Monthly Archives: August 2010

B1 Speaking Skills – Dream Job

On Monday we read, talked about and ran interviews for the ‘dream job’ of working on Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

The winner of this competition was a British guy called Ben Southall.  If you’re interested, you can read about Ben’s experience here: , watch some news reports about him winning the competition here: / (and here in Spanish: and read about an accident he had during his last week on the island here:

What about tips for applying for jobs? 

Here is some advice offered to people who were interested in applying for the island job:

On a more general level, the video jug website has a wide collection of videos about common job interview questions like “Why don’t you tell me about yourself?” and “What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?”  You can find them here:

Finally, on the subject of dream jobs, take a look at a page where people answer the same question we answered in class, “What’s your dream job?” 

When reading some of the comments you could try to decide if the writer is being serious or joking.

Language in the text and activities:

  • The short texts here are full of examples of would to talk about hypothetical situations – 65 examples in total.  The most frequent would + verb is would be  (37 examples) and there are about 12 examples of would + a verb of liking (would like to + infinitive (I’d like to make students like English) / would love to…).  The pattern would not + mind + verb+ing is also here (I would not mind being a quality control tester for a sweet manufactuer.)  There are also a few examples of would in a conditional pattern (e.g. If I could help to allieviate the suffering (of animals), that would be the best job in the world.)
  • Words for work:  as you read through the text, how many words related to work do you meet?  Make a list of work words:  job, work abroad, retirement…
  • Write about your own dream job below.  What would it be?  Why would you like to do it?  If you couldn’t do that first choice, what would your runner-up job be? 

1 Comment

Filed under B1 Speaking Skills August 2010

B1 Speaking Skills – Getting a discount

On Wednesday we took the role of antiques collectors in the activity where we were bargaining, haggling and trying to negotiate a discount on antique items.  We looked at how the language people use in such situations often moves from being more indirect to more direct as they get closer to an agreement or to making an offer or to a decision.  Here are some examples…

More indirect at the start of the negotiation:  Would / might you be interested in this antique table?     Would I be able to interest you in this antique table?    What if I told you that it was the table at which Shakespeare wrote his most famous works?    Would you be able to offer me a discount on that?   Would you be willing  / able to lower your price?   Could you do anything on the price?   I’d be willing to pay €150 but I couldn’t go any higher.   What would you say to €180 (instead of €220?)   If you were willing to give me a discount, I might be more interested.

More direct towards the end of the negotiation:  Do you want the table?   Are you interested in it?   Are you going to give me a discount?  Can you lower your price?  I’ll pay €150 but no more.    How about €180?  If you drop your price by 15%, we’ve got a deal.

The indirect to direct movement reflects how the language used becomes more informal as we get closer to a decision.  At first we are more distant.   Circling around the subject, tentively and politely asking, trying to understand the position exactly.  Later we can be more direct, affirmative and decisive. 

Grammatically, the longer and more complex examples are the more indirect ones.  This reflects our distance from being decisive.  Everything is more hypothetical at this point and there’s more attention to politeness.  This explains the use of words like might, would, be able to, be willing to and the II conditional structure.

Listening and watching – video I:

In this short film the presenter visits some of her local shops and tries to get a discount.  She visits a hardware shop (where they sell kitchen items, things for cleaning, tools, things for gardening etc.), a newsagent’s (newspapers, magazines, chocolate, cigarettes etc.), a second-hand store where she finds an old umbrella, and an (independent not chain) cafe. 

Before watching:  Predict in which of the shops you think she will get a discount.  Then, watch and check.

Watch again and find out details:  For each shop where she gets a discount:  What is the discount?  How difficult was it for Tanya to get a discount (1= easy / 5=difficult)?  What is her strategy for getting a discount (e.g. shop one – she says she is a regular and loyal customer and she wants to support a local shop instead of going to a big supermarket (Tesco) even though it has the item at a chaper price).  Where she does not get a discount:  What reason does the shop assistant give for not agreeing?

