Apart from idioms, phrasal verbs and low-frequency words (LFW), IELTS students need a collection of expressions and collocations to spice up their English.
With that in mind, here are some notes from the previous lesson, along with revision exercises and a splattering of vibrant vocabulary.
As for speaking tests, I listened to eight students last week and only heard one complex sentence. Now, it wasn’t one of my classes; my students know exactly what I will do if they don’t speak in IELTS-style sentences:
I just jammed around with two key words: ‘heart’ & ‘gold’.
Exercise 1: define these expressions & idioms
a heart of gold
a heart to heart
hand on heart
a heart of stone
a heart of gold (yes, again, it’s called practice)
as good as gold
the golden touch
silence is golden (especially when one works in Vietnam)
Exercise 2: use these expressions & idiomsin an IELTS style, employing complex sentence(s).
EXAMPLE: My mother, who works incredibly long shifts at the hospital, has a heart of gold. Even when she is exhausted, she always finds time for me.
facetious // uncharacteristically // overheads // euphemism // lingua franca // prima donna
shaking in my boots // going to powder my nose // going to see a man about a dog // footloose and fancy free
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Unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to another beloved musician. Last Tuesday Charlie Watts drummer with the Rolling Stones passed away in London.
I was lucky enough to see the Stones twice, in football grounds (Wembley in London, and in Copenhagen), but I also saw Charlie in a much smaller London theatre where he performed a tribute to Jazz legend Charlie Parker. Apart from being a Rock ‘n’ Roll legend, Charlie was a Jazz lover, and played with small groups and big bands.
Stones guitarist Keith Richards posted this image:
Richard awoke and, jolting up, looked around the strange flat, wondering where the hell he was. Then it came back to him, with the audio aid of Chris’ snoring. He looked on the sofa and saw that Chris hadn’t moved for … he looked around, feeling for his watch, but it was too dark to make out the time. The next stage was to search for his wallet. It was in his jeans pocket. He opened it and though depleted, there were still some Deutsche Marks remaining.
Domestic noises from behind the large, double doors; footsteps on creaking floorboards, a tap running, a container lid popping open.
A door slowly opened, and Burkhardt peeked in, raising his hand to Richard’s wave. Richard got up, put on his jeans and went to the bathroom, grateful that he always had a travel toothbrush with him.
He would have preferred waking up next to a beautiful German girl, but that would have to wait.
After brushing, and washing his hands and face, he went into the kitchen, where the coffee was waiting for him. Burkhardt offered him one of his Marlboros.
“Your friend is still sleeping. I hope he is OK. I was going to look at him, to make sure he was breathing, then he began snoring. Was it that loud all night ?”
“Oh, yes. The brandy really helped.”
Burkhardt had to go to his shop, so Richard thanked him for his help, and went to wake up Chris But, again, the irresistible force of Richard’s shaking met the immovable object of Chris’ comatosed slumber, until Burkhardt suggested leaving him to sleep it off.
“Well,” said Richard, “that may take a few hours.”
“Do you want to see my shop ? I have to make office things, but we can play records and drink coffee. Just leave a note, saying we’ll be back later.”
“Good idea, but I’m guessing he’ll still be asleep.”
“Haha. We can see.”
The small shop was on Stargarder Strasse, at the Prenzlauer Allee end, which Chris considered the poor man’s Schönhauser Allee. The two north-south main roads ran almost parallel, tapering into Wilhelm Pieck Strasse at the southern end, were linked by the S-Bahn, and dissected by the dreaded Danziger Str.
It was mid morning, and apart from the occasional bakery and general paper-drink-sweet shop, everything was closed and quiet.
Burkhardt opened up, turned on the lights, and told Richard to feel free to look around. Then he went behind the counter to turn on the sound system.
“We have a CD player, cassette deck and stereo, of course,” he laughed, waving his hand over the carefully arranged racks of vinyl records. “Please, play anything you like and I’ll make some coffee.”
“Can I smoke in here ?”
Burkhardt came back and with an expression indicating what he thought of such a silly question, answering,
“Ja, of course!”
Richard looked around, acquainting himself with the organization of the shop, the different areas for different genres.
Records, tapes, books, magazines and CD’s were everywhere, yet clearly ordered. The walls had various picture discs on them, or posters and magazine covers. Behind the counter were more records, either Burkhardt’s choices or rarer pieces.
Richard moved over to the Jazz selection, a small, but quite comprehensive collection, with most of the giants represented. He picked up a Miles Davis disc, ‘Star People’, turning it over in his hands, then a Dizzy Gillespie compilation, a Mingus LP and was studying a Charlie Parker double set.
Burkhardt came back with two mugs of coffee, a Marlboro firmly grasped in the corner of his mouth.
“Anything you want to hear ?”
Burkhardt had on black leather trousers, a shirt of bold colourful vertical stripes, leather jacket and thick square glasses. Richard was expecting some hard-core industrial German noise from the early Eighties. Instead, the jaunty, almost twee introduction of The Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice ?’ came on, the thump of a bass drum launching the song into its infectious verses.
“Sixties music is my passion. I try to buy everything I can from that time. It sells OK. I don’t have anything really rare, just some interesting albums from different countries. I wish I had been there. Imagine, living at that time, all this great new music coming out. Not knowing what was going to happen next.”
Richard moved over to the book section and saw that most of them were indeed about Sixties artists.
“Have you read these ? Some of them ?”
“All of them. I’m very boring, I know !”
“No, not at all.”
“But they only tell a part of the story, they only focus on one particular artist, but I think the power of The Sixties was that they were all part of a much larger scene, it was all connected, they all influenced and helped change each other.”
“Like The Beatles hearing Dylan, The Stones hearing The Beatles ?”
“Yes, but much more, much … “ Burkhardt searched for the appropriate word in English, but his gesture and expression were eloquent enough.
“That is what I want to do; write a book on all the music, how it all fitted together. I always read the same things, as you said, Dylan went electric after hearing The Beatles, who began writing longer songs, then The Stones made their concept album. What I want to show is how all of the competition lead to greater and greater music and creativeness.”
He broke off to listen to a particular section of the ‘Pet Sounds’ record that was playing. He continued,
“Let’s take the big three: Dylan, coming from the Folk background, The Beatles from Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Stones from Blues. The Beatles take their influence and give it something of their own. This gives an example to The Stones, to write their own music. The Who follow The Stones, seeing that it was possible to be successful, without looking like Paul McCartney, and that writing original songs was what separated the great bands from all the others. Meanwhile, in America, The Byrds listen to Dylan and Folk, but see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and Roger McQuinn goes to buy a 12-string Rickenbacker and make one of The Sixties most iconic guitar sounds. They cover Dylan, making his name bigger. He already has critical approval, now comes mass success. All the time the music is going back and forth over the Atlantic, The Beatles hear all these great words, and feel embarrassed by their simplistic lyrics, and Dylan loves the power of the beat. He goes electric at a folk festival, the crowd go crazy, half love it, half hate it, hate him for doing it. Meanwhile, we have these boys, The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson writing, playing, producing. He gets into a contest with Lennon-McCartney, who can write the most perfect, sophisticated pop song ? The Beatles, listening to Dylan, listening to The Byrds, mix jangly guitars with deeper lyrics, come out with ‘Rubber Soul’, The Beach Boys hear this, as well as Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and start working on Pet Sounds.
Burkhardt pointed off behind him at the music coming out of the speakers.
“The Beatles hear Pet Sounds and realize the bar has been lifted, not by a small amount, but higher than they thought possible. McCartney calls ‘God Only Knows’ the best song ever written. They have to top it. Meanwhile, Mr Dylan releases ‘Blonde on Blonde’. In August 1966, The Beatles put out ‘Revolver’, what a collection of songs, what a cover. German artist, naturally. Brian Wilson hears this, begins work on an album to be even better. The first result is soon heard: ‘Good Vibrations’. They use a theremin, and create a totally new sound. Now the race is really on. Who is going to win ? The Beatles are working on what will be ‘Sgt. Pepper’ but rumours come over about a project called ‘Smile’, a work so powerful that it will blow the minds of all who hear it. Then The Beatles had ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’. Brain Wilson, for … whatever reasons, put the ‘Smile’ project aside. And it was never released.”
Burkhardt let out a sigh, a requiem for all the great music that never was.
“Some songs crept out, some bootleg recordings of backing tracks and finally a watered down version, to fill the contract. Never more would The Beach Boys be a major band. Their following LP’s sold bad, some not even making the Top 100.
“Music is like an arrow that never falls, but carries on, forever. Bands get to ride along, for a while, then fall away. After ‘Smile’, The Beach Boys fell away.
“Meanwhile, The Beatles won the contest. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ came out in 1967, the ‘Summer of Love’. Of course, I have seem photos, they recorded it in the freezing cold London winter. Then what happened ? No more Brian Wilson, Dylan had disappeared. And they bring out ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, not exactly a flop, but no masterpiece. And The Stones continue to follow The Beatles, and release ‘Their Satanic Majesty Requests’. I’m a Stones fan, but even I have a hard time listening to that. It seemed as if the arrow has fallen. What better time for Mr Dylan to reappear. Missing all of the hippy scene, in January 1968, one of his best, ‘John Wesley Hardin’. People always write about The Stooges, or The Ramones making simple Rock ‘n’ Roll, or stripping down the music to the bare essentials and starting again. Ah, Mist ! (bullshit). I love those bands, but it is shit, they played like that because they couldn’t play any better ! Johnny Ramone said, in interviews, “We didn’t play any covers, because we couldn’t play anybody else’s songs.” It was Mr Dylan, and The Band who really stripped music, cut out all the excess and brought it all back home. And after Mr Dylan comes back ? The Beatles make ‘The White Album’ and The Stones make ‘Beggar’s Banquet’.
“Then we have the trio of Rock deaths, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. But what about the other trio of drug casualties ? Pink Floyd’s Sid Barrett ? Peter Green, a guitarist as good as, if not better than Clapton ? And, our old friend, Brain Wilson ? If he had finished ‘Smile’, how would he have followed it ? What would The Beatles have written in response ? Not ‘I Am The Walrus’, I’m sure. Who knows what great music was waiting to be written ?
“Do you know what the first bootleg was ?” Burkhardt asked, rather abruptly.
“Yeah, it’s Dylan, ‘Great White Hope’, I think.”
Burkhardt smiled and gave a single nod. He moved over to a corner, to the Classical section that Richard hadn’t seen, and pulled out a record with a dark sleeve, showing a wooden Crucifix.
“Good answer, but not right. This: ‘Miserere Mei’ by Allegri. Do you know the story ?”
Richard didn’t, so Burkhardt changed The Beach Boys for the new disc and waited for the first notes, so as to adjust the volume.
“It was kept by The Vatican. One of the Pope’s thought it was so beautiful, that it mustn’t be allowed to leave Rome. Not only that, it was only to be played in the Sistine Chapel, only at Easter. One year, a young man was able to hear it, maybe once, possibly twice, but certainly no more than that. He went straight to his room and wrote it out, note by note, from memory. The boy’s name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was facing excommunication from the Church, but the new Pope was so impressed by his talent, that he permitted it. And if Mozart hadn’t been there, in Rome, at the time, maybe we wouldn’t be able to listen to it today.”
They sat in silence, just listening to the extraordinary heavenly singing. Burkhardt spoke, but no longer to Richard, his remarks were addressed to an unseen audience.
