Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Describe A Plant and Expect the Unexpected! (Speaking Part 2)

“Expect the unexpected.”

This annoying English expression is nonetheless important to remember when studying for the IELTS exam. It means you should prepare for every possibility. The topic of your reading, speaking, writing, and listening could be absolutely anything – from family relationships to severe weather or the manufacturing of toys.

Students can sometimes be fooled into preparing only for topics that they believe are common on IELTS, when in reality they should be improving ALL of their English so that they are ready for any question they may encounter.

Recently, several of my students were shocked and unhappy about receiving this question as their Speaking Long Turn:

Describe a plant grown in your country. You should say
- what the plant is
- where it is grown
- why you like or dislike it
- and explain why it is important to your country.

A plant? What?
Remember that, “I have never thought about that before” and “I have no idea” are not acceptable answers. Because it is difficult to speak for nearly two minutes about a plant, it’s a good idea to pick a plant, tree, or flower that is special to you in some way and therefore has a story related to it. Do you often give roses to your girlfriend? Is there a crop that’s important to your country's economy? Expanding the scope of the question will help you improve your fluency. Below you will find some ideal answers to this question. Note the academic vocabulary and the slow, fluent manner of speaking.

A plant? Well, there’s a tree that’s native to New Zealand called the pohutukawa tree, and some might consider it to be iconic of my country’s flora or even summer in general. Most of these trees are medium height although I’ve heard that they can grow to be around 30 metres tall. The pohutukawa is known to grow in unusual places like rocky cliffs or sandy soil where other plants generally can’t grow. They even grow on Rangitoto Island which is made mostly of volcanic rock. The most remarkable characteristic of this tree is its bright red blossoms. These come out and bloom between November and January, which is summertime in the southern hemisphere. Because of the green and red colour, and also the timing of the blossoms, people sometimes call pohutukawas the “New Zealand Christmas tree.” I guess that’s also because typical pine trees aren’t endemic to New Zealand. Of course, I like these trees because they’re unique and eye-catching. The colours are really vibrant, almost unnaturally so. New Zealand has a lot of plants that can’t be found elsewhere, but I think pohutukawa trees are the most recognizable, and that’s why lots of people like them. You can even find their image on lots of bags and souvenirs in gift shops. They make a pretty good symbol of my country.

One plant that’s very popular in my region is the orange tree. Everything about orange trees is wonderful - their fresh smell, their colourful appearance, and of course the fruit they produce. When you drive down the highway in some parts of the U.S.A., you can see the bright green and orange trees on both sides of the road all around you. It’s beautiful, really. Orange groves can usually be found in the Southern part of the U.S., especially Florida and California, because they need a warm climate to thrive. The plants are very sensitive and they’ll die pretty quickly if they’re exposed to cold weather. And that would definitely be terrible because oranges are delicious! As most people know, they’re used in a lot of different ways. They are eaten fresh or squeezed to make juice. I think orange juice must be one of the most popular beverages in America. Everybody drinks it when they get sick in the hopes that Vitamin C will cure them! Oranges can also be turned into marmalade or jam, and I’m fairly certain that they’re used in some fragrances as well. I would love to smell like an orange. All in all, oranges are a valuable product and as you can probably tell, I like them a lot. Holding an orange is like having a little ball of sunshine in your hand!

OK, I’ll talk about an important plant in my country, which is actually a widely grown crop. India is known for a lot of different crops, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, and cotton. But the most important plant that’s grown in my country is probably rice. People tend to think rice mainly comes from China but actually it’s an incredibly important food in India as well.  Rice is usually grown in the southern and coastal regions because a lot of moisture is required to grow it. The plants themselves are low to the ground and they are cultivated in large irrigated fields. When you look out over a rice field, it seems to be completely green as far as you can see. The rice that we eat is actually the seed of the plant, so this is harvested in the autumn. In India, we produce so much rice that much of it is exported to other countries in Africa and The Middle East. It’s hard to say whether I like rice because it’s simply an essential part of daily life in India as well as many other countries. It’s used in many traditional Indian dishes and it’s very important for our economy. Of course, I do enjoy eating rice so I suppose you could say that I like it. But it would be better to say that I can’t live without it.

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