After watching:  Write and leave a comment below about any of the following points or your own reaction to the video…

  • In the introduction and the conclusion Tanya says that asking for a discount is not common in The UK because ‘it’s not in our nature.’  She says British people lose self-respect by asking for a discount.  At the end she says that asking for a discount is an embarrassing thing to do.  How similiar is this attitude to that of people in Spain?  Would you be embarrassed bygoing into a local shop and asking for a cheaper price?  How does this attitude compare to other countries you have visited?  How do different cultures view the art of haggling for a cheaper price?
  • Are you an expert negotiator / bargainer / haggler?  What advice would you give someone who was going to the Rastro in Madrid?
  • Tell an anecdote about a time you tried to negotiate a discount.  Where were you?  What was the product?  Were you successful?

Listening and watching – video II:

In this video a guide shows the presenter around the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.  The guide gives three pieces of advice for haggling / bargaining a deal in the market place.  Watch and find out what they are.

After watching:  How does this illustration of Turkish bargaining in the Grand Bazaar compare to a) the video made in The UK and b) your advice for getting a good deal at the Rastro?  Again, feel free to leave your thoughts below.

1 Comment

Filed under B1 Speaking Skills August 2010

B1 Speaking Skills – 100 most annoying things poll

Last Monday we were discussing things that annoy us and looking at ways of expressing annoyance and frustration with the way things are.

This was the original list of the top 100 most annoying things according to British people interviewed in 2009:

Useful language points to notice in the list:

1.  Relative pronouns:   who appears 13 times on the list.   when appears 5 times on the list.  that appears 3 times on the list.  Before checking the article, which of the relative pronouns will be used to talk about annoying situations refering to things, people and times?  Look and check.

Omission of the relative pronoun.  Compare the following examples: 

People who walk painfully slowly on the street. / Singers who mime. / People who can’t park properly.

People jumping the queue at the bar. / People driving close behind you.  / People addicted to watching soaps.

In the second group the relative pronoun + infinitive (without to) is replaced by a participle.   These are reduced versions of the clauses and are useful when writing concisely.

Try transforming the first group into reduced clauses and the second group into the longer version.  e.g.  (group one:  People walking painfully slowly… / group two:  People who jump the queue at the bar.)

2.  Adjective + noun collocations.  (From the top 10:  rude shop assistants / foreign call centres  /  slow internet connections  /  poor customer service).  Collect and record other adjective + noun combinations in the list.  Then, try and think of 3-5 other nouns that combine with that adjective…

 e.g.  rude:  shop assistants / language / customer / film /       foreign: call centre / food / currency / travel / …

If you want to check any ideas, post them below!

3.  Phrasal verbsRun out of (x 3) and break down both appear in the list.  In what context?  What’s the problem in each case?

Responses:  What about the list itself?  How many of the top ten are things that annoy you?  How do you think the top ten for people in Spain would be different from the British top 10?  Can you think of a top 5 of specifically Madrid-based annoying things?  Leave a comment below!

Other ideas for Writing:

  • Write a short story in which your hero or heroine suffers from lots of the  annoying things in the list.  What were the consquences for him/her?  How does your hero or heroine react?  Does he/she survive the day without losing his/her mind?  What does he/she learn from his experiences?
  •  Choose one of the annoying things and write a 10 line dialogue between two people, e.g. a dialogue between two people at the bar after one has just jumped the queue.


Filed under B1 Speaking Skills August 2010

B1 Speaking Skills – Have your say

Here are the links to the two news stories we discussed in class today.  Below the texts  you can read some of the opinions that people posted in response to the stories.

Should we know more about our food:

How should schools teach religion:

Here are some things you can use the texts for:

1)  Read the replies and find one that matches your opinion exactly.  2)  Make a note of any interesting vocabulary related to the subject.  3)  Find 5-10 different expressions/structures used for giving an opinion or responding to a opinion.  4)  Which of these expressions/structures are the most frequently used?  5)  Write a response to the original text summarising your opinion and comparing the situation in Britain to Spain.  Try to use some of the expressions you found in the texts to express your ideas.  You can try posting here on the website or send me an email.  I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts.

1 Comment

Filed under B1 Speaking Skills August 2010