Obviously, teachers don’t want to overwhelm the students with an unmanageable amount of new language. Far better to serve up bite-size pieces, then practice, practice and practice. When the language has become second nature to the students, move onwards and upwards.
The first step is to elevate your language; replace basic common or garden verbs with ‘better‘ ( that is, low-frequency) words.
For example, the verb ‘try’. Instead, we can have:
To keep trying, not giving up, we can use:
persevere or persist
Let’s take these new words out for a spin:
This year, I shall endeavour to learn Vietnamese. I’ve tried before but gave up as it was simply too hard. However, this time I’m going to persevere.
Can you think of an idiom that could be used to show someone planning to work much harder ?
Onwards and upwards:
get a qualification or certificate by hard work and study:
attain // achieve
to get somethingwithout the need for work or study:
obtain (you can obtain the application form in room 7A)
say / said:
exclaim // express // remark (add -ed to form past tense)
utilise (utilize USA) / apply
to eat, consume or do a lot of something:
devour (He devoured the whole pizza by himself // She loves reading, she absolutely devours books)
Transform this simple sentence into something more IELTS-like:
Sarah said that if she gets an ‘A’, her father will buy her a new iPhone.
Tony says he wants to get a visa which he can buy at the UK Embassy, so he can use his English skills in London.
Mary really wants to buy the ‘Fargo’ box set. She said it was the best TV show in years and she plans to watch all the episodes in one day !
Similarly, boost your lexical resources with regards to adjectives.
fundamental // elementary
difficult // challenging
delicious // mouth-watering // scrumptious
broaden my horizons // real-life knowledge // culture shock
Signpost language: (To help the listener or reader follow you)
Firstly / To begin with / I’d like to start by …
Secondly / additionally / another factor is …
What’s more / furthermore / not forgetting
Obviously / clearly / it is evident that …
Moving on / I’d like to change the topic / Let’s turn to …
Finally / all in all / all things considered
Put students into small teams. One teams challenges the other(s) to form a sentence using as many new L-FWs as they can. Award bonus points for the appropriate use of idioms or fixed expressions.
Students challenge each other to find a L-FW for a basic, prosaic verb or adjective. Teams are allowed a fixed time, say one minute, and are allowed to use a thesaurus such as here:
Then the group has to use the new word in an IELTS-style sentence by which I mean, an introduction, a signpost word or phrase and, obviously, a suitable idiom (examples – ‘put’, ‘big’, ‘interesting’, ‘watch’, ‘boring’, ‘eat’)
Teams are given a mix of L-FWs, idioms & signpost language. After a short preparation time, they have to construct an inspiring, fascinating and jaw-droppingly brilliant sentence. Piece of cake, n’est ce-pas ?
One student from each group starts answering an IELTS question (travel, food, study, neighbourhood). At a given point, the teacher stops the student and another group has to continue, and so on. Monitor the correct utilisation of signpost language as well as fluency, not forgetting the all-important pronunciation features.
Quick Fire / Rapid Fire Round
What is the correct word:
To get a certificate after study ?
Delicious food is …
London is brass monkeys in January so _______ bring warm clothes.
A L-FW for ‘use’
Strange behaviour – he is acting _______
Istanbul is famous for its covered market, known as a __________
Nose, jaw, mouth … use these features in phrases
Moving from Europe to Asia will undoubtedly result in a degree of ________ _____.
The unspeakably greedy child ______ all the doughnuts !
Actor Mark Hamill basically disagreed with everything in the film script.
Which adjectives could describe the four types of area ?
Speaking exercise – imagine you live in the first picture. Describe the neighbourhood and your life. However, when you get a high-paying job, you want to take out a mortgage and move to the second picture. Describe that neighbourhood.
Introducing and expanding your answer
Do you like coffee ?
I like many drinks however coffee is my favourite because it tastes great and makes me wake up although too much will stop me from sleeping at night but, in my opinion, the benefits far out weigh the disadvantages.
NB (Latin – nota bene = note well, please read, important information)
I didn’t answer immediately but introduced the question.
