IELTS: Speaking Test, Part 3: How to nail it.

12th September 2020

Ten don'ts for the IELTS speaking test | British Council
Having to think on your feet.

My classes at campus have practised (and practised; I make those guys put their noses to the grindstone) Parts I and II of the speaking test. To recap:

Part I: 4 – 5 minutes, warm up questions. Answer with two, three or four sentences, throwing in a few L-FW (big words), idioms as appropriate, and demonstrate you know how to form a complex sentence.

Part II: 1 minute to make notes, 2 minutes solo speaking. This is your chance to shine, show all you’ve learnt, and score points for vocabulary (including idiomatic language, low-frequency words, adverbs and adjectives), grammar including, as you know, complex sentences which will earn you a higher score as well as being much more interesting to listen to as opposed to short simple sentences. Fluency, so make use of those multi-purpose sentences such as, “Well, that’s an interesting question,” “It’s funny you ask me that question because I have just been thinking about …” etc. Lastly, and not to be underrated, pronunciation, intonation and stress.

Now, we come to Part III

psycho scream

Yes, I know, it can be a nightmare ! The questions are so complex, how could you possibly answer even in your native language ? Well, you can’t … no one can, especially not in a minute or so and under the pressure of a test.

Take a look at this example:

Does the media have a positive or negative effect on the music people in your country buy ?

What a question ! You may be tempted to say, “I haven’t the foggiest idea,” “I haven’t a clue,” or “I have absolutely no idea, next question, please.”

i have no idea what you are talking about - LDS S.M.I.L.E.

The secret is to take power back – make yourself comfortable with the question … and here’s how:

Firstly, we need a great introduction. Some examples are:

Well, that’s a very complicated question …

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 …

The secret is to take this general question and make it personal, so you can speak about what YOU know, as well as using IELTS language.

Show that you understand the question by defining ‘media’.

I usually get my information from the internet, although I know some people use TV, radio or newspapers.

For me, the internet is great for learning about new singers or groups with sites such as YouTube or Spotify as opposed to newspapers where I can only read about music.

The media is tremendously important for musicians. They are able to upload videos to YouTube, have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Fans can know when they have a new song or go on tour.

This time, instead of using expressions such as in my opinion, you can use:

in my experience

allow me to tell you what I do

I can’t speak about other people, but I

EXAMPLE:

Well, that’s a very complicated question but I will endeavor to answer. I usually get my information from the internet, although I know some people use TV, radio or newspapers. Usually, I join a Facebook page of a band I like, or follow them on Instagram. Naturally, I look at YouTube which is great because it suggests other music I may like. Therefore, I am able to hear new artists. I’m not sure how much this affects how other people buy music. In my experience, I will buy music if I really like it, for example, downloading a song on iTunes. I can just buy the songs I like, so it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

This time we can use examples:

I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however I can think of one example. I remember when Taylor Swift won an award for best video but Kanye West stopped her speech. This made a lot of people think very badly about him, so maybe they stopped buying his music.

Why Taylor Swift and Kanye West hate each other

I’m not sure I know how to answer that, but let me try. The media is tremendously important for musicians. They are able to upload videos to YouTube, have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Fans can know when they have a new song or go on tour. I can’t speak about other people, but I rarely buy music anyway, just once in a blue moon.

Hyomin (T-ara) bất ngờ có mặt tại Nha Trang | Văn hóa | Thanh Niên

What a hard question, I may have to think about this … oh, I know, fans can follow their favourite singers on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I usually get my information from the internet. I would be over the moon if a music star replied to my comment. On the other hand, if they don’t answer, some people may stop liking them.

The Shins - Simple Song (Live On Letterman) - YouTube

Well, that’s certainly a hard question. I really don’t know what other people in Vietnam do, but allow me to tell you what I do. I like to listen to English songs, to help me improve my language skills. My friends and I tell each other about English or American bands and we look up the words … the lyrics … to help us. I can give you an example. My teacher played a song in class by a band called The Shins, who are from USA. I quite liked the song although most of the words are very difficult to understand. I know one of my friends bought the last CD because he liked it so much.

US singer Kacey Musgraves slammed for sexualising Vietnamese ao dai by  wearing only top half of outfit | South China Morning Post

That’s a very complicated question. However, I can think of one singer who upset many people in Vietnam and Vietnamese people in USA. Do you know Kacey Musgraves ? She sings country music, which is not really my cup of tea, but that is not why she is famous. She wore an ao dai on stage, but only the top part … she didn’t wear the trousers. Many people thought this was so disrespectful. For me, I don’t think I would buy her records after this, even if I did like them.

IELTS: Introduce your answers, and speaking review.

21st July 2020

I Think I'll Go Home and Mull This Over Before I Cram It Down My ...

A good introduction is not just beneficial but imperative for an impressive IELTS response. Therefore, this blog will mainly, although not exclusively, focus on a strong opening gambit, an attention-grabbing prologue.

Useful expressions

If you need some time to think, employ one of these ‘time-buying’ expressions:

That’s a very interesting 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 …

Let me think …

How can I put it …

Well, I would say …

Quick warm up: What do you do in your free time ?

I meet my friends for coffee

One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends

Which answer do you think would impress the examiner ?

Now … your turn

Where would you like to visit in Viet Nam (or your own country) ?

DON’T answer immediately; introduce the answer by repeating or rephrasing the question:

Vietnam has many beautiful places but my choice would be Hoi An.

Vietnam is famous for it’s beautiful beaches, vibrant cities and amazing nature but for me, Hoi An is the one place I would love to explore.

