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Learning Languages for Life

Category: IELTS Speaking

Speaking Grammar: Show you have experience

Being a teacher of English, I can say that I know a lot about grammar. And, having taught English for 15 years, I know 100% for sure that different people can use different structures when giving presentations. As someone who has seen hundreds of presentations, I’m convinced that this is connected with the fact that some people, when giving a presentation, need to use grammar structures to prove they have experience / have knoweldge. Other people do not.

For example, I used three in this text:

Being a teacher of English, I can say that….

Having taught English for 15 years, I know 100% for sure that

As someone who has seen hundreds of presentations, I’m convinced that

I used these expressions to show you, the reader, that you should listen to me because I have experience  / knowledge about this. If you do not know me, you may not think my opinion about a topic is important. So I use the above structures.

However, if you know about me, then I may not need to use these structures to show you should trust me. You already know and trust me.

 

For example, if Bill Gates gives a speech about the computer industry

 

 

does he need to say:

“Being the founder of Microsoft, I know that it takes a lot of time to create an international company.”

The answer is .. not really. He might say it, but most people know who Bill Gates is, and what he has done, so he can just say…

“I know that it takes a lot of time to create an international company.”

and we will accept this.

 

However, if you do not know the experience level of the person, then using the structures like “Being a …., ” / “Having …… ” / “As a…” can help. For example;

“Being a mother of 6 children, I know that it can be difficult to raise a child.”  = greater expert than just “I know that it can be difficult to raise a child.”

To improve your ability to use these structures when speaking:

Step 1

Click on the link here to read more examples

Step 2

 

Fill in the last column of the table yourself and send it to your teacher for correction

Step 3

Make a video / recording in which you ask yourself some questions, and then answer the questions using the structures.

Some example questions are:

What advice would you give to someone who… (wants to get a better job, wants to choose a university, has difficulty eating well, wants their children to play the computer less…)

How important …(are subjects like history, are universities when it comes to getting a good job, are zoos for educating children about animals, is it for the government to improve public transport)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of  .. (traveling overseas on holiday, playing team sports, living in a cold climate, having brothers and sisters, working in a small company)

 

 

 

 

Speaking Grammar: Show you’re sad about your life with “wish”

Follow the steps on this page to learn how to improve:

  • grammar range by using the grammar structure “wish + II” to show you’re sad about your life now
  • grammar range even more by using II conditional after it
  • vocab range by using “really” and “kind of”
  • pronunciation by pronouncing the structure well to reflect the meaning.

Step 1

watch the video

 

 

 

Step 2

if you need more examples, scroll down for further explanations in the “notes” section, if not, click on the link here, fill in the table, and send it to your teacher.

 

Step 3

when your teacher has checked that your sentences are correct, make a video of yourself practicing them and send the video to your teacher. When you make the video, focus on pronunciation. “really” should be stressed,  “kind of” should be said to show that it’s not that important.

 

and that’s it. Keep reading for further practice

 

 

Step 4

watch the video, and practice reporting. Note “she wishES

 

 

 

 

Step 5 (if you have anki)

Download the anki deck for more practice from here

 

Notes:

 

the following sentences are from my life at the moment. They are real situations….

1 – I don’t have time to practice the guitar

2 – I sometimes smoke cigarettes

3 – I am tired

4 – I don’t know Chinese 100%

5 – I have to travel a lot

6 – I spend too much time reading the newspaper

If I’m talking with another person, and I want to tell them that

a – I have this situation

b – I am sad / unhappy about it

I can say….

I don’t have time to practice the guitar, and I’m unhappy about it.

OR

I wish I had time to practice the guitar.

If I say… “I wish I didn’t smoke cigarettes” this is the same as saying “I smoke cigarettes and I’m sad / unhappy about it.”

