Study English – Series 3, Episode 17: Talking about Festivals & Celebrations

Study English – Series 3, Episode 17: Talking about Festivals & Celebrations


Hello, and welcome to Study English, IELTS
Preparation. I’m Margot Politis. A common topic in the IELTS Test is Festivals
and Celebrations. It’s a good idea to be prepared to talk about
a major festival in your country or the way weddings and birthdays are celebrated. By festivals, we mean things such as Chinese
New Year or Christmas or the Water Festival. How does our speaker talk about the Water
Festival? The Water Festival is one of the most popular
festivals in Cambodia. There are about 430 boats from all over the country. Each boat
carries between 40 to 70 people. They just pack into these little canoes. There are quite
a few aspects to the Water Festival. It’s best to introduce a topic so the listener
knows what to expect. This is called the orientation. The opening statement should tell us what
to expect – here it is a description of the Water Festival in Cambodia and some aspects
of this festival. What exactly are these aspects? There are quite a few aspects to the Water
Festival. It is celebrated every year and its history is that the King would use the
Water Festival to find the strongest men to join the marine force to look after the country.
I would say every Cambodian would consider water the most important thing in their life. There are two aspects. There’s the history
of the festival and the significance of the festival to people now. It’s a good idea to
think of a major festival in your country and then think of ways to expand your answer,
like this: I would say every Cambodian would consider
water the most important thing in their life. The majority of Cambodians live in the countryside
and the rural population rely on water, you know, to farm. So they basically almost worship
water. And Cambodia’s Water Festival coincides with the full moon, a good omen that promises
a bountiful harvest. Notice that when you talk about customs you
are talking about facts and so you would need to use the simple present tense, like this: There are quite a few aspects to the Water
Festival. The majority of Cambodians live in the countryside and the rural population
rely on water, you know, to farm. They basically almost worship water. And Cambodia’s Water
Festival coincides with the full moon, a good omen that promises a bountiful harvest. Now let’s look at the way our speaker uses
the words ‘a’ and ‘the’ in her speech. ‘The’ is used to identify something there
is only one of, such as the Water Festival, the King, the strongest men, the marine force,
and the country. Listen: There are quite a few aspects to the Water
Festival. It is celebrated every year and it history is that the King would use the
Water Festival to find the strongest men to join the marine force to look after the country. ‘A’ is used to identify one of many, so she
says ‘a good omen’ and ‘a bountiful harvest’: So they basically almost worship water. And
Cambodia’s Water Festival coincides with the full moon, a good omen that promises a bountiful
harvest. When you generalise with words such as water
no article is used: Water is uncountable, as is air, knowledge and information. I would say every Cambodian would consider
water the most important thing in their life. The majority of Cambodians live in the countryside
and the rural population rely on water, you know, to farm. So they basically almost worship
water. There she is talking about water in general
and so uses no articles. A good rule for articles is to not use them
if you can say ‘in general’. But if you can say ‘in particular’, you should
use ‘the’ – the water in the Mekong. Another thing to say about festivals is how
often they happen and at what time of year as this speaker does in talking about Chinese
New Year: Chinese New Year is held every year, but it’s
not always on the same date in the western calendar. Sometimes it’s in late January and
sometimes it’s in February. It’s to do with phase of the moon and so some people call
it the Lunar New Year. Notice the time phrases – every year, not
always, late January and sometimes. Listen again: Chinese New Year is held every year, but it’s
not always on the same date in the western calendar. Sometimes it’s in late January and
sometimes it’s in February. It’s to do with phase of the moon and so some people call
it the Lunar New Year. One way of describing a festival is to say
what it resembles. What sort of things do you do to celebrate?
Oh, we, we – it’s a family get-together. And it’s a bit like the English Christmas, but
we Chinese in Australia, we celebrate Chinese New Year just like the traditions back home
in China and Asia. But you also need to say how it is different: It’s a really noisy celebration with drums
and fireworks and dragon and lion dances. Now let’s listen to someone describing in
detail the customs of Chinese New Year: The Dragon ushers in prosperity, health, wealth
to everybody. The Chinese people worship and pray to the Dragon because the Dragon brings
in, as I said, prosperity, health and wealth. That means it controls the element of the
earth. So it controls like the rain, the sun, and like we badly need the rain so we’d better
pray hard today to the Dragon and ask for rain. We pray to the Keeper God because the
Keeper God has been keeping the Dragon safe whilst the Dragon is resting and sleeping
in his home. The Lion will awaken the Dragon because the Dragon is supposed to be asleep.
The Lion ward away all evil and then the Dragon usher in all this good luck, you know, good
health to all the people in Melbourne and around the world. She explains some of the customs that make
Chinese New Year unique. You would be expected to do something like this if you were asked
about the biggest celebration in your country. So practise explaining these things and try
to say why people do things, like this: The Dragon ushers in prosperity, health, wealth
to everybody. The Chinese people worship and pray to the Dragon because the Dragon brings
in, as I said, prosperity, health and wealth. When you are talking about a continuous action
that begins in the past and continues until the present, as our speaker does in talking
about the dragon, you combine has with been and the -ing form of the verb. The Keeper
God ‘has been keeping’ the dragon safe. Listen: We pray to the Keeper God because the Keeper
God has been keeping the Dragon safe whilst the Dragon is resting and sleeping in his
home. She also uses a word that means ‘at the same
time’ – whilst. Another way of saying this is while. So she talks about two things happening
at the same time that began in the past and continued to the present, the God keeping
the dragon safe and the dragon sleeping. Listen one last time: We pray to the Keeper God because the Keeper
God has been keeping the Dragon safe whilst the Dragon is resting and sleeping in his
home. That’s all for now. You can’t know exactly what you are going
to be asked about in the IELTS Test, but thinking about general topics such as festivals and
celebrations and then practising talking about them will increase your confidence. To watch this episode again and all the Study
English programs, visit our website. The address is: australianetwork.com/studyenglish. Good luck with your studies.

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