IELTS: Intonation, stress, let me feel the emotion (Volume 1)

16th November 2020

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for my Asian students is copying the speech patterns of English, how our voices rise and fall, how we pause for effect then stress key words, augmented by body language and facial expressions.

Best way to improve is to copy so, without further ado, some classic film lines.

Let’s dive in !

First up, ‘The Italian Job’, a British film from 1969 starring Michael Caine, who is still working today, an actor from south London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g_GeQR8fJo

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off !”

Now, let’s cross the pond (the Atlantic Ocean) and go Stateside, with Tom Cruise being yelled at (shouted at) by Jack Nicholson who you may remember from a previous video. The clip is from ‘A Few Good Men,’ a 1992 drama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j2F4VcBmeo

This can be for two students or teams: Start at 0:13 – 0:19

“You want answers,”

“I want the truth,”

“You can’t handle the truth !”

Movin’ on, most of most students are teenagers … this one’s for them. Emely Martinez and some informal, vernacular: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7nyqZJG1WU&list=PLcFdqEA1TNzMEObFQ-XYy4u6dYnrkUSEa&index=13

Watch from the beginning

“Oh my gosh, I think I’ve just come up with the best theory … teenage life sucks !”

Now for a personal favourite, the inimitable Peter O’Toole an actor I had the pleasure of seeing, and briefly meeting, back in my London days. Here, Peter is on a talk show, explaining about a long, arduous flight from Japan to the USA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuhHThAaymQ

I heartily recommend watching the whole clip, however our section starts at 2:21

“Coming from Japan, one indeed stops at lots of places … Hawaii and all over … and it coincided, our stopping, with the cocktail hour … everywhere we went, it was cocktail hour … and one doesn’t want to be discourteous …”

Finally, my favourite TV chef (after Keith Floyd, obviously) is the beautiful Ching-He Huang

My Day on a Plate: Ching He-Huang

Here’s an assortment of phrases and lines from one of her numerous YouTube clips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVmAMQYTtHk

The whole clip is under two minutes. Here are some selections, in order of appearance.

“From street food to fine dining, Hong Kong is the place that has some of the best food on the planet. Every time I come my absolute favourite thing to do is eat.”

“So this is the pineapple bun, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for, it’s flakey and it’s sweet … it’s really good.”

“It’s small and punchy … just like you !”

“The sweetness of the prawns … eeerrrrrrrr !”

“This is some serious woking !”

The last phrase shows how we can play with English; a wok is a traditional Chinese frying pan. Here, Ching uses the noun (wok) to form a verb (woking), which is non-standard, in fact, it isn’t in any of the online dictionaries I searched. Having said that, most native-English speakers watching the show will know what she means.

If you are unsure, Ching is saying that the restaurant is extremely busy, there is a lot of high-energy cooking going on (woks are associated with high-temperature, very quick dishes).

Ching-He Huang recipes - BBC Food

Adult Speaking Class, Level 3: What are they like, what do they do ?

21st June 2020

FRIENDS

Don’t judge a book by its cover

A chance to review recent adjectives, and to practise constructing longer, more detailed sentences. There are some repeated words and phrases along with some new ones.

Look at my friends – tell me what you think about them ?

What kind of people are they ? What jobs do they have ? Why do you think so ?

Personality adjectives

postive

kind / sweet / generous / nice / reliable / hard-working / friendly / dependable / life and soul (of the party) / compassionate / a good sport / trustworthy / honest / solid as a rock

friendly black guy on Twitter: "@kaceyiguess my nigga"
The Friendly Man - FILM REVIEW
Wauconda men charged with 'friendly fire' shooting of teenager
The Coach & Horses | London Evening Standard

negative

arrogant / unkind / nasty / mean (1 nasty, 2 not generous) / unfriendly / unreliable / aloof / pompous / bossy ( tell people what to do) / awkward / /difficult / hard to please / thick as a brick (very stupid) / obsequious / lazy /a screw loose (little crazy)