So, the function of “I wish I…” = to tell the other person that you are sad / unhappy about a situation at the moment. You do this by ‘imagining’ a better ‘unreal’ situation. You want to go away from your ‘sad’ / ‘unhappy’ real situation into an ‘unreal one’. Please note, because you’re imagining an unreal situation, use the II (2nd) form of the verb (go = I, went = II , gone = III)

e.g.

I am tired and I’m sad about this = I wish I wasn’t tired

am – wasn’t (we use ‘not’ because we are imagining the opposite situation)

I don’t know Chinese 100% and I’m unhappy about this = I wish I knew Chinese 100%

don’t know – knew (we don’t use ‘don’t’ because we are imagining the opposite ‘unreal’ situation. The real situation that makes me unhappy is ‘I don’t know Chinese’, so the imaginary / unreal ‘happier’ situation is ‘I knew’)

Note – The II (2nd) form here does not talk about the past!!! I wish I knew Chinese 100% NOW.

We can use the II form like “went, did, played, knew” for different functions.

One function is to talk about the past “When I was young I knew mathematics well.” Students learn this function first, so they often think automatically that ‘knew’ is past simple or past indefininite, but…..

Another function is to imagine an unreal present / future “If I knew mathematics now, I could help my child with her homework / I wish I knew mathematics now so I could help my child now.”

– there are more functions of II but I will not

So, the last two

“I wish I didn’t have to travel a lot” = “I have to travel a lot and I’m sad”

“I wish I didn’t spend too much time reading the newspaper” = “I spend a lot of time reading the newspaper and I’m sad about that.”

Look at the following sentences. In which ones do you know 100% how I feel about the situation? Put ‘not sure’ if it’s not clear if I’m unhappy / sad or maybe happy. Put if it is clear that I am sad / unhappy about the situation.

e.g.

a – I can’t speak French. = not sure (how I feel)

This is a fact, but you can’t say if I am unhappy or not. E.g. I can say “I can’t speak French, and this is not a problem because I don’t like it.”

b – I wish I could speak French. =

This tells you that my real situation is “I can’t speak French, and I am unhappy about it.”

1 – I don’t go to the gym much.

2 – I have a class today.

3 – I wish I didn’t have class today.

4 – I wish I knew English better.

5 – I don’t know English well enough and I’m sad about it.

6 – I play the computer 5 hours a day.

1 = ? 2 = ? 3 = 4 = 5 = 6 = ?

Look at the following pictures. The people use ‘I wish I…..’ to tell you about a situation in their life that they are sad / unhappy about. What are the situations?

1 –

The situation = I don’t know and I’m sad / unhappy about this = I wish I knew

2 –

The situation = I don’t work there and I’m unhappy / sad = I wish I worked there

3 –

the sad / unhappy situation = ?

4 –

sad / unhappy situation =

5 –

sad / unhappy situation =

6 –

sad / unhappy situation =

3 = I’m not with Michelle / 4 = I can’t kill my parents / 5 = I can’t forget you / 6 = I can’t hate you / 7 = I can’t give you a hug.

Notes on the notes:

1 – As you can see, it’s typical for us to use this function with ‘I can’t – I wish I could’. This is because “I can’t….” is often something that is sad for us

2 – if the real situation is connected with ‘not much’ / ‘not well’ / too we often use ‘more’ / ‘better’ / so with the ‘I wish…’

e.g. I don’t see you much and I’m sad about this = I wish I saw you more (‘a lot’ is also possible)

I don’t speak well = I wish I spoke better. (‘well’ is also possible)

I smoke too much = I wish I didn’t smoke so much

3 – I wish I IS NOT “I want”. If you want a cup of coffee, say “I want / would like to have a cup of coffee.”If you say “I wish I had a cup of coffee.” it is like saying “I am sad / unhappy that I don’t have a cup of coffee

4 – don’t use it to talk about a future situation ‘will’. For example

“Tomorrow I’ll work a lot and I’m unhappy about this.” We can’t say “I wish I won’t / wouldn’t work tomorrow”.

