IELTS: Notes for fluent speaking

21st January 2022

Happy International Friends Talking In City Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty  Free Image. Image 121618273.
Royalty – free image. Copyright: lev dolgachov

My IELTS students have some speaking tests coming up, so I’d like to boost their confidence by giving them a speaking exercise. I shall choose topics they feel confident with, namely pets, and shopping.

Firstly, a reminder of what you need to do in order to pass with flying colours.

An introduction to the question

Use complex sentences and relative clauses

Use an idiom or two

Use L-FWs (replace basic words with ‘better’ ones e.g. use ‘ubiquitous‘ instead of ‘everywhere’ ‘tedious‘ instead of ‘boring’)

Check your pronunciation and intonation.

Now, without further ado, the questions:

Do you have any pets ?

Do you like shopping ?

What is your favourite possession and why ?

500+ Dog Playing Pictures [HD] | Download Free Images on Unsplash
Image from unsplash.com

Let’s start with pets (I know one of my students has three cats).

Introduction

Do you like all animals, some or only one type ?

Are you allowed to keep pets where you live ?

Talking points

What are the names of the animals ?

How old are they ?

What do they look like ?

What are their personalities ? (You now have an opportunity to use great adjectives)

Where did you get them ?

Who looks after them ?

Do you have any funny stories about they did ? How do they make you feel ?

Idioms: burning the candle at both ends (Playing with my pets helps me unwind after I’ve been burning the candle at both ends with work and study.)

Moving on to shopping, so much to talk about …

Shopping Images | Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD
freepik

Introduction

What do you feel about shopping ?

Is shopping something you dread doing, or is it fun, or even an obsession ? Are you a shopaholic ?

What stops you from shopping ? (Lack of money, or safety concerns now during the pandemic ?)

Talking points

Tell me about the types of shops and shopping areas (street markets, small independent stores, chain shops, malls).

What do you like buying most ?

With whom do you go ?

What else do you do at a mall ?

Do you have a funny story about buying something, or having to return an item ?

What do you think of online shopping ? What is good and bad about it ?

Is internet shopping becoming more popular in Vietnam (your country) ? Why do you think so ?

Idioms: costs an arm and a leg (I really enjoy going to Diamond Plaza and just looking at the beautiful designer dresses. However, as a student, I can’t afford one because they cost an arm and a leg.)

Sample answer

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus 10th Generation 8" Tablet 32GB Slate B0839NDRB2 -  Best Buy
A Kindle Fire ebook and tablet

My Kindle

One of my favourite electronic devices is my Kindle, an ebook reader, which is small and light. I always take it with me when I travel; I’d be lost without it.

The Kindle is primarily a way to buy, store and read books in electronic format. At first, I wasn’t convinced, I liked reading real books. However, books take up a lot of space and, at least in the UK, are rather expensive. When I saw what a Kindle can do, and that so many books are free, I was hooked ! I had to get one. I bought my device in 2014 and I’m still using it today.

As mentioned, I use my Kindle for reading. Literature and poetry is one of my passions. Instead of going to a shop, I just browse the online store, click and wait for it to download. With reasonable wifi, this can just take a minute or so … then I can start reading. It is no surprise that ebooks are ubiquitous in the UK.

Although I read a lot, the Kindle is more than just an ebook. It has wifi so I can access the internet, play music, write notes and play games.

The wifi is vital, especially when I travel. I can maintain contact with friends and family, watch YouTube if the hotel TV is less than enthralling, or read travel guides such as Trip Advisor. Naturally, I can also book tickets or make reservations and therefore pay significantly less.

I recently travelled to Thailand to meet some friends. I didn’t want to buy a new SIM card, and my friend only had an old phone, so there was a dilemma; how to stay in touch ? Thanks to my Kindle, I had email access, so we could plan when and where to meet. 

I can’t watch Vietnamese TV, due to the language barrier. Consequently, the Kindle plays an even bigger part of my life, as I need some way to relax after burning the candle at both ends.

The choice of books is amazing. In the stores, a single book can cost around £10, but recently I downloaded the entire output of the Russian writer Tolstoy for less than £1.50 … incredible !