Use of discourse markers to extend the answer
Saying something positive and negative about the subject
This was all one sentence – a complex sentence which you will need to start using in order to pass IELTS with flying colours
Living in HCM
Working and studying.
ubiquitous everywhere, very common
naïve innocent, inexperienced
stroll a gentle walk, for exercise (collocation: take a stroll)
a bazaar (noun) a permanent, covered market
bizarre (adjective) very strange, unusual
absent-minded extremely forgetful
sky-high, astronomical very expensive, maybe too expensive
predictable it is possible to guess the answer, people doing the same thing
Street _______ are common in Vietnam, and they are _________ in District 1. It is nearly impossible for a westerner to take a ________ without being approached. Some claim to sell Ray Bans or designer sunglasses, but you would have to be extremely ________ to believe they are genuine ! They are all fake, probably made in China. Many people try to _____(collocation) money by selling to tourists especially around Ben Thanh Market, a kind of _______, though this is strictly for tourists as the prices are ____________ !
First time in Viet Nam – First impressions of Viet Nam
A vlog by Divert Living, posted just over two years ago and which has already received more than a million hits:
[American English accent]
Try 04:44 – 04:53
” … and I asked them, ‘How much is aqua (water) ?’ Aqua’s fifteen thousand, beer’s twenty thousand … of course I’m gonna get the beer, now … it’s just as expensive as the water.”
09:00 – 0913
“Fun fact, Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world … and, to go with the food, the size of the dining tables and chairs are super small.”
Words and expression to use, tips, phrases and idiomatic language
Recap: to pass IELTS with flying colours, you will needs to demonstrate a command of everyday English, the ability to express it with stress and intonation, as well as being able to link your ideas with appropriate discourse markers.
I need to hear nouns described by interesting adjectives, verbs intensified by adverbs and conversation enlivened by low-frequency vocabulary.
Piece of cake, right ?
Low – frequency words (LFW)
Boring: tedious // forgetful: absent-minded // expensive: sky high // what will happen: predict // everywhere: ubiquitous.
Activity 1: Make sentences using the above five LFW
Introduce your answer by:
Let me think // How can I put it // Well, that’s an interesting question
In my opinion // From my perspective // For me // Allow me to explain // By which I mean //
as well as // furthermore // additionally // on the other hand // having said that // however // although // despite that
Activity 2: Give each student a discourse marker and they have to use it in a sentence
EXAMPLE ‘in addition’
I have a busy life; I have to study, work my part-time job and help my family. In addition, I go shopping for my neighbour because he is too old to go out.
NOTE: use of ‘because‘ to explain why you do something … and therefore construct a longer sentence.
It’s raining cats and dogs // It costs an arm and a leg // piece of cake // I’m burning the candle at both ends.
Activity 3: Who can use these idioms correctly ?
Relative pronouns – who / which / where / whose
Activity 4: Use the correct relative pronoun:
We arrived at a nice beach ______ we could swim and lie in the sun.
A man ______ mobile phone was ringing did not know how to switch it off.
The patient, ______ had a serious disease, was taken to hospital immediately.
Smithsfield is a small village ______ people live a quiet life.
This dress is made of silk, _____ is a very expensive and delicate material.
Could you repeat that, please // I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that // Would you mind rephrasing the question
Model answer: What do you do in your free time ?
One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends and just catch up on our news, maybe hit a mall because they are air-conditioned and have a wide array of amenities such as shops, cafes and, if I may say, bathroom facilities, as well as services like ATM machines and free wifi. My closest friends are Sheila, who is from Japan and studies here in Sai Gon, and Kerry, who is a gorgeous Thai lady. As we all come from different countries, there can be issues. Allow me to explain; we have to communicate in English, however Kerry is just starting her studies, so we have to use Google translate frequently. Having said that, it’s such tremendous fun to be with my best friends. It helps me forget about the pressure and stress of work.
Use this an a plan – now tell me what YOU do in YOUR free time … DO NOT just copy the above example !
Now … Your turn
Conversation Practice: In pairs or small groups, ask each other these questions. If the answer is too short, ask the person to tell you more, to explain with more details.
Ask each other about your families
How many siblings do you have ?
[You can give names, ages, jobs, what and where they study, what they look like, what their personality is like, if you have something or nothing in common with them]
Do you live with your parents and grandparents ?
Do you often meet your cousins ?
Who is the youngest member of your family ?
Who is the oldest ?
Who is your favourite person in your family and why ?
