NOTE: The model answers below are a Band 9.0 response, but this is not the only way these questions could have been answered.
“Do you live in a house or a flat?”
“At the moment I am sharing a house with two other people. I’ve only been living there for a few months – I used to have a flat of my own, but I needed to save some money whilst I was studying so I moved in with them. It’s a good sized house though, with plenty of room for three of us, and it’s near the centre of town so it suits me well.”
“What kind of facilities do you have in the surrounding area?”
Well, there’s a park right opposite the house, which is lovely this time of year as we can sit out there for lunch or to play a game of football. There are also plenty of shops, so it’s easy to get most things we need without having to travel too far. There is a small library in the area, but it’s not very well stocked so sometimes we have to go to the larger library in the centre of town.
“Would you recommend this area to a friend?”
“Oh yes, definitely. It’s quite quiet even though it’s near town, and it’s a very safe neighbourhood. As I mentioned, it has all the facilities needed so you don’t need to go very far. The neighbours are friendly and there are one or two good places to eat within easy walking distance. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with young children though, as it’s quite a distance from the nearest school. Our neighbour has to drive his children to and from school each day and it takes about half an hour in the mornings and the same in the afternoons.”
“I’d like to move on to talk about music now. Do you often listen to music?”
Yes, I do. I like classical music and I listen to that a lot. I go to a lot of classical concerts too. I don’t really like rock music, although the people I live with often have it on so I don’t have much choice. I usually listen to the radio when I’m in the car, too, so I hear a lot of different kinds of music there. The one type of music I really can’t listen to is Jazz – I find it quite annoying, although I have some close friends that love it!
“Do you use music for certain events in your country?”
Well, I suppose so… let me think. Hmm… we have music for weddings, of course – I think most countries and cultures have that. We also have a specific kind of music for funerals. Also, a lot of people use guitars and sing when we have a party. And then we have the national anthem, which I guess is played in the same places as most other countries – before sports matches, for example.
“Can you play any musical instruments?”
No, not really. I used to be able to play the guitar a little, but I haven’t tried for many years now so I have probably forgotten how to play. My brother is very musical though – he can pick up almost any instrument and play it. He had piano lessons as a child and took to it very well, but since then has taught himself the guitar and the violin, but only as a hobby. I do have a friend that plays the guitar professionally though – he’s very talented!
“Do you often have visitors to your house?”
Oh yes, definitely. In our culture it is very common to invite people over to your house for a meal or to celebrate a special occasion. Most times guests will arrive early in the evening and stay until about 11 o’clock at night, although that’s different for younger people – I think their parties carry on much later into the night. Sometimes we have friends over for the weekend, but that’s only if they have had to travel a long way to get to see us.
“Do you prefer entertaining at home or going out?”
Well, to be honest I would prefer to go out! There is always such a lot of preparation if people come over to your house. It’s considered polite in my culture to provide a meal for any guest, so there’s often a lot of cooking and then there’s the cleaning up afterwards. It is becoming increasingly common, however, for people to arrange to meet in a restaurant, and then the person who invites the others will generally pay the bill. I guess it’s because people are busier these days and don’t always have time to prepare.
“What type of food would you serve to guests in your home?”
Oh… that’s a difficult question because it depends on a lot of things. If the guest is a close friend, we may have something casual, sometimes even a takeaway meal, but if it’s a little more formal – for example, parents-in-law, we would have to make something more traditional. I’m not a very good cook so that’s always a little hard for me! Another point is the age of the guests – if it’s younger people, we could settle for something relatively simple like a pasta dish. However, if the guests are a little older we generally try to cook something more traditional, and sit down at the table to eat rather than sitting more comfortably in the living room.
|Talk about something you do to relax|
You should say:
You should also say if you would recommend it.
“Well, when I have time there are a couple of things I like to do to relax. Perhaps my favourite would be to read a good book, particularly thrillers. I like novels about crime, but I’m not very fond of science fiction. I try to read as many books as I can in English, because it’s a great way to improve my reading speed and pick up new vocabulary, although sometimes I can get bored of reading in English and would prefer a book written in my own language.
With work and my studies, however, I don’t really get a lot of time to read – sometimes it can take me more than a month to finish one book. That doesn’t mean that I don’t spend a lot of time reading – I have a lot to read for my work – but I don’t have a lot of time for reading books for relaxation. The most common place to read for pleasure for me would be in bed, although most of the time I start reading and after a few pages I can’t keep my eyes open – I quite often fall asleep with a book still in my hands! I think I have read the same pages of the book I’m on now quite a few times because I keep losing my place.