If you are talking about the future but using a present verb and NOT ‘will’, e.g. ‘am’, you can use ‘wish’

e.g. “I am working tomorrow and I’m sad about this.” = “I wish I wasn’t working tomorrow.” (note that ‘working’ doesn’t change)

“I am going to a boring party tonight, it’s annoying.” = “I wish I wasn’t going to a boring party tonight.”

5 – we can use a structure “I wish to do”, but it has a different function. “I wish to go” = “I want to go”. It doesn’t say that you’re sad / talk about your feelings, it just says that you ‘want’. This structure for ‘wan’t’ is formal, so use it in business letters, not when having a conversation. You can see more examples here .

6 – don’t forget the second ‘I’. A typical mistake is…. “I wish wasn’t tired”

7 – don’t use ‘would’ with “I wish I…”. A typical mistake is “I wish I wouldn’t be tired”

 

Further Practice:

Practice using the function ‘I wish I..’ to tell someone about a sad / unhappy situation at the moment in the following sentences

I can’t be with you and I’m sad about this = I wish I …..

I wish I could be with you

I don’t help you more and I’m sad about this = I wish..

I wish I helped you more

I don’t have a good relationship with my boss = I wish….

I wish I had a good …..

I play the computer 5 hours a day, it’s bad. = I wish I

I wish I didn’t play the computer 5 hours a day

I have to go to work tomorrow. Grrrrrr. = I wish..

I wish I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow.

I’m tired = I wish …

I wish I wasn’t tired

I have class today, and I don’t want to go. = I wish …

I wish I didn’t have class today

I’m going to the doctor today, I’m unhappy about this = I wish ..

I wish I wasn’t going to the doctor today

I drink too much alcohol. It’s very sad. = I wish I…

I wish I didn’t drink alcohol so much (or – I wish I didn’t drink alcohol)

I can’t cook well, it’s a problem. = I wish…

I wish I could cook well

Exam Speaking: Talking about the future

In the IELTS /  Cambridge exams there is a 100% chance you will be asked a question about the future, most likely more than one. In the TOEFL it’s also reasonable to believe that you will be asked a question about the future.

A lot of canditates when talking about the future use “maybe” and “probably”, but it is a good chance to improve your range of both vocabulary and grammar.

First, watch an example of a student activating a range of structures. What structures can you hear?

 

 

Second, below are a series of questions about the future. Use the attached sheet here to improve your range of grammar and vocab when answering the questions.

If you want, make a link to a video you have done and post the link in the comments, I will have a look and give you feedback.

 

 

Personal Questions (IELTS part 1, CAE / CPE part 1)

Ask and answer the following questions……………

What will you be doing in 3/5/10 / 25 years’ time?

Where will you be living in 3/5/10 / 25 years’ time?

How many children / grandchildren will you have in 3/5/10 / 25 years’ time?

Will you do / be the following more or less in the future?……………………………………

e.g. “Will you read more or less in the future?” / “Will you be happier in the future?”

read / do dangerous things / dance / draw / donate money / write / trust people / watch movies / use technology / make presents by hand / look in the mirror / use public transport / drive a car / fly / use a phone / exercise / eat / go to concerts / travel / work / visit zoos / spend time with friends/ go to restaurants / visit libraries / sleep / go shopping / use electricity / go to cafes / study English / use English / read or watch the news / use paper / make speeches or presentations / go to parks / do gardening / use a computer / write sms’s / wake up early / play with children / lie on the beach / help elderly people / spend time in crowded places / sit in traffic jams / be happier / energetic / take photos / be late

 

General Questions (IELTS part 1, CAE / CPE part 1)

To make the questions suitable for Part 3 of the IELTS / CPE / CAE, just use  “Do you think people will …. more or less in the future?”

e.g. “Do you think people will read more or less in the future?”

“Do you think people will dance more or less in the future?