Lead Through Mutual Commitment, Not Compliance | ChangingWinds

 

Scatterbrain Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock
Arpit Garg's Weblog: July 2015
Angry black lady pointing finger Stock Photos - Page 1 : Masterfile

neutral

shy / ambitious / willful / unadventurous / spontaneous / emotional / talkative / exuberant / passionate / firm but fair (expression) / confident /

Ambitious asian businessman | Premium Photo
Boram T-ara Perú Queen's - Home | Facebook

Jobs

white collar: doctor, accountant, teacher, lawyer, professional / office worker

blue collar: chef, factory worker, mechanic, shop workers, fix machines etc

arts: artist, actor/tress, painter, musicians, DJs, poets, writers

Occupations: Which types of work are these ?

estate agent / consultant / plumber /PR (Public Relations) / HR / volunteer / unemployed / therapist / bouncer / shoe-shine boy / market trader / dog-walker

stockbroker / interior decorator / gambler / self-employed psychic / barista / road sweeper / security guard / pollster / politician / postal delivery worker

Barista là gì? Lương Barista bao nhiêu trong năm 2020
Bouncer Services,Bouncers Security Guard,Bouncer Security Services ...
Adult Class, level 3 (class 2): expanding vocabulary. – Thay ...
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Adult Class, Level 3: Keep on rockin’ in the Free World !

30th May 2020

Yes, keep on Rockin’ in the Free World … but first, you’ve got to get there.

As spoken, we would say:

“First, ya gotta get there.”

So today’s lesson will be in the form of a game, a challenge or quest, if you will, where the students, assigned to one of two teams have to get from:

In Vietnam, Beer Is Big Business.

To …

Popular pub the Birkbeck Tavern saved from closure | East London ...

What a prize ! The dirty filthy insalubrious streets of Ha Noi to the cozy comforts and warm welcome of east London, and my local, the Birkbeck Tavern.

Said task is achieved by earning points, said points are earned by answering questions, and using a wide range of linguistics features namely: adjectives, adverbs, discourse markers, relative pronouns, low-frequency words, expressions, idioms and, naturally, displaying a wide array of para-linguistic attributes, to wit: intonation, stress, eye-contact, body language, gestures, clear pronunciation, turn-taking and rhythm because, contrary to popular belief, when it comes to speaking English, NOT all God’s children got rhythm.

(Yes, the above sentence contained an example of non-standard English, but the vast majority of people do not speak pure standard English all the time).

Now, we have a massive task to undertake … without further ado … let’s go !

Flights from London to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)

First up, a revision and practice. In the last lesson, the class learnt (a-hem!) four new words: ubiquitous, significant, consequently and, it was on my blog, extrapolate. The teams, and let’s name them after famous English explorers, Drake and Cook:

Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake
10 Things You May Not Know About Captain James Cook - HISTORY
Captain James Cook

… the teams have to use all four words in sentences. One point for each correct sentence. However; incentive, three points for using two in a grammatically-correct sentence, five for using three words and TEN points for using all words words in one sentence. That should get them some air miles and off the runway.

Next up, the teams challenge each other. They offer points to the other side if they can use these words or expressions correctly:

however / with that in mind / quantum leap /  in order to / cats and dogs / kick the bucket / therefore / dribs and drabs

It works like this. Team Drake will say, “We offer 5 points for Team Cook to use the word ‘however’ in a sentence.” If the task is accomplished, Cook gain the 5 points. If the team is unable to use the word, then Drake win the points. The skill is in guessing which words or expressions will be hard to use, and offering high points accordingly.

Moving on, creative writing. My class can use relative pronouns IN THEORY, but not so much in practice. One may even say, NOT AT ALL in practice. Thus, I will give information about our two friends from last week. The teams have to compose a short piece combining all the information, but in the form of complex sentences with relative pronouns and discourse markers.

Example:

Johnny Rotten on Museum of Arts and Design's Punk Exhibit ...

Johnny Rotten, Real name John Lydon. Born 1956. Was in the Sex Pistols from 1975 – 1978. Formed band PIL. Changed name back to Lydon. Married Nora Forster in 1979. He was going to be on the Pan Am flight that crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland. He wrote a book, published in 2008.

John Lydon, who performed under the name Johnny Rotten while he was in the Sex Pistols from 1975 – 1978, is married to Nora Forster, and has been married since 1979. After leaving the Sex Pistols, he formed a new band, PIL, and wrote a book which was published in 2008. He escaped death by missing his flight on the Pan Am flight that exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland.

Our young lady is

Sakuri. 21. Born in Tokyo. Studies History at university. Works as waitress. Wants to be a film star. Has two sisters. One sister elder, one younger. Her father is a piano salesman. Mother designs clothes. Sakuri likes reading, films, anime, shopping, going out with friends. Uses Apple iPhone X. Always on Instagram, FB, and Yalo. Is learning English.

Haruto. 23. Born in Okasuka. Left school at 16. Plays keyboards in a band. Likes Beethoven, Jazz and Elton John. Works different jobs. Was TA in a school but was sacked after four hours. Has no siblings. Father left home when Haruto was 4. Mother works 6 days a week in a factory. Uses Samsung Galaxy. Hates social media sites. Listens to music all day.

Points awarded for creativity and relative pronouns and complex sentences.

And now for something completely different: London.

Quick-fire round: I want a list of three. Start a sentence and give THREE examples

In London, you can eat British food …

In London there is public transport …

London has many famous buildings …

There are many famous football clubs in London …

Plan a day for my friends Tina and Michael:

I have two friends arriving in Sai Gon. They want a typical, authentic experience. Plan a day for them. It must include:

  • Breakfast
  • A museum
  • Somewhere for a snack
  • An interesting building or location
  • Lunch
  • Souvenir shopping
  • Something to do in the evening

Give tips and advice. 

How do they travel around ? What are the pros and cons ?

What are their options and estimate the prices.

Try to use as much new vocabulary as possible, words and expressions.

Finally, pronunciation. I will show Drake and Cook two clips, one from ‘Twin Peaks’, the other of the actor Peter O’Toole being interviewed. The teams, all members, have to imitate or copy the voice, gestures and intonation. Points out of 50 for this task.

For Team Drake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uvs7pmISe8I

The quote is, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You know, this is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee.”

For Team Cook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fl3bOeXvyI

The quote is, “Oh, I’ll shuffle through my memory.” Said quote appears from 0:45 – 0:51 in the clip.

And that, as they say, is a wrap. The remainder of the lesson can be devoted to book work, possibly, had-outs, unlikely, or general chit-chat, undoubtedly. Who says English can’t be fun … probably my students !

IELTS 5 – 6.5: “I don’t like cricket …”

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).

Image result for social network caribbean night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tVYr-a33Bw

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q659IaXrS3Y

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.

Useful Expressions:

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.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxwcQ1dapw8

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:

“Oh, I think I can shuffle through my memory.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fl3bOeXvyI&list=PL97HViQblvdEM3zsauRxnIg1baFTNmsDM&index=25&t=51s

Related image

Listening Tips: I have a plethora of clips and exercises on a previous blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/23/listening-skills-tips-and-links/

Young Learners, Level 4: What does the future hold (and a repeat of ‘The Late Show’).

30th May for 1st June 2019

One of the benefits of over-planning is that the work can be carried over to the next lesson; such is the case now. Also, we have a chance to refine the activities, find ways to improve them and eradicate our (i.e. ‘my’) mistakes.

A common problem I make is to over-estimate creativity in students. Some people find it hard to be imaginative in their native language, let alone in a foreign tongue. To solve this, I shall provide some assistance in the form of notes, taped to the walls.

As a warm up, we learnt colour association last week; have they remembered ?

What emotion or feeling do you associate with

Red

Blue

Green

Yellow

Black

White

Can they give me a sentence or an example ?

Now … The show must go on

I will use the talk show format as blogged last week but with some amendments.

