Check out the latest podcast, with Peter Travis from Splendid Speaking, in this interview we covered:
-How to avoid YES / NO answers.
-How to make your answers interesting (REDS Method: Reason, Example, Detail, Speculation).
-Listing expressions and increasing the range of functional language.
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Click to read transcript
Ben: Welcome back to another podcast. In this one we’ve got Pete, again
from splendidspeaking.com. He’s going to give us some advice on the best
way to respond to questions and the best type of signpost language to use
in the exam. And make sure to go over to dichvugiadinh.info sign up because
if you had them you would have got this podcast a lot earlier and make sure
to check out Pete’s website splendidspeaking.com, splendid-speaking.com.
Great resource if you’ve got – speaking is a challenge for you. Lots of
tutorials to follow, lots of great advice to listen to, so definitely check
that out. Okay, this is Part 2. Here it goes.
So the next one: How should the student respond to questions? This is quite
an open-ended question.
Pete: Okay, well the first thing I suppose is avoid yes, no answers.
Pete: Especially, especially if the question is a kind of a yes, it invites
a yes-no answer. If the question says something like do you or have you or
are you? The natural tendency is to say yes or no, or even yes I do or no I
don’t. Now, I always say to students, think of the examiner. The examiner
is sitting there and they’ve got to listen to dozens maybe of students go
through interview after the next. And what you want to try and do is make
that examiner’s job as easy as possible and one way of doing that is to
give them an answer that they can sit back and listen to and relax and wait
until you finish and then they can answer their next – ask their next
So the first thing is really avoid kind of yes-no answers. Now, how can you
take it forward? Well on one of the courses that we teach, we’ve got
something that we call the REDS Method, R-E-D-S and we say that basically,
R is for reason, E is for example, D is for detail and S is for
speculation. So when the examiner asks you a question you can say, yes I
do, or no, I don’t and then give a reason, if it’s appropriate or it might
be that an example is better. It might be if they say what kind of food do
you like to eat, you can say well I really like pasta. For example, my
favourite meal is spaghetti Bolognese, et cetera. So giving an example is
another alternative or adding detail. If the examiner asks you where you
come from, you could say I come from… and you could do – it might be a very
small town like I don’t know, Leighton Buzzard for example. I come from
Leighton Buzzard. It’s a small town in the south of England. You just give
it a little bit more detail.
And finally speculation is, if the examiner asks you a question and you
haven’t really got an answer to it. So for example, do you like to do
exercise that the answer is no. No, I don’t really enjoy exercise, and then
you can speculate. You can say I suppose I should do or imagine if I did
I’d feel better but no I don’t. So one of those four: reason, example,
detail or speculation is a way of extending the answer towards another
sentence or two.
Ben: Right. That’s good. I like it. For the detail would you recommend
students learning like going a bit further than every day vocabulary? For
example, I like Mediterranean food. They could say, “I really like chorizo
paella.” You know what I mean? Going a bit deeper into more exotic food.
Would you recommend that?
Pete: There’s the tropic vocabulary that they should try to learn. Yes, if
you’re talking about food, you should have a kind of a good collection of
words that describe your eating habits. If you want to know what kind of
food topic vocabulary you need to learn, focus on the things that you like
or things that you don’t like.
Pete: There’s no point learning words that you’re not going to talk about
so you could focus on that. But also in terms of the functional language
there you said I like or really like, it’s a really a good idea to be kind
of reflective. As you are speaking, think about what you’re saying and if
you think, well I’ve just said I like, to something else.
Pete: Don’t say I like again. Say, I adore or I quite fancy. So have a
collection of functional language that you can use so that you can rotate
them so that you can show the examiner you can do more than I like, I like,
I like or I think, I think, I think.
Ben: Yeah that’s so true and there’s no shortage either, is there? I love
or I adore, I enjoy.
Pete: No. Not at all.
Ben: Can you tell us your thoughts about signposting language and about
Pete: That it’s kind of horses for courses. It depends on the context again
and the kind of presentation you’re giving. Quite often when we think about
signposting language, we talk about the things that we say. At the
beginning of a presentation, we will say things like, this morning I’m
going to talk about blah, blah, blah, blah. I will start by saying, blah,
blah, blah, blah.
