / countable
There is some Czech beer on sale at VinMart. PLURAL / uncountable
There aren’t any beer clubs near here
We don’t have any French cheese
Are they any good films playing ?
Do you have any English tea?
1 Do you have ______ questions about the new project ?
2 Let me give you _______ advice.
3 You don’t need to bring ____ pens or paper. There will be ______ print-outs available.
4 There will be _____ visitors from Germany coming. Do you know ____ German ?
Jim I can’t wait for Tet. Do you have any plans ?
Alf Of course ! I’m going to watch some films and get some rest.
Jim Have you bought any special food ?
Alf I don’t have any time for shopping. I’ve still got some beer. How about you ?
Jim I need to buy some fruit, some biscuits, and do I need any special food for Tet ?
Alf Absolutely ! You must buy some cakes and some sweets.
Jim Anything else ? I need some advise.
Alf Just make sure you have some beer. A LOT of beer. Cheers !
Grammar: I need
subject need (helping verb) infinite verb (to + verb) completion
I need to visit a dentist
She needs to stop buying clothes !
subject need (helping verb) article / determiner noun
He needs a laptop / I need the report
We need some overtime / She needs a bottle of water
I need tôi cần // I want tôi muốn
1 I ____ to visit Thailand. 2 He ______ to find a job now !
3 Her mother ____ her to get married. 4 Do you ____ to see Twin Peaks ?
5 She can’t go out, she _____ to finish her homework.
6 They _____ new shirts but they ______ to buy computer games instead.
Some items are essential (very important) Some are useful
Some are luxury items (don’t really need them)
EXAMPLE: I think a fridge is essential. However, a meat slicer is a luxury item.
What are they made of and what are they used for ?
EXAMPLE: A toaster is made of metal and is used to toast bread.
What do you need …. ?
What do you need to make pho ?
What do you need to ride a motorbike ?
What do you need for a party ?
What animals do you need for a zoo ?
What do you need to do before you go out ?
Sentence building – verb practice
REMEMBER: ‘to be’ is different:
I am busy / you are busy / she is busy
I was busy / you were busy / she was busy
I was quite busy / really busy / I was extremely, incredibly busy !
I have been busy / you have been busy / she has been busy
Look at this picture: describe what you see
First – what is the subject ? A man
What does he look like ? Adjectives
What is he wearing ? Colour, material, pattern
Where is he ? What is he doing ?
A young man with short dark hair, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and black and white spotted tie is sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop. He is drinking from a small white cup. We know he is drinking damn fine coffee !
Write the subject first ( A young man ). THEN, you can use pronouns (he).
Write long sentences for one of these pictures.
Colin Good morning, I’m Colin.
Mike Pleased to meet you, Colin. I’m Michael but call me Mike.
Colin Thanks, Mike. Have you worked at ….. long ? (a long time ?)
Mike Yes, quite long; about five years. Oh, I like your phone.
Colin Thank you. It’s an LG which is much better, I think, than Apple.
Mike Where did you get it ? (buy it)
Colin Tokyo, where there are so many phone stores.
Mike I really want to go ! Have you met Ms Mi who works in HR ?
Colin Not yet … but she looks very pretty ! (gorgeous / adorable)
Ben Excuse me … is this seat taken ?
Fred I’m sorry ?
Ben May I sit here ?
Fred Oh,by all means. I’m Fred.
Ben Pleased to meet you, Fred. I’m Ben. Are you German ?
Fred Yes, from Berlin, which is the capital. I’m here for three days.
Ben Then you should go to Ben Thanh market where you can buy a Rolex.
Fred Too expensive. My job is great but the salary is terrible !
Ben Ms Na, who works in HR , has a Rolex. Only 400 000 VND.
Fred Really … ? Fake ?
Ben That’s it ! Made in China ! You have a meeting here ?
Fred Yes, with Ms Na; she is gorgeous and so adorable… is she married ?
Ben Yeah … she’s my wife !
Something is either working OR not working
The watch is working The watch is broken – it is not working
I am repairing it – it WAS broken, now it is working again. It has been repaired.
The motorbike is broken. It needs to be repaired / fixed / mended
The mechanic is repairing / fixing / mending the motorbike
It is repaired / fixed / mended
Peter Hi, Mark. How’s it going ? (how are you ?)
Mark Not bad. However, I have a problem. My laptop’s broken.
Peter Oh, dear. What kind is it ?
Mark It’s a PC (personal computer).
Peter Oh, I understand. They are good but sometimes are flawed.
Mark Where can I get it fixed? Do you know somewhere ?
Peter Sure, no problem. There are many shops near here.
Mark Can you take me ?
Peter Sorry, my bike has a problem. It’s not working.
Mark I’ll take a look. Maybe I can mendit. I enjoy fixing engines.
Peter Brilliant. It costs so much to repair a bike.
Mark And it costs so much to use Grabbike every day !
Dialogue practice (ordinal numbers, phrasal verbs, future tense)
Harry and Martin are chatting at work.
Harry What are you going to do tonight ?