Apart from that, I guess I would read the most when I am on holiday. If I go away for a few days just to relax, I can easily sit on the beach or in the park and spend all day reading, sometimes getting through a book a day! If I have been really busy at work and I don’t have any other plans, I might also spend half a day during the weekend just reading and relaxing – I might sometimes not get out of bed until after midday if I am engrossed in a good book! I would definitely recommend reading for relaxation for a number of reasons, perhaps the strongest being that it allows you to ‘escape’ for a while into a fictional world. Although you can also do this watching a good film, for me a book is better because you have to visualise the characters and locations, so it’s a far more personal interpretation. Even in a good film you are still shown what the characters look like and where they are, so a lot less is left to the imagination.
Another reason I would recommend it, even though this may not be so relaxing, is that it is a great way to expand your vocabulary, especially if you are reading in English. There are many times when I might need to use a dictionary just to understand a single page, and as soon as I learn a new word I suddenly seem to hear the word being used in other situations a lot more.”
“Are our lives becoming more stressful?”
I would say that there are many parts of our lives that we need to be careful to avoid becoming overly stressful. For example, in my job I am often offered overtime and although I could always use the extra money, I think it’s important to sometimes say no and keep some free time to unwind, otherwise life could become stressful. I think that there are also increased pressures on people these days that perhaps weren’t so bad in the past. We are constantly advised by television and media reports, as well as health professionals, that certain foods are bad and should be avoided, that we should take regularly exercise and always look our best. Although that is important, it is also important to be able to relax now and again. An example might be that although I generally eat well, have at least three meals a day and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, it is important not to stress too much about the occasions where I might choose to have some fast food like a burger, or some take away food that might not be very healthy. I think that if we balance such things carefully, there’s no real need to be more stressed these days.
“Do you think that people take enough time to relax each day?”
No, definitely not. As I mentioned, people worry a little too much about what they eat, but apart from that many people work too hard and don’t take some time out of each day to do something they enjoy. I think it’s very important to have some kind of hobby or interest that you can spend some time doing to relax, but many people work long hours and even bring work home at the weekend. This is commonly the case when people are studying for a specific purpose; when they do take a break they often feel a little guilty, with the thought that they shouldn’t really be taking this time off when they have work to do. In reality, of course, there is always work to do, but it has been proven that working long hours without a break is actually less productive than people who spend a little time every couple of hours doing something they enjoy, even if it’s only doing a crossword for a few minutes.
“Do you think technology will allow us to lead more relaxing lives in the future?”
Hmm… in theory, yes, but I think in practice that doesn’t quite work. It is very common to find employees checking emails or answering their mobile phones at weekends or in the evenings when they should be relaxing. This kind of technology has meant that we are often always available, and people have become impatient with delays. For example, if a customer orders a product on a Saturday, they often expect that order to be processed and sent that same day, meaning that someone needs to be working. On the other side, however, mobile phones and laptop computers have meant that we don’t necessarily need to be in the office every day, with an increasing number of people now being able to work from home. This means that rather than getting up very early to get through the morning rush hour traffic, some people are abel to get up later and then be at work almost immediately without wasting time in traffic jams.
“How has what people do for relaxation in your country changed in the last ten years?”
In many ways there haven’t been any significant changes. People still read books, listen to music or exercise, as well as spending time with friends and family. I think what has changed is the way in which people are able to do these things. For example, a friend of mine that has always enjoyed reading now buys audio books and listens to them being read. She says it is more relaxing as you can just relax and listen without worrying about pages or whether your eyes are getting tired. In a similar way, iPods and iPhones have changed the way most people listen to music. We can put headphones on and listen to hours of music all stored in a single device – there’s no need to change discs or anything like that. Spending time with friends has in many ways not changed, although it is possible to speak to people over the internet using video chat so you can see and hear other people without necessarily being physically near each other.
“Do you think that there will be changes in the age of retirement?”
Well… that’s a good question. I think with the increasing number of older people, combined with better medical treatment, people are still able to work much later in life that they used to be able to. In my country, the age of retirement is still about 65 years old, but many people are still able and willing to work until well into their seventies. The problem, of course, is that with people working later in life, there are possibly fewer opportunities for younger people trying to get started in a career, and often the employer is paying higher wages to the more senior staff members. Then there is also the situation for self employed people. My father intended to retire a few years ago when he turned 60, but has continued working because the pension he would get from the government is not actually sufficient to support him. The chances are that he will continue to work long after the current retirement age.