Now you’re not going to do that in IELTS because you’re not giving that
kind of a presentation. So it’s a lot more fluid and so the context for me
suggests, as I said earlier, using the questions as prompts. The question
prompts become in a sense signposting expressions because signposting
essentially is about telling the listener where you’re going. And if you
use the question prompts as signposts, the examiner will know where you’re
But within the talk, once you’ve actually signposted what parts of the
question you’re talking about, you’ve got things like listing expressions
that will often be useful so, to begin with, then, finally – those kind of
things you’ll probably find yourself using. Giving examples, if you say
something I really like Spanish food, for example… And then you go ahead
and you give some examples so that kind of signposting is really useful.
Pete: Towards the end of the talk if you feel that you’ve been speaking for
long enough and the examiner hasn’t stopped you, you might signpost that
you’re coming to the end of your talk as far as you’re concerned and you
might use expressions like so as you can see or so to sum up or that kind
So I’d say they’re the kind of signposting expressions that you would
probably use in everyday life rather than the signposting expressions that
you’d give in a formal presentation.
Ben: Right. Yeah. Because at the end of the day, it’s more of a – it isn’t
the formal presentation is it?
Ben: It’s more of a discussion almost.
Pete: Exactly. Exactly.
Ben: Right then. Well, this is great stuff, Pete. This is great and just
out of curiosity, how long have you been teaching for? Because this is
Pete: Well, I started – when did I start teaching? Probably, about 1990.
All right. Well, 1988-1989 was when I did my first qualification and then I
taught for about I suppose 16-17 years before leaving and setting up the
business. And in a sense I don’t regard what I’m doing now as teaching in a
sense. It’s a lot more one-way but as far as from the beginning about 20-22
Ben: Right then. And then when did you get to start with that, when you
said your business, that’s Splendid Speaking. When did you get started with
Pete: Splendid Speaking was in 2006. So that was six years after we started
Flo-Joe. So Flo-Joe was in 2000. Flo-Joe.co.uk or Flo-Joe.com is for exam
students, FCE, CAE, CPE and six years later, after lots of emails from
students asking about speaking skills, we set up Splendid Speaking which is
splendid-speaking.com or just splendidspeaking.com.
Ben: Right then. And then what’s the main objective with those ones? What
do you want the student to achieve from once they do your course, the
Splendid Speaking course?
Pete: Okay. Well, I think when I started Splendid Speaking it’s occurred to
me that many courses, many good courses, many good course books teach
students the words and the use of English that they need to pass exams,
whatever they are. Because if you consider all exams really have a very
similar format whichever exam it is, whether it’s CAE, FCE, IELTS, they
have an interview section where the examiner asks nice getting-to-know-you
questions. There’s usually a long turn where the student has to speak for a
minute or two. The import might different. It might be photographs instead
of cue cards, but you still have to speak at length and then there’s
usually a more, the discussion stage either between the examiner and the
student or between the examiner and two students.
But what struck me at that time was that although lots of courses and books
give students the English they need, what they didn’t do quite so well or
quite so often was give students the kind of strategies that a native
speaker would be told to use. So for example, the idea of using anecdotes
or the idea of using something that’s topical as a way of introducing your
long turn. For me, that’s not something that appeared very often in books
or courses. So I suppose in a nutshell the objective was to give students
the language that they need in order to do well, but also give them some
really useful strategies that they really can take with them not just for
the exam but strategies that they can use after their exam if they’re in a
meeting or if they’re in a social situation or business situation, useful
strategies that they can use.
Ben: Yeah. And supplying those strategies it kind of leap frogs the whole
learning curve because if you never learn those strategies or get taught
informally, it’s going to take you a lot longer to develop them because
you’re going to do it the long and more natural way, which is – yeah. So if
you get the strategies delivered to you and that yeah. It’s going to cut —
Pete: I suppose also the interesting thing is that a lot of native speakers
don’t have those strategies. I’m sure we honour people that when you sit
and meet somebody for the first time, you quickly get bored because all
they do is talk about themselves. And at the end of that kind of chat
whether it’s a party or in a business meeting, you feel that you know their
life very, very well. That they’ve gone their way and they don’t know when
to think about you.
Pete: And I think – so it’s not something that native – that non-native
speakers need to learn. I think it’s people generally who benefit from
Peter: So instead of just talking about you, ask the person questions about
them. And that way when the discussion finishes they will go away thinking
that you were great because you were really interested in them.
Pete: It’s a positive impression.
Ben: That’s a great point. I know exactly what you mean there. And just
going back to those strategies that you were speaking about before, in your
podcast, at Splendid-speaking.com, the podcast there you go over some of
the strategies, don’t you? I think.
Pete: Yes. Yes. There’s, depending upon the activity, it might be a long
presentation. It might be a question and answer but we are focused on any
of the strategies that are appropriate for that activity. There’s also what
we call a get-speaking task sheet. Now these task sheets are available each
week on the website so you download the task sheets and on that task sheet
is usually two activities, a presentation and a discussion and linked
within the task sheet there’s a link to one of the podcasts so you can try
the activities yourself, but you can also listen to a student trying the
same task and listen to my feedback.
So you’ll find the get-speaking task. There’s usually one a week, always
one a week, a new one every week over 26 weeks. They only appear one at a
time whereas all the podcasts all 26 podcasts are available any time on the
Ben: Right. Wow! That’s interesting. Okay. And then just two questions now.
Which is the most popular podcast you’ve done? Oh, no. Answer that one
first. And then I’ll ask you the next question.
Pete: The most popular podcast is difficult to say because generally, they
all more or less get the same number of hits because what we do is although
they’re all available all the time, all 26, each week over 26-week period,
we focus on one. So each week, when the student opens our newsletter,
there’s a link to say, podcast 1 and then in week 2, there’s podcast 2.
They can always listen to all the other podcasts if they want to, but each
week, one gets promoted and so over time they all get more or less the same
number of downloads.
Ben: I see.
Pete: I’ve got favourites. I’ve got one between Anna and Jonas.
Pete: Which I can’t remember which number that is. But Anna was in I think
Australia at that time. Jonas was in India at that time and we met in
Skype. It was late at night. For me, anyway, it was late at night when this
podcast happened. It was about 1 o-clock in the morning. These two had
never spoken to each other before and they had a getting-to-know-you
interview. And I asked them to focus on active listening skills, so asking
each other questions rather than just talking about themselves. And that it
was a lovely, a lovely discussion. They really got on well. They found out
lots and lots about each other in the short time that we were online. And I
think the warmth of the pair of them came across in the interview. It’s a
really nice discussion.
Ben: Wow! That was cool. That’s cool and you arranged that through the
Pete: That was through – yeah. If they cross in contact with me I’ll put
them together and we met up some couple of years ago now.
Ben: Awesome. That’s fantastic. And which is the most popular course from
Pete: This happened so recently. It was the Splendid Speaking course which
is a very generic course. It’s really aimed at anybody, other operants who
may be advanced level who wants to learn some generic speaking skills which
can be useful in exams or in business or at university.
But the next course we produced was get spurred with which was a CAE
speaking because we have the Flo-Joe site behind us and huge numbers of
students who use Flo-Joe. Then CAE speaking became very popular as well
very quickly because of the numbers of people that we had using Flo-Joe
that were doing CAE.
IELTS, we recently published a new course called IELTS Speaking-advanced
and that’s growing quite quickly. We don’t have the IELTS user base on
Flo-Joe that we have for CAE so that’s a slower process but we’re in the
process now of promoting and marketing IELTS speaking and we hope that that
will be just as popular as it is CAE. And then we have Get Speaking which
is not so much a course, but a series of task sheets that we invite
teachers to download. I mentioned this Get Speaking task sheets earlier.
Each week we publish one for free. But if a teacher finds Splendid Speaking
of all of a sudden, downloads the Get Speaking task sheet and likes it,
they might not want to wait 26 weeks to get all 26 weeks of the task sheets
so we allow them to purchase all 26 immediately if they want to. And that’s
quite popular with teachers.
Ben: Right then. And can you just tell me a bit about the IELTS course
you’ve got? Because I’m just quite interested.
Pete: Yeah. It’s a 10-unit course. It’s based specifically on obviously the
IELTS exam. It covers the part 1, part 2 and part 3 of the exam and it
really deals with the kind of issues that we’ve been talking about. It goes
through the language that the student will need for IELTS, gives them
grammar and use of English vocabulary exercises. They get to listen to a
sample of the student doing a part of the exam so each unit there’s a
recording, similar to the Splendid Speaking podcast where they’ll listen to
an IELTS student or a student at that level doing a talk and they get
feedback, similarly to the podcasts. But each unit comes primarily with a
lesson and the lesson will again look at some of these strategies that
we’ve talked about today, whether it’s how to deal with the long turn or
the part 1 or part 3 questions. So essentially, that’s IELTS Speaking –
Ben: Right. That sounds great. That sounds like a great course. Fantastic.
Right then. Well, we’re approaching the end. That was amazing. Thanks a
bunch, Peter. That was fantastic.
Pete: It’s really nice talking to you.
Ben: That was great, Pete. Thanks so much, aye. It’s fantastic.
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