Kindles come in many shapes and sizes, so before you buy, you need to ascertain how you’ll be using it. For example, do you want a basic ebook reader, just for books, or the latest model with wifi ? This will, naturally, affect the cost. Then you have to decide upon the extras, for example how much storage space do you require, or a super-fast charger or protective case ? All of these bump the price up considerably.

If you’re interested in purchasing one, I have some information for you. I did a quick Google search and saw prices started at under 2 million VND, averaged around 5 million, but some were over 15 million. That, for me, is too extravagant.

In conclusion, my Kindle is very much a part of my life. It accompanies me everywhere. I simply don’t know what I would do without it.

A UK expression meaning good luck

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Shopping: Vocabulary, speaking exercises, fixed prices & fixed expressions

14th December 2020

A compilation of Shopping blogs, for all levels

Vocabulary:

range of choice / quality / cost / location / crowded

store layout (what does it look like ? Is it easy to find things ?)

staff helpfulness / average (normal), put themselves out (very helpful) surly (unhappy)

value for money (good quality at a good price)/ on offer / sale /over-priced / bargains

Vocabulary for malls:

lift / elevator/ display /salesperson / free parking /restroom / lost property /receipt

credit cards / take away / fitting room / returns policy / shoplifting /Black Friday

Speaking practice:

When was the last time you went to a mall ?

Why did you go ? What did you buy ?

Did you buy more than you intended ?

Was it a pleasant experience ?

Which do you like and would you recommend them to a friend … why ?

Where would you go to buy these shirts or T-shirts ?

How much would you expect to pay ?

Can you haggle (argue over the price ?) or are they fixed price ? How would you rate the quality ?


What was the last thing you bought ? Was it for yourself, or a present ?

Don’t you love a bargain ? When is the best time to buy at discounted prices ?

In the UK, after Christmas we have the sales – many items are MUCH cheaper. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSKrVh-3U3E

Black Fridayhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlPVAUulKZE

What do you think about these scenes ?

Are they dignified / horrific / shameful / appalling / materialism gone mad ?

Dialogue:

Ben Did you pick up anything on Black Friday

James Yeah, one or two things. I got a cool new shirt and shoes, half price.

Ben Sounds a bargain ! I was after a big screen TV but the store was crowded

James Tell me about it ! It was crazy. Apparently, it was the busiest day ever.

Ben I’m not surprised. That’s why I detest shopping; no where to park …

James People screaming and pushing, can’t even get in the lift …

Ben When you do find something, you have to queue for ages.

James I wanted to pay by credit card but the salesperson was really surly.

Ben Must have been rushed off her feet (very busy).

James She could have been more pleasant. Could have smiled once !

Ben What did she look like ?

James You decide … I tried out my new phone camera:

angry woman blowing steam coming out of ears | Canadian Contractor

Deciding what to buy

You are on a shopping trip to the USA

Which of these items would you buy ? Which appeal to you ? Which hold no interest ?

Vocabulary

That looks wonderful // I need to try it (them) on first // That’s good quality

No, that’s a rip off (too expensive) // That’s not my style // That really suits me

You must be joking ! // Brilliant ! // Wrap it up ! // Do you take credit cards ?

$75
$200
$145
$ 8,435
$47
$2,800
$9.95
$91.99
$25

IELTS, Theme: Shopping

5th August 2020

A compilation of shopping activities to promote longer sentences, idiomatic language and fluency.

Exercise 1: compound nouns

Exercise 2: devil’s advocate

Exercise 3: role-play

Exercise 4: coffee in Saigon

Exercise 1: compound nouns to do with shopping

window shopping

binge shopping

bulk shopping

impulse shopping

dumpster diving

Match the compound noun with the photos:

Did the lady go out to buy this top or did she decide only when she was in the store ?

Vocabulary:

Prices are sky-high / It cost an arm and a leg /

marked down / on sale / discount / what a bargain !

I couldn’t resist it / I simply had to have it / retail therapy

Make sentences using some of the above language.

Talk about shops in your city:

Do people go dumpster diving ? Why or why not ?

Have you ever used retail therapy (buying something to make you feel happy) ?

Have you ever gone out to buy just one thing and come back with many items !

Does your husband/ wife / partner like shopping ?

Exercise 2: Devil’s advocate.