 

Active Grammar: Criticising yourself and others (past actions)

If you’re not happy about something that happened in the past and want to criticise yourself or another person, you can use…

 

subject + should + have + III

First, watch the video:

 

 

 

 

Now, read through written examples and watch the student video:

 

 

 

Note, ALL OF THE SENTENCES BELOW ARE ABOUT SITUATIONS THAT HAPPENED IN THE….

PAST

 

not about situations happening now or that might happen in the future

 

e.g. You can criticise yourself or your friends

I should have started learning English earlier. =Real situtaion: I didn‘t start English earlier and now I’m not happy about the fact and I want to criticize myself for this.

You should have told me earlier. =Real situtaion:you didn’t tell me earlier, I’m not happy about the fact that and now I’m criticizing you for this.

 

If you’re not happy with what your government / president did / did not do IN THE PAST, you can use this to critcize them…

The president shouldn’t have wasted so much money on useless roads last year. = I’m not happy that the president wasted money on the roads last year and I want to criticise him / her for this.

The government should have invested more money into education over the last ten years. =  I’m not happy that the government did NOT invest more money into education over the past ten years  and I want to criticiseit for this.

 

You can also criticise your parents for what they did  / didn’t do for you when you were younger:

My parents should have helped me more when I was younger.  = My parents did not help me enough and I want to criticise them

 

LINGUISTIC CHOICE:

You can improve your linguistic choice in this situation by making the criticism stronger or weaker.  In exams like IELTS  / TOEFL this will help improve your pronunciation and range scores

I really should have studied more for the exam. = strong criticism that I didn’t

I should have studied for the exam. = standard criticism

I probably should have studied for the exam.=  soft criticism

 

Analysize another student:

Listen to the student criticise herself for things she did  / didn’t do in the past using “really should have” and “possibly should have”. Does she

sound MORE critical when she uses “really should have” than when she uses “probably should have”

pronounce “have” as “ev” and fully join it to “should” or “shouldn’t” to produce “SHOULDev” or “SHOULDN’tev” (or is “ev” pronounced separately?)

 

 

 

 

GRAMMAR +

After criticising yourself or someone else about the past, you can imagine the alternative situation. This helps emphasise your point to the listener  /reader of HOW BAD THIS SITUATION WAS / IS!!! The structure for imagining about the past = if + subject + had(n’t) + III, subject + would (n’t) + have + III

e.g. Compare the three situations below. All are fine, but which shows the worst / saddest result…

  1. I really should have studied for the exam! I had studied more intensively, I would not have failed my exam.
  2. I really should have studied for the exam! I had studied more intensively, I would not have failed my exam.and my parents wouldn’t have taken away my car.
  3. I really should have studied for the exam! I had studied more intensively, I would not have failed my exam and I would not have lost my wife and house and wouldn’t be living on the streets now.

 

It’s probably 3.

EXAM TIP

in exams, some students use 3rd conditional mechanically. If you want to sound more natural…..

 

a –  avoid repeating the same thing

e.g.:

I should have studied more for the exam. If I had studied more for the exam…. =  repeating / saying the same thing= mechanical

I should have studied more for the exam. If I had been more studious …………. = not repeating = more natural

you can use “If I had(n’t) done so, ……”  if you can’t think of how to say the same thing a different way

e.g.

I should have studied more for the exam. If I had done so, I would have passed and I ……

 

b – use the “really” or “probably” with good intonation to show feeling, and make “have” “ev” and join to “should”

“I REEEEAAAALLLY should-ev studied” with annoyed intonation

“I proooooobably” should-ev studied” with “maybe” intonation

 

c – if the result of the imagined situation is now, then use the “would” half of the conditional in the 2nd conditional form.

e.g.

I would not have failed my exam (before) and I would still be able to drive  my car (now).