1 Tell me about your hometown

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. 

2 Talk about a film you like

Talk about cinema or films in general DON’T immediately talk about your favourite film.

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.

3 Do you use computers at work or school ?

Laptops are an incredibly useful piece of technology. They can be used for work, hobbies, music and to stay in touch with friends.

Practice: try forming introductions for these questions

Home

  • Do you live alone or with friends / family ?
  • How long have you lived there ?
  • Is there anything you don’t like about living there ?
  • What sort of accommodation would you like to like in ?

Shopping

  • Do you like going shopping for clothes
  • Is fashion important to you ?
  • Do you have to wear a uniform at school or work ?
  • Where do you normally buy your food and why there ?

Free Time

  • Do you do any sporting activities ?
  • What do you like to do at weekends ?
  • What would you change about your daily routine ?
Nanci Griffith - Once In A Very Blue Moon (1986, CD) | Discogs
Once in a VERY blue moon by Nanci Griffith

Review … from my recent classes, make sure you have learnt these words and expressions:

Keep your nose to the grindstone' - meaning and origin.
Put your nose to the grindstone

endeavour (to try) // outcome (the result) // ubiquitous (everywhere) // tedious (boring) // fascinating (very interesting) // sky-high (expensive)

once in a blue moon (very rare) // put my nose to the grindstone (work especially hard) // achieve on merit (to get something by working for it) // burn the candle at both ends (work day and night) // give or take (about, approximately) // big time ! (absolutely, totally, very much) // I’ll mull it over (I’ll think about it) //

although // additionally // therefore // moreover // having said that // on the other hand

Rewrite the following using IELTS-language:

English grammar is (adverb) boring and I spend about two hours a day studying grammar. I work all day, and go to evening class and then study. I study all day and night.

I almost never have any free time. If I have free time, I go to drink coffee. Coffee shops are everywhere but in some the prices are not cheap.

My friend Tom never studies. His uncle will give him a job, but I want to deserve my job. Tom is (adverb) lazy. I tell him to try to study grammar, to work very hard / but / he never listens. He thinks video games are very interesting. He (adverb) says he’ll think about it but nothing changes

so the result will be a ‘FAIL’

AE 456 - Expression: Burn the Candle at Both Ends - Aussie English
Unique coffee spot La Viet in Da lat, Central Vietnam | Coffee ...

Coffee shops in Sai Gon are ubiquitous although in some, the prices are sky-high.

Finally, if you did well :

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, July 26, 2019 ...

Adult Speaking Class, Level 3: New Slang (when you notice the stripes). Idioms & expressions

15th July 2020

I recreated the shirt from the New Slang music video : TheShins
The US band The Shins with their song ‘New Slang’

Notes, new idioms & slang

Why the long face ? Someone looks miserable or unhappy.

She can talk the hind legs off a donkey ! Talking non-stop !

The tip of the iceberg.

The Unusual Meaning and Origin of the Idiom 'Tip of the Iceberg ...

Piece of cake No problem, easy, no trouble

Same thing, day in, day out everyday is exactly the same, very boring.

On the lookout looking for something

Cooking the books cheating with the company accounts. Writing false information.

Insurance Company Broker Caught Cooking the Books - Workers ...
Pros and Cons of Utlizing a Traditional Grading Scale

A bright spark someone who is very clever

You’re pulling my leg ! joking but pretending to be serious.

The boot’s on the other foot the situation has changed.

You can’t miss it you will certainly recognise it when you see it, when you are there.

Big time ! (US modern popular culture) Absolutely, totally, very, very much

Brass monkeys it’s extremely, painfully cold

Once in a blue moon something that happens extremely rarely

Bob’s your uncle there you are ! No problem, all fixed ! (UK slang)

Now … your turn

Practice using these saying in everyday conversations … answers, as per usual, at the end of the blog.

10 Surprising Facts about Japanese Schools. Daily life as a ...

1) I love the beach. but I rarely go, just ……………………………….

2) If you’re late for class again, the teacher will be furious …….

3) You look so sad ……………………… ?

4) I’m freezing ! It’s ……………………. in here

5) Seriously ? You can marry three wives in UK ? No, you’re ……..

6) Oh, my job is so tedious, …………………………

7) She wouldn’t shut up ! She ….

8) It’s no problem; I’ll clean your laptop, remove the virsus and Trojans and ………

9) I used to earn more than my wife but she got a big promotion, so now …………. She earns more than me !

10) I need a new pair of shoes. I’m ………………… for some high quality Italian leather.

11) The accountant was sacked. He was ……… but that was not all ! That’s just the …………………… He was also stealing computers and selling them.

12) This lesson was a ………………… for me because I’m such a ……………….

13) I didn’t use ‘you can’t miss it.’ Write your own sentence.

Top 6 Most Difficult Courses To Study in Nigeria

Answers

1) once in a blue moon

2) big time

3) why the long face ?

4) brass monkeys

5) pulling my leg

6) Same thing, day in, day out

7) can/could talk the hind legs off a donkey.

8) Bob’s your uncle

9) the boot’s on the other foot.

10) on the lookout

11) cooking the books / tip of the iceberg

12) piece of cake / bright spark

Well, if you’re such a bright spark, write you own sentences and test your partner.

BONUS: what expressions can you hear in this song ?

NOTE TO TEACHERS; IF POSSIBLE, TURN OFF THE OVERHEAD SO STUDENTS CAN’T SEE THE SONG TITLE.

Ms Nanci Griffith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmvyBTXuRQw