Speaking (Miscellaneous Topics)


Idioms & Expressions:

homestead (noun, this refers to the family home)

My family homestead was a cozy, warm place, and I miss it.


in a rut (prepositional phrase that means you are stuck in a routine)

I’m so exhausted from doing the same things all the time. I’m stuck in a rut.


creature of habit (noun; this is a person who enjoys doing the same things every day)

I always wear the same clothes and eat the same meals. I’m a creature of habit.


in a groove/in a rhythm (prepositional phrases that mean to become comfortable doing something)

Once you get into a rhythm, the job isn’t so bad.


over the hill (an expression that means someone is reaching middle age)

Bill is turning 40 years old today. He’s over the hill!


birthday bash (noun; this is another word for birthday)


hustle and bustle (noun; describes the energy and movement in a city)

I’m glad I moved to the countryside – I don’t really miss the hustle and bustle of the city.


county girl/city girl (noun; this is used to describe someone from the country or the city. For example, if you are from the countryside or rural area, you are a “country girl.” We say “country boy” and “city boy” as well).

I was born and raised in Boston. I’m a city boy.


the big city (noun; this is used to describe the most major city in an area, where many people move in order to pursue jobs)

She moved from a rural area to the big city in order to work at a law firm.


photogenic (adjective, this means that someone usually looks attractive in photos)

My sister is very photogenic. All of her Instagram posts get a lot of likes.


camera shy (adjective, this describes a person who does not like to have their picture taken)

I hate it when everyone wants to pose for a photo. I’m very camera shy.


shutterbug (noun used for a person who’s always taking pictures)

My brother bought a camera and now he’s turned into a shutterbug.


Part I: Group Discussion

Describe the house where you lived when you grew up.

My house was a two-story home on a relatively quiet street. It had a basement and a big yard. This is common for homes in the area where I grew up. It had white siding and blue shutters on the windows. I left home when I was seventeen, but came back a few times for summer breaks in college. It was always pretty messy, since we had so many people there!

Do you prefer sharing the house/flat where you live or do you prefer living on your own?

I prefer to live on my own, rather than sharing my home or flat. I have lived with roommates before, and it can be quite chaotic and noisy. I’d rather have my own space, and have my own schedule, than always try to follow someone else’s plans.

Do you think it’s better to share a house with friends or with someone you don’t know?

I don’t really have a preference when it comes to this. I think living with friends is a cool experience, but also you can make more friends by living with new people, whom you don’t know. So in the end, I think it’s pretty much the same experience.

Habits and Routines

Tell me what you do on a normal working day.

My normal workday starts late. I usually work in the evenings. Therefore, I have the chance to warm up for my day, which I appreciate. I usually wake up, plan my lessons, exercise, then watch some TV before I have to drive to work.

How do you like to relax after a hard day?

I like to have a beer after I finish work, and then read a book or go see some friends. After work, I don’t want to do any chores or anything like that – after work, I’m finished working, and it’s time to relax! I prefer to remain undistracted after work.

Do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing for someone to develop routines?

I think it’s a good thing to have a routine, but not for an extremely long time. Change is a good thing in life. For example, it’s good to have a job and an exercise regimen. But after a year or two, even if that routine is effective, you will start to feel dry and stale. So you should switch it up, and begin learning something new.

Do you have a bad habit that you would like to lose? (why/why not?)

Right now, I don’t think I have any habits that are counterproductive. However, I do drink a lot of coffee. Maybe too much, and I’ve read a few studies saying that excessive amounts of coffee may be bad for you. So I might start to cut back in the future, a little bit.


How do people celebrate birthdays in your country?

We usually just have a party. This can be at someone’s home or at a restaurant. Most birthdays usually just entail having a meal, exchanging gifts, and hanging out with friends.

Are there any ages that have special significance in your culture?

We have several! Age 16 is when you can first drive a car, and at age 18 you are legally an adult and can vote. 21 is when you can legally drink alcohol. And ages 30 and 40 are seen as big milestones, since they mean you’re no longer very young, and you’re in a whole new decade.

What are some of the advantages of getting older?

I think the main advantage of getting older is that you acquire more wisdom and learn how to be more comfortable and confident in your own skin. I think that’s a very valuable.

What are some of the disadvantages of getting older?

I think there are far more disadvantages to getting older. Your body begins to break down and your skin starts to sag. And you also get less attractive. I don’t think anyone really looks forward to these things!

Part II: Individual Presentations

Describe your favorite city. You should say:

What city it is and when you went there

Your favorite places there

What you do when you’re there

And explain why exactly it’s your favorite city


My favorite city in the world is Hong Kong. I have been there about thirty times. I used to live in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, which right over the border from Hong Kong. I first went there in 2010, and went there about 30 times between 2010 and 2012, when I left China.


Hong Kong is famous for Victoria Peak. It’s a gorgeous mountaintop area with a view of the city skyscrapers. It’s still, to this day, the coolest view I’ve ever seen. There’s also a restaurant there called “The Flying Pan,” which has great breakfast, and you should check it out if you ever go there.


I don’t do much except walk around, eat good food, and take photos. Also, I used to go there to visit bookstores. There’s not a good selection of English bookstores in China, so I’d buy a lot of books there.


I like it because it has a great vibe. It’s a former British colony, which made it easy for me to navigate. But it’s also Chinese, which makes it foreign enough for me to feel like I’m on another planet. If I had more money, I’d live there full-time, I think.


Part III: Class Discussion

City Life

Does your country have many big cities? (why/why not?)

I am from America, which has a lot of huge cities. But they don’t have as many as China, which is another country I’ve lived in. I think the biggest city in the USA is New York, which has a smaller population than most Chinese cities.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of living in a city?

An advantage would be always having the option to do whatever you want, as long as you’re willing to fight through traffic to get there. For example, big cities have endless options for shopping and leisure. But a disadvantage would be dealing with a noisy, chaotic lifestyle, which isn’t for everyone.

How can we reduce some of the pollution problems in today’s cities?

I think the only way to do this is to improve public transportation, so there are less cars and busses on the roads. With fewer engines, there is less smoke. Also, it helps if big factories are situated outside city limits.

Would you ever consider living long term in a city in a different country? (why/ why not?)

I definitely would – in fact, I am already doing it. I have lived in Shenzhen, Seoul, and now Hanoi. I like to be in foreign places, because the novelty is something I find endlessly fascinating. I plan on living in more places in the future.

The Growth of Cities

Could you compare life in your country today with life in your country 50 years ago?

I think it’s the same in America as it is everywhere else. As more people are born, cities get bigger. Also, in every country, more and more people are moving to the cities. Fifty years ago, fewer people had the means or reason to move to a big city.

Why have so many people nowadays gone to live in big cities?

Most people move to cities for jobs, or for the possibility of getting a job. This makes sense, since most industries have their headquarters in big cities. I know that this is true for me – every city I have moved to, I’ve moved there for work opportunities.

Do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing that the world has so many huge cities today?

I think it’s a great thing, if we can properly manage our population and pollution problems. People are social beings, so I don’t think we’ll be able to stop them from flocking to cities. So, we might as well make the best of it.

What are some of future problems that might happen with the growth of so many big cities?

I can imagine that trash collection and water service may be issues, especially as cities get bigger and bigger. Developing nations may have more problems with handling them. But there are a lot of smart people spending their lives and careers trying to solve these problems, so hopefully we’ll come up with some good solutions.

Part IV: Pair Interviews

  1. Do you work or do you study?

Right now, I work as a teacher. I also work part-time making videos for a Vietnamese company. I’m pretty busy, but that’s how I like it.


  1. Do you like to take photographs? Why or why not?

I don’t really take many photos, because I don’t have a good camera, and I also don’t think I’m a very gifted photographer. However, I’d like to learn more about photography.


  1. How many hours a night do you sleep? Do you ever take naps during the day?

Some nights I sleep eight hours, and other nights I only have time for four or five. I love taking naps, though, it’s one of my favorite ways to pass the time!

Part V: Class Discussion

  1. What’s the best way to travel around your country?

The USA is so big that the most efficient way to travel around is to fly. You can drive across the country, but it takes four or five full days to do so. Flying is much better!


  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being able to travel around the world today?

I think that flight has brought only advantages. I can’t think of a downside to the increased connectivity that has come to define our world today.


  1. Have you ever traveled by plane? Where did you go?

I usually fly five or six times a year. I need to leave Vietnam every 90 days, since I am a tourist, so therefore I have to fly to Bangkok or somewhere else in order to get another visa. I usually enjoy flying.


  1. Do you think flying is justified when you consider how much pollution it produces?

I think so, because being able to get around the planet quickly is more time efficient and allows people to hold important meetings. There will always be pollution, unless we find ways to power our modes of transportation with clean energy so that we can reduce it.