Martin I will knock off about 6, then I’m going to the cinema.
Harry What are you going to see ?
Martin Not sure. My girlfriend’ll choose. I’m picking her up later.
Harry Sounds fun ! I’m going to drop off my laundry, then I’ll go swimming.
Martin What days are your taking off for Tet ?
Harry The 14th, 15th and 16th. Then I’ll come back to work.
Martin Why ? Do you have to finish off some work ?
Harry No, I want to start working on the 4th German project.
Now practice – in small groups or pairs, what are YOU going to do tonight or on your free day ?
After work, I will go to the cinema // This weekend I want to drink beer
Tonight, I’m going to meet some friends // I will hang out with my Thai girlfriend.
Use adjectives and extend the sentences:
After work, I will go to the big cinema at Diamond Plaza to see a new American movie.
On Saturday, I’ll (I will) meet my beautiful Thai girlfriend and we will eat delicious and healthy sushi.
What do we do when we go to the airport to catch a flight ?
Take a taxi/ buy a ticket / board the aeroplane / go through security
claim baggage / go thorough immigration / go though customs
check in / buy duty-free / pack your bags
You are flying from Sai Gon to Hue. Where do you go in the airport ?
What will you do at check in ?
What documents do you need ?
How can you check in ? Two ways …
What happens at security ?
Things you love, things you hate ! Try to make long sentences using adverbs and discourse markers (linking words such as furthermore, additionally, however, although etc)
What do you see here ?
Start with the subject or subjects.
What are they doing ? Where do you think they are ?
2nd September for Wednesday 4th September. Listening pp. 20 – 21
Tonight’s focus is on listening, which is perhaps the hardest part of learning English. I often mention the disparity between reading a text and actually hearing said text spoken, with contractions, glottal stops, chunking not to mention accents and accelerated articulation.
Last week, the class were surprisingly lively, and seemed to enjoy some role-playing activities, to practise speaking. I warned them that a listening lesson was coming up, and they were stoical about it, one student even saying that they understand, and it’s not my fault. I have to follow the syllabus, my hands are tied … but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun !
Warm Up: As students are arriving, I’ll start by relating a simple anecdote. The students then have to repeat the important information. The second time, I’ll include more information, and more the third time … and so on. For example:
On Monday, I watched a Korean film called ‘… ing’, which was made in 2003. It’s a romantic drama and is a real tearjerker.
Yesterday, I woke up at 5.50, drank two cups of damn fine coffee, and checked my emails, posted a blog and caught up with friends on Facebook.
Speaking of Facebook, one of my favourite films is ‘The Social Network’ about how the company was founded. It was made in 2010 and based on a book that was published in 2009. I really love this scene in the film which features a song called ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by the band 10cc (can watch up to 0:45).
BONUS POINTS … at the beginning of the scene, some young Jewish men are speaking about why Jewish guys like Asian girls … what, according to the character Eduardo, is the reason (This is one of my favourite all-time cinema quotes) ?
As with all tonight’s real-life clips, we’ll see if any of the students can repeat the quote, aiming for pronunciation, chunking and a natural rhythm.
Speaking of, apropos of ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, can the students understand the first verse and chorus ? This link has the lyrics, so I can turn off the projector and just have them listen, then listen again with the words.
Next up, a version of Chinese Whispers (which is probably a politically incorrect name now). Be that as it may, (and no offence whatsoever to our northern neighbours) the game works like this (assuming that most of the students have arrived, the Vietnamese not being the most punctual of people, and that’s not racist, it’s a fact – they even have a name for it, which translates as ‘rubber-band time’):
Class in two teams. I take the first person of each team outside and give them a separate sentence. They must go back to the class, tell their neighbour and see if the final person is able to repeat the line. Can be repeated depending on class reaction.
A good activity to encourage inter-student communication is to put the class into two or three groups. Each group is handed a paper with some information. One person has to read aloud without showing the paper, and the others have to see how much they can understand. The speaker may be asked to repeat, so it’s also a good way to introduce phrases. A typical card may be:
I’m looking to speak with Ms Nguyen // I’m in the office from 11.00 – 15.00 // I want to discuss the new school building // I work for Vietnam News // Call me on 032 734 9201.
Could you repeat that, please ?
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your number.
Would you be so kind as to leave your name ?
Let me make a note. Hold the line.
Is there a message I can take ?
[With a small group, this could be done one student at a time, but may be intimidating for some students.]
And then, it’s time to hit the books – it’s high time we hit the books.
End game: To continue the listening, but bringing it alive, I’ll show a couple of evergreen clips. One is from ‘Twin Peaks’, a cult TV show from the 1990s. The main character, like the writer of this blog, loves coffee. The students have to copy the body language and say:
“Wait a minute, wait a minute …. this is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee.”
Finally, the late, great, Peter O’Toole on the David Letterman chat show. The host is a fast-talking American, the actor, an Irish-born, incredibly charismatic, flamboyant old-time movie star. He is asked to tell an anecdote, and rather than a pedestrian, “Let me see,” he delivers, with perfect timing: