Category Archives: Topic – City Life

CAE – M/W and Tue/Thu – Speaking (and writing) about photos

Came across some great photo galleries online this weekend, linked to a competition called Portugal: o teu olhar (Portugal – through your eyes (translation ok?)) organised by

I found two online galleries, one at Instagram and the other on Facebook.

(A) Part 2 Speaking – speaking about two pictures for about a minute

I’ve linked some images to the blog in three categories along with some typical CAE Speaking prompts.  You could use these to practise Part 2 speaking tasks.  You can practise speaking out-loud at home (maybe best done in a whisper to avoid family members thinking you’re speaking to yourself).  You could even record yourself using online presentation tools like brianshark.

Alternatively, you could write down what you’d say – think about how you’d organise your ideas to include a mixture of description and comparison leading to an answer to the question.

Here are some links and question prompts…

Leisure time

  • Why do people enjoy doing things like this?
  • How typical are these activities in Portugal?
  • How do you think the people in these photos will remember the day?
  • What do you think the people in the photos might be talking about?

Photo of a couple sitting on a wall looking out over the Tagus River by alaps

Photo of a group of friends, ‘sleeping time after pic-nic’ by renrib

Txim txim – photo by limaamj

Skimming – photo of a surfer by _dutti_

Surfing life by cataryna20

Setting up a street party by ceusobrelisboa

People working

  • Which of these jobs do you think would be the most difficult to do?
  • What kind of skills, abilities and qualities are required to do jobs like these?
  • Why might these people be doing their jobs?
  • What might the people like about their jobs?  What might they want to change about them?

Man pushing a wheelbarrow, ‘Balance‘ by ifox34

Street performer – photo taken by inessarzedas

Corn farmers – Desfolhada by renrib

Fishermen – Pesca by Marco Dores

Graffiti and street art

  • Why do you think the graffiti/street artist chose to paint/make these examples of street art?
  • What do these these examples of street art add to the place they were painted?  Do you imagine that any of them detract from their surroundings?
  • Would any of the images attract criticism?  Which might some people most want to be removed from the walls/buildings they are painted on?

Amy wall portrait – photo taken by danielff76 

Women eating pasta – street art windows – photo by inessarzedas

Street art tell no lies – ‘Til debt… – photo by luisrochareis

Jose Saramago picture and quote – photo by joaofernands

(B) Speaking presentations or writing about images using a variety of photos in the gallery:

Some ideas that you could work on, prepare, and make into a video presentation using online tools like brainshark or write up.

  • Imagine you are editing a photography book of the collection in one of the online galleries.  Which one image would you choose to use as the cover shot?  Why?
  • Imagine you are the picture editor for a national newspaper which is producing a Sunday supplement magazine entitled Portugal in 2012.  The magazine will be a mix of articles and photos.  Which image(s) would you use in the magazine?  Why?  What aspect of life in Portugal today does/do the image/s represent?  How?
  • Are you a photographer?  Choose a photo you admire or even wish you had taken.  What is it about the image you find powerful/moving/inspiring/interesting etc.?  How does the photo speak to you?
  • Imagine you are working for the tourist board of Portugal as a whole or one of the cities/towns/villages/regions etc depicted in the photos.  Which image would best sell Portugal to the widest audience of visitors if used in a poster campaign or brochure?  How might your choice be different if the publication were aimed at a smaller target group e.g. 18-30 backpackers, families, retired people, business travellers etc.  Choose one of these smaller target audiences and compare the photo you chose for that group with the photo you chose for the wider audience.  Compare the two photos giving the reasons behind your choices.  What would be a good caption for the shot?
  • Can you find a Coimbra/Santa Clara image?  What aspect of life in your city does it reflect?

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Filed under C1 - Speaking, C1 / CAE Writing, C1+ Vocabulary, Topic - City Life, Topic - photography, Topic - Portugal, Topic - Society, Topic - Travel

Topic – Travel – Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?

Video link:  BBC fast:track – Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?

The report linked above investigates the impact of tourism on Barcelona.  It explores some of the negative effects for a city that popularity can bring.

Before watching

Before you watch, think about the following points…

  • What have you read in the newspapers in the last few years about tourism in Barcelona?  Can you remember any stories about the negative effects of tourism on the city?
  • Have you visited Barcelona?  What was your impression?  Was it a pleasant place to visit?  What 5 words best describe your visit?
  • Can you think of another place that you would say has been spoilt (ruined, damaged) by tourism?
  • What do you know about Barcelona before the 1992 Olympics?  How has the city changed since it hosted the games?

Now watch the video.  Were any of the points you thought about mentioned in the report?

After watching

What’s your overall impression of the report?  To what extent do you think it is true to say that BCN is being spoilt by tourists? 

Which interviewees’ point of view did you have the most sympathy with?  The politician, the hotel manager, the tourist board representative, the shop owner, the resident (author), the photographer, the tourists.

Are any of the points made true for Madrid or another place you know well? Do you think the effects of the successful Olympics in 1992 will follow if Madrid’s latest bid to host the games is accepted?

Watch again – extracting key information:

Why were the following numbers important in the report?

  • 80,000
  • 15%
  • 80-100,000
  • 1 in 10
  • 10 million
  • 2.5 million
  • 60-70%

Language points

Look at the following extracts from the text.  What do the words in bold have in common? 

This avenue, The Ramblas, used to be a river but the water ran out and now Barcelona is overflowing with tourists and the locals say they are drowning.

…the tourist dollars (are) flooding in…

The words are all associated with water – a common vocabulary group for metaphors.  By using ‘overflowing’, ‘drowning’ and ‘flooding’, the reporter creates a sense of quantities being out of control.  Here are some other examples that work in a similar way.  Who do you think the speaker might be in each case?  What situation are they facing?

  • I’m drowning in all this paper!
  • Our phone lines have been flooded with calls from people entering the competition.
  • The streets are overflowing with people who have come to protest about the cuts.
  • I broke down and was in floods of tears when I heard the news.
  • People poured out onto the streets to celebrate at the end of the match.



Filed under B2.2 - Speaking skills July 2011, Topic - City Life, Topic - Travel