This is to develop argument skills, how to politely disagree with someone.

Example: one student wants to buy a beautiful, luxurious Rolex watch. It really is an outstanding timepiece:

Image result for Rolex

Without doubt, this is a luxury item. The pros

It is gorgeous and so elegant. I will feel so special wearing it. People will admire and look up to me. They will think I am wealthy and have a great career. I will attract many cute women (or handsome men). I may feel superior to other people who only have cheap watches or nasty fake knock-offs.

Now play Devil’s advocate. Say what are the cons of owning such an item.

Firstly, agree with the first student – it is without question a luxury item. Having said that …

It will attract attention … but maybe from thieves or pickpockets. It is a lot of money, maybe an obscene amount of money when so many people are poor. Can you justify owning such a materialistic item ? Will it make you arrogant ? Will you think you are better than other people BECAUSE of a thing ? Finally … what does it DO ? Fundamentally, it tells the time. My fake Rolex will tell the same time … but it cost $20 NOT $ 5 000 !

Now students’ turn. Similar concept but this time, the latest iPhone:

Image result for iphone 11

The iphone 11 (woooooowwwwwwww !)

One student wants to buy it, the other must give reasons why it is not such a good idea.

Useful phrases: 

a waste of money / not necessary // a fashion accessory // you can’t afford it //

How to Hire and Keep Quality Retail Staff - SBIA

Exercise 3 Role play game:

Three students will act out working in a department store, a shop with a sale on, and a street market. Other students have a set budget (say £100) and have to buy three items.

They can practice with the following language:

How much is this, please ? // Could you bring the price down for cash ? // Do you take plastic (credit cards) ? // If I smile, can you take off 10% ?

Wow, that’s a bargain ! // Sorry, that’s too much // Is that your best price ?

I’ll take it ! // Wrap it up ! // Let me think about it and come back // Sorry, that’s too much.

The items can be T-shirts, pens, bags, shoes, watches etc and the teacher can print out photos and hand them out.

Image result for van heusen shirts store
A department store selling expensive designer shirts
Image result for clothes on sale
Image result for london street market
London street market.

Exercise 4: Coffee in Sai Gon

Describe this picture; use adjectives and opinions.

Highlands Coffee has great coffee, air-con and free wifi. Having said that, the service is a little slow, there are no waiters and the cost is unbelievably expensive !

Vietnam is famous for coffee; coffee shops are ubiquitous. In fact, there are so many, it’s hard to see (difficult to understand) how they stay in business let alone turn a profit.

Be that as it may, let’s use this as a learning opportunity. To practice making longer sentences, and as a warm up exercise, the students can ask each other, “Where do you go for coffee ?”

Tips:

Don’t answer the question directly and immediately; Begin with a short introduction:

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 …

Then

Explain:

  1. How MUCH do you like it (adverbs) ?
  2. What kind of coffee (adjectives) ?
  3. What do you think about this ? (opinions)
  4. WHY do you like it (give reasons)
  5. Interesting words, phrases, idioms

Personally, I like Happy Coffee which is an independent shop where I live. I enjoy going there so much because the owner is very friendly and tries to speak English with me. There isn’t a lot of choice, so I order cappuccino with hot, fresh milk. In my opinion, it is good value and tastes delicious. What I like about the shop is the free wifi, the comfortable chairs and the atmosphere. Furthermore, it is usually very quiet and it therefore a good place to read. I love to put my feet up, kick back and sip my damn fine coffee.

Adult Speaking Class, level 2: Deciding what to buy.

11th May 2020

This was a one – to – one lesson for a lady about to retire and move from Vietnam to Boston, USA. The assigned book work was about a young man climbing mountains and hang-gliding; I felt this was more appropriate to my student’s needs.

Deciding what to buy

You are on a shopping trip to the USA

Which of these items would you buy ? Which appeal to you ? Which hold no interest ?

Vocabulary

That looks wonderful // I need to try it (them) on first // That’s good quality

No, that’s a rip off (too expensive) // That’s not my style // That really suits me

You must be joking ! // Brilliant ! // Wrap it up ! // Do you take credit cards ?

$75
$200
$145
$ 8,435
$47
$2,800
$9.95
$91.99
$25