The ability to use complex sentences, fluently and naturally, will greatly improve your IELTS score (in both speaking and writing). Therefore here’s a little exercise I used in last night’s class. Test your ability to speak in IELTS-style sentences.
Quite simply, take a basic subject and see how complex you can make it by adding information to every noun.
Good idea. Here is my friend Tony:
Tony is from Liverpool. He is 32. He is a reporter. He works on ‘The Daily Talk’. This is shown on ICB network.
Remember, relative pronouns who / which / where / whose
Tony, who is 32, is from Liverpool, which is famous for football as well as The Beatles. He occupation (or profession) is reporter, working for ‘The Daily News’ which is a show broadcast on the ICB network, which is located in London, where Tony now lives.
You wouldn’t usually include so many clauses, but it is an exercise, similar to a musician practising scales. Ideally, in the speaking test, you will be able to use complex sentences at the drop of a hat.
NOW … YOUR TURN
Make a complex sentence about your hometown.
Sai Gon / Tp HCM
Sai Gon: in southern Viet Nam / largest city in VN / population over nine million / many museums (such as History, War Remnants, Independence Palace) / traditional food (such as Phố) – what is Phố ? What is it served with ?
Next, tell me about someone in your family.
Who is that person ? What relation to you ? Where do they live, what is their profession ? Describe their physical appearance and personality and try to add an anecdote, to make your presentation more personal.
Finally, in last night’s listening practice, there was mention of the Hearst Castle in California:
William Randolph Hearst, who was a very famous newspaper tycoon, lived in this castle, which is in California. Hearst was immortalised in the film ‘Citizen Kane’, a classic movie from 1941 by Orson Welles, who directed and starred in the film which is often cited as being the best film ever made.
New vocabulary and expressions:
Last night’s class produced these:
The weather is Sai Gon is sweltering and terribly humid
monotonous (mono = one) = very tedious
I don’t give a monkey’s = I really don’t care
occupation (better word for job) / profession = need to be qualified such as doctor, nurse, lawyer, pilot, chef etc
most notably = Orson Welles made many films, most notably ‘Citizen Kane’.
Quán Lúa: Address: 537/3 Đường Nguyễn Duy Trinh, Phường Bình Trưng Tây, Quận 2, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
I visited this restaurant back in December just before Christmas and, along with my trusty sidekick, sampled some of the fish dishes:
Prawns with onions and peanuts; the best dish.
Canh Chua Cá (Sour Fish Soup). I’m not such a fan of this Viet dish. It was average, nothing special.
Baked fish with sticky rice.
Gettin’ ready to tuck in …
The service was very friendly and, as you see, they didn’t object to my sidekick in the outside area. Cost was reasonable while I would rank the food thus: the prawns were delicious, the baked fish satisfactory and the rice well-flavoured. The soup looks colourful, it’s just not my cup of tea. To be fair, as I went early some of my first choices were not available. I really went as a break from home-cooking, and to support a local restaurant. I’ll leave the last word to my trusty sidekick:
After three or four lessons, I expect my students to know several common idioms (their meaning and how to use them appropriately), a number of low-frequency words (L-FWs), how to introduce an answer, how to form a complex sentence and to demonstrate varieties of intonation and stress.
Without these features, you ain’t gonna get above a ‘5’, no way. Therefore, time for a quick review, see how you’re measuring up to the standard, whether you need to turn over a new leaf and put your nose to the grindstone.
Therefore, let’s recap
it’s raining cats and dogs
it costs an arm and a leg
piece of cake
I’m burning the candle at both ends
once in a blue moon
pass with flying colours
turn over a new leaf
put your nose to the grindstone
Part 1: What do the aforementioned idioms mean ?
Part 2: Give each student an idiom. They have to use it, correctly, in a sentence.
absent-minded // sky-high, astronomical // an entrepreneur //
hawkersor peddlers // a mover and a shaker // consider //
Part 3: Students have to describe their neighbourhood, using as many L-FWs, and idioms, as they are able.
That’s a very interesting question
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 …
Part 4: Students have to demonstrate they know how to introduce their answer.
What do you want to do in the future ?
Give them one minute to prepare a very short reply.
Part 5: Moving on, students have to form complex sentences out of the following information, using intonation to reflect excitement or a positive point and, conversely, a negative factor. Discourse markers to be employed in order to link ideas, naturally. Furthermore, I shall be listening for adverbs and adjectives.
First, choose the correct relative pronoun (who, which, whose or where)
capital of UK // many shops and museums // expensive and cold
Teacher John //
from New Zealand // smiles and plays guitar // talks too fast
real name Tony Starke // very rich and intelligent // is fictional
90 minutes flight from HCMC // friendly people, great food // many western tourists and crowded
ABC English Centre //
located in city centre, District 1 // use laptops and tablets in classes // lessons are four hours long, with extra homework.
Part 6: Class split into two teams. They have to plan a day in their city (here, of course, it’s Sai Gon) for my friend Ethan.
“Wow … that’s so strong, but it’s got a ball of coconut ice-cream in the middle … whoah !”
And the young lady who I believe is Korean adds:
“I wanna try … This is the coffee king … ahhhhhhhh !”
The young travellers give their views on the environment and cleanliness of District 1 which is the city centre [UK] or downtown area [USA].
To what extent do you agree with them ?
What do Vietnamese students think of the Vlogger’s appraisal of Sai Gon ?
Let’s move on and talk about traffic which is quite a serious issue in Vietnam. Firstly, attending driving school … what can go wrong ? A clip from the world-famous motoring show from the BBC, ‘Top Gear.’
This town (town) is coming like a ghost town All the clubs have been closed down This place (town) is coming like a ghost town Bands won’t play no more Too much fighting on the dance floor
Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town? We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown
This town (town) is coming like a ghost town Why must the youth fight against themselves? Government leaving the youth on the shelf This place (town) is coming like a ghost town No job to be found in this country Can’t go on no more The people getting angry
This town is coming like a ghost town This town is coming like a ghost town This town is coming like a ghost town This town is coming like a ghost town
Songwriters: Jerry Dammers
Exercise 3: What do you know about The Specials. Here’s some facts. Arrange them in the form of an IELTS-standard paragraph.
The Specials were formed in Coventry, in the British Midlands.
Formed in 1977. They had two main singers, Terry Hall and Neville Staple.
Their music is a mix of punk and reggae.
They had a number 1 song in 1980.
‘Ghost Town’ was also a number 1. It was released in 1981. This song is about the recession in the UK. Many people had no work, no money and no hope.
The Specials broke up (disbanded) in 1984 but later reformed. They still perform together.
Next blog will focus on pronunciation. To my classroom students, be prepared for a lot more speaking and practising so, yes ! You DO have to say it again … and again …
A mouth-watering selection of local delicacies from street food to bakeries, small restaurants to city centre lunch bars … and a small trip to the beach for good measure.
I’m focusing mainly on food in my local area, Nguyen Duy Trinh Street in Quan (District 2):
Map of Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh City). As you can see, District 2 is south-east. It is separated from the central District 1 by the Sai Gon river. The area is undergoing a lot of construction, with many new apartment blocks springing up, new restaurants and bars, as well as keeping the traditional shophouses and street food stalls. For a closer view of my area, here is a zoom – in of Nguyen Duy Trinh, the axis of our food tour.
Let’s kick off with a Mi Quang restaurant at 300 Nguyen Duy Trinh. The signature dish is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, from central Vietnam. The small amount of soup differentiates it from the ubiquitous pho. Mi Quang comes with shrimp or meat, quail eggs and the usual side dishes of herbs, chilis and lime. Prices range from 35 000 to 45 000 VND (1.18UKP to 1.50 UKP / $1.51 to $1.94.
With or without meat. Accompanied by fresh vegetables and herbs, and crispy sesame rice crackers. Notice how thick the noodles are, while the broth is far less than one gets with pho.
And the obligatory condiments blend of fish sauce, dried chilis and chili sauce:
Now for a new bubble tea shop: Royal Tea at 242 Nguyen Duy Trinh. I loved this shop; I went after work, after teaching a great but energy-consuming young learners’ class. It was a typical, humid tropical day, but inside, quiet and peaceful. Soft background music, gentle and friendly staff. Drinks around 50 000 VND ( 1.68 UKP /$2.15). Again, Foody.VN have a review (you may need to hit the ‘translate’ button):
This will certainly be one of my haunts (a place I like to hang out). Now, If you’ve followed my blogs, you know I am a fan of the US TV series ‘Twin Peaks’. The police officers really appreciate damn fine coffee and doughnuts (UK) donuts (USA). So, next stop, moving east on Nguyen Duy Trinh, we come to a new bakery. Great for my donuts fix, terrible for my calorie intake … but just look:
And only 18 000 VND each (60p or 77c). They sell ready-made cakes and individual slices, but the doughnuts were excellent … and dangerous ! Here’s the store front:
Don’t worry – I have a gym and swimming pool in my apartment, so I can burn off the calories and balance will be restored. Directly opposite is a street food stall, run by a Korean gentleman and his Vietnamese wife. They offer quite an eclectic mix of food:
I was able to use my extensive knowledge of Hangul (Korean) to say ‘Hello,’ and ‘Thank you.’
A little side note; you see how pavements in Sai Gon are really not designed for pedestrians. It can make walking quite arduous, not to say dangerous, certainly not a pleasure.
For sure, it’s heavy on the fast food, deep fried menu, but healthy options are available. I’ll go back for some Korean non-meat items and report later.
Recently, I had to go into District 1 on business so, as it was lunchtime, I thought I’d hang out with the office workers and go to a ‘point-and-eat’ joint: a ‘point-joint,’ (to coin a new phrase) Here, the food is displayed at the front, so for non-Vietnamese speakers you just, yeah, you guessed it, point … and eat. Service is very quick, though food does tend to be on the cold side. This was one of many in the Ton Duc Thang area of District 1. The centre of the road has been completely torn up, as they plan to construct a new bridge. The restaurant was in a side street:
See, just point and eat.
Various meat, fish and tofu dishes.
I had fried fish (a lot of de-boning required) and tofu in tomato sauce, served with rice, pickled vegetables and vegetable soup. Word of warning, the soup is often meat broth or contains small pieces of meat, so vegetarians be careful.
Fish soup, probably a mackerel or similar oily fish.
Finally, after lockdown restriction were lifted, Vietnamese were allowed to travel outside of their hometown. I was invited to a 5-star hotel in Vung Tau, less than two hours drive from Sai Gon.
Opposite the hotel was a Russian restaurant, mainly sea food, naturally, as this is a beach resort, but I was able to forego the rice or noodles, and have some western black bread … and it was delicious.
Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you found it vaguely interesting. If you have any questions about life in Viet Nam, I’d be happy to (try to) answer them, as best I can.
Furthermore, should you have any questions about English, feel free to ask.
Last week, I asked a typical warm up question, “What did you do today ?”
Remember, when we ask questions we are just giving you a chance to show off and practice your English, so be creative. However, even if you can’t think on your feet, you can make even the most prosaic day more interesting. Allow me to demonstrate:
Today I met my friend and we went to see a movie. After that we had coffee and had some street food.
OK, we can easily make that more appropriate for IELTS.
Firstly, an introduction. Then … details, tell me about the film, about your friend, about the coffee shop and about the food … there is SO MUCH to talk about. Write a longer answer, I’ll give you three minutes.
I didn’t go to school (work) today so I had some free time
I met my friend Nancy who I have known for over five years
I had a date with my friend who is from USA
We were at the mall and decided to take in a movie
We were in the mood for a film
We had our heart set on seeing ‘Parasite’ which is Korean film that has won many awards
After, we needed some coffee so we headed for the nearest coffee shop, which was Highlands Coffee. The prices are sky-high however the coffee is delicious. Additionally, there is free Wi-fi.
Later on, we grabbed some coffee at one of the ubiquitous coffee shops. I had a large cappuccino which cost an arm and a leg, however it really woke me up.
It was late, so we felt quite hungry. There is a lot of affordable and delicious street food. I had some chicken and rice and my friend, who is vegetarian, had rice, eggs and salad.
After the movie, we were hungry but the food at the mall is not very exciting and the prices are sky-high, so we went for some street food which is ubiquitous in this city.
Now … you turn
What will you do on your next free day ?
Remember … this is future tense and you can express the uncertainty in your answer.
I’d love to … / I’m planning to / I have my heart set on … /
I’m not absolutely sure yet, but I plan to … / I wish that I could …
I’ll probably … / I keep telling myself that I will finally …
Use at least one of the above expressions.
Use relative pronouns to give more information.
See if you can add an idiom (or two).
I really need a free day because I’ve been burning the candle at both ends this week.
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).
As you may know, I’m a vegetarian. However, all my friends love fast food especially burgers and fries. We often go to Lotteria which, I believe, started in Japan, and now they are ubiquitous in Sai Gon and easily seen with their bright red stores and big white ‘L’ logo. Despite not eating meat, I can order a fish burger but, in my opinion, the food is not exactly mouth-watering and the service can be rather slow.
Afterwards, I’ll probably go home as I have my heart set on playing a new computer game that my friend, Tony, lent me. Tony, who is actually from Ha Noi, is a real computer geek, he loves gaming, maybe too much. As for me, I get a little bored after an hour so then it’s time to put my nose to the grindstone and hit the books (study) again. “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” That quote, from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, inspires me to work harder, even if sometimes the work is quite tedious.
For my students with a speaking test soon … Best of British !
Today, lots of new words to help you describe the area in which you live (the area you live in). For my classroom-students, I can listen to pronunciation and help them with natural rhythms but online students should use a dictionary with sound … then practice, practice, practice.
Where do you live ? What’s the area like ?
Remember to link words together – it’s called ‘chunking’ in IELTS language.
I live in a:
quiet, residential street. Peaceful at night.
lively and busy commercial area, many shops
dirty and dusty industrial part of town. Very noisy.