“I like to think that the arrow continues, that other bands can get a little of that creativeness and inspiration and, who knows, maybe again, we will have a Golden Age of classic after classic, after classic.”
After the piece had finished, Burkhardt caught up on paperwork, and Richard played Pet Sounds and John Wesley Hardin.
When they returned to the flat, Chris had only just woken up and was feeling hideous. He refused a coffee, made a very embarrassed ‘thank you’ and left with Richard, who agreed to re-visit the store in the near future. He kept putting it off and when he finally did go back, it was gone, a Head Shop taking it’s place, a store selling Oriental merchandise and marijuana paraphernalia.
On returning home, Chris went straight to his bed and was asleep immediately. Richard took a shower, then went to the Kino (Cinema) and later to a few bars in Kreutzberg, just hoping to bump into Monika and therefore Lorelei. But he saw no one and drank alone.
On September 28th 2004, a re-recorded ‘Smile’ was finally released.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression
A killer, jaw-droppingly brilliant introduction will really impress your examiner as well as boosting your confidence during what, to be honest, is a nerve-racking experience, namely, the IELTS speaking test.
With that in mind, here’s some tips, advise, guidance, what you will, on how to set up your response.
Let’s take a real-life example. Last week I asked my class a simple question:
I am exhausted and need a holiday. Where should I go to in Vietnam ?
Most answers were pretty run of the mill albeit with the occasional L-FW and an idiom relating to cost (it does or doesn’t cost an arm and a leg). However, I had a former student sitting in, my Princess (you may read about her here, if you so wish: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/04/6420/
My Princess began her recommendation thus:
Mr Paul is looking quite exhausted because he has been working extremely hard, burning the candle at both ends, so he really needs a holiday to relax. Vietnam has visually-stunning scenery and beautiful beaches. Allow me to tell you about some of these places …
The class responded thus:
Their jaws all dropped ! However, take heart, a great introduction is, with a little practice, a piece of cake. What follows is a compendium of opening lines, introductions, and templates for you to use and adapt as you see fit.
As with all skills, start slowly then you can build up to more elaborate introductions.
That’s a very interesting question
Allow me to tell you about …
Well, that’s a great question
Well, there is so much to say about that subject, where shall I start ?
It’s funny you put that question to me because earlier today I was just thinking about …
As a young Vietnamese (add your own nationality), I …
Well, that question is a bit of a sore point with me because …
More Advanced introductions, especially for Part 3:
Well, that’s a very complicated question …
Well, that’s a very complicated question but I will endeavor to answer
What a hard question, I may have to think about this …
I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however …
I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however I can think of one example …
in my experience
allow me to tell you what I do
I can’t speak about other people, but I …
Allow me to introduce my family to you. Firstly there is …
I like many drinks however coffee is my favourite because …
Sai Gon has so many coffee shops, some are cheap while others can be quite expensive although they have a wide range of delicious coffee. Personally, I like going to …
As you may know, I’m a vegetarian. However, all my friends love fast food especially burgers and fries.
Well living in a big city, I have a wide choice of food, including American and European cuisine. Fast food restaurants are ubiquitous so I have eaten, for example, burgers, KFC and pizza, which is my favourite.
Well, that’s a great question as I detest cooking. Having said that, I’m extremely lucky because in my neighbourhood, restaurants are ubiquitous, from expensive sea food to affordable street food.
Thank you for the question, because I can introduce you to some mouth-watering dishes from Vietnam. Allow me to mention just two which, in my opinion, are the most popular.
Free time / hobbies / shopping
Well, I’m a student at university, so I don’t really have much free time. However, when I’m not studying I like to …
After a hard day of (working, studying, shopping) there’s nothing I like better than watching a great movie and I tend to enjoy action, horror and Marvel films the most.
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.
I have to confess that one of my passions is shopping, be it at a mall, a street market or online. As a young person, I adore buying clothes, though I have to restrain myself as many items cost an arm and a leg.
