Speaking (Entertainment / Learning / Careers)


Idioms & Expressions:


take a load off / kick back / keep it low-key (verbs; these all refer to relaxation)

Come over tonight and take a load off. We’ll watch a movie.


I’m keeping it low-key tonight, because I don’t feel like going out and being social.

brainstorm (verb; means to think of many ideas as possible)

Let’s brainstorm a new name for our band.


pass with flying colors (verb; to get a very high mark or score on a test)

He passed the history test with flying colors.


draw a blank (verb; to be unable to remember a piece of information)

I’m trying to think of the answer, but I’m drawing a blank right now.


dropout (noun; someone who left school before graduation)

Mark Zuckerberg is a college dropout who founded Facebook.


skip class / cut class (verb; to not attend school, or to not attend a certain class)

Do you want to skip class and see a movie tomorrow?


teacher’s pet (noun; that an overly-enthusiastic student who annoys the others in the class)

She’s the teacher’s pet and frequently annoys the other students.


class clown (noun; a student who is always trying to make everyone in the class laugh)

The class clown might be a little noisy, but we all think he’s funny.


you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (an expression that means it’s very hard to change other people’s habits)

They don’t understand how to write code for this program. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.


tricks of the trade (noun; refers to the knowledge required to do a certain job)

My uncle is an experienced teacher and he taught me the tricks of the trade.


if you don’t use it, you lose it (this expression refers to not using a muscle or skill for a long time, and then losing competency with it)


Part I: Group Discussion

  1. How do you usually travel around your town or city?

I ride a motorbike everywhere. Even if it’s really hot or rainy. The bike is quick and small and I can get almost anywhere I need to go very easily.

  1. What do you think of public transport in your town or city?

In the US, the train systems are pretty old and the cities are often gridlocked. I think the best public transportation I’ve experienced has been in the Asian cities of Seoul and Shenzhen. The public transport in those systems are newer and run better.

  1. How do you think we could persuade more people to use public transport?

Well, if traffic is too bad and there are good public transport options, people will take them. But in Vietnam private transport is really the only viable option if you want to get somewhere on time.

  1. Do you go out a lot, or do you prefer home entertainment?

I used to go out and be social all the time. Now, I usually prefer home entertainment. I think I’m too old to have the late nights like I used to. Now, my idea of a good night is staying in and reading a book or watching a movie while I drink a beer.

  1. What kind of things do you watch on TV?

I really don’t watch TV, since I am too busy. But sometimes I watch this show called “Empire” with my girlfriend. It’s about a music mogul who has to decide which of his children he will give his business to once he dies. It’s pretty entertaining and I don’t mind watching 3 – 4 episodes a week, when I have time.

  1. Can you easily entertain yourself when you are alone?

Yes. I am never really bored. I like to exercise, read, and write, and it’s rare that I have so much free time that I’ve fulfilled all my obligations and I find myself with nothing to do. When people say that they are bored, I don’t understand them!

  1. Are there any many places for entertainment in your area?

I live in Tay Ho, which is an area geared toward expats. There are a few good bars to go out and meet people at. I wish the area had a movie theater, but it doesn’t at the moment. That’s ok – I can usually find a good place to sit down and relax with my friends while I’m in Tay Ho.

Part II: Individual Presentations

Describe someone who has taught you something useful in your life. You should say:

Who the person is

What he / she taught you

How he / she taught you      

And explain why the thing you learned was useful

My grandfather is the person who’s taught me a good deal about life. I think he’s taught me a lot more that he realizes. He has mostly led by example. He’s responsible and good with money. And he’s also a US Air Force veteran (he was a high-ranking officer) so he’s a natural leader. He’s shown me how to be mature, respectful, and to fulfill my obligations.

When I was a kid, I would spend time at my grandparent’s house, since they lived not too far away from my home. My grandfather would take me on canoe trips on a river nearby. We didn’t talk much on our trips, but I would watch him while he organized our events and conducted his business, and then I tried to copy him.

My parents are pretty lazy people, so I picked up a lot of bad habits from them. Their home was usually messy, and they put off key responsibilities for long stretches of time. My grandfather taught me to handle my business in a timely manner, and make sure that I did a thorough and complete job of every task before me.

Part III: Class Discussion

  1. What was the most important thing you learnt at school?

In high school, I took a class called USMC JROTC (United States Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps). In this class, I learned about the US military and how it functioned. I also learned many disciplinary and leadership skills that would help me out later in life. But the most important thing I learned in that course was that being in the military would be a very difficult career path, so eventually I decided not to join the Marines after high school.

  1. Could you compare the effectiveness of schools in the past and in the present?

I haven’t really been in school since 2009 (and I graduated high school in 2005), so I imagine my notions of what school is like is already a little outdated. But my sisters are now in college, and things have changed a lot. Everything is digital now. Students sign up for their classes online, and can even complete many courses online as well. That wasn’t an option when I was a student.

  1. In what ways do you think schools will change in the future?

I think that, within the next 20-30 years, almost all learning will take place in the virtual realm. As video conferencing gets better and better, teachers will be able to teach classes via hologram. Students will be able to stay at home but still interact with teachers and other students. Within our lifetime, we are going to see some pretty insane changes!

  1. How important is it for people in your country to get a university education?

In our current job market, it is extremely important. The problem is that almost every high school student has a chance to go to college. This leads to an oversaturated job market, which means that if job applicants lack a four-year degree, they will find it quite difficult to get hired somewhere. Now, you pretty much need a Master’s Degree if you want to get a top-level position in a company.

  1. What kind of jobs can people do without a university education?

It’s possible to get a good job without a degree – after all, connections are everything. But in America, you can really only get jobs in the service or unskilled labor markets if you lack a university degree. This is unfortunate, as it forces many people to attend college when they cannot afford to, but that is how the American job market works these days.

  1. Do you agree with the saying that we are never too old to learn?

I absolutely agree with that. I think you should try to learn until you’re dead. I think that if you’re not learning or trying something new, then you’re already dead. Right now, I’m studying French. I hope that I live for a while longer, because I can’t wait to see what else I get into and try to master as I get older.