Can you tell me more ? // In what way ? // Why do you say that ? //
once in a lifetime experience/ never to be forgotten / unbeatable prices
book now to avoid disappointment/ best decision you’ll ever make
holidays to suit all budgets, from 7* luxury to backpacking
To begin with / furthermore … additionally / the fact is … / therefore
Demonstration with an advert for London:
Now is the perfect time to visit London, England’s glorious capital. The weather is perfect for walking, so you can enjoy the lush parks, world-famous museums and incredible, unbelievable shops. There is something for everyone … and more ! Like sports ? Go to one of the many Premier League football games. Love shopping ? Everything is here – shop till you drop ! Adore culture – soak up hundreds of years of history.
Flights from TSN airport daily. Seven-day all-inclusive package tour starting from only 50m VND ! All transfers and transport included. Air-conditioned mini bus with Vietnamese-speaking guide.
Holiday advertising vocabulary:
Try to use as many of these adjectives and expressions as possible:
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.
pop / rock / country and western / punk / classical / jazz / blues
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In our last blog lesson, we focused on what we needed to do BEFORE travelling to the States, all the boring logistics and organising, booking and planning. Now … we are all set. All we have to do is select which city to visit.
Which of these destinations are most appealing to you and why ?
Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and gateway to New England. One of America’s oldest cities, it’s steeped in history – brimming with cobblestone streets and significant heritage sites – as well as gleaming skyscrapers.
Unlike many other US cities, it’s best explored on foot. One of the most popular tours is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile path that passes 16 important sites, including America’s first state school, the oldest church in Boston, and several markers that tell the story of the American Revolution.
The tour is greatly enhanced by the costumed guides, who’ll passionately transport you back to the 1700s during the 90-minute walk.
Chicago, my kind of town! A unique city with a character all of its own, Chicago offers a wide variety of shopping, dining, museums, theatre, music and nightlife options.
Chicago is on Lake Michigan, boasts over 20 miles of beachfront and some of the most dynamic and visually stunning architecture in the world. The city is famous for its skyscrapers such as the Hancock Building and the Willis Tower, which features several glass-bottomed ledges at 1,300ft above the city streets, making it a fantastic photo opportunity for the brave!
North Michigan Avenue is also known as the “Magnificent Mile” as this is where most visitors and residents come to shop, with firm favourites lining the street such as Tiffany, Nike and Nordstrom.
San Francisco indulges the senses with the wonderful array of scenic beauty, arts, museums, bars, restaurants and nightlife. San Francisco is famously known as the “City on the Bay” and its stunning location and undulating surroundings have been taking visitor’s breath away for centuries.
Enjoy fresh seafood and spot playful sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, a fun and family-friendly district of the city; dine on authentic dim sum in the vast Chinatown or join the crowds of shoppers amidst the bustle and cable cars of Union Square.
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to the infamous prison at Alcatraz island. Rent a bicycle and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito for a scenic day out and fantastic photo opportunities; brave Lombard Street, the “crookedest street in the world” or bring many movie favourites to life as you stroll the city streets.
San Francisco is the perfect destination for exploring and creating new memories in, with world-class sports, dining and adventure.
Before you watch this video, what do you know about San Francisco ?
Which of the sights mentioned in the guide do you see ?
What really struck you (impressed) about San Francisco ?
What was intriguing (interesting, fascinating) ?
What did you make of (think of) the architecture ?
Did you see any mouth-watering (delicious) food ?
What adjectives would you use to describe San Francisco ?
Make your comments stronger, and increase your English, by adding adverbs.
At the end of the previous blog, there were some everyday collocations that moved away from the basic verb + phrase format (e.g. take a break / make sure / get away with murder).
To help them sink in (make you remember), here a chance for you to practise using them.
Rewrite the following business email to your senior manager in France, using the following collocations for the bold sections:
Adequate supplies to meet demand
Cause insurmountable difficulties
Major turning point
Set realistic aims
Dear M Delarue
I have some good news from the HCM office which I think represents a change in the company and how we do things and what we can expect to do in the future.
We have stopped using the old business model because when we tried, it made many, many problems that we were unable to solve, no matter how hard we tried. Now we are seeing real and tangible progress.
Our main concern now is to make sure we have enough products to fill all the orders for all of our customers. We need to plan ahead; as Marketing Director, I am on the look out for new markets to break into.
Two areas spring to mind:China and India. It is our intention that we become market-leader in those territories but we must not wish for too much too soon as there are many factors that stand in our way, such as infrastructure and logistics.
Finally, could you please send us the newest, latest copy of the company handbook, as our one in five years old and is out of date and does not have the latest facts and figures.