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IELTS Preparation Series 3, Episode 17: Talking about Festivals & Celebrations


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0:12

Hello, and welcome to Study English, IELTS Preparation. I'm Margot Politis.

0:17

A common topic in the IELTS Test is Festivals and Celebrations.

0:23

It's a good idea to be prepared to talk about a major festival in your country or the way

0:28

weddings and birthdays are celebrated.

0:34

By festivals, we mean things such as Chinese New Year or Christmas or the Water Festival.

0:42

How does our speaker talk about the Water Festival?

0:47

The Water Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Cambodia. There are about 430

0:54

boats from all over the country. Each boat carries between 40 to 70 people. They just

1:01

pack into these little canoes. There are quite a few aspects to the Water Festival.

1:07

It's best to introduce a topic so the listener knows what to expect. This is called the orientation.

1:15

The opening statement should tell us what to expect - here it is a description of the

1:21

Water Festival in Cambodia and some aspects of this festival.

1:26

What exactly are these aspects?

1:28

There are quite a few aspects to the Water Festival. It is celebrated every year and

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its history is that the King would use the Water Festival to find the strongest men to

1:40

join the marine force to look after the country. I would say every Cambodian would consider

1:47

water the most important thing in their life.

1:50

There are two aspects. There's the history of the festival and the significance of the

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festival to people now. It's a good idea to think of a major festival in your country

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and then think of ways to expand your answer, like this:

2:05

I would say every Cambodian would consider water the most important thing in their life.

2:12

The majority of Cambodians live in the countryside and the rural population rely on water, you

2:19

know, to farm. So they basically almost worship water. And Cambodia's Water Festival coincides

2:28

with the full moon, a good omen that promises a bountiful harvest.

2:33

Notice that when you talk about customs you are talking about facts and so you would need

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to use the simple present tense, like this:

2:42

There are quite a few aspects to the Water Festival. The majority of Cambodians live

2:49

in the countryside and the rural population rely on water, you know, to farm. They basically

2:57

almost worship water. And Cambodia's Water Festival coincides with the full moon, a good

3:04

omen that promises a bountiful harvest.

3:12

Now let's look at the way our speaker uses the words 'a' and 'the' in her speech.

3:18

'The' is used to identify something there is only one of, such as the Water Festival,

3:27

the King, the strongest men, the marine force, and the country. Listen:

3:36

There are quite a few aspects to the Water Festival. It is celebrated every year and

3:42

it history is that the King would use the Water Festival to find the strongest men to

3:48

join the marine force to look after the country.

3:51

'A' is used to identify one of many, so she says 'a good omen' and 'a bountiful harvest':

4:02

So they basically almost worship water. And Cambodia's Water Festival coincides with the

4:09

full moon, a good omen that promises a bountiful harvest.

4:15

When you generalise with words such as water no article is used: Water is uncountable,

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as is air, knowledge and information.

4:27

I would say every Cambodian would consider water the most important thing in their life.

4:33

The majority of Cambodians live in the countryside and the rural population rely on water, you

4:41

know, to farm. So they basically almost worship water.

4:46

There she is talking about water in general and so uses no articles.

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A good rule for articles is to not use them if you can say 'in general'.

4:58

But if you can say 'in particular', you should use 'the' - the water in the Mekong.

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Another thing to say about festivals is how often they happen and at what time of year

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as this speaker does in talking about Chinese New Year:

5:18

Chinese New Year is held every year, but it's not always on the same date in the western

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calendar. Sometimes it's in late January and sometimes it's in February. It's to do with

5:31

phase of the moon and so some people call it the Lunar New Year.

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Notice the time phrases - every year, not always, late January and sometimes. Listen

5:46

again:

5:48

Chinese New Year is held every year, but it's not always on the same date in the western

5:53

calendar. Sometimes it's in late January and sometimes it's in February. It's to do with

6:00

phase of the moon and so some people call it the Lunar New Year.

6:09

One way of describing a festival is to say what it resembles.

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What sort of things do you do to celebrate? Oh, we, we - it's a family get-together. And

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it's a bit like the English Christmas, but we Chinese in Australia, we celebrate Chinese

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New Year just like the traditions back home in China and Asia.

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But you also need to say how it is different:

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It's a really noisy celebration with drums and fireworks and dragon and lion dances.

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Now let's listen to someone describing in detail the customs of Chinese New Year:

6:45

The Dragon ushers in prosperity, health, wealth to everybody. The Chinese people worship and

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pray to the Dragon because the Dragon brings in, as I said, prosperity, health and wealth.

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That means it controls the element of the earth. So it controls like the rain, the sun,

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and like we badly need the rain so we'd better pray hard today to the Dragon and ask for

7:10

rain. We pray to the Keeper God because the Keeper God has been keeping the Dragon safe

7:23

whilst the Dragon is resting and sleeping in his home. The Lion will awaken the Dragon

7:33

because the Dragon is supposed to be asleep. The Lion ward away all evil and then the Dragon

7:38

usher in all this good luck, you know, good health to all the people in Melbourne and

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around the world.

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She explains some of the customs that make Chinese New Year unique. You would be expected

7:55

to do something like this if you were asked about the biggest celebration in your country.

8:00

So practise explaining these things and try to say why people do things, like this:

8:06

The Dragon ushers in prosperity, health, wealth to everybody. The Chinese people worship and

8:14

pray to the Dragon because the Dragon brings in, as I said, prosperity, health and wealth.

8:20

When you are talking about a continuous action that begins in the past and continues until

8:26

the present, as our speaker does in talking about the dragon, you combine has with been

8:34

and the -ing form of the verb. The Keeper God 'has been keeping' the dragon safe. Listen:

8:42

We pray to the Keeper God because the Keeper God has been keeping the Dragon safe whilst

8:48

the Dragon is resting and sleeping in his home.

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She also uses a word that means 'at the same time' - whilst. Another way of saying this

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is while. So she talks about two things happening at the same time that began in the past and

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continued to the present, the God keeping the dragon safe and the dragon sleeping. Listen

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one last time:

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We pray to the Keeper God because the Keeper God has been keeping the Dragon safe whilst

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the Dragon is resting and sleeping in his home.

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That's all for now.

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You can't know exactly what you are going to be asked about in the IELTS Test, but thinking

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about general topics such as festivals and celebrations and then practising talking about

9:40

them will increase your confidence.

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To watch this episode again and all the Study English programs, visit our website.

9:47

The address is: australianetwork.com/studyenglish.

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Good luck with your studies.

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