 

 

FINALLY, MAKE A VIDEO YOURSELF! If you want, put a link to your video in the comments and I’ll ive you feedback

 

10 Step Exam Speaking: How often (generalizing, contrasting)

Step 1: Listening practice

Listen once, twice or three times to the audio below to get the ideas

 

Step 2: Learn from listening

Listen again, pausing an repeating where necessary to make a note of useful expressions.

 

Step 3 “a” : Focus on structures for saying “how often” (or “not”)  you do something

Looking at the table below, listen again and mark which  “how often” (or “not”) structures are used.

IELTS speaking - How often

 

Note:

Once / Twice a week (NOT “in a week”)

Three / four / ten / 15 times a year / month

fortnight = two weeks – Once a fortnight = once every two weeks

If the number is not “a” month / year, then use every:

3 times every 2 weeks

5 times every 4 months

but

3 times a week

5 times a month

 

Step 3  “b” : Focus on structures for “generalizing” and “contrasting” 

Perhaps you noticed some of these structures in  “Step 2: Learn from listening” . In any case, looking at the tables below, listen again and mark which  “generalizing” and “contrasting” structures are used.

IELTS speaking: generalizing

IELTS Speaking: Contrasting

 

 

Step 4: Improve your pronunciation

Listen again to the structures,  make a note of stress and intonation.

 

Step 5: Moving from passive to active

Listen on repeat for a period of time. As you listen…

a – repeat the structures you hear from the tables, copying the stress and intonation

b – when you feel comfortage (still with the audio on repeat), repeat the structures and “finish”

 

Step 7: Linguistic choice

Think about your ideas to answer one of the questions. Choose the structure(s)  that best match(es) your opinion

 

Step 8: Fluency = 100%, Pronunciation = 100%

Without fully answering the question, practice again and again the structure until you feel that your “active use” of the structure is 100% fluent with 100% suitable intonation / stress.

 

Step 9: Fully active answer

Record yourself answering the question.

 

Step 10: Review and repeat

Listen to your answer, if you feel it needs to be done again, do it again. (Note, although practice makes perfect, it is a good idea to not repeat it too many times. As you move through the different questions you will get better.)

10 Step Exam speaking: Likes and favorite

Step 1: Listening practice

Listen once, twice or three times to the audio below to get the ideas

 

Step 2: Learn from listening

Listen again, pausing an repeating where necessary to make a note of useful expressions.

 

Step 3: Focus on opinion and reason structures (coherence and cohesion )

Looking at the table below, listen again and mark which opinion / reason structures are used.

 

Step 4: Improve your pronunciation

Listen again to the opinion and reason structures, make a note of stress and intonation.

 

Step 5: Moving from passive to active

Listen on repeat for a period of time. As you listen…

a – repeat the opinion structures you hear from the table, copying the stress and intonation

b – when you feel comfortage (still with the audio on repeat), repeat the structures and “finish”

 

Step 6: Plan your own answer

For the first question (and later the other questions), make a note of your opinion / reason (example, contrast)

 

Step 7: Linguistic choice

Choose the opinion structure that best matches your opinion

 

Step 8: Fluency = 100%, Pronunciation = 100%

Without fully answering the question, practice again and again the opinion structure until you feel that your “active use” of the structure is 100% fluent with 100% suitable intonation / stress.

 

Step 9: Fully active answer

Record yourself answering the question.

 

Step 10: Review and repeat

Listen to your answer, if you feel it needs to be done again, do it again. (Note, although practice makes perfect, it is a good idea to not repeat it too many times. As you move through the different questions you will get better.)

 

 

 

Exam speaking with LC Langauges: Daily routine:

The student you will hear is answering the question “Was your daily routine different before?”

Before listening, think about your own answer. Record yourself answering if possible, and make a note of the language you use.

 

Video Exercise One: Accuracy

A – Listen to a native speaker answer the question then do the gapped worksheet at the link here (question 2!!!)