This is a compilation of clips from David Letterman, who speaks in a very quick, New York style. We can start around 2:41 and play about 30 seconds. Drinking the perfume should amuse my students:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K22baZRNQKc

In groups of five, one person can pretend to be famous, either an artist, scientist, sportsperson or actor. The rest of the group have to interview the student, each member asking a question such as:

When did you start (acting, playing sport, learning an instrument, acting) ?

How long did you practice or How many hours a day do you rehearse ?

How old were you when you won your first award or medal ?

Tell us about yourself – where were you born ?

Do you have any brothers or sisters ?

What do you want in the future ?

Who do you like or who inspires you ? Why do you say that ?

Next, we need to create a studio set. We’ll do a ‘word bomb‘ or ‘mind map’ game. Who works on a TV show ?

We have a host and of course, we need a guest.

But we need someone to work the camera (cameraperson), the sound (sound engineer) and a director to shout ‘Action !’ We’re in HCM City, so we need a great backdrop for our show:

To arrange groups, and get a mix of students who don’t usually sit or work together, I will arrange the desks in islands of four or five chairs. Each island has a number. The students must choose a card numbered 1 – 5 and sit at that island. Here my TA will be invaluable in making boys sit with girls, and dealing with all the petty squabbles that WILL ensue.

To prevent paucity of ideas and therefore an excuse to do nothing, I will make information sheets and have them pasted around the room. The students have to gather information, but I will expect them to provide basic information themselves.

However, by putting text on the wall, the students will have to read and transmit the information to their team and arrange it in a proper sentence:

Actor

First performance: School play at age 5. Actor forgot the words !

Teacher told student to be an actor because was a bad and noisy student.

Was in a TV advert at age 8 for ice cream

First film at age 9

Next work is a film with Hari Won.

Wants to go to Hollywood and be in a big action film

Scientist

Got a microscope for birthday present at age 6. Used it every day

Favourite subject at school science, biology and chemistry

Went to Sai Gon Zoo every weekend in summer

Won District 2 science contest when was 7

Has an uncle who works for English medical company

Wants to work with animals in the Asian jungles

Artist

Began painting at 2 years old with hands !

Grandmother bought a paint set for birthday at age 4

Always won best painting at Kindergarten and school

At age 6, went to HCM City art gallery

Paints the stage for all school shows

Wants to study art in Paris, France

Sportsperson

Began playing table tennis when only 3 on a special small table

Could beat older brothers and sisters when was only 5

Neighbour said join a club. Was best player in 10 weeks.

Won first contest at age 6

Could beat most adults by age 8

At 9, joined the Vietnam national team

Wants to represent Vietnam at the Olympics and win gold medal.

The students will then have to present their work in the form of a TV chat show, with a director, cameraperson and sound boom (a plastic fly swat can easily stand in for a boom, while the director can pretend to have a headset, and shout, “Three, two, one … action !”

To continue the fun, we can have the students drink tea in the ‘British’ fashion – I model the typical way to drink tea, raising the pinkie, and sipping quietly and without a Vietnamese, “AAAHhhhhhhhhh !” after each gulp. Points, naturally, awarded for the best tea-drinker.

Finally, we can watch and imitate one of my favourite actors, Mr Peter O’Toole, also from the Letterman show. The students must copy this line: (0:46 – 0:50)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fl3bOeXvyI

The line to be recited, along with accompanying body language, is:

“Oh, I’ll shuffle through my memory.”

And then, our little lesson is rounded with a … hopefully not sleep, but spelling tests, book work and general shenanigans.

I shall endeavour to elicit the meaning of new words and to gauge juts how much vocabulary the students are retaining as opposed to forgetting. Place your bets …. the clever money’s on the latter.

Young Teens: A funny thing happened to me …

Thursday 17th January

Tonight’s class has fourteen students, mostly girls (“made of sugar and spice and all things nice,”) and four young lads, one of whom demonstrates slight Hulk-like tendencies (i.e. gets angry at the slightest provocation and starts lifting chairs as if to hurl them through several walls). Simple classroom management has to be employed here; the lads are NOT allowed to sit next to each other. Of course, at this age the boys categorically will NOT sit next to any girl (just wait a year or two until those hormones kick in!) so I have to locate them around the room. It can be dis-illutioning for a teacher to allocate so much time to controlling a class as opposed to teaching them, but such are the realities. C’est la vie.

The theme of the lesson is how to tell an anecdote, but to begin (and to wait for the inevitable latecomers), we’ll do some quick warm-up games. I’ll also be able to recycle work form other lessons (which justifies the time spent making slides / Powerpoint Presentations etc).

We’ll begin with a quiz; I’ll show four famous buildings and ask the students to identify them and tell me as much as they can about them:


After, I will point to some (previously-boarded) numbers and ask how to pronounce them, numbers such as:

2019

10, 000

£35.99p

$10.33

Friday the 13th

I’ll show them that amounts (e.g. £35.99p are often said as simply 35 99, rather than saying ‘pounds and pence.’

For a more active game, help them burn off some energy, I’ll do a ‘run & write.’ In their previous lesson, they learnt past continuous. For this game, the class can be kept in two teams (a bit of competition adds to the excitement, even if there are no prizes at all), one team has a red marker, the other, a blue. I will say a sentence using simple past, they have to write it on the board, using past continuous. For example:

Last night I slept = Last night I was sleeping

Then the whole team has to shout out the sentence. It could get somewhat noisy and impossible to monitor, but it creates freedom for everyone to speak (they are not being listened to individually) and gets the whole class involved, and a noisy engaged class is far preferable to one slouching, sighing and sleeping.

We will then move into the topic area, combining story-telling with pronunciation and accents. I have a great clip of the magnificent Irish actor, Peter O’Toole being interviewed by the fast-talking USA TV host David Letterman. The students can compare the two accents, see which one they understand easier. The clip is below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fl3bOeXvyI

Letterman asks O’Toole if he has a story about a 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).

I extend the activity by asking the students to mimic / copy O’Toole’s voice and elocution. Obviously, I don’t condone smoking at all, 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 !

We’ll then move into a personal anecdote of mine. I’ll create a slide and give a leading narrative using tonight’s key language:

For one thing

As I discovered last year

As you can imagine

In fact …

like the time …

Thanks to ..

People are very interested in stars as I discovered last year when I was in

I saw a very large

Outside a large

in the centre of the city. As you can imagine, I was curious. There were a lot of people there, in fact many were extremely …….

Why were they there, for whom were they waiting ? This was like the time I was in London and many film stars were going into a cinema. I waited … but nothing happened. I was thinking of going, but thanks to some screaming and shouting, I stayed. To my surprise, I saw the world-famous Hollywood movie star …

I felt very lucky. Actually, it was very exciting I just wish I had my phone with me.

The students will then turn to book work, some listening and then creating their own anecdote. Here, I will probably have to help, give ideas. Most students spent too long thinking about ideas and therefore not producing any work. I have found it better to give them a limited choice and then make them start the work.

(In my first year, at my first centre, the students had to write a short story about a boy and girl going to the cinema. I checked all the pupil’s progress, only to find one student had done nothing, all lesson, because he couldn’t think of names for his protagonists. At the end of the semester, I was asked for my recommendation; should he be allowed to progress to the next level ? Absolutely not (it was the only honest answer) CUT TO angry parents, wagging of fingers and pulling of student out of school. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as we say.)

Today we also have some speaking practice and a quick lesson about British culture, in which they will listen and read about the author Daniel Defoe. This will be a chance to elicit how much they know about British literary characters. It could be surprising; they may know Oliver Twist, or Alice (Wonderland). Who knows … some may even have heard of Robinson Crusoe … we shall see. This will then lead into famous writers from Vietnam. I think the most famous is The Tale of Kieu’ by Nguyen Du.

Very famous Vietnamese poem and I highly recommend giving it a read.