Well, That’s an interesting question because I actually spend most of my time at school or studying. Most days I’m burning the candle at both ends. Having said that, when I do get free time, which is once in a blue moon, I love to just hang out with my friends, maybe go to coffee shops which are ubiquitous in my city. Although I enjoy movies, I rarely go nowadays.
I’m not absolutely sure yet, but I plan to meet up with some friends and just hang out. We have all been so busy, we haven’t seen each other for ages. (for a long time).
Well, that’s a very pertinent question because recently, I have been thinking about where I would like to study, and the UK is certainly top of my list. I am sure there would be some culture shock, especially when it comes to the food.
Well, I’m currently in my last year of high school, so this is a very pertinent question for me. Naturally, I can’t foresee the future however, I could offer some predictions though, of course, this is just my opinion.
It’s funny you put that question to me because just today I was thinking about where I want to study. I have my heart set on studying in the USA as I have some family in Seattle, which is a large city in Washington state. However, to follow my dream, I need a high score in IELTS, so I need to put my nose to the grindstone.
Thank you for letting me introduce to you my hometown which is Da Nang, one of the biggest cities in Vietnam, although it is much smaller than Ha Noi or Sai Gon.
Vietnam has many beautiful places but my choice would be Hoi An.
Ah, that’s an interesting question because I really need a holiday. However travelling now is not a good idea because of the COVID 19 which is an extremely serious pandemic. So, I have to think about after, when it is safe to go on holiday.
What are your first impressions of the man above, Mr Bob Dylan. What do you think of first – his appearance or his personality ? Probably the way he looks.
First impressions count
Today we’re having an advanced class using new words and expressions to describe both the physical and personality attributes of famous musicians.
So, as a warm up, how would you describe Mr Bob Dylan ?
Start with his looks, which are more factual, though subjective (i.e. to some young people, he will look ancient, while to older people, he may look distinguished and wise).
Then, tell me what you think he is like. You probably don’t know Mr Dylan, personally, so you can’t say, “He is incredibly friendly,” or, “He is extremely stand-offish.”
Therefore, you must employ opinion phrases:
He seems to be …
In my opinion …
I don’t know him personally, but I would say he is …
However, would it surprise you to know that Mr Dylan won the Noble Prize for Literature in 2016, and that his music has been unbelievably influential all over the world ?
I will show you some photos of rock stars, and you will practice sentence building. tell me what they look like, and what you think they are like as people. Can you explain why ? Finally, to practice complex sentence, I will give you basic information, and you have to incorporate these facts into long sentences using discourse markers and relative pronouns.
normal-looking // weird- looking // looks more dead than alive // bags under eyes
How would you describe these rock stars ?
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 Pitols, he formed a new band, PIL, and had a book published in 2008. He escaped certain death by missing his flight on the doomed Pan Am flight that exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland.
Look at how much information I pack into the first, complex sentence:
Name – John Lydon
Stage name – Johnny Rotten
Band name – Sex Pistols
Time of band – 1975 – 1979
Marital status – married
Wife’s name – Nora Forster
How long married – since 1979
Now – how does he look ? Friendly ? Sweet and quiet ? What do you think ?
Make complex sentences:
David Bowie born 1947 and died 2016. Born in Brixton, south London. First big record was ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969. Record was in the Top 5. ‘Ziggy Stardust’ was released in 1972. It was incredibly influential. Many musicians say it is one of their favourite records. In 1976 he was in a film called ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth.’ In 1977 he moved to Berlin, Germany and made two important records, ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes.’ He was married to the super model Iman. She is Somali-American. Bowie made records up until his death in 2016. He died of Cancer.
Choose a musician; what do you think they are like ?
Which one would you like to meet, and why ?
Which one makes music you would like to hear ?
If these musicians are too old for you, tell the class about your favourite modern musician. Is it …