B – Look at this list of correct lexical and grammar structures

  1. to go snowboarding
  2. to play computer games
  3. for hours on end
  4. I’m (always) flat out
  5. I don’t have much time
  6. to have a rest and unwind
  7. I wish I had been able to play dolls more than I did

Now watch the answer, the student makes mistakes with the above structures. Can you spot the mistakes she makes?

 

Check the answers at the end.

Video Exercise Two: Range of Lexical and Grammar Structures

A – These are less common or more complex lexical (vocab) / grammar structures from the LC Languages listening example answer (the link is in exercise one) . If it is a lexical structure, put L, if it is a grammar structure,put G.

  1. Completely different
  2. back when I was at school
  3. as late as possible
  4. to wolf down (some breakfast)
  5. to head off (for school / for work)
  6. I would hang out with friends / we would go over to someone’s place
  7. to go over
  8. (to do something) for hours on end
  9. I should have studied
  10. instead of
  11. If I had been…. I would have gotten
  12. be studious
  13. I (don’t) regret (spending / doing)

Check the answers at the end.

 

B – Can you remember which of the above expressions she uses? Try and remember and then watch the video above again. Whe you’ve finished check the answers at the end

 

Speaking Exercise One: Activation

  1. What would you do to unwind back when you were at school?
  2. What time did / do you head off for school? What about now (re-activate the expression)
  3. How often do you have people over? (=invite people to visit your place)
  4. Do you have them over for dinner, or drinks or to watch a movie?
  5. What’s something you do for hours on end?
  6. What’s something you should have done back when you were at school or when you were younger but you didn’t?
  7. If you had been more studious, would your life have changed a lot?
  8. Do you regret doing any of the things you have done in the last two or three years?

 

 

 

 

 

Video One: B:

Correct 🙂

Incorrect 🙁

to lay in the sun

on the sun (from Russian)

to go snowboarding

To ride snowboarding

to play computer games

To play in computer games (from Russian)

for hours on end

for hour on end

I’m (always) flat out

I’m a flat -out person (not wrong, but we usually say “I’m always flat out.” and finish

I don’t have much time to + verb

I don’t have many time for + verb

to have a rest and unwind

To get unwind*

I wish I had been able to play dolls more than I did

I wish I could… (I wish I could (II)= I’m sad I can’t do something now.)

* pronunciation is incorrect as well

Video 2 B:

 

completely different

back when I was at school

as late as possible

to wolf down (some breakfast)

to head off (for school / for work)

I would hang out with friends / we would go over to someone’s place

to go over (to someone’s place)

(to do something) for hours on end

I should have studied

instead of

If I had been…. I would have gotten

be studious

I (don’t) regret (spending / doing)

 

 

Get an 8 + in IELTS Speaking: Criteria for Fluency and Coherence

a – Familiarize yourself with the IELTS “fluency and coherence” criteria here if you haven’t done so

 

b – THe table below shows how 9 and 8 are different for the criteria “fluency and coherence”. I have divided the IELTS speaking criteria for “fluency and coherence” into the 4 aspects that the criteria focus on. Look at the table below and familiarize yourself with the differences between 8/9. (you’ll notice that for one of them the criteria do not mention anything for 8, this is IELTS, not me)

 

  Repetition / Self-correction

9

 Only rare repetition /self-correction

8

Only occasional repetition / self-correction

Pauses / Hesitation

9

Pauses only to find ideas and not to search for language (words / grammar)

8

Pauses are usually for ideas and only rarely to search for language

Cohesive devices / linking expressions

9

Fully appropriate cohesive devices

8

Topic Development

9

Devlops topics fully and appropriately

8

Develops topics coherently and appropriately

 

c- Watch the video below from the official IELTS channel and see if you agree that the candidate is an 8 for Fluency and Coherence and not a 9…

 

 

 

 

IELTS speaking and writing advice PPP

From the link below you can download a PPP I made recently at the State University of St Petersburg. It concerns the speaking, writing part 2 and writing part 1 (academic) parts of the exam

IELTS exam advice – Presentation

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